Attack on Titan: Fan Reception of Religion and Race
Shingeki no Kyojin (SnK) or Attack on Titan is a Japanese anime TV series whose popularity rose exponentially within a few months’ time. Thanks to the quality English dubbing and subbing, this series was able to reach viewers who are not usually fans of anime. This popularity was due to its unique story and magnificent artwork. However, when looking at the series as a text, there is a lack of representation of Blacks and Latinos, while there are representations of religious and atheist groups. Even though the lack of Blacks and Latinos may be taken as problematic, fans see this as a productive aspect. In contrast, the negative representations of the religious characters are seen as problematic by fans. For this article, a brief summary of the plot is needed to understand why a point is productive and/or problematic.
The main genre of SnK is alternative history, so the story is set in an alternative universe yet set on Earth. SnK never states where exactly the characters are set. In this world, humanity is threatened by titans – huge, nude human-like figures that feed on and kill humans. So, through an unknown cause, walls were built around the surviving humans to protect them from titans. The humans do not know where the walls came from or how they were made, and a religion was formed, centered around the worship of the walls. The religious group, the “Wall Cult”, has its own beliefs about the walls. It believe that the walls shouldn’t be modified and that humans shouldn’t leave to the premises outside the walls. A segment of the military named the Survey Corps has other ideas. They constantly leave the walls in order to capture the titans in order to bring them back so scientists can analyze their enemies. The three main characters, Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert are members of the Survey Corps. The series follows the three childhood friends, along with other minor characters, on their life or death experiences with the titans.
Since the series never explicitly stated the location of the story, fans have actually researched the ethnicities of the characters based on their names in hopes of finding out the location. On the forum thread titled “Real-world version of Shiganshina District Found”, a fan (TitaNick) has found that a location in SnK called Shiganshina District strongly represents a town in Germany: Nördlingen. The similarities are in the actual walls around the town and the walls around humanity in SnK. Also, the buildings look extremely similar. So, this could mean that the artist was inspired by the location or that the series is located in Germany.
Another fan that attempted to pinpoint the setting is Seireina. Seireina has a personal blog on Blogspot. One of her posts is about the ethnicities of the characters in SnK. Also, the series mentions that people of African, Arab, and Asian ethnicity were wiped out due to the titans. Furthermore, the series allows Mikasa to be known as the last Asian descendant that survived the titan attack. Other than Eren and Armin, there are nine other characters that were found to be German. One, Levi, was found to be Israeli, and Ymir was found to be Nordic, and the last character, Hanji Zoe was unknown. So, out of the 15 characters, 12 were found to be European.
Seireina states that:
“They [nationalities] don’t exist anymore because there are no countries, only human lands inside the walls languages would have died out too, with the most prevalent among them surviving.”
Seireina implies that the series is not about nationalities and that ethnicity is not seen as a significant character trait or narrative device. Instead, the humanity versus titans conflict is the central idea in the series. However, as mentioned before, the series does state why there is a lack of any ethnicity other than European. Despite that, fans are still curious as to why the other races did not survive. A comment on Seireina’s post by someone who prefers to remain anonymous, theorizes that the location is in West Russia rather than Germany and they state:
“Western Russia is far enough from the orient that it would be unlikely that very many would make the journey [to the walls] unless they lived somewhere relatively nearby. Europeans would be more likely to make it (though they would be greatly outnumbered by the lucky Germans) due to it being so much closer. It would be the same with Blacks as with East-Asian nations. As for anyone living in the Americas, considering there’s this massive thing called the Atlantic Ocean in the way, I would think it’s highly unlikely that any found their way there in time.”
