Discussion The Military Themes in Attack on Titan

Discussion in 'Attack On Titan' started by WHDominique, Jan 4, 2014.

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  1. WHDominique

    WHDominique

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    A common compliant I hear for Attack on Titan is that it doesn't take the time to develop the characters that die and are just used to show how hopeless the situation is, making very light of human life. And honestly, I think people are looking this the wrong way.

    The body count in Attack on Titan is very high, most of the characters who died never had names or were not characterised enough for us to care if they were given names because why should we remember? "They're just fodder" as some would say. But if you look at it from a different angle, the way you see these peoples actually becomes a lot deeper.

    Instead of looking these characters as individuals look at them as a group and start to see what they represent. Soldiers. Well, no duh. But think about your experiences in real life, maybe someone you know has enlisted and you worry for their safety. Or they were unfortunate enough to die in the field of battle. Even if you have not had a close friend or a family member fight in a war, when you watch the news sometimes they will cover stories about soldiers who died and is being buried in their home town. And for most people this news won't depress you but when you see their family on screen crying for their lost one you can't help but feel sorry for them. It's a normal human reaction to sympathise with those who have experienced loss. For those who died fighting for what they believed in (Survey Corps), those who died by protecting others (Garrison), those who died by underestimating their enemies (Military Police) and those who died because of their inexperience (Trainees). And that's not mentioning the civilians that were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    That's why I am so glad that the anime took the extra mile and made the scenes after both battles where they were tallying the casualties. They could have easily not gone through the effort and just used that time to make room for some more thrilling action scene by saying "this is how many people died and were injured". Cause when you hear that 16 million people lost their lives in World War 1 in History class; you let out a surprised but semi-invested "damn". But when you see pictures of bodies lined up or stacked on top of each other, a helicopter shot of a great big graveyard filled with fallen soldiers. Your surprised and semi-invested "damn" turns into honest sympathy. It's not going to ruin your day, but you are now certain that it must have been hard for the people of that time.

    And that's why it's effective and why honestly episode 22 is one of the best episodes in the series for me. Because I wasn't reaching for the tissue box when Levi removed Petra's badge from her uniform after she was horrifically killed in battle, threw her body and other off the carriages so that they can lighten their load to out speed the titans that were giving chase, giving the guy who caused the titans to chase them Petra's badge to comfort him when he was being selfish and kept a straight face when he meets Petra's doting father unknowing that his daughter has died in battle and they couldn't do him the courtesy of brining her body back. But the "holy fucking shit" I whispered under my breath when this was going on was just as emotionally gripping as those shows that did make me reach for something to wipe my tears. Showing the family members of Levi's squad was one of the most powerful and subtle things I have seen, and it came from one of the most over the top anime in history.

    And because of the military themes in Attack on Titan that's why it's more acceptable for this to happen:
    [​IMG]
    Because it's not many people posing as the same character over and over again. When you dawn your uniform you are not an individual, you are part of a unit. A cog in the great big machine that is the Survey Corps, The Garrison or the Military Police. Sure people can chose to be specifically be one character like Eren or Levi, but you can get away with it as just being yourself. More so than I would say something like cosplaying as Fullmetal Alchemist's military soldiers. Because no matter how amazing FMA is, even the soldiers at Brigg's did not make as big of an impact as the soldiers in Attack on Titan. And it's because of everything that I've said above. The unity of characters, the roles they play; the one's who died for their beliefs, those who died because of the orders they were given, ect. The fact that even though we see them as one, every single person has family and has friends and we were shown that.

    And while this isn't the most prominent thing in the series it's still enough for me give the series points and it does give me appreciation for the series for dwelling on a rather hard topic to pull off right. Attack on Titan may seem like a simple series on the surface, but like any great anime it has layers that you can explore.
     
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  2. Sengoku

    Sengoku

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    While it may have this going for it like you said, you can't deny that it has also used the "16 million died" method. It was used after the first attack when the blondie's grandfather died.

    I also think it's just perspective. I saw Petra's dad scene sad of course but not needed since well, we never knew Petra. Even the whole squad. We had met them for 2 episodes or such and never developed enough feelings to care for them, well me, anyway. Their death was highlighted in a way I don't understand because they were never important to begin with. I wasn't emotionally connected with them because their death came way too fast just to teach Eren something.

    Oh and trust me, I despise the "Bajillion humans died" thing the most because it does not show exactly how precious human life is and using human life as a plot device to prove a point just disgusts me, especially when the after effects and reactions are not shown.
     
  3. Rebellion

    Rebellion

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    On the contrary, this is also a popular argument against the high body count in AOT. In war, you don't know what the time or what place you are gonna die. It is indeed a pretty realistic depiction of a war and living in a dystopian world ruled by a much greater predator. But i can still see what other people is saying that "the characters are not developed enough for me to care or to be shocked" and it is indeed valid. Attack on Titan is build around shock effect most of the time. That is why when you see many people dying one at a time, you can no longer be shocked at the later episodes because instead of caring for the characters, you are actually waiting of who is gonna die next.

