In recent times, the so called “prison break” film genre has grabbed the attention of the audience; let’s think for example at the Hunger Games Saga or Maze Runner, both talking about civilians that are trapped inside a wall-bounded society. Coming to a recent anime release, it’s sufficent to name The Promised Neverland (our review is here) where a bunch of children are prisoned inside the orphanage of Gracefield House and treated as fodder. A common topic of these shows is the unequal deside to reach “the outside”. Then, what’s special with Attack on Titan (AoT)?
Attack on Titan. The elements for a great show.
Aot season 1.
The anime series produced by Wit Studio is composed by 3 seasons. The first one, released in 2013 (25-episodes) deeply investigate the world where Eren, Mikasa and Armin are obliged to fight for survival. The nighmare of Titans is inserted in the audience mind since the very first episode. The hierarchical society is divided by three main walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rose and Wall Sheena. In the unrational world of Attack on Titan, the fear to be killed by those hideous creature make the people to accept every situation, even the darkest one, in order to have their life saved. In a society that continously discovers its primitive instinct, also the main protagonist is decided for a path of revenge. The main goal becomes “Kill all the Titans!”
Our trio grows-up quickly and join the Scout Regiment. Then, a number of question arise. Eren is able to become himself a Titan and the real nature of Titan is put under discussion, what if the giants are not so far from human nature?
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An increasing number of mysteries emerge in the 12-episodes of the second season. There are people who can turn into giants, like Eren and Annie. However, a faction of these Titans (like Annie) is hostile to the humans. At this point the audience does not know who to believe. Eren received a key from his father to access the basement where important revelations are hidden. In this season, the components of Scout Regiment are introduced, first of all, the epic Captain Levi.
Aot season 3.
The cospiracy theory is confimed when royal dynasty is spotted to have deceived people with a false king. In that real moment, when the true intention of Reiss family becomes clear, the plot does another twist. Season 3 is the culmination (at this point) of the series. The anime has evolved from a violent and splatted-full series to a more mature series. Pure fight is balanced with psychological inspection of the characters. The mutual interaction between the characters takes the right time on stage. At this point of the anime, the audience has some elements to understand the facts happened during the previous seasons. However, the “true” evil is not yet defined. Is the enemy really outside the Paradise Island? Or is it among the Scout Regiment?
Attack on Titan Philosophy.
A society choked by fear.
One of the main characterization of Attack on Titan is the setting. The references to the Nazi Germany are evident. The Titans are elected to the true evil that has to be faced. All the resources whether natual, economical and human need to be spent to win the fight. We know that under the Nazi regime the creation of the concept of the “external threat” was one of the political aim to achieve the support by the inhabitants of the country.
The social differentiation between people is an artistic blend of the medieval age and the Germany of 1930’s. The political power is, in reality, exterted by the king through the militaty power. The militaty is divided in three divisions: the Scout Regiment, which explores outside human territory to hostile areas in a bid for expansion; the Garrison Regiment, which patrols and maintains the Walls, keeping Titans out and acting as the first to engage the Titans if the gate is destroyed; and the Military Police Regiment, the top-ranking soldiers who serve as the personal guards for the CIC and maintain order within the Walls. Moreover, we have to remind the value of the rank inside the regiments.
Military forces impose their will to common people exploting the uniform dress. The way in which people respect the military, the way children praise the Scout Regiment are the result of a mass propaganda. Only the members of the Scout Regiment are literally freezed and ashamed of the casualties their are forced to face in each mission. The typical elements of a totaliarism is reported in the German-root of names in the Regiments and raised by the proud openings of the anime.
The influence of Thomas Hobbes: the man like a wolf for others.
“If you want to live you have to fight” that are the world pronounced by Mikasa and becomes one of the underneath motive of the anime series. The world in AoT is a cruel place where only the the strongest are eligible to live. This is a provocative sentiment which lead to a sub-human condition. Humans are located at the same levels of animals since they only respond to their survival instinct (a topic that has been also treated in Kiseiju – Parasite, a review will posted soon). Since humans are merely monsters (not different from the giants), a rule to maintain the order has to be established. Opposed to the Aristotled view of “man as social animal“, according to Hobbes the mankind is a war of all against all, where every single becomes a wolf for every other man.
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Sacrifice for a higher achievement: the ethical state of Hegel.
In order to contain the “homo homini lupus” nature of men, a common sense of “herd” requires to be imposed in people mentality. For this reason, the Titans becomes the perfect scapegoat of all evil. This is a well-known mechanism which as also been referred to in other successful animes (think about Lelouch of the Rebellion [link], for example). But what’s the sneaky trick that make the citizens accept all the decisions of the central government? Here, the concept of ethical state, introduced by Hegel, resides. Hegel’s State is the final culmination of the embodiment of freedom or right. The State subsumes family and civil society and fulfills them. In a Hegelian State, citizens both know their place and choose their place. They both know their obligations and choose to fulfill their obligations. An individual’s “supreme duty is to be a member of the state“. The affirmation of these ideas on people allow to pass from the individual needs of a men to that of a community.
For this fundamental reason, in Attack on Titan the suicide mission of hundreds of man to re-take control of Wall Maria is accepted by the citizens. Even though they knew that the mission has zero possibility to succeded, no one has had the courage to rebel. It’s the celebration of hegelian the state of the highest arbiter of freedom and morality.
Hegel and Hobbes: the distopy of Carl Schmitt.
When the vision of ethical state of Hegel merges with the wicked concept of man in Hobbes, the dystopy society of Carl Schmitt takes place. This thinking was to the base of the modern totalitarianism. The three main elements which are necessary to build a “stable” society.
Conflict and Inequality: people are different and differentiated by rank, uniforms and separated by walls. We remember that a inner district is not safer than an outer, as we seen when the female (Annie) giant attacks. Hostility is an intrisic behaviour of mankind (as stated by Hobbes).
Clear distinction between friends and enemy: the tailored lie of the external threat to create a nationalistic sentiment.
Sovereignty: in the emergency status the “normal” laws can be exceed and the right freedom suspended.
Attack on Titan. Final remarks.
Another article character focused is going to continue the analysis of AoT. Remember the words of Erwin “Which is the real enemy?” In the second part of season 2, most of the accepted truth are crumbling down. In fact, as the true nature of Titans is revelaed, also a new state (under Historia Queen) of order is established. Is it true that the real enemy resides outside the Paradis island? Or does it hide inside the Scout Regiment?
The soundtracks inserted in the episodes are pure adrenaline for the audience. The anime series has evolved through the years and become a more mature and balanced product that has spellbound the wide audience. The drawings have improved a lot from season 1 and only the 3-D representation of the Colossal Titan can leave some perpexities. At this point, the plot seemed to be well-conceived and organic. The mystery box technique drives the audience episode after episode. However, sometimes the increasing number of questions may cause a sense of frustation. On that side, a show like The Promised Neverland is more enjoyable.
On the whole, waiting for season 4 (the final stage), we gave the marks for a must-see series!