Here’s why some titans transform with a lightning ball and others with a lightning bolt:
There are really two possibilities.
The first possibility is that the size of lightning corresponds with the size of the titan that is transforming, so larger titans produce large bolts, and small titans produce small balls.
It also might just be an artistic effect where the lightning size denotes the dramatic impact.
So if you want to learn all about why titan transformations happen with different lightnings, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right into it!
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What Is a Titan?
I’m going to be pretty thorough about all of this, especially because the lightning variations don’t have a clear, canon answer.
Since I’m being thorough, I need to hit you with a spoiler warning first thing.
The answers to your questions involve significant plot points from Attack on Titan.
While the manga has been finished for a while now, the anime is not yet complete.
So, if you don’t already know the full story, then you can turn back right now.
If you read beyond this point, you risk running into spoilers.
With that said, what is a titan?
In the Attack on Titan franchise, titans are giant humanoid creatures.
They seem to never die of natural causes.
They roam the wildernesses outside of the walls on Paradis, and when they come into contact with humans, they eat those humans.
Titans don’t actually need to eat; they just seem to derive pleasure from it.
For the most part, titans are fairly mindless, instinctual creatures, but there are exceptions.
Some titans, known as aberrant titans, exhibit weird behaviors.
There are also nine special titans, known as “human” titans, that break all of the rules.
These nine titans are actually regular, everyday-looking humans who can transform into specialized titans under the right conditions.
Once transformed, each of the nine titans has its own special abilities, and all nine are capable of returning to their human form at will.
On top of that, the nine titans are fully controlled by the humans who transform into them, making them titans that have fully “human” thinking and behavior.
When Do Titans Transform? (3 Events)
Based on that explanation of titans, it might sound like titans transform whenever one of the nine meets the right conditions, but that’s actually only part of the story.
Later in the storyline of Attack on Titan, it is revealed that all titans are actually Eldian people.
The Eldian people are a specific race in that world that are known for their power over titans.
It turns out that the ability to turn into a titan at all is something that is genetically unique to the Eldians.
What this also means is that all of the mindless titans in the series are actually transformed human Eldians.
With that in mind, there are actually a few different specific scenarios where an Eldian can and will turn into a titan, and those conditions depend on the type of titan in question.
#1 Upon Receiving Formula
First off, we can talk about regular titans.
They come from Eldian humans, and that means a transformation has to take place at some point.
What triggers a regular Eldian to transform into a regular titan?
It turns out that there is a special formula.
You can inject it into an Eldian, and they will transform right there, on the spot.
In this case, Eldians have no control over the transformation, and it happens pretty much instantly upon receiving the injection.
The formula is actually made from the spinal fluid of titans, particularly those with royal blood, but that’s not really important for this discussion.
In the original manga, this transformation comes with a flash of light, but it’s not clear if full-fledged lightning is part of the process.
#2 When Triggered
It turns out that the mechanism used to deliver spinal fluid impacts the transformation.
The injections cause instant transformations, but in other cases, spinal fluid can be ingested and lie dormant.
The perfect example of this is when Zeke secretly puts his spinal fluid in a bunch of wine and distributes it to the Eldian military.
The fluid is too diluted and ingested through the mouth, so it doesn’t force a transformation.
But, Zeke can use his power as a royal titan to create a triggering event that then causes the dormant fluid to initiate a transformation.
Ultimately, these transformations look the same as when the fluid is injected, and the end result is the same.
There is a flash of light, but not necessarily lightning.
What you’ll see is that this is pretty consistent with the leading theories for why there are different lightning effects for different titans.
#3 At Will
Then, we have to consider the nine special titans.
These are humans that can more or less transform into titans at will, but the process is a little more involved.
To become one of the nine, an Eldian first has to become a regular titan.
Then, while in that mindless titan state, they have to eat someone who possesses one of the nine special abilities.
After that, they will transform into the corresponding titan and eventually back into a human.
After that, they can transform back into their special titan at will, with some conditions.
First, they have to receive an injury that draws blood (Eren often bites his finger to trigger a transformation).
Second, they have to have the physical fitness and stamina to transform.
If they have sufficient injuries, they won’t transform.
Also, if they transformed too recently, they won’t have enough stamina to transform again.
As long as they know how to transform well, though, it can more or less be done at will.
Moreover, any time one of the nine special titans transforms, it seems to be accompanied by some amount of lightning.
Why Is There Lightning When Titans Transform? (3 Scenarios)
Now that we’ve broken things down a bit, let’s focus more on the lightning.
Why is it even there?
Well, this isn’t thoroughly explained in any of the canon material, but we can speculate a little bit.
Whenever titans transform, there is a lot of steam as a byproduct.
The suggestion is that the transformation releases a very large amount of heat.
It’s possible that an extreme enough release of heat could actually turn air into plasma and release a lightning-like effect.
The series also never explains why the lightning looks different at different points in the story, but we can expand on this idea as a possible reason.
It might be that the shape of the lightning produced (or more specifically the amount of lightning) is proportional to the size of the titan after the transformation is complete.
The idea is that larger titans take more energy to transform, so there’s more lightning as a result.
#1 Titans Transforming With Lightning Balls
If we go with this idea, then we would expect to see lightning balls with smaller transformations.
When the cart titan or other small titans transform, we see a concentrated lightning effect around the person in particular.
Similarly, partial transformations from larger titan types would also produce less lightning because they aren’t complete transformations.
So, in those cases, we could see a ball of lightning around Eren or one of the larger titans simply because they aren’t doing a complete change.
#2 Titans Transforming With Lightning Bolts
We can explain the lightning bolts with the same idea.
In the series, really large transformations are often accompanied by a lightning bolt that extends from the sky to the ground.
The drawings and depictions are usually zoomed out to better demonstrate the scale of the transformation.
Since they are so zoomed out, it’s possible that these transformations also have a ball around the person who is changing, but we can’t see it from that perspective.
Regardless, the large bolts of lightning show up when large titans fully transform.
These titans would include the female titan, attack titan, armored titan, colossal titan, and beast titan.
#3 An Alternative Explanation
Of course, there’s an entirely different, viable explanation.
The size and style of the lightning might not actually have an in-world explanation.
After all, this is manga and anime that we are discussing.
It might be that it’s purely an artistic choice.
The size and shape of the lightning have absolutely nothing to do with the in-world size or scale of the transformation.
The lightning might not even be caused by heat.
Instead, this is all about drama.
The artists are choosing lightning to denote the emotional impact and storyline significance of the transformation.
After all, one of the most pronounced lightning bolts in the series involves the transformation of the female titan.
She’s nowhere near as big as the colossal titan, but her lightning bolt still competes.
If the lightning is entirely artistic, then it really doesn’t have to scale with any logic.
Some extremely dramatic transformations could still have small or even no lightning imagery.
Less-dramatic transformations could have epic bolts, simply because that’s what the artists chose.
The Final Verdict
As always, the truth is a combination of things.
You can see some consistency in the artwork that correlates lightning bolts and balls to the size of titan transformations.
You’ll also find exceptions to any single rule, and that goes down to artistic discretion.