ATTACK ON TITAN Will Probably Be the Cause of World War III

Who would have thought that an anime about naked giants attempting to use the last of humanity for their own personal buffet would evoke World War II, Japanese imperial thought, and advocate the individual's sacrifice to group-think?

Or maybe over its 25 episodes, the opposite is true: that Production I.G.'s adaptation of the Hajime Isayama manga is a sly critique of the all of the above, and that one season in, the audience hasn't yet been exposed to the line of thinking which upends what would seem to be a sustained celebration of the kind of expansionist thought that led a militarized Japan to look to the Philippines, Korea, and China and begin licking their chops.

Lauded (rightly) by Todd in our year-end TV roundup, Attack on Titan is set 100 years after humanity has effectively lost the war against massive, people-chomping monsters. If you haven't checked it out, you should get on that right now - in part because it is that good, and largely because the following piece will spoil many of the twists from the show's first season (consider yourself warned, etc.).

For the uninitiated, our hero is Eren, a teen who grows up in the outermost of one of three concentric, walled-in communities keeping the Titans out and humans growing complacent after 100 years without a Titan attack. The brash, angry Eren resents that his fellow survivors would remain content to stay confined within the walls of their 18th-century style communities. When the Titans - led by an armored, seemingly intelligent variant, mounts an assault on his community, Eren vows to join the military to kill every last one of their invading oppressors.

Largely a military drama, Attack... is broken into four major engagements with the Titans, where the life or death strategy of the boys (usually) teenaged soldiers in the Scout Regiment and Military police breaks down into two tactics: retreat and defend the central kingdom innermost wall of Sina, grow fat, and maybe survive for a little longer, or resist and extend humanity's reach beyond the walls.

So here you've got a nation struggling with dwindling resources, a fearful and incompetent government, and a youth culture without direction, facing the struggle of their lives. Sounds like Japan* in 2009, when the world economy felt like it was - well, what's a phrase more terrifying than "free-fall," because it was that. That was the year when unemployment spiked to around 5.7% by that summer, a record number at the time.

This was also the year in which the first volume of the Attack on Titan manga appeared in Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine.

For a nation struggling to find its direction, seemingly prey to the economic and political machinations of larger countries, and falling behind its cultural rival China, it must have been easy to identify with Sina,** a nation under siege. "If only the slackers, the moochers, and the cowards would simply fight back, Attack on Titan" seems to cry with every episode. And be prepared to subsume your identity in the process.

One of the running themes throughout the show is the desires of the individual versus the needs of the many. As a fan of the show, you have to be prepared to watch a lot of bodies drop, as each of the military strategies seems to be one of misdirection by attrition, throwing the bodies of the young soldiers at the Titans so that a smaller force can achieve something greater over time. But when the individual goes off on his or her own, it's the cause of greater pain.

Consider, for instance, the arc featuring the Scouts attempting to capture the intelligent female Titan, which encapsulates a lot of this argument. Eren is asked repeatedly to trust that even through all of the bloodshed, there is a plan to defeat the female variant, which is faster, smarter, stronger, and has abilities not manifest by any of the previous types.

Ultimately, we learn that Captain Erwin's secrecy was based on the (correct) assumption that the female was a human who could transform like Eren, and that the plan was to use a small number of definitively loyal scouts to capture her. The operation goes sideways when Scout leader Levi begins taunting the female as the others plan a means of revealing the traitor within the body.

This, by the way, is a running trope throughout the series: a carefully-laid plan falls apart because of the individual. "We're all in this together," the series would add, except for the cowards, the traitors, and anyone outside the walls of our nation. Erwin ultimately sums up the philosophy of the show when he says that he has to turn off his emotions to save humanity, a curious, likely deliberate reworking of Emperor Hirohito's speech at Japan's surrender at the end of World War II:"I made efforts to swallow tears and to protect the species of the Japanese nation."

At about this point, it's easy to say the show is more about collective effort during crisis and less about militarism if the series' creator didn't deliberately drop a member of the Japanese Imperial Army right into the middle of the action.

That would be Yoshifuru Akiyama (1859-1930), a general in the Army responsible for developing that country's cavalry strategy. He was also part of expeditionary forces into China and against Russia at the beginning of the last century, and he forms the visual (and seemingly character) model for the eccentric general Dot Pixis in Attack on Titan.*** If Akiyama's inclusion isn't an embrace of militarism, it's at least a friendly handshake for a time when Japan was an Imperial power with colonies and greater regional reach.

None of this is even touching on the concept of Titan Eren as the nation's nuclear option, or the simple chauvinism of the show which reduces its best and baddest soldier, Eren's adoptive sister, Mikasa, to a quivering mass of jelly when the emotions get too real, or what the reveal of the traitor in the last two episodes of the first season will say about the those who want to destroy the wall.

So what do you think? Is Attack on Titan a nationalistic call to arms for the young of Japan? Or maybe it's saying something deeper that I'm missing here - maybe something subversive? As always, the comments are open to you to speak your minds.

*Not just Japan, obviously, although the island nation was hit especially hard by the global financial crisis.

**What does it mean that "Sina" is the Latin word for China? I'm not really sure, but Attack presents itself within such an odd cultural melange, it's hard to decide which aspects are for effect, and which are simply for aesthetic.