A majority of the forums do not focus or discuss the representation of the Wall Cult members versus the atheists (who in this case are the members of the military). However, in a post by ‘uminohoshi’ called “7 Reasons That Make Shingeki no Kyojin a Daring Social Commentary”, the topic was initiated by one bullet point on the list. The point is that the series criticizes the religion by making the titan’s middle finger crush the location of worship. One comment by Hykal mentions their disappointment and problematic implementations about religion in the series:
“My biggest problem with portrayal of religion in the anime is not the negative light, it’s more of bad presentation… It’s clear the church is hiding something sinister. But the thing is, we don’t even know anything about the religion… We don’t know what the church actually does for the community. I don’t recall anyone going to church. I didn’t see any sane priests of sorts helping people.”
This comment was then replied with the poster’s perspective, which thinks that the representation of religion is a productive element rather than a problematic one: “I think my intention [of making this post] was if a person is looking for a “daring” social commentary anime, then Shingeki is one of the titles that must definitely be watched or at least be given a try because of these points present in the show… I just found the show daring for presenting the dark facet of some religions.” Thus, uminohoshi sees that SnK has planted itself as a commentary anime that has a stand on social issues and religion is one of them, ultimately making it “daring” in its most positive sense.
Based on online forum posts and opinion pieces, there seems to be a general acceptance of the lack of representation of a variety of ethnicities but a rejection on the representation of religion. The lack of representation of ethnicities is seen as problematic; but thanks to the series implying that it is a narrative development tool, it could be brushed aside as a productive interpretation. Fans of SnK seem to see it portrayal of prey (humanity) versus predator (titans) instead of being a racial discrimination, whereas the blunt and negative representation of religion is seen as problematic. In regards to the military members, which include the three protagonists, whom have no link to religion, are represented as brave heroes, yet the Wall Cult members are seen as sinister and sneaky thieves.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Here’s one for you: this takes place in 9th century Germany, Central Europe at least, judging by the fact that there are almost no characters without a German name. There are a few characters whose skin color could maybe suggest Spanish origin of some sort, but other than that most appear to be obviously of Caucasian European backgrounds. There are a number of factors that play into the lack of black/Hispanic people into the show, including distance over oceans and being eaten by titans before they could reach the walls. Connie looks a little to me like he could be Western Asian or mixed African and European. It’s very hard to tell after a century of being diluted how it was.
Yes! As mentioned, Snk did a great job in explaining why there aren’t many black/Hispanic/Arab people! The narrative development is very detailed in that way. Thanks for commenting!
No, I don’t think it really did a good job. I mean no disrespect, of course. It’s a very mysterious world. I mean, Eren was surprised about salt water making up oceans. With each chapter or episode, It’s like the author himself doesn’t know what he’s making. He has a vision, but it’s obvious that it’s not out there all the way. Are we really going to take the word of a kidnapper(the person that took Mikasa) trapped in a wall for his whole life as to why there aren’t many races. But, I’ll admit, some of these theories make sense. If the titans are a global catastrophe, then the beauty and uniqueness of the human race could be eradicated. Another is time period. If this happened when the world was still developing, transportation was limited, hence why some didn’t make it. The area, however, could be engineered, and the titans only affect one region. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s a theory. Sorry it was so long.
Hey, thanks for the comment. I’m not so sure what makes you think that the author doesn’t know where the story is going. Please tell me more about why you think that!
I feel like the story is being revealed in a very reasonable pace. In my article, I was specifically referring to the anime, not the manga. There are differences between the two. You need to keep in mind that us, the receivers, know as much as the characters know about the SnK world, very little. About the walls, the human race does not know where they came from, they just know they are. That means that they cannot build the protected area to be larger. Once the walls were discovered, people around the world made their way there. Like you said, it only covers a certain area and the transportation of that time period was not developed to the extent that anyone from anywhere could make it there on time.
