Shingeki no Kyojin: A Commentary?

Just recently I watched the popular Shingeki no Kyojin (aka Attack on Titan). I found it rather exciting and compelling, despite it being more graphic than what I usually watch. Due to the graphic nature of the show I can only recommend it to the most discerning and iron-stomached viewers. The worst things we see are blood spurts or an occasional body part (quickly) flying through the air when someone gets eaten by a Titan. I suppose I should also mention you do see people hanging out of Titans mouths and know, from the blood splatter, that they’ve been bitten in half. You also see blood splats and slightly mangled bodies. It disturbed me but not enough to stop watching–I’m not sure if that means the violence is acceptable or that I’m desensitized. Still, the show was so enjoyable I felt impelled to post on it. I can’t articulate all the reasons I enjoyed it, but over my next few posts I’ll enumerate the few that I can (and remember: all my views are based solely on the anime).

The Story

Far in the future, perhaps in an alternate universe, mankind was living happily until one day Titans appeared. These over-sized humanoids sans genitals with inane, idiotic smiles on their faces happen to like eating human beings. Apparently they don’t even need to eat (no digestive systems) and aren’t interested in eating anything except humans. One of the most effective and awful things about these Titans is that they look so human.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 7.17.11 PM

They eat most of mankind except for the few who manage to build walls the Titans can’t overcome. Inside the city, the people form a Military Police that protects the wealthy in the innermost wall, a Stationary Guard or Garrison that helps defend the walls from attack, and a Survey Corps that studies titans by going outside the walls. For a century everyone lives in peace, until one day a (literally) Colossal Titan breaks through the walls. Death and carnage ensue–and for Eren Jaeger, who’s been itching to join the Survey Corps, seeing his mother getting eaten by a Titan is the last straw. He trains and joins the Survey Corps in order to destroy the Titans. Unfortunately, the casualties continue, because even after a century the titans are still a mystery, and it looks as if they’ll remain so…until to everyone’s surprise, including Eren’s, our young protagonist discovers his ability to turn into a Titan, which turns their world upside down.

I sort of feel like there’s supposed to be some moral message here–human-like creatures eating only humans for fun, not out of necessity, could easily be expanded to men trampling on other men for the fun of it or out of mere greed.

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 7.20.24 PM

In the above scene one of the more religious people is walking through the Titan-filled city shouting at the top of his lungs about greed–he’s reading from a book, presumably some sort of scripture. The theme of greed runs through the series: the first big example is when the military sends citizens out to the fallen outer wall to their deaths to stop a food shortage. Others come in the person of Lord Balto, a nobleman, who cares only about himself and how he can keep himself safe; and the nameless merchant, who tries to force his goods through a gate when people are supposed to be evacuating through it. One could even call greedy Jean’s desire to join the MP so he could have an easy life, or Dieter’s choice to retrieve his friend’s body when it put the Surveys Corps in danger. The largest example is, of course, all the wealthy people who live behind Wall Rose. They and the MP seem to have no care for anyone but themselves, keeping themselves hidden safe within the city. Thus whatever scripture the man was reading seems a propos: greed makes men disregard even their own fellow men, even their relatives. Perhaps human greed is behind these Titan attacks.

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 9.45.43 PM

What interests me most immediately, though, is the mystery: what are the titans? Are they human, or something else? Are they the result of an experiment? Is that why Eren can turn into one? Where is his dad, what does he know, and why did he inject Eren with something? After 25 episodes the viewer is left with more questions than answers, but the questions keep you wanting to know more. I certainly hope they make another season, since I’m more an anime-watcher than a manga-reader. The pacing of the series makes it a good one to marathon, because each episode answers some questions, and each ends on a cliffhanger–even the last one. Which makes the series feel unfinished and in need of another season.

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2 comments

  1. anthonyperlas · December 1, 2013

    Excellent review, Nami! The third and last picture is like a nightmare coming into reality. I absolutely love everything about the gods and their fathers so when I saw the translated title of “Attack On Titan” — I couldn’t resist to read the whole post. I was waiting to see rebellions led by Zeus for the control of earth! Technically the “Zeus” here are the people such as “Eren” to join the ranks of the “Olympian” Survey Corps. Time to go back to Crunchyroll and watch this series to see how the humans triumphed over the Titans assuming there’s a “fight” going on. If the “humans” win, I won’t be surprised of them leveraging power over one another by keeping one or two titans in their basement for emergency purposes. At the end of the day, like you said about one the most religious person reading some incantations — it’s a vice of greed, power and recognition. Thanks for posting this review and keep up the great works!

    • Nami · December 2, 2013

      To be honest, it never once occurred to me to think of Attack on Titan in terms of Greek mythology. I haven’t read the manga, and the anime doesn’t tell us much about the Titans, so it’s hard to see if there are any intentional parallels.

      It’s definitely an interesting perspective to look at it from though, and provides you with food for thought: in the Greek myths, the younger generations of gods overthrew the older ones, sometimes out of greed and sometimes (as in Zeus’s case) because their greedy fathers tried to kill them to keep power. In terms of AoT, that brings up the question of who came first, humans or Titans? As far as the anime goes, we presume humans came first because the Titans just suddenly appeared one day. Other things from the manga (though I don’t want to share the spoilers I’ve read) also strengthen the idea that humans preceded Titans.

      So even if the parallels aren’t there intentionally, they’re still interesting to consider: as you said, in the end for both the Greek gods and AoT’s Titans, the thing that often motivates them is greed. This drives home just how human the Greek gods acted, and how AoT’s humans act more like Titans than they think.

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