***Kotaku links to a post from the Isayama who admits to patterning the character on Akiyama, which is in Japanese.

Around the Internet:
  • opmania

    Well there we rumours that Attack on titan season 2 will b out in june 2014 but they were wrong :'( as it was just attack on titan dubbed version but you know what ? there is good news too they will release two attack on titan movies too :D

    Source : http://www.watchsnk.com/2013/0...

  • qffq3131

    Well I fully agreed with Yoshiyuki Tomino about Shingeki no Kyojin, I once a fan of it, but when I cool off my hot head, I am not anymore.It is true that this anime promote violent, war and the word "SINA". Many people watching this anime in my country and then they thought that they can be like the character in this anime so they act stupidly, think they have the power to dominate? In 100 people watchking this anime, 90 people watch it just because of it violent, eating live humans. And from my viewpoint of, it not as good as other masterpiece like One Piece the one that show the world that Japan is a brave, thoughtful, painful-still-never give up-looking for a good future, then SnK only focus on violent, and make it happy on violent? Why because like Tomino said because SnK author was bully when he was young so SnK is just his revenge....on paper. And Dragonball a legend one, make Japan anime known world-wide, inspiration for many others good one after. And so another good one from Japan is Gintama, funny but deep, from the very normally things we saw a deep emotion, brave Japan. And Hagane no Renkin Jutsushi make a deep one too.

  • Guest

    Terrible review, erroneous analysis, and all-around misrepresentation of AoT. I actually logged into my Google account and registered to Disqus in order to leave my first comment, ever, anywhere; that's how bad this article truly is.

  • Michael Fish

    The show has many more human themes than it has national themes. It has the theme of evil. Are the titans really evil, or do they simply act on instinct? If the humans push the titans to extinction by becoming monsters, is it a victory for humanity? Is it any better than what the titans had nearly done to humanity? The show contains themes of humanity that people everywhere understand. It is not some big political statement, and it is certainly not calling people to war. There really is such a thing as over-analyzing. You have analyzed to the point where you have gotten lost in your opinion and drowned out important facts.

  • adam200o

    i say just get over it its just a fucking anime Jesus Christ

  • Arhaik Maria

    This article serious? This article is based on very limited research and lack of knowledge of the anime/manga.

  • Nate

    But it doesn't make sense, in the show almost all asian people are wiped out and it is probably set in a european country which is why you have names like yaeger and brause. so it doesn't give a throwback to japanese power at all

  • Dylan Bower

    Ahem, I believe that you are all idiots. I don't know about you, but I personally find Attack on Titan to be a very inspiring show, and I am as American as one can get. This show exemplifies honor, bravery, and self-sacrifice for one's country. I am an Eagle Scout within the Boy Scouts of America, and these are qualities near and dear to my heart. The fact that all Asians were killed except for Mikasa is actually an innovative change from the Japanese being the stars of any given anime. Dot Pixis made a reference to the moral of the show in the episode Idol: The countries in power today are too wrapped up in politics and petty squabbles to combat any outside threat. There is TOO MUCH emphasis on culture, religion, ethnicity and such making there no room for freedom of choice. Levi mentions this also when he said that one has the ability to trust in the group, or trust in oneself. Eren made the right decision originally by trusting in his team, but had he trusted in himself later on, he would have saved everyone. I don't understand how you interpret patriotism and liberty into fanaticism and imperialisticism. The country has no desire for outlying territories, and only the Survey Corps dares to set aside their humanity in hopes that others won't have to. Conspiracy theorists need to shut up. If you are a true fan, disregard this article and OFFER UP YOUR HEARTS!!!

  • Guest

    freedom of speech has some very major pitfalls. articles like this are one of them.

  • Guest

    are you really this dumb? or just really stoned when you wrote this nonsense?

  • Ben Azrael

    dumb.

  • Niagra Falls

    Do you think Japan is some communistic hell hole or something? it's a freaking anime... I never knew someone can be this dumb. You' like those idiots who think GTA V is causing crimes in real life.. omg

  • I_dont_want_your_opinion

    I tried reading this through, but your opinion as a whole felt so misguided that i couldnt help but laugh and skip the rest. Though some of what you say does sound accurate, i feel you are grasping at straws just to make a more interesting article. For anyone who hasnt seen the show yet, check it out. Its quite interesting, and deserves a personal opinion.

  • john freyan

    Look at the people commenting here. These are the kind of people who would think that Heinlein was just writing a story about soldiers in mechanical suits in space when he published Starship Troopers. Seriously, what were you idiots doing in 9th grade English when they were going over the basics of fictional writing and interpretation?

    Hajime Isayama, the original author of the Attack on Titan, is a known ultranationalist who defended the Imperial Japan's actions in Asia multiple times. Even without that context, it's clear what Attack on Titan is advocating.

  • cookieater

    Dude This should be World War lll

  • Heather

    Not bad points in this article at all, though assuming Sina is a representation of any Asian country seems generally flawed to me. Considering (at least in the anime, since I haven't read the manga) they clearly state that Mikasa is one of the last, if not THE last "Oriental". I'm not saying the symbolism isn't there, but I think it's more catered towards a broader generation of young people who really are lost and probably feels as though those who were meant to guide them (a.k.a. their respective government, ect.) have failed at best, or at the very worst consciously abandoned them, rather than a specific country or even ethnicity. At least that's what it speaks to me about. The constant fear and anger each character portrays is also genuine to that assumption, at least in my opinion.