Another thing for both of us to think about is that the characters still don’t know if there actually are people living outside the walls. There might be another walled civilization with Asians and Africans but we just don’t KNOW yet! Last thing, somewhere in the anime, I don’t remember clearly, Eren found out that the schools don’t teach the true history and anatomy of the titans. This is because, like I said, the characters still know so little. We also learnt that the reason why Eren’s father was murdered was because he knew too much! That tells us that someone, whether that is the religious cult or the government, knows something that they want to hide. There are people who know exclusive information and are using it to their own benefit. But, Eren’s father wasn’t supposed to know this information and that led to his sad death. With all of these things clearly laid out, it would be difficult for the author to make up stuff along the way. The fact that the author killed off the father from the very beginning means that the author thought the story through to very specific details. The author knows what exclusive information killed the father, he just wants us to hold on until the big bang is revealed! That information might help fans understand the reason behind everything 😉
Anyway, my article was simply stating that there are mixed reactions between the representation of religion and race. I’m not sure where the guy who kidnapped Mikasa fits in with this either…? Thanks again
Oh man, I feel like an idiot. I only watched the anime, and I read the manga, but I kind of lagged on account of school. I feel the author knows the world he is creating, but at the same time, he’s immersed in the mysteries. For example, Grisha’s death at the hands of Eren, his own son, was a surprising plot twist. Everything has an air of mystery. From how the walls were made, to whether or not there are people living outside the walls. I brought up the kidnapper to attest to those circumstance. He hasn’t been outside the walls, so how does he know. For all we know, the other races could have formed a defense against the titans. Another theory is that they don’t exist in those regions. Speaking as a fan however, It’d be cool if Isayama slowly introduces diversity. The world is bleak enough. It’d be cool if everyone unites, despite their differences, and fights against a common enemy. Again, I apologize for the confusion. Thanks for the update on Grisha’s father and your timely reply.
Europeans are not Caucasians!!!!!!! If you are not from the Caucasus region, you are not Caucasian! If you are not Georgian, Circassian, Laz, Lezgin, Ossetian, Abkhazian etc, you are not Caucasian! Why do you Europeans like stealing other ethnic group’s terms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just like western Europeans stealing the term Aryan, what a joke. Not only you people are caucasian wannabes, but you are also Aryan wannabes.
I only found out about it a couple of months ago, but since then I’ve caught up on the anime and most of the manga.
I’m not usually someone who watches anime, so AoT is very much a universal show. It isn’t really full of anime cliches, so as long as you don’t mind subtitles then I’d throw my hat on the recommendation pile too.
And in a George R. R. Martin way, don’t get too attached to anyone.
I completely disagree with you when you say this show isn’t full of anime cliches. *High level spoilers may follow*
After the band of protagonists head off to boot camp the show takes a one way trip to trope town. You’ve got all the standard one note anime tropes characters: tomboy who loves meat, silent protective female love interest, brainy weakling, and worst of all Eren is the archetypical shōnen protagonist. I continually felt like the show could have switch him out with Naruto and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. I can see someone who doesn’t watch much anime not noticing it but these are textbook copy paste characters that never deviate from their trope roots.
Bottom line is that I felt this anime suffered from exactly the same issues that most people who dislike anime complain about. The most unique aspect this show does do differently is really hit home the “war is hell” theme but it unfortunately subverts itself (in my opinion) with the inclusion of magical plot armor that’s a retreat from the most George R. R. Martin-esque decisions that could have made the show excellent.
More Spoilers may follow…
I disagree… First off, Eren is weak compared to many other characters, apart from his gift. How often in an anime is the protagonist not the strongest… Almost never. He’s nothing like Naruto whom everyone supports and is a hero to everybody.
Name me some other lead female characters that are like Mikasa? Where did you get the tom-boy who loves meat? She’s hardly a tomboy compared to Mikasa and Annie, first of all. She’s not much of a fighter and she’s always scared of everything. She’s the only foody amongst them but it is understandable because food was scarce from where she came. This is survival instinct.
As for brainy weakling… Okay, that gets done often but seriously, for one of the main characters… He is seriously very weak.
Let’s talk about what makes this anime different form others. Firstly, it’s unpredictable. Secondly, the good guys don’t always win… Thirdly, the element of fear. You are actually fearful for the characters throughout the anime… Simply because you never know who’s going to die and when…
Attack on Titan is an amazing anime… Hands down. There’s nothing more to even say. There’s a reason why it’s become so popular.
