Nazism Repackaged? A Closer Look at the “Fascist Subtext” of ‘Attack on Titan’
Many fantasy writers have incorporated the visual footprint of the Third Reich into their fictional worlds. Few, however, have done so as extensively as the creator of Attack on Titan, who revisited this terrible chapter of history not to find inspiration for a fearsome antagonist, but to excavate the divisive ideas that lay buried there.
Eren’s resolution bears, to some extent, a striking similarity to the writings of one of the Columbine killers, Eric Harris, who in his diary wrote that “the human race isn’t worth fighting for, only worth killing. Give the Earth back to the animals. They deserve it infinitely more than we do.” Perhaps this is what that one journalist meant when they said—in rather vague terms—that Attack on Titan captures “the hopelessness felt by young people in today’s society.”
But the statements made by Eren and the school shooter, two young and highly motivated perpetrators of mass murder, also vary gravely in that the latter professes mankind to be inherently evil and the world (which, he said, ought to be given back to the animals) inherently good. Eren, believing mankind to be good (that is, fighting for a noble cause), concludes the real enemy to be the world itself.
In that regard, Isayama does not appear to align himself with Adolf Hitler as much as with another influential German figure, Arthur Schopenhauer, who, for his book The World as Will and Representation, wrote the following charming words about a beach in Java covered, “as far as the eye could see”, with skeletons,
The skeletons of large turtles, five feet long and three feet broad, and the same height, which come this way out of the sea in order to lay their eggs, and are then attacked by wild dogs, who with their united strength lay them on their backs, strip off their lower armor, that is, the small shell of the stomach, and so devour them alive. But often then a tiger pounces upon the dogs. Now all this misery repeats itself thousands and thousands of times, year out, year in. For this, then, these turtles are born. For whose guilt must they suffer this torment?
The answer is: for none. They must suffer, because they were born into this world.
Ohara, Atsuhi, Yamane, Yukiko. “Boosted by anime version, ‘Attack on Titan’ manga sales top 22 million” (Japan Bullet). Asahi Shimbun. 17 August 2013. Archived from the original on 22 August 2013. Accessed 1 November 2019.