  • Crispim

    in my opinion thats a show about impotence and despair before an amazingly stronger enemy. that being said, the best part for me in the entire season was when i believed eren was killed in his first fight. well, he's still alive but that still gave me the sense that this guy isnt joking arround... fragility of life and everything that comes with it are completely exposed in this story and shit, that means that if we dont do shit like right now we ARE going to die one way or another. so to be passive and accept the end of humanity is angriing (is that a word?) for some, but everybody understands that, you know "shit, those fucking giant shits eat people, i mean, what the fuck? i'm outta here". so yeah... its a very complex show that presents us with life and death in a tangible way and as one of the dilemas: the possibility of getting as far away from death as possible even though its inevitable, or sacrificing yourself for maybe a better future. i get it: its not different from war thinking, in some ways, nor it is from revolutionary thinking either. the real difference here is the completely and unnegociable end of everything you hold dear. thats a bit fucking heavy, you know? thats something you'll only find in the most agrressive colonialism (like, say, how almost every native tribe has been murdered in america). and not even there.

  • disqus_kd8KCLW3L5

    you're bat shit crazy, all of that is based on your own interpretation of AOT. i cant say its wrong but i can say your thinking is abnormal.

  • Keenan Courtez

    I don't think this show should be limited to just a statement about japan and especially should not be so superficially limited to only a statement about nationalism and militarism. As a western viewer who normally does not enjoy anime, i was blown away from the sheer complexity of this show and the symbolic meaning and cultural statements jammed into every nook and cranny. Every bit of grandeur in this show is quickly temperamented with very reel human reactions. This is a would that was created and now the writers are experimenting with how humans would deal with it. There is not an individual statement about only Japanese culture or nationalism. Instead a broad statement about human nature, morality and a tongue in cheek dialog criticizing the conventional hero epic format.

  • Name2

    You heard the man.
    Let's attack Japan!
    That'll teach them to make entertaining anime shows that secretly calls their teenagers to arms.
    While we make terrible reality shows, music that encourages gun violence and sex.
    Clearly we are the ones doing the right thing.
    :D
    P.S Whoever made this article should be a part of the media.
    They are pretty good at making things up.
    which is EXACTLY what this guy did.

  • Obra

    What I got from the first episode all the way to the very last was the ideal that an individual must take care of themselves; even if it be going outside the walls with the titans. I got the impression that there is more to the world outside the walls other than bloodthirsty titans, and this is what the government fears. Time and time again we were shown that humans are incompetent when fighting these large foes with the exception of a strong few. It is difficult to fully understand if there a deeper meaning behind the screen as we watch (I kept getting the urge to rise up and take action while watching), but there is most undoubtedly one. Characters such as Levi seem to be an independent, something which wren strives to achieve (along with freeing humanity from the constraints of the walls and their leaders and the threat of titans). But my interpretation of the show was that we are stuck between a hard place and a rock. One scenario we may live free, outside the walls; but their are titans which will eat us. But in the other case, we may live in the walls "safely" being dictated what to do by a corrupt leadership. To me it also boils down to an individual being able to self govern themselves, which has more than the application of safety. Just one thought!

  • Anon_PH

    F*CKIN IDIOT YOU THINK WORLD WAR 3 WILL START BECAUSE OF AN ANIME ?! ARE YOU F*CKIN INSANE ? YOU BETTER SHUT UP CAUSE YOUR ARTICLE IS A TRASH

  • Fuebay

    WTF are you talking about? Call to arms? how the hell is this remotely close to war propaganda? Let me guess, you finally read one chapter in your high school history book and now you...wait...nonono, fuck you, I'm not gonna bite. you know, this anime is just another giant robot with a fucking teenager in it right? Robot obviusly been replaced by the skinless human form. Main theme being individualism, utilitarianism and nihilism. Same old unresolved philosophical problems that has being rehashed over and over again. Nothing original here, enjoy the show and never forget it is just a fucking cartoon. Want something actually thought provoking you gonna have to read a fucking book.

  • Christa Snowden

    Rather than Latin, 'Sina's' China's old Sanskrit name.

  • Ramzus02

    Here is my opinion: The way I see it, the morale of this is more about how much sacrifices it takes to achieve freedom. That suffering most be endured sometime for the greater good... And not about invading the neighborhood. If you look back in history, all country that achieved independance, abolition of slavery or repelling invaders... It took a lot of sacrifices from individuals for the greater good...

    And if it take an anime to start world war 3... I have a hard time to even believe that those that have the power to start a war, have time to watch anime. I don't think that Bush, Obama or Harper or whatever sit down in front of the computer looking for anime. And if they do... I don't think they would see that as an prequel for war. Maybe if the name is Kim Jong-Il... It is a possibility...

  • It is different. I reverse.

    http://jjjjj0o0o0o0o.tumblr.co...

    please reblog. please translate.

  • Vampire: The Darkness

    I've just noticed this site is sensationalist with its headlines, but this is really exaggerated from beginning to end, I just wonder how familiar is the author with Japanese entertainment? It's not like Hollywood were writers are always trying to spread their political views in subtle ways, most of the time, they just share their fantastic and interesting universes with a good production and knowledge about the subject and make you feel part of it, because their characters act like humans and they have their feelings, thoughts and different reactions,
    I personally like those stories where they don't show you there are bad and good guys, a polarised world, if not, that there are persons who can commit both type of acts for their own sake and what they think is right, What their entertainment did after WWII? They made a lot of great anti-war stories, also the people from those cities which were blasted now promote the peace.