I have to disagree that it doesn’t happen very often that the main character is not the strongest in the beginning. I don’t watch a lot of shonen, but I immediately thought of two examples.
Hunter x Hunter — Killua is much stronger than Gon for much of the series. Killua, of course, has his own drawbacks, mostly inflicted by his family, but let’s not forget Heaven’s Arena.
Naruto — Sasuke was much better than Naruto at the beginning.
Plus, his “special power” is the same thing that makes most characters stronger than everyone else. Naruto’s fox thing, Gon’s oneness with nature and animals, Goku being Saiyan etc. In that way, it is exactly like most popular shonen series.
I agree that there is a lot that makes AoT stand out against a sea of shonen, but it definitely takes many pages from the shonen handbook. We didn’t even talk about the built-in childhood friend/destined lover.
I also disagree that meat girl isn’t a tomboy, she joined the toughest branch of the military and she’s super wild — that’s pretty tomboyish to me. Armin isn’t THAT weak, at first I was like wtf, but he’s gotten better. I mean, he knows his shortcomings, but he has strength too. He got saved a lot, but he also indirectly did a lot of the saving. It takes a strong person to be willing to be left behind. I like that they didn’t cop out with Armin and make him magically just as strong as everyone else, now that’s cliche.
The notion that Martin’s characters are free form Plot Armor is false, Ned Stark is the only POV character to be permanently killed off.
I feel like AoT is genuinely far more difficult to predict who will or won’t survive then Game of Thrones is.
If the SnK world does in fact take place around what we consider Germany, then most people are white.
I’ve known of AoT for some time now–read a couple volumes of the manga and I’ve been watching the anime on Crunchyroll–and I have to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the enormous success of it. People who normally do not watch anime have loved the anime, and at most conventions I’ve gone to there have been a growing number of AoT cosplayers (none have working maneuver systems, though…).
the only same meaning you and i got from this story is Survival of the Fittest (or Natural Selection)
I haven’t watched Anime on over 20 years, but the premise intrigued me. After two episodes, I’m hooked.
I’m glad to hear that! Anime and manga are an art form of their own.
The manga is wonderful I read it all to that date about a year and a half ago. However I’ve given up on reading it because I can’t wait a month for each new chapter. I’ll read the lot when it’s done.
I’m not going to bother watching the anime till I’ve read the manga because from what I’ve seen of it so far suggests while it has the violence it’s far less creepy and fails to capture that oppressive tension and frankly pure existential terror that envelops you while reading the manga and that makes it a genuinely horrifying yet compelling thing to experience.
I am a newcomer to anime and mangas, although I am a crusty veteran of comics in general. I definitely enjoy the original plot of the show. I love when the premise of a story is realistic, so that you are never sure who will make it to next episode. AoT definitely has this going for it.
Welcome to the anime and manga side of the world! Glad to have you here 🙂 Let me know if you’d like recommendations or suggestions! I’ve got tons.
I didn’t bother about the hype and just gave the anime series a try because I read the manga a long time ago. It’s awesome!
I’m not sure why Attack on Titan is getting so much attention. In terms of story or characters it is pretty generic. Aside from the gorgeous animation and well realised world, I thought the first season lost steam towards the end and the episodes fell into a rhythm of last minute twists to make sure you wanted to keep watching.
All that being said, I can get why they would make a movie out of it. The fights alone would make awesome popcorn fodder
Really? How is it generic?
Couple of ways.
Story is very typical Shonen, in that it is a main character who has something that makes him the most determined/only one who can hope to win the war. There is some element of conspiracy within the “heroes” side so that we are left guessing as to who the real enemy is. Its pretty similar in that sense to something like Bleach or Naruto, if you take it like that.
