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The Correct Way To Illustrate Despair – Attack On Titan


Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

The synopsis of AOT is terrifying enough – giant humanoid man-eaters called Titans whose only interest is swallowing humans whole – it’s a nightmare from the start. So how does this series look at despair and more importantly the individual reactions and hardships of the characters shown in the series? That’s what I’ll be unpacking in this article so please make yourself comfortable as we dive into the bloody world outside the walls.

Opening episode

Let’s start with the beginning Episode, where my jaw dropped several times, especially during the later parts of the episode and of course the ending. Watching what happened to Eren’s mother was truly harrowing and it shocked me to my core.

Watch again the full horror of Eren and Mikasa’s loss:

Eren’s mother is eaten by a Titan (Episode 1, Season 1)

Such an amazing and explosive start to an episode, emotions already running incredibly high, and with so much now at stake for our characters and humanity, it’s easy to see why this series received much attention when it was first released.

But it’s not the series as a whole I’m going to discuss in this episode but something I noticed further into the first season. I’m going to write an individual article on AOT soon but that’s for another day, so stay tuned.

Looking into the concept behind the Titans

To understand my overall point about despair in AOT we have to look into the Titans, but more importantly their design. The Titans in the Anime are terrifying, to say the least. Their only purpose is to find and eat humans.

That’s it. They have no interest in other animals or creatures and have one sole interest. From the start, we saw how scary they were, how they hunted and ate humans.

We learn later on that the Titans are not interested in other Animals like horses for example. Just Humans. This makes them a little more freighting because normally the concept of something like this would be an enemy not just to mankind, but to the world.

This is because, as Humans, they would also carry the responsibility of protecting animals and other targets that the Titans might be attracted to. However, instead, it’s just humans they’re after. And therefore, there is only 1 fear, and that is being eaten by the Titans.

As well as this we also learn throughout the series, little pieces of information about the Titans. It’s not like all the info on them and their existence is just spilled out in some dialogue near the end where we really learn of their true purpose.

Instead, we are fed little parts of the puzzle so we slowly build up some sort of idea in our head about them, rather than just being spoon-fed all of the important info at one point in time. This is great because before we’ve even got near the ending of Attack on Titan, fans will already be fantasizing in their head what the Titan’s true purpose is. And of course, this fuels the need to know more.

This makes the whole concept of the titans very unnerving because essentially, we know only as much as the characters. We don’t know anymore really. This is not true for some unorthodox scenes like at the end of season 2, where we see what appears to be the Titan’s creator looking over the plains towards the wall. It’s a good way to end an episode and certainly leaves the viewers wondering who this man is and why he is watching the wall.

A lot of valid and important questions need to be answered for the next season. I think that this is the reason why the fear of the Titans is really fascinating. We learn when the characters learn (normally) and this allows us sometimes to have a stronger connection with the characters, especially when they’re killed by the Titans

Another thing to talk about in regards to the Titans is how they progress as the series goes on. First, we think they just eat humans. Then we realize there are other Titans who are different (the female Titan) also attack other Titans when they get in the way. We also learn that some Titans have different abilities and objectives.

Along with this ever-changing theory and knowledge about the Titans in the Attack on Titan universe comes an equally and newly shared fear about them. 

Are there Titans who cannot be killed? Are there Titans which can dig far underground? Are there Titans who can jump really high in the air? – See, there are tons of possibilities and all of them are equally terrifying as the list can go on and on.

This is what makes the Titans and their whole enigma more and more attractive to the average Anime fan. 

Are the Titans a continuation/darker expression of Giants?

I’m sure the concept of a Titan has been created before but certainly not to the extent that they have been in Attack on Titan. They’re in their own category of monster, immune from being called just a “Giant”, they are far more scary and threatening. They seem to be more intelligent than Giants in my opinion.