  • Joshua Sorell

    I haven't seen the rest of the season (so woops on myself for reading the spoilers but whatever) but I've thought a lot about the notions of fascism in the show and there's some particular kinds of rhetoric that definitely play into the fascist handbook. The big one for me is that the Titans are essentially unknowable. They're huge, they're inhuman, they're creepy and they destroy everything. They are the embodiment of the "other" (I REALLY hate that term) and are essentially the most alien foe one could have outside of literal aliens.
    Even more so is the depiction of the sloth and uselessness of the royalty in the kingdom. They're depicted as hedonistic and lazy; which plays into the aspects of fascism that reject monarchism and adores the worker who fights for his nation (this is different than communism, which glorifies the working masses, independent of the nation state. IE USSR; "for the proletariat," Third Reich; "for the fatherland/ the fuhrer.")
    It is especially weird how the flaws of the individual become placated through military service. Eren is shown, in the flashback where he saves Mikasa, to definitely be a problem child who is violently insane. Mikasa on the other hand seems to be depicted as such a pure soldier because she relinquishes notions of emotions and self preservation. Of course this could be text to be deconstructed later, but I'm not sure.
    However, a scan from the Manga has Pixis and Eren discussing the prospect of humanity uniting against such a foe as the Titans and Eren seems to think that man's inherent differences would forestall such a massive, imperialist unification. This makes me think that the show isn't pro-fascist or anything, but is rather an exploration of the idea of fascism. To what extent does mankind's flaws an neuroses have an impact on man's survival in a dire, apocalyptic situation?

  • Æres

    That last part is definitely expressed in the scene where that crazy captain wants to blast Eren and Co. on the spot with their canon.

  • Emily

    One of my favorite things about Shingeki no Kyojin is that they are fighting a war against an entirely inhuman enemy. The Titans are practically a force of nature, with no personhood or ability to think. This means that the show can depict the horrors of war without having to deal with an important fact of life in real war: that you're fighting other humans. Since humanity is fighting against an enemy that the show has gone out of its way to paint as the physical manifestation of pointless, chaotic evil, there is no moral ambiguity. There is no slaughtering of other humans as the enemy, no murder of soldiers on the other side. Everyone who is fighting is clearly working for good, and clearly fighting only to defend themselves. It is a one-sided war against a truly evil and entirely implacable enemy, which means that we are able to focus on the humanity, stories, losses, and gains of the characters. I think it's a perversion of the themes of the story to suggest an imperialistic agenda when Isayama has so clearly constructed a story that's not about politics, but humans.

  • Gopal Natarajan

    "The Titans are practically a force of nature, with no personhood or
    ability to think. This means that the show can depict the horrors of war
    without having to deal with an important fact of life in real war: that
    you're fighting other humans."

    If you are caught up with the series, you'll know that your assertion about the Titans is not quite true. This makes the prospects for Season 2 pretty tantalizing.

  • Emily

    While its true that there are other (sentient) forces at work, the Titans themselves aren't. And while we really have no idea who these people are in Reiner and Bertolt's hometown, it seems to me that they are using the Titans, but aren't necessarily Titans themselves. I glossed over these mysterious forces because we know absolutely nothing about them, and even if they are in "command" of the Titans, the Titans are still the "footsoldiers" that are actually being fought.

    But I agree, I can't wait to learn more about what the heck is going on.

  • Kanashi

    ..........

  • Mista X

    Shingeki is honestly awful; the manga started off on a really good foot but only a couple dozen chapters in it stumbles hard and never quite regains it's footing.

  • ZackRobotHeart

    This is a really interesting argument, and although I see it as logically coherent and wouldn't put it past an anime or manga to have the message Charles Web is reading into AoT, I kind of doubt very many people will be so moved by that message as to revive ultra-nationalism and provoke a world war. The title makes it kind of a stretch; even if china and japan are a very plausible origin point for world war 3. If that war were to happen it would hardly be any historian's logic to point to AoT as the match that lit the powder keg. I will concede that propaganda and politically charged fiction have that power, and might be the only thing that does. It is my suspicion that it takes more than one case, and usually far more mainstream media to do it though.

    On a side note claiming it was chauvinism for Mikasa to have an emotional breakdown is kind of strange. Literally dozens of men succumb to fear and sorrow every episode from far less than her experiences. In my oppinion her emotional breakdown was meant to show she is still human. I would argue that any character who never has a moment of total empathic paralysis in this show is actually being rendered a detached sociopath, not some paragon of masculinity or even as a person the viewer should aspire to be. Levi lost faith in humanity and is driven by his hatred and fears all other emotion. Mikasa though is in control of her emotions until things happen which no sane person can handle, she does not lock them away in a dead part of her brain and become a psychopath. She has pragmatism and empathy, yet is far more determined and physically fit than most everyone regardless of gender. Saying shes not a strong character on the grounds she was overcome by emotion, shows a flaw in the standard and not the character.

  • Erin McCrate

    This is a compelling analysis, however I feel that it is premature. The first season of the anime would seem to support your claim, however a significant number of volumes of the manga have been translated and posted which would seem to contradict some of your later arguments.

    With the newer mangas, the author seems to double back on some of the earlier assertions (which appear as such due to a lack of material and history provided at the time of their creation- a feature which I have found the author employs quite often at the expense of the reader, and for the purpose of instilling mystery and complexity to the characters' understanding of other characters.)

    Further into the manga, the author seems to indicate that respecting individuals and their motives is an inescapable reality of humanity. The lives of the titan shifters are explored (although not yet in great detail) And it is impossible to not understand that the other soldiers in the company feel at least some degree of sympathy for those who would seem to be the enemy.