The characters are all typical Anime archetypes, the typical shonen hero (Eren), the weakling the hero has to build self belief in (Armin) the ice queen who kicks serious butt (Mikasa), and a whole host of others, including your tsundere, yandere all amongst the supporting cast.
All that being said, I do still think the world that has been created is terrific, with such a lot of beauty and history within it. The action scenes are incredible to watch, and the plot hopefully will go places in the upcoming seasons. I just don’t really see what makes it the anime that demands so much attention from the last few years, other than perhaps the reemergance of mecha/kaiju love in popular media
It’s so rich in both a psychological, and sociological levels. Great post!
AoT offends religion? Sounds like just about everything these days. But I think the message is not to bash religion but to emphasize the fact that its humanity’s struggle. Humans need to show that they are the “hunters” so to say. Or maybe Hajime Isayama actually is just pulling all our legs. He seems to enjoy controversy.
It’s an amazing anime that dare to go against the norm and point out the flaws others are too scared to exposed in a thoughtful manner.
Came across this relevant blogpost: Ethnic clothes worn by the characters:
Alright, for the most part, nearly every anime leaves out other races. One that doesn’t is Natsumi Itsuki’s Jyu-Oh-Sei: Planet of the Beast King (1993-2003). It’s excellent. However, it seems very often that the Caucasian and Asian races dominate a lot of anime. I have to say though, if you really want that to be changed then the next person to pick up a pencil to write a story or a manga should simply put forth the effort. Considering the location of SnK(AoT), the explanation is absolutely logical. But hey guys….. ever consider there might be more walled cities out there? What are the chances that only those walls were built? There’s so much still yet to be seen in this story.
On the account of religion…. Exactly what religion is it offending? I mean, I’m a Christian and I absolutely love this anime. In fact, I just recommended it to my history professor because of its astounding topics and character depth. I guess I’ve gotten used to looking the other way when anime/shows/media in general offends my God. But hey! I don’t believe in throwing oil into water. But here’s the thing… this so called “Wall Cult” is exactly what it says it is. It’s “The Wall Cult”. It’s not Christianity, it’s not Muslim, it’s not Buddhist. It’s a cult. Enough said. The people who are getting offended, not to offend (but here I go), really need to crack open a history book and learn about the real world. The real world is not about fairness. So suck it up and take it like a boss. Life goes on. And Attack on Titan… is absolutely excellent. Sure, like everything, it has it’s flaws… but let’s get real here. This anime has broken the foundation of our expectations. It may have started “clishe” but no one watching it the first time through was thinking of how clishe it was when Hannes stopped in his tracks before that smiling, sinister titan and, like a coward, rushed back, snagging Eren and Mikasa from their mother figure. And we couldn’t help but feel the terrible, horrendous ache of empathy as we witnessed 10 year old Eren watch as his mother’s spine broke like chain links before she was devoured rudely by that chilling, smirking titan.
This anime is realistic but it’s not real life. Eren may be reckless in his fighting, but he’s also in horrible morning. We saw this behavior in Mikasa when she found out Eren had died. She became reckless. We see cowardice. We see complacency. We see all of human nature’s rude and atrocious characteristics. All of them.
Even it’s magic is realistic in the sense that it’s not a “power up” like in every other anime. It’s part of the plot. Clearly, something big is going down. After all, it’s not normal for giant titans to appear in the first place (obviously).
As for Mikasa, she’s probably the BEST female protagonist I have EVER laid my eyes upon. Absolutely excellent. Although, the flashbacks do feel a little…. eh, distracting, they are absolutely necessary to get a sense of depth. However, I totally feel they could have waited on her back story. So that when senior soldiers asked her “What in the world have you been through?” it would have added more mystery and a nice punch to our imaginations when we actually did find out what had happened to her. But that’s just me.
That being said, I really enjoyed this article. It was quite insightful and opened up my eyes to debates I wasn’t aware had become such an immense conflict. I’m glad this anime is getting this much attention. It deserves it.