    A great example of both balancing the deaths and the development of the characters is the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Dat Red wedding.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2014
  4. Plue!

    Plue!

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    Men who adopt the profession of arms submit to their own free will to a law of perpetual constraint of their own accord. They resist their right to live where they choose, to say what they think, to dress as they like, it needs but an order to settle from their family and dislocate their normal lives. In the world of command they must rise, march, run, and endure bad weather, go without sleep or food, be isolated in some distant post, work until they drop. If they drop in their tracks, if their ashes are scattered to the four winds, that is all part and parcel of their job.

    -Charles de Gaulle
    Basically, when men enlist to be soldiers, they cease to be their individual selves. Pretty much like the soldiers there.
     
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  5. WHDominique

    WHDominique

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    Aye I will agree that it is all on perspective and while I see it as every character besides main and important side characters as being one entity, and seeing them as individuals I do see it being a weak point in the series.

    Honestly though I forget that there was a war after the first attack where Armin's grandfather died. Why? Because it was the "16 million died" method and it wasn't effective and thankfully hasn't been used since. And the Petra's father (and all their family) stuff on the surface is actually less about Petra and more about Levi. His stone cold expression facing the consequences of his failure and he's been in this situation so many times that it no longer effects him on an outer level.

    Oh and the precious human life thing, they are fighting a war. People will die. I'm not joyful when this stuff happens, it's a roller coaster of emotions. It makes it unsettling to watch at times and that's why I like it. Because an uncomfortable mood is good for a series like this.

    I agree. There is a quote that Jean said that always stayed with me even if it's not that magnificent. It was just after Marco died and he tells Aaron something like "Not everyone get's a spectacular death". I thought that it does describe war in a real way, not everyone dies with glory.
     
  6. Plue!

    Plue!

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    This isn't much, but I think in the anime, no one did get a spectacular death. They're all dead, and died almost the same way; Thomas died in generally the same manner as Petra or the others did, which is, at the hands of Titans. And I think it's the same thing with warfare. Everyone dies, and their deaths aren't spectacular, either.

    And I don't think AoT reflected on the individual glories of people, either. I personally think that what it reflected on, instead, was their effort. Those soldiers, and I think all soldiers, go to war not to die glorious deaths, but to dedicate their efforts towards something else. Which is why AoT built up on stories of people simply dying, not people dying glorious deaths. My two cents, basically.
     
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  7. WHDominique

    WHDominique

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    What I think he was referring to more is that when Eren "died" Mikasa (Armin and others) were affected. Eren was well known among the trainees if you remember, Marco wasn't. And the normal fan reaction of Eren "dying" would have been: "Holy shit, Eren died". But Marco, a character that hasn't been given much of an impact dies off screen. And no one knew he died until after the battle. Normal fan reaction would have been "That one guy that was gay for Jean died, sucks *shrug". Looking it from Jean's prospective though, he didn't really see Marco as a friend, at least I think. He didn't see anyone as one as a friend at this point really. But when he finds out that that one kid that admired him and told him straight up that he wasn't that strong of person died and no one knew about it, he was hurt. He may have not meant much to a great sum, but he meant something to himself. And looking it at the point of the viewer, you think about those in real life who aren't glorified as you said. Those who were just soldiers doing their job where no one "important" knew they died or bodies were never found/identified.
    And like you said, Attack on Titan does not glorify the military. Well... given that they've really had only like 2 victories the entire series there isn't much to celebrate. And when they do win, the casualty numbers are still really high so what's the point of celebrating. If anything those who lived are happy to live another day.
     
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  8. Divvens

    Divvens

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    I saw people more sad about Hannes death rather than Levi's squad being annihilated. It was due to Hannes having more character development and screen time compared to Levi's squad.

    It's only natural for people to feel more connected to characters they have seen growing and seen on multiple occasions. Even I for that matter, I get very emotional if some character I'm deeply connected to goes to pain/anguish/sorrow, and at the same time I feel joy when a character I'm connected to is happy. It's just that people require more time to connect to characters, AoT doesn't give that "time". But it's understandable due to the whole battle for humanity scenario. As you said, in war's sometimes you don't even know the names of the people dying for the countries sake, sometimes even soldiers don't know the name of soldiers beside them.

    So it does suit the anime/manga, but sometimes it also feels its there just for shock value you know, since none of us have actually seen that large scale war in our lifetime.
     
  9. Erza

    Erza

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    I 100% see where you're coming from here, it's interesting how it was all done. Marco's death had a bit of an impact though, he has a large following on tumblr, and is often referred to as "Freckled Jesus" but I suspect that a main reason for why he has so many fans is because of TEH HAWT YAOIZ with Jean, although there is the whole his death changing Jean's mind regarding the faction he wanted to join, and Annie nicking his 3DMG, but I could be wrong.
     
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