    Furthermore, the reaction of Japanese and American fans to these characters, known "bad-guys" I guess, if you are looking at it through the lens of someone we presume to understand Attack as a call to militarism, is not peculiar in that equal amounts of people are drawn to these characters as they are to those who are determined to expand human territories. This would indicate that, as we all know through common sense, everyone has their own opinion.

    Japan has historically felt as you have purported the author to feel, however it is not indicative wholescale to the feelings and thoughts of a Japan whose newest and youngest generation is experiencing globalization in a way never before believed to be possible. Just tossing out ideas here, but perhaps globalization is the 100 year old titan infestation, and the author feels that Japan has been losing its population or culture to an increasingly aggressive movement toward outward interactions with other eastern and western countries and cultures. It is interesting to note that the author portrayed Mikasa as one of the last "oriental" humans in the known settlement. There is also the strong warning by Dot Pixis that humanity has been its own monster since the dawn of time and warfare. These, I believe, are points in canon which cannot be ignored.

  • Joe P

    Can someone compress this story and give me key points?

  • MMAddict

    Sure, don't bother reading this sensationalist crap.

  • kornovol

    This article has it upside down. Yes, it is a Japanese show so it taps
    inspiration from Japan's history and cultural consciousness. Does this
    mean it seeks to repeat history? Unlikely. That's like saying a Godzilla
    movie is really about inciting a nuclear war.

  • weepinbell

    ALSO, for all of the people who are right off the bat bashing the OP i think it's really important to realize that AoT has some really thinly veiled influences of Japanese nationalism that, i personally think, had to have been intentional, so there's certainly some validity to this analysis. for me personally, the one that stands out the most is the presence of german influence which played a HUGE role in japanese nationalism, from their military to their high school uniforms - basically, the german military played a really big part in the development of japanese nationalism. obviously AoT has some strong germanic influence in it, from character names (jaeger, armin, erwin...) to the lyrics in the openings, to the way the military is handled.

    so while the op definitely has exaggerated a LOT, the theme of japanese nationalism in AoT is not totally out of the question and kind of an interesting notion when you relate it to japan during/post-WWII.

  • weepinbell

    this is a very interesting take that definitely has some validity to it... however, i would argue that AoT seems to stress the importance of making a decision, sticking with it, and seeing it through without regret, regardless of if that decision lies in the individual or in the team. of course, sacrifice of identity for the greater good is a huge theme throughout the anime and manga but sticking with this mentality is not always the best course of action. (spoilers ahead) for example, in that very same arc where levi taunts the female titan, not long before, eren makes the choice not to transform into his titan form and, instead, trust his comrades to trust in the orders of their higher ups. sure, this results in the capture of the female titan, but things end up going awry and resulting in even more deaths of very skilled soldiers who are not only very important to eren, but also the survival of humanity. of course, one could argue that it was levi's fault for taunting the female titan, but i'm not sure - because we know the female titan is, in fact, a very intelligent human being, i think it could be safe to assume that her cry for help was premeditated, thus, inevitable. levi's provocation may have sped the process along, but it surely would have happened either way, as this was obviously her last resort for survival. the point is that this chain of unfortunate happenings makes eren question his decision to stick with the group mentality since he ends up having to transform anyways - he would have had the same results, but he could have had the chance to avoid unnecessary deaths of his comrades. a contrasting example in this arc occurs when armin, reiner, and jean discuss that it is always up to the individual solder whether or not the mission is too dangerous to see through - they do ultimately decide to obey their orders. so while sacrificing individuality for the sake of strength in unity is certainly a theme that does apply to the long history japan has in nationalistic mentality, it is also important not to forget that your personal choice is never invalid, so long as it is a choice that you can see it through without regret.

    ALSO, on a completely different note i have to very strongly disagree with the comment about "the boys being usually teenaged soldiers" - i am not about to get into detail on this one but i just have to say that the presence of female soldiers with amazingly contrasting personalities in this series is HUGE. and really awesome.

    anyways, cool to see a thought provoking article like this about this series. i could write an essay about this topic!

  • volkerball85

    I'm sorry, but this article is a bunch of crap, either written by somebody who really doesn't get the series so far, or who likes to make mountains out of molehills and rile people up. Nationalism? When the ruling class of the settlement is regularly portrayed as greedy, spoiled, stupid and weak? When Eren's entire desire is to get AWAY from his home country/city?

    Collectivism? When most of the most devastating plot points thus far arose because characters chose to trust in others, rather than themselves? Look at what happened to Eren's squad when he chose to let them handle the Female Titan, rather than fighting her himself.

    Chauvinism? When this series is one of the rare few in anime that doesn't pander to horny fanboys with constant cleavage and panty shots? Where the women of the story don't get any special treatment, fighting and dying the same as their male comrades? Mikasa doesn't turn into a "quivering mass of jelly" for no reason at all, or even frequently. She shows emotion when she realizes Eren is actually alive, and in a small handful of other incidents, but it seems the trend anymore is to claim chauvinism anytime a female character cries or otherwise shows emotion. Apparently the only way to write a strong female character is to make them be a badass robot, devoid of emotion?

    If anything, I see this series more as an allegory about the disenfranchisement of Japanese youth who, more and more often, are finding themselves dissatisfied with the life paths they're expected to take; do well in school, go to college, get a career, work in an office. It's a story about facing a threat that literally wants to devour you, and wanting to escape to something better. How is this metaphor not obvious?