I don’t think SnK is trying to insult any religion in particular or any religion of the ‘real world’ per se. What I was trying to say in my article is that fans perceived that SnK was portraying religion, in general, in a negative light. So, I’m with you, I’m a Muslim and trust me, I know the real world and religion don’t have a fair relationship. But like I said, that’s the thing, since SnK didn’t specify to a ‘real’ religion and make a one up, it could be read that it is attacking religion as a whole instead of one specific branch.
I also agree that this anime found ways around cliches, which is very tough to do. Actually, I agree with pretty much everything you’ve written!
And, boy, or girl, (I don’t discriminate) do I love Mikasa.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Have a nice day 🙂
It wasnt mocking any religion, it was mocking fundamentally religious people. Those who say give me money and ill do a special prayer to protect you from satan. I am the priest, i know everything etc, The building collapsed the exact moment the priest was being do as i say or you will die. In essence it was mocking the religious hard nuts, which made me smile. But if you are just an average joe doing your life going to mosque or temple or whatever, it really isnt mocking you.
Sorry about my typos there- “mourning” not morning. And “break” not broke. My bad!
Its ok, we’re all human!
While it can’t be confirmed the exact setting of the anime, Germany does make sense. I actually looked at a post from I forgot where, but it listed where each character was from or at least was presumed to be from. This person actually said that Eren was German, Mikasa was Japanese (which is obvious considering this is a Japanese manga where you need to at least have ONE Japanese person there) and that Levi was French. I’m not saying this is official, though, but I’m just sharing what I saw.
As for the religious aspect of the anime/manga, I think the creator took a realistic approach with religion — more specifically, religious people. Super religious people tend to put more faith in God than anything else, and towards abominations like Titans that are against God’s nature, they treat it like trash that needs to be killed (ex: the court scene).
I’m not a big fan of magic or fantastic things, that’s why I’m not a big fan of anime, but I’m actually quite hooked on Shingeki no Kyojin, I have seen the whole first season, and I’m starting with the manga, it’s quite unique, the character of eren and armin might be clicheque, but the plot is the great part, they have no magic, no advanced technology, just the 3DMS and the cannons, also Mikasa’s character is great, she is just a massive bamf, i hope we get the new chapters and the second season of the anime soon.
I honestly don’t think the writer really thought about these things and it may have been an after thought. There are not many manga/anime that show many ethnicities (that i’ve seen), and while the really good ones generally do, it’s never really brought up. Religion however is something that maybe he just wanted to gloss over, because while it would add more to the story it’s highly likely it would have taken away from the feeling of hopelessness that the surviving humans feel. There are many reasons that this may have occurred but did he actually think this through? I’m not entirely sure, it could have just been something that happened.
That can be said about any art or media form. But, when we are analyzing, we are also finding patterns. I found a pattern while watching and analyzing Snk.
It might be true that the writer was not thinking about these things as they were writing but we have to remember that a writer does everything for a reason, everything is deliberate. Now their deliberate choices may not be for the reasons I have concluded to, but thats the beauty of it, everything can be read in an infinite number of ways.
Surely the writer might have just incorporated the cult as an essence of hope for the people. Eren’s power is also an essence of hope, so why does there need to be a cult? In fact, I doubt the writer just wanted to incorporate a religious aspect just to gloss over it. If you read the manga, even towards the end of SnK, the cult holds a huge role in the storyline, perhaps the writer of the anime wanted to gloss over it to created a big BAM at the end.
Personally, I think the anime was just a teaser or advertisement for the manga, attracting watchers and getting them to continue and read the manga.
The reason why I think race and religion played a part in SnK is because it is based on humanity and all aspects of it. Whereas, like you said, other anime/manga do not mention race or religion. That is typically because the story is not about that, there is no reason why to, there is no need to explain ethnicities or beliefs. But in SnK has to have explanations to keep the story structure and realism strong because it is solely based on humanity’s nature, how they respond to threats, and their defensive mechanisms to deal with these threats. One of these mechanisms is religion! In regards to race, it is interesting that SnK brings up ethnicities (Mikasa). It could be read that SnK wants to portray humanity, which was once in different sectors of the world, coming together despite race to survive.
