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:
  • Nihilism

    A different (and philosophical) perpestive: http://sequart.org/magazine/46...

  • someone

    I honestly don't know what to say =_= how the heck you say it will cause world ward III. It just stupid, for god sake this is anime this wont cause anything. Yes i know this anime is violence and it's not good for every age (and they already gave a warning about it that this anime only suitable for 16+ years old). I not watch this because of the violence, i watch this because of the plot. In fact, i'm the kind of person who can't watch violence (i cant watch final destination, saw, etc. it disgusting and scary for me). And what you say about sina, etc you can't say it some kind of hidden massage or something. The author need inspiration you know, not everyone can come up with original idea. It just for reference. Like gintama, the author use shinsengumi reference and japan life when the west coming (but he change to alien) so what the different? Yes gintama not a gore and its more normal because it more into comedy! And if you read the last chapter the author it's about a war between amanto and them (the characters) can you say it will cause world war too? (you can say it adaptation from japanese who refuse to accept the west vs usa)

    And you know i not effected with this anime and people i know who watch this not effected psychologically. We act normal none of us act dominant or violence. If you want to compare with the other manga effect, i will tell you this there a russian boy who suicide because itachi dead (google it if you dont believe me) so i think it depend on the person psychologic condition. (sorry i just cant help it to write this one because i read the comment and there a person who say it cause psychologic effect)

    And attack of titan is gore (hey its about war between human and titan what can you say?) at first but if you read the last updated chapter it's not that violence anymore. Now its more into the plot, they start to resolve the titan mystery.

    When eren decide to 'trust' his comrade even though he know they will be dead, it because the other told him to trust them. And levi said he can do whatever he want because no one will know how it turn out and just choose what he think he will less regret the most. And you can see that eren regret his decision, i think the author do that for develop on his character (on the manga he still regret to let his comrade died and make him want to be stronger)

    The point is i don't think this will cause the world war and not everyone watch this show anyway. And maybe for some people they will be affected in psychologically that why there warning on the show that said it not suitable for every people ( i still think this kind of effect is depend on the person psychologically condition itself).

    Anyway this is my opinion, sorry for grammar mistake.

  • Courtney Smith

    I would just like to say: THANK YOU, you are intelligent and have your eyes open to everything including context, and KEEP UP THE AMAZING WORK! :) A REAL analysis of this "fad". :)
    I also like how the article touched on how Mikasa was totally supposed to be a badass, but isn't. I mean she is, but she was supposed to be like, poster girl badass. Her niche is really taken from two times, one because there are other titan killers portrayed as more badass like Levi was, and secondly as female main character when Annie just freaking busts through as the Giantess Fetish Audience Bait -- Oh excuse me, I mean female variant Titan. Yeah, riiiiiiiight... And why does she look less gross than the general titan males? Many lesser titan males have gross, unattractive faces and expressions.
    Anyways once all that is in the mix, Mikasa really doesn't hold much of a leading spot anymore! As either the leading badass female, or as the leading badass titan killer. I mean the article mentions a third reason, because in the anime she is then portrayed as emotionally weak, a horrible final blow. I think the author stating how awesome Mikasa is SUPPOSED to be has to do with placating the female audience enough to watch the show with their boyfriends.
    But the real trouble of the anime is all that "protect the rich people in the center", "sacrifice yourself", "don't feel your own emotions" propaganda...

  • someone

    what are you talking about woman?

    Mikasa is still a badass but she has a soft spot (you can say it weakness too) and that eren. And i like how author make her a weakness so she not a perfect-marysue-character. SO what if the author make a stonger character than mikasa? Mikasa is one of the strongest character but the author never said he want to make her the strongest right? in the story levi is known as humanity strongest so he is the strongest. And i don't understand when you say "placating the female audience enough to watch the show with their boyfriends." you can watch it with your boyfriend and it doesn't have anything to do with mikasa.

    And i think you not read the manga so you don't know. But the titan that has people inside them (like Annie) is has a better design than the normal titan. Because they 'special'. Do you want this 'special' titan character has a same appearance (gross, weird expression, etc) with the normal titan? if they look like them so what can separate them with other titan?

    No that not the real problem! the problem is to protect the humanity and destroy the titan so the human can be free!
    and it's not "don't feel your own emotion" but "to sacrifice for better future for humanity"
    and how can you say not to feel your own emotion? clearly in this show the character show many emotion. How jean know that marco dead he really sad about it but he need to get over it and instead of crying all day he have to do something so marco not die for nothing (and that why he join survey corps)

    And if you forgot the setting of AOT universe is still using king. So yea they protect their king. Just like we here, the soldier protect the president. And rich people can live in the center because they rich, what the different with people in real life? rich people, celebrity, etc always get 'special' treatment. I think the author make a great resemble with people in real life.

  • HaydukeLives

    Good article. I have had many of the same thoughts.

  • Niklas Martienssen

    I think the author of that text is really bored, I have no idea how a person can come to the conclusion that attack on titan could cause a world war that is only ridiculous, Only one word stupid. It is an Anime not in everything is something hidden, maybe you come to that conclusion that Japan is planning a World War because the Anime use german words. But if you would only searched a little bit in the internet you would have found that the creator of Attack on titans like a german city called Nordlingen, if you see pictures of the city you will understand idiot

  • Efrain Julian De Jesus

    You do know that the whole series is a romaticized version of the Japanese Occupation of Korea right?

  • Courtney Smith

    Your eyes are open, God bless.