  • Nasir Tello

    actually,ATTACK doesn't really have to do much with this argument because the real translation of SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN(the Japanese name) means Advancing Giants,but i'm not sure if that just makes it any better...

  • Garrett Carpenter

    What are you talking about? Seriously, this is way over analyzing this show. All I see is the will to live, and human greed and fear clash. The only thing that is nationalistic about this is that they are the only country left on earth, why wouldn't they work for the greater good.

    This is pointless and stupid. If your going to hammer one show, why not all. Code Geass is more World War material than this show is. Fullmetal Alchemist literally have a coup d ta. What about Gurren Lagann for it fight for freedom and revolution against the beastmen, then about its corruption of its leader because of power and responsibility.

    If this is the link to WWIII, then by God, so are all anime. Shut up you stupid moronic idiot. I bet you just don't like it. If you don't, shut up and let the people who do enjoy the damn thing. Haters are such a nuisance.

  • MMAddict

    I will not take this article for any worth when this ignoramus hasn't even read the manga. Shut up and do your research we're 3 times as far into the story as you are. Making claims like that without knowing the story that is easily available to you is selective journalism, if what you're doing can be called journalism in any capacity.

  • darwinbird

    I think it's a reflection of a lot of themes in asian culture. Not necessarily that this is supporting WWII era Japan, but that WWII era Japan was driven by the cultural values highlighted in this show.

  • MMAddict

    Funny, I thought Godzilla would've caused WW3 first. This is an obvious ATTACK from someone who does not like the show and is a COMPLETE AND UTTER IDIOT. You hear me Charles Webb? You're a terrible writer and even worse human being. You have no moral compass and twist the truth like the reporters on fox news. You are a DISGRACE.

  • MMAddict

    If you're gonna downvote me but can't think of a response then your opinion is without backing. Godzilla is a metaphor for the atomic bomb. Go learn your shit

  • Æres

    He's a monster made from radiation....uhh duh! lol

  • yoyo-canan

    are you fucking serious

  • Nypherium Dalvar

    Oh my god. Shut up twit. You're making yourself sound like both and idiot and an "OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATI" boob at the same time. Man, that's even worse than being called "stupid". Think about that.

  • Diclonius Makoto

    I say it's jumping to assumptions A: Attack on Titan is a storyline that's unique because it's a very Well thought out anime that hooks people B: it'd be stupid for Nations to attack each other who are allied with each other, lastly it's not a call to arms but more of a call to unite people that war against our own species is dumb, Aliens could come at any time and wipe out half the human race (If you think we are alone in this universe you are bat shit delirious the universe goes on forever i doubt the ant of a planet we live on is the only habitable one) So the anime series might just be trying to bring that to light that something BIGGER than the human race could become a threat, see what i'm getting at? the assumption that this could start world war 3 is just a scare nothing really more

  • Andre Lawrence

    I believe this is just like many other anime, petitioning the Japanese people to retake the strength they once had. In the old days and even know if you look at fights closely you'll see that many of the strongest energy attacks are mushroom cloud shaped explosions. I think it's less about returning to its status as Imperial Japan and more about being able to properly defend itself and thrive economically without having to worry about threats such as China or rely on America's military might. Keep in mind that Japan was a nation with a lot of pride, after being beaten by an enemy that they attacked, claiming they would win, they were de-fanged by treaties. To this day Japan still faces dislike from former colonial nations like China, and with military might of these nations increasing while Japan's stagnates then it makes sense for that some would see the need for Japan to increase its military might.

  • Becki

    Regarding Mikasa as a strong female character: I think a lot of people seem to have this idea that a female character can only be "strong" if they're 100% badass 100% of the time. To me, a "strong female character" isn't just about physical strength, it's about portraying all different kinds of women, and not just shallow caricatures, which is something Attack on Titan does well. That said, I do think the anime messed up pretty badly when it came to Annie in the last few episodes, and I recommend reading the manga for a better version of that arc.

    Also for the record, Mikasa cried in only one scene, and it was because she had just found out that her adoptive brother, the most important person in her life, had not actually died horrifically and was still alive even though that shouldn't have been possible.

    I also thought that Levi's taunting was not at all the reason the plan to capture the female titan failed. It was because she outsmarted them, because nobody anticipated that she would call on other Titans to attack her rather than let them capture her.

    The point of the scene where Levi's squad asks Eren to trust them is that even when he decides to do so, they're still brutally massacred. It's a subversion of a common anime trope (friendship conquers all). This was one case where it's possible that him acting on his own could have saved them in the end.

    All that said, I still enjoyed reading this article, and it did bring up some good points about the nationalism in this series that I hadn't considered.

  • Guest

    I think what you said about Mikasa is very important and I'm annoyed that this article completely simplified her characterization so badly. Mikasa is a 15 YEAR OLD GIRL WHO WATCHED HER PARENTS GET MURDERED AND THOUGHT HER ONLY REMAINING FAMILY MEMBER HAD BEEN EATEN ALIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF A GIANT HORRIFIC INVASION. Yes, when she found out Eren was alive she completely broke down in tears, and it's my favorite Mikasa moment because it's such a beautiful innocent human moment and it shows us what's at the heart of her-- that she is capable of precise cold violence and incredible perseverence, but that she's fighting for something ultimately very sentimental and childlike. It's that contrast that makes her interesting, and I actually wish we got to see more of her vulnerability (though that might just be my personal preference of what I like seeing in characters). The idea that a female character showing any sort of "weakness" is misogynistic is such a misreading of the entire concept. Attack on Titan is actually one of the least sexist shows I've ever seen and has an almost compeltely equal and fair treatment of its male and female character, which is (absurdly but nonetheless) highly unusual and something to be commended.

