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  • Ryan Hon

Attack on Titan a real-world anaylsis

Spoiler alert watch out and take care!


Attack on Titan is a series that I've been chasing for years, the emotions that were felt throughout the series with the finale topping it off with a bang. After the show, I couldn't help but think of the relevancy and applications the show has in the real world. The show places a fundamental emphasis on the human condition: the need for conflict. 


The realist approach AOT takes on international relations displays a logical yet grim situation to which states are subjected to. At the end of the day, the actions of a singular actor be it Armin, Levi or even Eren play little, to the grand scheme of things, evident in the end credit scene where history tends to repeat itself. The thought about war seems to puzzle me, why do humans in AOT or in the real world want to subject each other to such immense pain when we all bleed the same blood and are essentially living the same life, why is that my suffering can be your glory? AOT sheds light on the perspective that war is sometimes inevitable, and it is peace that needs to be explained. The long-standing hatred between the state of Marley and Eldia mirrors some states in our world. 





Political, Philosophical and Economical implications

Well if there are two things I've learnt in my Philosophy, Politics and Economics course, is that the pursuit of power is inevitable and that resources are scarce. Eldia’s power advantage over the power of the Titans unsettles Marley. Considering that power is relative and more power for the state of Eldia would mean less power for Marley, the power advantage Eldia inherently possesses causes a security dilemma and inevitably an arms race. The lack of communication since season 1 only exacerbates the problem. Marley along with the other nations in the league, allies with each other to counter the growing relative power that Eldia possess. The inherent power disbalance that Eldians possess unsettles other sovereign states; this imbalance of power echos the demands for other nations to arm up in efforts to achieve relative security. 


The AOT world reminds me of a concept learnt in political theory: Hobbes’s state of nature, where life is brutish, nasty and short. Perhaps a better resolution could have been sought without the annihilation of ⅘ of humanity. Perhaps Mikasa did confess her love to Eren and they ran away to settle down and live out their happily ever after. Perhaps, Erwin could have come up with a more diplomatic way to settle the dispute between states if he had inherited the power of the Colossal Titan. But in the world we live in, there's only one reality and there's no second chance. Ultimately, both Eldia and Marley, are trying to commit genocide on each other and there is no moral justification for their actions. As Armin famously mentioned, “ We are all murderers.” this statement particularly rang amongst the warriors of Marley, referring to Reiner, Annie and the United Nations armed forces. The only justification for the brutal acts committed by such innocent and helpless characters is their interest in protecting those that they love. “Protecting what you love, doesn’t make you a hero.” From a virtue ethicist's point of view, the horrid acts committed by the characters in AOT would be justified ethically. However, Hitler probably did care for animals, and help an old lady cross the road but he was not a good guy after all. After all, we are heroes in our own stories, yet we can be villains to others. The oxymoronic nature of identity was particularly prevalent in Eren’s, and Reiner’s character arch.


Empathy


AOT challenges the traditional viewpoint of the glorification of the protagonists, throughout the development of the series, we are exposed to different viewpoints on the war. How different sides attempt to demonise the enemy to give the warriors a moral high ground in an attempt to justify the war crimes they are going to commit. The disillusioned population only feeds onto the narrative of “playing hero” for their country, in reality, the false glory that the Warriors and Eldians are trying to achieve is a mere title held for the benefit of the interests of those in power. I believe empathy is what one can draw from the conflicts between Marley and Eldia. Before season 4, the story was very one-sided and I was always rooting for victory against Marley, however as the story progresses, the ability to root for one side becomes increasingly blurred and it makes it hard to take a side. The ability to empathize with both of their predicaments became an essential factor before I made a judgment. Perhaps it is the inherent structure that Eren, Armin, Levi, Hange, Gabi, Falco etc. were all born into that caused them to identify with such a stance. In hindsight, it is the fault of those in power that has caused humanity’s downfall in lieu of the rumbling. The failure of those with power leads to the uprising of the rumbling. 





In our world…


The story also particularly resonated with me when our real world can be so easily thrown into conflict, with the upright invasion of sovereignty with the Ukriane-Russian War, the uprising battle between the resistance the Junta in Myanmar and the Palestinain-Israli war. It almost seems that the satirical play of fictional characters in an anime uncannily resembles the struggle for power of world leaders, leading to catastrophic suffering of the everyday man and woman. Situations like these are particularly grim as the feeling of hopelessness of the above nations’s countrymen and women feel almost like sitting ducks waiting for a titan to maul over them. Often citizens would never in their right mind willingly take up arms to engage in combat, but it is only when all other options are deemed to be relatively bleak that inevitably forces the finger to the trigger. The ripple effect leaders of the world have on citizens of the world highlights the grave responsibility and accountability they should be upheld; just as how too much opacity and power will lead to the abuse of power seen by Eldian royalty ranks in the early season. Hence, it is important to be rational, sceptic and empathetic when discerning information and choosing a cause to stand for. Often, leaders are just more qualified individuals, which sometimes leads to an ironic situation where the “Blind leads the blind.” 






Nonetheless, AOT has touched on some emotions of mine that were otherwise left untouched, the emotions pouring out like the river flow in Spring. The sense of adrenaline, the roaring of the character names when they transform. The sense of fear for the characters that you adore, the sense of happiness when you see the characters in AOT experience a better love life than yours. All these factors account for such a realistic masterpiece.


Moreover, I really admire the creativity in the world-building and the graphics, the intricate network of inter-character relations makes me ponder on alternate possibilities of how other side characters like Rico, Floch and Kenny develop over time. I also really enjoyed the emotional outburst of some characters, particularly when Eren lets go of his tough outer crust and lets loose to who he really is on the inside with that final encounter with Eren. The snippets we get as an audience to who the characters are and who they really are draw a stark contrast between how we want others to perceive us and how we want to perceive ourselves, drawing upon a dark parallel to the real world where we often have to mask our feelings to achieve an objective in line with our agenda. Perhaps this aspect of the anime can shed light to the puzzling motivations behind a soldier who carries out the atrocities and killings ordered by the higher-ups plotting for the next military advancement. Perhaps it's the love for the cause that turns a blind eye to ethics? Perhaps it's the helplessness of the situation that forces them to do things for their survival? One can only wonder…







All in all, a big thank you to Isayama and the animating studios that have brought this masterpiece to life. I have to say I enjoy watching anime or cartoons a bit too much as an adult. Partly because anime and cartoons share a common factor in their ability to venture beyond the laws of nature and the governing practices that ground reality in the first place. Sometimes a man just has to fantasise and imagine the infinite number of possibilities an anime or cartoon can take you, on a journey into a fantastic world from the insane world we live in. 




Shinzō Sasageyo! 



P.S. Funnily I’ve gotten more patriotic than I have ever been to a fictional country. 






























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