In a sense, the more we learn in this series, the darker and darker it gets. For instance when Captain Levi and Erwin learn that they’ve been killing real people all along. And that Titans are humans who have been transformed into Titans

Again, this opens up so many other questions. Why or is someone turning people into Titans? Are these people being turned into Titans accidentally? Are all Titans even aware they are Titans? Why are there mostly no female Titans? We just don’t know and this fuels the hunger for more and more knowledge about the Titans. 

The Titans effect on most Humans

A final point to add about the Titans would also be their effect on humans. I’ll cover this more later but imagine the pain, stress, and confusion you would go through, constantly knowing that there are these creatures that are waiting to get a chance to eat you alive! It would be a horrible feeling and thought to realise for the citizens of the Kingdom.

Now, this would be the feeling of just the average person within Walls Maria and especially at Trost. But imagine how it would be for our main characters. The Survey Corps. Knowing that you could be eaten at any time when you’re outside the wall.

Knowing that if your horse is not fast enough, it’ll be you that will be eaten, and not your horse would undoubtedly cause stress and anxiety beyond belief. Coupled with a lack of sleep, the conditions that are characters are put into are indeed very treacherous and harsh. It’s amazing our main characters even make it to Season 2

Do the Titans enjoy eating people?

Now, the fact that the Titans are human is also very disconcerting when you observe how they kill humans and eat them, or vice versa. As you may know, and from some scenes in the Anime, it actually seems like they enjoy it. Let me explain.

In many of the scenes where we see humans being eaten by Titans, their expression isn’t what you would expect. Some of them look sad, but a lot of them have a wild grin on their face. This is sometimes replaced with a sinister smile, but normally they seem to look happy in some demented kind of way.

Does this mean they are really having human or other emotions? Or is this a face that they wear anyway continuously stuck in a neverending journey of hunting, walking, and eating? Either way, it’s a very horrifying thing you have to watch, especially considering Titan that killed Eren’s mother (“A Smiling Titan” as it’s referred to in the series).

Because no matter how you look at it. If the real reason the Titans eat humans is so they can turn back into humans as it’s pointed out in the series, then why do they take such pride and enjoyment from it? My own theory is that many Titans have been roaming the land in Attack on Titan for a long that they have become bored and desperate.

If you think about it for a second, would you do the same things as them? How would you react to realising that you are now a Titan yourself? Because I know what I’d be doing.

Now, going more into despair let’s look at one of my favourite moments from the second season. This was during the period where one of the Vanguard’s comes into contact with the female Titan. At first, the Titan is not threatening at all. Choosing only to go after certain characters. But we learn quickly that the Female Titan has no problem whatsoever killing any humans that get in its way and prevent it from completing her overall objective.

How to toy with emotions 101

Now there is a moment where 1 soldier from the Vanguard makes it out alive. He’s riding as fast as he can to warn the rest of the formation about what he has just seen. He’s just witnessed the complete defeat of his whole squad and thinks he’s the only one left. It’s such a scary moment but we feel relief and excitement because we think he’s going to get away and warn the others, as he says himself.

We really think he’s going to make it back to the others and tell them about what he’s just seen. We’re thinking that Eren will learn of this and take on the Female Titan. But then, just as he’s finished his sentence, something happens. Then – whoosh….. He’s gone. Booted high into the air, never to be seen again.

Do you see what they did there? It only takes a minute but in that very short time, they’ve taken your emotions on a roller coaster. Building up one emotion and then completely smashing it with another. It’s brilliant! There’s many a time where AOT does this and they normally always use the Titans to do it.

That’s it for now!

It’s been wonderful dissecting and assessing the Titans. Attack on Titan really has been a great Anime to watch and it’s certainly one the of the best Anime I’ve seen on my Anime watching journey. To make sure this article isn’t too long we’re going to be cutting it into two halves and posting the next part soon. Please subscribe to our newsletter so you can never miss an update and be updated whenever we post a new article. You can do this below:

Attack on Titan is a series that will be discussed on Cradle View for a long time to come. Thank you so much for reading, don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an update, have a wonderful day and stay safe!

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