  • Michael Fish

    I agree with your statement about it being one of the least sexist shows out there. I have seen plenty of animes that put their female characters in barely any clothing and in weak and innocent positions. In Attack on Titan, the males and females all wear the same uniform, they all cry, and they all fight when they need to.

  • Keenan Courtez

    the Characters and their development in this show are some of the best ive seen across board, in all mediums. I would say 'potato girl, is the truly progressive female character and is a gem amount the medias female archetypes. Shes quirky, and sometimes clumsy but also extremely competent. The potato scene is something very reel that i think everyone can relate to and her reaction can easily be empathized with.

    Also that sentimental aspect of Mikasa is discreetly shown off in every scene she appears wearing the red scarf.

  • Æres

    Didn't really realize it until now, but yes, it really is one of the least sexiest shows out there...and that's totally not a bad thing at all. Sex isn't really my main allure to any kind of media, but there's so much of it around you really don't notice it until something stands as contrast.

    Yeah, Mikasa was very purely stoic at the beginning but was shown to be able to er and have more of a heart after the Eren-saving-Armin thing. I agree with your stance on that scene with Mikasa, and also feel she isn't portrayed as an emotional bomb waiting to go off. Now, Jessica from the movie representation of Dune...that's another story. And literally, it's another story from the book, it's horrible -_-

  • Archsage

    He said least "sexist" not least "sexiest". Two very different terms. But yes, it's great to see an anime that isn't filled with girls with unreasonably large breasts constantly making sexual innuendos.

    As for Mikasa, I enjoyed everything about her except during her fight against Titan Annie, when her foolishness got Levi hurt. That seemed VERY out of character for her.

  • ThatFknGuy

    Execept it wasn't out of character at all. The show has already shown us that putting Eren in danger is her Berserk Button. It makes perfect sense that she would throw caution into the wind in a moment where she saw an opportunity to save him.

  • ExAlpha01

    If you think Attack on Titan is "a call to arms for the young of Japan" with nationalism and militarism, why not take a look at American Hollywood? Have you not noticed a American rise in nationalism and militarism after 9/11 occurred? Movies such as Olympus Has Fallen, Battleship, and Lone Survivor portray American soldiers fighting a war to protect the United States. Furthermore, Olympus Has Fallen just shows the fear of another attack on U.S. soil and can also be considered a call to arms as a family man becomes a Secret Service agent, who has the supreme duty of protecting the President and against mass numbers of terrorists surrounding D.C. The movie Battleship shows off the U.S. Navy's strength and strategy against an unknown enemy, which can be referred to the war against a realistic unknown enemy called Al Qaeda. What about the FPS genre such as Call of Duty series and Battlefield series? They all portray American soldiers fighting foreign enemies such as Japan, Middle East, Russia, and China. These games always show Americans are victorious against these foreign enemies. So, don't be too haste and turn the tables around to call Attack on Titan "a call to arms for the young of Japan" when American Hollywood and media are doing the same to American youth. However, I truly do not believe it is a wrong thing for any show/movie to display nationalism, to a certain degree, because it is called pride. Would you not feel pride for your country? Do you see fellow citizens, no matter what nation, displaying their flags? Or perhaps a sports team? Well, of course. You see, it is people's mentality of pride that is then translated into movie and media, no matter what country. Overall, the reoccurring theme of nationalism is in almost every media and a single thing should not be pinpointed for a cause of a world war.

  • Zeto

    I think some people see american nationalism as a good thing... but everyone else nationalism as bad. Double moral standard.

  • Archsage

    Hmm? That's the very nature of nationalism -- it's exclusive to a single nation. It isn't a double moral standard at all...

  • DHGM

    This article flat out lies to the reader. The plan doesn't fall apart because Levi "expresses individuality", by taunting the female titan, it falls apart because the female titan calls other titans toward herself so that they can devour her, thus escaping from Edwin's trap. This was completely independent from Levi's taunting.

    In fact, it's touched upon that at one point Eren could have saved more lives in the long run by ignoring Levi's orders and taking matters into his own hands. After some quick thinking, Eren decides to trust Levi's orders, and the situation falls apart anyway.

    This hardly conforms to what Webb considers a "running trope throughout the series: a carefully-laid plan falls apart because of the individual." Though the female titan was caught in the trap, she managed to free herself in the end, making Eren's trust in the orders of a superior officer partially responsible for a LOSS in the long run.

    Charles Webb omitted important context in accurately understanding the situation in order to support his own thesis. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, I cannot say, but omission of information is lying.

  • weepinbell

    i think he was inferring that levi's taunting provoked the female titan to call the other titans. but i do agree that it is an important thing to leave out, especially because there is a HUGE possibility that the female titan calling the other titans was an inevitability.

  • Æres

    I agree with everyone's criticisms minus this one point. I think the show clearly shows how the female titan emotionally responds to the idea of being cut out and captured and then -=Interrogated=-. She REALLY hated that idea. So much that it's emphasized once again in the last episode, where her "pilots" capture, basically resulted in moot. They wanted to capture her for information...and she made sure they didn't get that.

