Shingeki no Kyojin: Hope and Human Nature

Here’s my FOURTH post on SnK. I suppose you might find it amusing to know that these four posts take up nine double-spaced pages. He he he. He. >.<

What Do I Call These….Themes? Sure, Why Not

All the characters have motivation of a sort. Eren wants to avenge his mother’s death; Mikasa wants to protect Eren; Armin wants to be strong; Jean wants to validate his and Marco’s existences; Erwin wants to save humanity; and Levi? Well I don’t really know what Levi wants. What I’m not sure of is whether there’s actually any hope running through these motivations. I don’t think this show is completely hopeless–you want a hopeless show, read about Death Note (I love L to death but UGH). However, it’s more of a resigned hope, a hoping for hope, a hoping against hope. Do most of them expect to actually defeat the titans? I don’t think so. The only people who might expect that in any way would, I think, be Erwin, or maybe Eren just because of his obsession. What they all want, though, is for their lives and deaths to have meaning (Levi even explicitly says he hates meaningless deaths). They want to go out with a bang, and some of them want to go down knowing the truth. Shingeki no Kyojin appears to be, in part, a search for truth. Instead of just losing it and despairing, these Survey Corps members want to know what’s going to kill them even if death by titan is inevitable. Learning the truth about the titans seems to be their only hope, and even though that is extremely slim they go after it. In essence, they all want to hang on to their humanity and die proudly as humans (even Erwin, who people claim gives his humanity up).

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 1.32.06 PM

I’m trying to decide whether their hope is a good kind or not. Because it’s such a depressed hope I wouldn’t call it ideal. It doesn’t really seem Christian. The religion present in the series certainly isn’t Christian either–considering the walls of the city, built by human hands, to be gods? How those people became influential mystifies me. However, the fact that they have hope of any sort, that they even continue on despite not having hope, seems admirable, especially because they’re not saying that their existences are ultimately meaningless. They don’t want them to be–they’re fighting not only the titans, but the nihilism that the titans’ existence brings. Gook at how many Survey Corps members die on essentially fruitless missions where no information is gathered–when the Corps returns everyone asks, were these deaths for nothing? In that way, I suppose, it’s a Christian kind of hope they’re holding on to: that no matter how bad things get, fighting evil is always worth it in the end, always meaningful.

Still, the questions of meaning and moral definition are up in the air, as evidenced by two particular quotes that seem to run through the series.

I don’t know which option you should choose. I could never advise you on that…No matter what kind of wisdom dictates the option you pick, no one will be able to tell if it’s right or wrong until you arrive to some sort of outcome from your choice.– Levi

This may be true in the situation they’re in, because either way whatever choice they make people die. But they can try to make the choice where the fewest people die, as long as they don’t do evil that good may come of it. That’s why I don’t really like how Erwin handled the Female Titan thing–I think he should’ve at least told his men what they were getting into and given them the choice to knowingly face death or not. I applaud him for being able to lead people and make those tough decisions, though–I don’t think I could.

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Then, this one:

I haven’t lived all that long yet, but there is something I firmly believe in. The people who have the ability to change something in this world, all without exception have the guts to abandon things important to them if they have to. They are those who can abandon even their humanity. –Armin

Armin says this to Eren several times, especially when Eren won’t turn into a titan to fight Annie. But does Eren really abandon his humanity by turning into a titan? He learns to control himself; and is fighting a titan as a titan much different than fighting in a smaller human form? How do we know that titan’s aren’t human anyway? What’s important is that Eren holds on to his humanity while he’s a titan. So I think Armin’s wrong, one doesn’t ultimately abandon one’s humanity to change the world in a good way–one holds on to it. Sure, you have the Nazis, and they changed the world–but are they really admirable? Do we like them and are glad they did what they did? On the flip side we have Mother Theresa and Ghandi–we admire them, they changed the world, and their methods were eminently humanizing and humane.

And here’s a last one I’d forgotten about, which illustrates the whole “meaningful life and death” thing:

Of course, every soldier is prepared to die. But these people aren’t just pawns on a chessboard. They all have names, families and feelings in their hearts too. They are all humans who live and bleed. You have the responsibility to ensure their deaths will not be in vain. No matter what may come, remember this in your naive heart, and be ready to die to fulfill that duty. –Rico Brzenska

Rico Brzenska

Rico Brzenska

 

(BTW, Rico kind of pisses me off, because she doesn’t trust Eren at all and she’s condescending. I can totally understand not trusting Eren considering the situation they’re in, and I suppose the condescension is a way of coping with fear, but do you really wanna antagonize someone who you know is potentially dangerous by being condescending? It doesn’t help that she doesn’t know Eren’s background but man…it’s not like Eren doesn’t know people will die–but he has to turn into a Titan and block the hole either way so stop frickin’ picking on him for his ‘melodrama’ with Mikasa when it was Mikasa who started it anyway by saying, “Daijobu? Daijobu?” a million times over. I know Rico’s not a bad person and she’s just trying to protect humanity….but…*sigh*…Ok, rant done.)

In Conclusion…

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this anime because I’m of two minds about the violence. However, if you determine that’s it not too violent, I doubt you’ll be disappointed by much should you choose to watch it. By the pacing? Maybe, but I think it suits the series. By the cliffhangers? Sure, but there’s always the next episode. By the current lack of a second season? Probably. And there’s nothing we viewers can do about that. All I can say is that this was a very interesting series to watch, and that more discussion of its characters and ideas could occur if we had more material to work with.

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One comment

  1. medievalotaku · December 22, 2013

    The kind of hope in this anime reminds me of Hemingway. One doesn’t know whether one’s actions mean anything, but there is glory in doing one’s duty and in courage. Hemingway doesn’t try to solve the dilemma of “Why do something which might merely be a play in futility?” In the same way, SnK doesn’t solve this dilemma, but merely seems to say that one should follow one’s principles whether there is objective merit in doing so or not.

    You’re right that this isn’t Christian. It’s more of a Norse idea that one’s fate is decided and the world is on a tragic path, but one should do their best anyway.

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