  • Truth

    Here is how i see it... roughly 2000 years from now humans develop titan
    technology(titans do not eat or sleep, regenerate limbs and live off sun) to fight wars, then a world war breaks out , many transform but cheap to make soldiers cannot control themselves and depend on titan leaders (eren) to think, and transform back and titan leaders depend on their more expensive conscious guards (armored titan and colossal type),they fight for 850 years, and one side almost loses but manage to take out leaders of the opposite side that are harder to produce and grow scarce over the time, but probably sacrifice their own
    leaders in the process, and a massive titan army remains and destroys
    everything, even if they are victorious, they are still doomed so
    they use up the last of their colossal guards to form the great walls
    that will protect them from the dumb leaderless army. much is forgotten
    and swept under the rag in the next 100 years (not that surprising
    because of the war so long it resets the calendar and no one can remember
    life before). only a few people have the knowledge of the walls
    including eren's mysterious father. The leading structure goes corrupt
    and doesn't want people to know the truth or to be able to leave, and
    they don't want to deal with the titans because for them this new
    situation is practically paradise, but there is a fraction of
    knowledgeable people, probably the last of the scientists trying to
    improve the titan weapon that have found a way of defeating the titan
    army and achieving full victory. Government will not see that happen,
    the science fraction is doomed , hunted and desperate, and a plan is
    hatched to launch an attack on the cursed remainder of humanity, eren's
    father disagrees, steals the improved leader formula and injects eren
    (more compatible) in hope that his son can save the innocent population,
    finally 100 years after the walls were built a colossal titan appears
    outside, and tears a hole... we all know what happened next.
    I dont know if the series has a point except "fight the 1% or we all get eaten " and "people cast aside differences work together only in most desperate times" - made in japan so Asians all dead (if it was made in say America then Mikasa would be the last of Mohicans if you get my drift) but the plotline is very good, animation and action sequences are top notch, and it is fun to watch (only things I care about when watching anime), and if it had some romance instead of friendship, and more main character death it could pass for adult.

  • Courtney Smith

    "romance and main character death" make a thing adult. Great. Not like, "harder to understand, more complex plots that comment on society."

  • 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.

  • Courtney Smith

    Thank you for your comment, I think it would help people to see the effect the anime is having on the mentality of people in your country.

  • Courtney Smith

    I really resonate with what you say here!!! Especially because you are absolutely right about why 90% of people watch the show, and I am actually a HUGE fan of one piece and what it says as an anime in comparison.

    I kind of think anyone who is still a huge fan of Attack on Titan and likes it more than an actually good anime like One Piece has a small intellect.

  • 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.

  • Courtney Smith

    That's funny because I registered and logged in just to comment on how the writer seemed to really have their eyes open to context instead of just glazing over and "enjoying" the violence.
    While you throw some pedantic insults around, you don't explain WHY you think his opinion is so wrong and bad. :)

  • Peter Trieshi

    ME TOOO

  • 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.

  • Courtney Smith

    Honestly if you think your questions are deep, ask yourself: Where did the titans come from? Did another past government possibly invent them? We don't know yet, but I feel like we're strongly going in the direction of titans being able to be created. Which actually can bring up MANY themes that could be human or nationalist.

  • Michael Fish

    I didn't write these questions a year ago because I thought they were profound in any way. I wrote them because they are the questions that the show is asking us, directly, and outright. The questions you have posed, however, are a matter of deduction. There are no profound qualities about them. If you want to go around replying to what seems to be nearly every comment here, you should know what you are talking about first. You've used the term "deep" incorrectly.

  • 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

  • Courtney Smith

    People sent the author death threats over Dot Pixis' similarity to an actualy military figure, and you don't think there's any throwback to real politics?

  • someone

    death threats? really? where your evidence?

  • 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!!!

  • Courtney Smith

    .... Have fun sacrificing yourself for the 13 rich families that run your country. Offer up your heart, offer up your soul. Mine belongs to God.

  • Guest

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

  • Courtney Smith

    No, propaganda being promoted as harmless is one of them

  • Guest

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

  • Ben Azrael

    dumb.

  • Jonah de LeseLeuc

    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...

  • hazzer774

    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.

  • Courtney Smith

    Personally I think Mikasa is still a strong character, I just think a lot of her thunder was stolen for the artist to claim she's like, the anime's "poster girl". No, definitely not. Obviously Annie is. The thunder was stolen for Giantess Fetishists, and how can I argue that it likely got more fans for him? I don't think the time she has a breakdown is the key point to her losing her "magic". However, you have a good point about emotions being a real human thing, lol, if she had no moments of emotion she'd be a psychopath.
    Something I found interesting is that she's supposed to be the strong female character, poster girl for the show, and in an interview with the artist he also says that she's kind of a "moe" character? That doesn't add up to me... And kind of supports the chauvinism argument in terms of the way Mikasa is represented.
    Mikasa, strong main character female... At least, that's what I thought she was supposed to be. A strong, female, titan fighter character. Not a "Moe". If she's not, the other strong female... Is Annie... That's where the thunder was stolen. IMO, it's sending a bit of a message making the Titan-girl stronger and making the titan-fighter girl moe... A message I really really don't appreciate. One can generously assume that the artist is sticking more with the "personal growth" theme present in moes, but that's not the only connotation, normally.
    Moe: "A common definition is that Moe is the ability of a character to instill in the audience an irrational desire to adore them, hug them, protect them, comfort them, etc. To evoke a sort of Big Brother Instinct, in men and women... The classical Moe character is highly associated with innocence, shyness, humility, submission, helplessness and woobie characteristics"

  • 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

  • Ares42ful

    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.

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