I often read comments about how ironic is that Bertolt and Marco died “the same way”, with people pointing out stuff like karma, proving to have a poor understanding and interest for both plot and characters. It’s always easier to say “Character A brutally killed Character B so they deserve the worst death”, even when Character A was clearly forced to do so, crying for their actions and being tormented by nightmares all the time (the sleeping posture thing is due to this, as shown in this smartpass AU).
Problem is that people have no idea of how deep and human Isayama’s characters are. They stop at what they see at first, making out of it the only truth to believe in: Marco is shown to be a kind person, so he is an angel; Bertolt killed so many people, so he is a bastard. Simple as it is. There’s no half way to see things, because most of people are generally too lazy to go beyond the surface (this is applies for everything, not just for reading manga).
Sorry but… Attack on Titan is not a manga for lazy brains. It is supposed to be much more. It is supposed to show the human fight for what they think is right. Beign it inside or outside the Walls, the fight is the same.
Bertolt never displayed any enjoyment for what he did. And what’s fun is that you can clearly see it in the manga, more than once:
It couldn’t be more obvious, so if you read until here and you still think he is evil I invite you not to go any further because we have nothing to share.
So, exactly just like Marco or any other character from the Walls, Bertolt is fighting his war. What clearly puts him under a bad light is that he stays on the untold - not evil - side of the story. I’m pretty sure we would all be able to justify his actions if we read the story from his point of view, just like we so easly justify Eren’s behaviour in the plot. It started with Titans, then he went a little bit mad against humans:
No, I’m not taking this example because I want you to pity Bertolt. I’m using this picture because here Eren just ripped off an ex-comrade limbs and, despite him being unconscious, he is slaughtering him to death.
And look at this:
Eren’s behaviour here is not any better than what Bertolt did to the Walls 5 years ago. He is fighting his war and we can’t absolutely blame him for it. His rage towards Bertolt and the others couldn’t be more justified, because we all know what he has been through. Bertolt is the main reason why he had to see his mother devoured by a Titan, which is together with the loss of his home and the general genocide a very big reason to want him death. Soooo, no ‘good’ or ‘evil’ side, just people fighting for their personal aim.
Now, I hope this introduction helps you to understand what I’m going to say about the difference between Bertolt and Marco. Let’s start from a brief list of what they share:
- Both have a good soul - Both are fighting their war - They were killed by circumstances bigger than them
Now, just take Marco and analyze his life. He comes from the Walls (Wall Rose, I think) and never experienced the terror of the Titans until the battle of Trost. So, we can suppose his life was pretty much normal, not too happy but neither too bad. He strongly wanted to protect the king by entering the Military Police, so the quality of his life allowed him to dream and to take decisions for himself.
Bertolt’s situation is very much different. From the few information we have, we can say he was chosen to be a warrior between his 5 and 7 years of age, and from that moment he was not allowed to take decisions for himself nor to live his life as he wanted. He was given the power of the Colossal Titan and he was sent on a genocide mission against people he was told to be evil at the age of 11. Ah, I almost forgot: he was also condamned to die in 13 years. Believe me or not, but what’s so tragic about his life is not what happened until now. The real pain begins when he discovers that the people living inside the Walls are not what he was told they were. During his three years of training, Bertolt does his best to avoid getting too involved in friendly relationships with the others. He is described as taciturn, different from his friend Reiner who - as we know - recurred to an easier way to cope with his guilt:
But his human nature doesn’t really help Bertolt, because as careful as you could be, friendship is not something you can avoid so easly, especially if you are in your teens and you never had the opportunity to live your life as a normal person (and you probably won’t again, since you have just few years left). So, you end up being involved before you realize it:
As Bertolt himself said, the only moment in his life he considers ‘enjoyable’ was the time he spent as a soldier:
This speech is as clear as the water. Still, although they are a bit confused, it’s not enough for the characters to forgive him or to justify his actions. The only one that shows interest in talking this out is Armin in chapter 78:
Despite Bertolt and Reiner were revealed as the two Titans who caused so much sufference, Armin is still believing there’s something wrong with them. There must be a reason (I don’t want to say good) for them to act this way, so he wants to confront him and see if the same person who was able to show love feelings for Annie is really doing this by his choice. I’m sure Armin have never marked Reiner and Bertolt for bad people. I’m sure he is still looking for the truth behind their actions because he knows Bertolt’s speech in chapter 48 was not a lie.
So, what distinguish Marco’s death from Bertolt’s is their life. They were both left to be eaten by a Titan, but while the first one got the tears of his murderers…
… the latter got nothing but hate and indifference from the only people he spent a nice time with:
Yes: death is death. Marco did nothing wrong to end that way, but allow me to say that Bertolt is as much as a victim as he was.