Attack of Common Sense

Philosophically, there’s really not a lot going on with Shingeki no Kyojin. Power corrupts; power is inhuman; the strong eat the weak. Anyone who has taken more than a few minutes to observe how society works has probably come to these conclusions.

Rather than make SnK boring, though, in some sense this clears the field for the story to proceed unhindered. It establishes a clear philosophy, so that even though there are narrative and plot surprises each week – often leading to people getting eaten in new and exciting ways – the fundamental “type” of story does not surprise us.

Mikasa by tsuchinoetatsuya
Mikasa fanart by Tsuchinoe Tatsuya

In terms of personality, characters are relatively uncomplicated: you have your good old boys, your grizzled veterans, your crazy ass scientist, your zealots and politicians. Each one has a backstory and a reason for thinking the way that they do. If anyone can be said to be one-dimensional, it’s Mikasa, the talented, traumatized, yet endearing girl whose main goal in life is to be with her adoptive brother Eren. And yet her one-dimensionality is not necessarily the result of sloppy writing or an unwillingness to flesh out the author’s world; it is, rather, the only way she understands how to deal with the pressures of the insane world she lives in.

The titans themselves, though they start out as little more than fleshy murder-bots, are soon differentiated; some are mindless killing machines and some have very complex motivations. The female titan’s story in particular is fascinating, especially regarding the tradeoffs of what power does for you and what it requires you to do for it. But for a few strange decisions, it might even be argued that hers is the most human story of all.

Ultimately Shingeki no Kyojin is a very Greek drama: mortal man is beset by all kinds of forces completely beyond his control, and can only make the best choices he can. Even then, his nature obligates him to make certain choices, so it’s dubious whether he can control his life or not. Calamity and salvation ride on a toss of the dice, and heroic sacrifices are demanded not at rare occasions, but almost daily. It is an excellent reminder of what the world is like for the majority of humanity, even though the plush chairs and Lay-Z-boys the viewers sit in may not invoke that.

Author: moritheil

One might be forgiven for thinking that Moritheil is a postmodern literary critic who started reviewing video games in 2001, and spent the early 2000s learning at the right hand of con staff and fansubbers. However, those rumors are spurious: Moritheil is actually a distant relative of Genghis Khan who stands poised to conquer the world via the Internet. Follow along at

4 thoughts on “Attack of Common Sense

  1. I actually want to write about the Female Titan once the series is over, since the anime is now hitting Volume 8 of the manga and that volume ends her story and somewhat explores why she is the way she is. In some ways, she’s somewhat of a feminist. I could be wrong though….

  2. Yes, this is not as complex as Evangelion or Ghost In The Shell. The story is pretty straightforward, even I can understand. What I don’t know is why this anime got so popular all over the world? What’s the appeal?

    Here in the states, like Anime Expo, so many Attack On Titan cosplayers we saw, but not just at some cons or anime events, but in daily life, when I went to McDonald’s during lunch break, I saw a girl with Attack on Titan cosplay! She was dressed up as Sasha! So I know by this how this anime has gotten this big.

    1. There were A LOT of Titan cosplayers at Otakon too. Some even had bottles of booze as the 3D Maneuver Gear gas tanks.

      I think it’s the fact that the story is so straightforward to the point that its themes affect so many young people these days.

      And oh yeah, the characters are easy to make fun of. XD

      1. That’s cool, booze bottles turned into 3D maneuver gear.

        Yes, straightforward story, simple, broader appeal, good characteristics of a grand narrative, and that uniform is also a factor. Yes, easy to make parody on the characters. .

Comments are closed.