Influences in 進撃の巨人 (Attack On Titan)

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I watched the first 5 episodes of 進撃の巨人. I thought I could pick out a few dozen influences that get recycled in this animae. Some are old Japanese obsessions, such as invasion by powerful outsiders. Some seemed more international.

It starts with humans living behind walls. They live in a village that is of Franco-Germanic design, and the people dress in a similar fashion. The people and the village are straight out of Bruegal painting.

The people are cut off from the outside world, just like the Japanese were for most of the Tokugawa shogunate. The main character, Eren, feels they should all be ashamed of living like cattle.

Then the Titans show up, and punch a hole in the wall, and strike with overwhelming force. The Titans have big smiles and perfect teeth, just like invading American soldiers.

Some of the leaders play Western chess, instead of Go. The chess is a metaphor for strategic thinking. Why is chess a better symbol than Go? Is it the elaborateness of chess pieces, that offer better visuals? Or is chess simply more international than Go?

Eren and his friends are in their early teens when the show starts. The first 4 episodes cover 5 years. Eren and friends reach adulthood and enlist in the military. This is a coming of age story via the military, with similarities to Enders Game. Also like Enders Game, men and women serve in the same military unit. The show does not delve into the complications this might cause. One of the women and one the men fall in love and form a romantic couple and they might get married. The complications this might cause are not a focus of the story.

The technology in the story is steampunk mix of future and primitive. The soldiers have outfits that allow them to fly from building to building, using cables, and a booster rocket to help propel them. Think steampunk/Spiderman. Apparently this is a world trapped forever at the moment they have figured out the first rocket, but unable to figure out how to build a missile that could do long range scouting for them.

I don’t love this show, but it has some good moments. Eren gives some great speeches about the need to fight back. There is some part of the Japanese psyche that is angry about the defeat they suffered in WW II, and a lot of Japanese animae repeats that theme about fighting no matter how hopeless things look. it is a heroic theme.

Back in 1970s, when Starblazers was on television in the USA, that series ended with the evil aliens conquering all of Earth, and the government of Earth formally surrendering, but a few brave warriors continued to fight, and eventually they won freedom for all of Earth. That is some serious fulfillment for a country that suffered crushing defeat.

進撃の巨人 is not as extreme, but then, I have not watched all of it.

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