As you can see, there are endless possibilities and interpretations of SnK and any other text. I was always told by my teachers that as long as you can strongly support and justify your claims, you are right.
Casual viewer would probably not have picked up on the sheer diversity, let alone history behind the anime. To be honest, it is interesting to see how the creator explicitly included a diverse cast of characters ranging from various ethnic groups as it gives a refreshing take to see characters of various races helping each other to overcome a great threat.
However, as for religion i personally think most of them are atheistic or agnostic because rarely do i see characters praying for salvation or even mention a religious institution within the anime. The religious aspect within the anime might have been abolished possibly due to the creator’s own religious beliefs or maybe it was to strengthen the severity of the situation the humans were in.
All in all, great article really enjoyed the read.
I feel like in this article you could’ve maybe gone into detail explaining why you think the religious aspect is rejected as being underrepresented but the racial aspect is not. What does that say about us? But overall, this was a very interesting read.
Currently the best anime on TV.
I think that when it comes to distopian style world, it is okay to lack diversity and different ethnicity’s due to the fact of minimal location and nearly human extinction. However, regardless of local or race, it is a great anime on its own.
In SnK, I believe it is fair to have the lack of diverse ethnic groups and cultures, strictly because of a point that was made in the article. Because of the implied location of the walls, it is very unlikely that an American, an Asian, or an African American would make it to this specific human camp. However, something that we do not see in the show (as of right now at least) is whether or not this is the only human settlement after the Titan attacks. There may be other ethnic groups and cultures living in different areas. This is all speculation, but could be a good plot point in the future of SnK in my opinion.
Very nice article! I’m not a big fan of the show, I’ve only seen a few episodes but I never really thought about where the story takes place. Its interesting to think that fans have taken it on themselves to figure it out. Well done!
A great analysis of the show. I think the issue of racial representation is often overlooked, due to other aspects of the show. I think this is an issue that is not singular to SNK, but pervasive throughout a lot of Japanese comics and animation. Something that I have been giving a lot of thought to recently is the treatment and portrayal of women in anime. I have been comparing Sailor Moon Crystal to the original anime, and there is a HUGE improvement. Great article! =)
The “Wall Cult” in SnK functions as a critique of blind adherence to any ideology. It certainly applies to religion, but we should also extend it to philosophy, science, politics, social practices, and countless other areas of human activity. A non-religious example is the polarization of two-party politics in the United States and its subsequent dysfunction. Another example is the clinging of medieval scholars to the writings of Aristotle, which held back the advancement of science for hundreds of years. The worship of any “Wall” can stagnate progress. New and unfamiliar ideas can be scary. Thus, those who dare pass beyond into unexplored territories have been met with resistance or even violence.
SO… If SnK has negative religious commentary to it, then Spice and Wolf is a dark gripping critique on the many problematic aspects of Christianity. Damn those Catholics. I am sorry but I feel you may have read into the religion parts too much. I honestly saw it as a cheap gag that uses the stereotype that people in a similar time period proclaimed anything as God’s enemy. Assassin’s Creed was set during the Crusades right? So is that game a critique on religion too? Also, as far as race is concerned, I don’t think it makes a difference. Would the series play any differently if every character was black (holy shit he said it) or Asian? No. Honestly the show is just a fun entertainment ride (that doesn’t resolve…. but hey season 2 lets go!). I think over analyzing it is hoping for too much. If the mangaka really was trying for deeper themes (besides humanity in its downfall and classism (poorly done ahem)) than I did not see the show portray it. Also, ErenXArmin forever. This is joke calm down. Armin though… uke…. Eren …. seme….
Don’t care that this is off topic. Anyone else expecting the live-action film to bomb?