    Levi was portrayed as being an overly pushy rash sort of guy...that's his main character flaw, a theme for the members of the Survey team/Scouts. I really think his taunting of the female titan in the woods was an example of that, and that it freaked her out and caused her to do that desperate titan summon cry stunt out of just that - desperation. Those binding hook cable gun things were a new recent invention by the mad scientist chick, so that was a totally unanticipated tactic - female titan was not expecting humans to be able to capture her at all. Let alone consider WHY they would want to capture her...and she was all calm and collect, being tied up on the ground, until Levi went ahead and made it clear they were going to painfully remove her and then dissect her and interrogate her and what-have you.

    So yeah, I think Levi really was responsible for the failure of that mission. They were just about to blow off her hands, also unexpected, and make their way to cut her open...yeah she could have crystallized her body parts, but if that was so reliable why did she bother blocking her neck? They could've just set fuses in the perfect shape to blow her out of the neck area as well.

    She totally did not want any form of capturing and leaking of secrets to happen.

  • UchihaName

    Nice take on it. But i disagree with a good amount of this.

    Meaning i don't think this has anything to do with Japan, or the history of it either. I think it has more to do with humans in general, rather than Japan.

    Sounds odd, but this show reminds me of Naruto, and the reason being is that there's a deep connection with how people feel about things through the show during a tough time. In both shows there is always that thought of believing in your comrades, or believing in yourself. And with both shows, i think that they convey that you should have a mix of both.

    I could be wrong, i have a lot of views, but it might be to much to type down.

  • Rawr

    I think this is going a bit far, so many things in pop culture are taken out of the bounds of reality and twisted to something its not. To say an anime show is trying to cause an uproar with youth?.... that's a bit far fetched. Its a cartoon not a political statement.

  • UchihaName

    Agreed. But i hate the cartoon part! It's an anime! lol I

  • DHGM

    anime is a type of cartoon, referring to a japanese style of animation focussing less on movement (like early western counterparts) and more on realism. Saying "It's not a cartoon, it's an anime" is like saying "It's not a canine, it's a husky"

  • UchihaName

    I know that. I was kind of joking. Don't bother trying to explain to a grown adult how things are, thank you.

  • DHGM

    My apologies. Sarcasm is difficult to detect through text alone.

  • UchihaName

    It's alright! You're right it's hard to tell.

  • Anime focuses on realism? Since when?

  • DHGM

    Early anime did, at least moreso than western animation, with it's talking animals and hammerspace. Try comparing Mickey Mouse to Astro boy, early examples of american and japanese animation. Mickey Mouse episodes were lighthearted scenes of violence and painful beatings, with characters hitting each other with hammers and blowing eachother up, without any gore or sense of danger. Astro Boy, while containing wild science fiction tropes such as giant robots and mad scientists, was much more dramatic than any western cartoon, where the danger posed by the massive warmachines was very real and death was prominently featured. In fact, the reason Dr. Tenma created Astro Boy was to replace his son who died in a car accident.

  • Æres

    Anime, and video games, have focused on realism hard core. Akira? Grave of the Fireflies? Japan is a Post-Apocalyptic culture, guys. It survived a nuclear holocaust. That permanently changed the mental landscape of Japan forever. That's why it's so funky and weird and has things like anime. Because it's "mutated" as a result of such a traumatic experience, and has a lot to say about it, one way or another, be it quirky weird entertainment or something violent and dramatic.

    Also, Japan has a thing for tragedies...it's always been a major story element for them. Tragedies happen in many manga and animes, and even video games....and tragedy is a very Real thing.

    A very modern example of this is Final Fantasy XIII-2. The creators themselves directly admitted that the message behind the bleakness of that game was directly related to their current situation with the Fukushima Reactor disaster. Even when the whole world looks like it is inevitably ending, do not give up hope. Move on forward. That was their message. And that's how they're feeling right now, housing the worst nuclear disaster in human history.

  • Æres

    Check out the special features of The Animatrix and hear this from yourself from the legendary directors, writers and other well-read western geeks :P

    Also, I'm totally sure the military-drama theme of animes has NOTHING to do with the World Wars or their history of being Warring States pre-meiji era, etc...

  • Number Forty-Nine

    That is a nice take on it and probably could be applied to a lot of other top series out there (FMAB/Shippuden/Pumpkin Scissors) it's all here or there when trying to determine ideology through symbolic characters & settings. For me this show will always be about ... ". If you give up you die...If you fight you might survive!"

  • TJ Dicks

    personally i love this show, and being an American a lot of what is said and done resonates with me as far as what's been happening here in the states recently. far too many people are complacent here and totally ok with being rolled by a corrupt government, symbolized quite well by the titans on my opinion. however i think this author's understanding of what the show is really trying to say makes more sense.

  • Nina

    This is ridiculous, and the way you've incredibly misinterpreted Mikasa's character makes me cringe even more. "Quivering mass of jelly"? I'm not sure if you've actually SEEN the show, but she lost her only family left that saved her life and mental stability when she was younger and remained calm. She even helped the person who caused Eren's death and continued leading her group without hesitation (until the part where she's nearly killed, but a person can only take so much trauma). Once things actually calmed down and she found out Eren WASN'T dead, OH NO UNACCEPTABLE SHE CRIED WOW WHAT A BABY. Most of the points in this article would be next to impossible to understand to people who haven't seen the show, since you're so god awful at portraying the events and logic of the characters. Or maybe you just wanted to emphasize your own points by changing things around.

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​