Attack on Titan is biting social commentary; literally. Set in the distant future, Attack imagines a post-apocalyptic landscape where all of humanity is confined behind tall stone walls, living a life of farming and leisure. Outside the walls are hundreds of flesh-eating Titans—humongous, naked humanoids whose smiling faces only change when they’re in pain or when they’re feeding on their human prey. Aside from the occasional scouting parties sent beyond the walls with steam powered grappling hooks (needed to reach the Titans’ primary weak point, the nape of the neck) humanity hasn’t faced the Titans in battle for over a hundred years, and believes that their walls will keep them safe.
Of course, as one might expect in an action show, this all changes immediately as a new breed of Titan, many times larger than the others, breaks through the first of humanity’s walls. Humanity’s youth are suddenly thrown into training camps in order to meet the re-emerging threat. Eren, the show’s protagonist, and his friends are quickly thrown into a desperate battle against seemingly insurmountable odds, with determination and perseverance as their only tools.
Much like the last show I reviewed for The Spectatorial, Attack on Titan addresses the global stresses placed on youth in the contemporary age, albeit more subtly. While Eden of the East is explicitly about the place Millennials hold in society, Attack on Titan’s premise is more of a cautionary dystopian tale about complacency in the face of generational successes. While youth today might not be facing giants that want to feast on our flesh, we do face similar challenges built on the inaction of our predecessors.
In Attack, the danger posed by the titans has forced humanity to regress to what is essentially the feudal age with a couple pieces of exceptional of technology. Rather than attempting to solve the problem at hand, the human government chooses to preserve their way of life by means of erecting enormous walls, as it is more comfortable than radical change. These massive walls—too big to fail (it is thought)—are what stand between human civilization and chaos only because those that hold power are too complacent to make real change.
Instead, that challenge falls to the youth, who are told that they are unprepared to accomplish anything, and are naive to believe they can make a change. Despite that, grassroots guerrilla tactics on the part of Eren and his peers begin to make significant gains in humanity’s fight against the Titans, giving the youth of Attack’s world hope that they will live in a world better than the one occupied by their parents.
While it may not be the perfect metaphor for the struggles of today’s generation, reading Attack as a play on inter-generational strife adds a bit of a cerebral element to what is otherwise a gory thrill ride of a show. It also puts things in perspective; while it may be the fault of my parents’ generation that I’m handing out dozens of resumes for the opportunity to take an unpaid internship, at least their choices didn’t result in my limbs getting chewed off by a giant naked beast.
-Contributed by Dan Seljak