A Look at the Many Political Interpretations of Attack on Titan
The premier of Attack on Titan: The Final Season is both a new chapter in the story and the conclusion to one of the most iconic anime’s. It’s a series that that has been praised by many for its rich story, an ensemble cast of characters and approach to word building. Given its topic and themes, Attack on Titan has also been the subject of numerous works regarding its political interpretations. On the surface, it’s the story of a humanities struggle against giant monsters. When one takes a closer look, it becomes an allegory to so many current and historical events.
From Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus to Godzilla, monster stories have always been used as a critique of a social-political landscape. Hajime Isayama acclaimed series is no different in how many have used it as a metaphor for many geopolitical debates and disputes. From critiques of security theater to an allegory for numerous geopolitical conflicts, these are some of the political interpretations of Attack on Titan.
Given the controversy of topics, this list is not an endorsement of a political stance. Also be aware that there will be spoilers.
5. Allegory for Every States Dispute with the People’s Republic of China
The story of a small nation having to fend against a juggernaut force would resonate with those who live in the midst of such a struggle. With their ongoing dispute with the Peoples Republic of China, the series has developed a solid fandom in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Both are (metaphorically) walled off from a more powerful force that they feel threatens their way of life. The series has also developed a solid fan base among those living in nations involved in the South China Sea territorial disputes. So it should not come as a surprise that the series has been banned in the People’s Republic of China.
4. Support for Shinzo Abe’s Government
Shinzo Abe was the Prime Minister of Japan from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020. He has been described as one of the most conservative leaders in modern Japan. This is because of his aggressive stance on North Korea and support for revising Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. He has also been accused of having revisionist views on Japanese history.
Given when the manga was first published and it’s rise in popularity, Attack on Titan has been criticized for promoting Abe’s politics. The most notable is the series is trying to promote his pro-militarization policy (as the plot focuses on a small nation needing to defend itself against a mighty force). The series has also been accused of taking a revisionist stance with characters inspired by military leaders from the Imperial Army. This controversy erupted when it was revealed that Commander Dot Pixis was based on General Akiyama Yoshifuru.
3. An Exploration of The Concept of the Political
The world of Pardis Island has been described by many critics as a Fascist state. It’s alleged praise of fascism has been one of the most common critiques of the series. Others have praised the series as a critique of the failures of fascism. Instead of going through all of them, I want to look at one that examines its political landscape through the views of a Nazi philosopher.
The Concept of the Political is a work of political philosophy by Carl Schmitt. It was a critical look at the futility of liberal democracy while advocating the need for an authoritarian government. Key to his belief was the conflict brought on by inequality and need to have a strong sovereign to maintain order and protect society from outside forces. Jared Bauer of Wisecrack looks into how The Political is used to keep order in the world of Attack on Titan. The three key points of Schmitt’s philosophy are broken down and then applied to the society on Paradis Island. He looks at how the military and the sovereign are necessary to protect what is left of humanity from the Titans (and themselves).
Please note that this take is based on the anime adaptation. Also this is just an interpretation of the series and not an endorsement of Schmitt philosophy.
2. Critique of Security Theater
Security Theater is the practice of taking measures that provide a sense of safety but in reality does nothing in regards to providing actual security. From the TSA to building walls along a border, these measures put in place to protect the public is nothing but a show. Studies have shown that the need to provide a sense of security are not worth the cost. The walls in Attack on Titan has also attracted the attention of political scholars when exploring the futility of such measures.
Inbar Pincu presented this outlook during the 14th International Graduate Conference in Political Science, International Relations, and Public Policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The False Security of the Wall: The Perception of Security in ‘Attack on Titan’ compared the flaws of the Berlin Wall and West Bank Barrier to Wall Sheena, Rose, and Maria. The main point is that such measures only create a false sense of security that could easily be shattered the moments the walls come down. Also highlighted is how a community will easily develop a sense of animosity towards those living on the other side.
1. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is one of the longest and most controversial political disputes. Since the mid-20th Century, the State of Israel and the Palestinian communities (represented by either Palestinian National Authority or Hamas) have been disputing over the right to sovereignty in the region but specifically the Gaza Stripe and the West Bank. Numerous world leaders have tried to broker a pathway to peace to either no avail or minor achievements.
Attack on Titan once again has a solid fan base among those who live in a similar geopolitical climate. The major difference in regards to the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict is that both sides connect with the Eldians while viewing the other as the Titans.
The struggle of a nation for a historically persecuted group that is surrounded by enemies has resonated with fans in Israel. This connection has become even stronger since the publication of Chapter 86, as some have pointed out how Paradis Island is the only sanctuary for the Eldians (similar to Israel for the Jewish people). Palestinian fans of the series have related to the struggle as they too live in a walled-off community with limited resources and fear of an attack from a juggernaut force.
There is a lot to learn about both the conflict along with how one views the other, a testament to how Hajime Isayama has created a story that has been interpreted in so many ways.
What are your thoughts on these or other different political interpretations of Attack on Titan? Share your thoughts in the comment section bellow and please keep it civil.
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