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a gift

Hajime Isayama is Goated 🐐
Published onApr 11, 2022
a gift

all images are taken from Attack on Titan chapter 131, written and illustrated by Hajime Iseyama. none of the media is owned by me

Attack on Titan is one of the best manga to come out in recent memory but it is bogged down by a convoluted plot, contradictory exposition of its themes, questionable character development, and a random twist that does nothing to diminish or enhance the plot. It just kinda happens. AoT at its core, however effectively examines dread, uncertainty, war, and freedom through its primary character Eren Jaeger. I hope that readers question how capable we are of creating a positive world for future generations.

Written here is a review by Anilist user LN03. The ad hominem thrown at Hajime Isayama is unpleasing, but I found myself agreeing with their criticism of Historia’s role in the plot, Eren’s contradictory behavior, Mikasa’s lack of growth, what Ymir’s love for King Fritz meant, why war criminals are just left to chill, how Zeke died like a bitch, why Reiner kept getting beat like a bitch, and why Eren felt his path appropriate. What I find most interesting is the positive symbology some pick up from the series. For many, this story is flawed because there is no way that the protagonist can succeed in creating this happy ending Isayama has been building.

For me, AoT is a story of dread, perhaps freedom, but that is discussed here to far greater effect. Attack on Titan’s end hinges on its uncertainty. Can people who have committed genocide lead Earth’s last people? I say they get tossed in jail and executed. But that would be disrespectful to the world of possibility Eren provided in ridding the world of Titan powers, allegedly. But this is why I do not like the ending. Personally, seeing a kid too stupid to be safe get powers and destroy the world for vengeance is heartbreaking. However, the rumbling would always happen at some point. Because an island of GIGANTIC TRANSFORMING HUMANS THAT MAY GO MINDLESS AND START EATING HUMANS ARE DANGEROUS ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY HAVE A BUILT-IN MECHANISM THAT SAYS THE BIGGEST VERSIONS OF THOSE MONSTERS WILL LITERALLY STOMP THE REST OF THE WORLD TO DEATH IF THEY ARE INVADED. Marley should have finished the job. But they too had their suffering to contend with.

If we know Eren then we know he would destroy the world to appease his sense of justice. Eren was always obsessed with joining the military, committed murder as a child, and would chide Hannes for relaxing on the job. This description of Eren after killing Mikasa’s captors captures a personality flaw Eren has until his death:

“While Eren was genuinely sorry for upsetting his father, he expressed no remorse whatsoever for killing the robbers.. “ - Attack on Titan manga: Chapter 6 (p. 30 & 31)

As a child, Eren thought himself bold enough to save Mikasa and did not hesitate to ruse the captors so he could strike but he was not built like an Ackerman so he got fucked up. This marks the beginning of the pattern of Mikasa saving Eren because he is a fucking idiot and will die trying to save her or anyone he cares for. From the beginning, I never understood why this nationalist asshole who is too weak to fight for himself was centered as the main protagonist. For me, there was no way this story could have a peaceful ending. Eren is so cowardly that he’d rather die than believe in himself (plea to Historia Underground), and would rather destroy the world than talk to others. Shit, if Eren didn’t get humbled during the training corps arc any attempt at character growth would be questionable. Before everything, Eren was filled with rage at the hapless despair Paradis island faced. Eren is the violent impetuous child he always was. Willing to risk his life without a concept of the value of life. Eran’s sense of dread leading to the underground diamond cavern superficially stems from jealousy and a sense of powerlessness. I could never love nor unconditionally champion Eren. What I regret is not empathizing with Eren’s despair. His sense of being powerless in the face of atrocity.

While going through outrage at AoT’s ending, I begin to understand something about why the story resonates. It is only when one believes a better outcome can be achieved that one might find the strength to feel pity for themselves and others. I thought there were many ways AoT could have ended better. But Eren never saw a world where peace was meant for him. Paradis was never liberated by civil war. There was no non-violent protest that challenged genocide or prejudice in Marley. Eren thought Paradis to be the only refuge in the world. The outrage of knowing the world outside stood by and actively participated in the creation of his grief entrenched the despair he had felt. Genocide by Paradis Titans or genocide by Marley, there are no happy endings. This was the tragic form of Iseyama’s narrative.

Life is complicated. We make decisions every day that could impact the lives of every living creature on this planet. We are in the middle of a climate crisis that we have not yet collectively accepted, but is happening slowly. We can destroy our planet at any time with nuclear weapons. We can create our rumbling. We will eventually. How then, can we know what good needs to be done? How do we preserve the future? Who are we? What can be preserved? What is the right way to live in the face of extinction? Why can’t a unifying, unselfish love be present in these times? What do we want for the future?

The gift Isayama provides for us is the deep-seated hope in all characters for a safer world. A hope that persists through deep flaws and despair.

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