I am! But, I’m also scared it won’t live up to my expectations 🙁
Interesting article. I can’t claim to have put much thought into these aspects of the world of Shingeki no Kyoujin as I was watching it, but they definitely provide some nice food for thought. One thing I have to say is that the religious aspect really wasn’t all that present in the anime; I haven’t read the manga so I don’t know if it is any more prevalent there. As soon as the Wall Cult was brought up, however, I found myself wanting to know more about it. Religion is touched on too lightly in the anime to actually consider it a substantial critique, though.
you bring up an interesting point because there is very little mentioned about any other race within the series. I can’t wait to see the journey that the anime and manga series will take us. I do hope that the series will address the issue and how there are no other ethnicities or the vague religion in the series.
i loved this show, article made some good points.
Huh….I understand where the “SnK offends religion” comes from, but I have always thought it was the mangaka Hajime Isayama’s criticism about religion having too large of a factor in many governments, and corrupting itself once the religion experiences that “government power.”
As for the race/ethnicity issue, I have always thought the humans as one “country” and titans as all the other countries outside threatening that one country. If so, then I think it’s reasonable that SnK would have a less ethnic diversity. As for “why Germany?” for many Japanese watchers/readers, it’s a fresh view on the issue of the government since the media in Japan almost always has Japanese main characters with Japanese names.
Just a thought, but great article! Never knew the setting appears to be based on a real location. 🙂
I think the piece reflect how a society works if everyone is blindly believe in one ideology and the piece is always a good reminder for us. The content of Attack On Titan is complex and everyone can have a reasonable interpretation of the situation which reflected from the piece and that is the point which made the anime become so popular in Asian society.
I think the ideologies in Attack on Titan, and the wall cult, serve as another reminder of how divided humanity is. I mean, we’re divided into three walls. We’re separating ourselves from each other. Then we have three different Regiments, who have differing views on each other. Then we’ve got these people off to the side that believe the walls are a gift from God. I think everyone in the show has interesting coping methods in times of a crisis. Sometimes it’s pick a god and pray, sometimes it’s hide in the center where no one can get to you, and sometimes it’s strike back, because livestock complacency is no way to live.
There is a fucking fine Jaeger! turu tutututututuuuu turu tututututuuuuuu
Great article. You point out great points behind the reason for the lack of diversity.
Honestly, I hadn’t really thought about the lack of diversity in this show until I read this article. You make a good point about these people being located in Europe somewhere. I myself noticed that there German names and words were used throughout the show. I never even thought about the religion thing though. Now I kinda wanna go back and re-watch the show with this perspective in mind.
I wonder if the team behind the live-action movie will take race of the characters and all of its counterparts into account. Adaptation a complex dimension. I wonder how it will be received, globally.
While I am a fan I do take into offense the lack of racial variation. The people who take offense to a make believe religion that we know nothing about, that also have yet to perform any ceremonies are truly crying wolf here.
The negative view of the church is because they and the royalty know something the public doesn’t and they both have access to what most people do not. The military has also been shown in a negative light.
The military is shown to be corrupt on many occasions. Every major system is rife with corruption and plagued with self serving individuals to this point in the series.
In truth the religious branch of the government has been seen in a more positive light than the nobility and military outside of Eren’s group.
The fact that religion’s portrayal is seen as more of an issue than the idea that all races but white have gotten wiped out is a bigger issue. I watch hoping at series end we find out that a hundred cities like theirs were created and nine of them from different parts of the world are still standing.
Interesting topic aside, have you ever noticed a feel of mood whiplash from the various designs of the titans alone?
AoT was the first anime I followed religiously. I concluded that other races where not lucky enough to make it to those walls. I do believe however that the world is extremely large, so what’s to say that another set of walls were created very far away from where this story is set. Great work with sharing information.
While I’m not offended at all by the representation of religion in AoT (there are corrupt religious people), I do think you should take into account that AoT is set in Western Europe and most Western Europeans aren’t Latino—especially German people where it can be assumed AoT is set. Most of the names are German (Ackerman, Jaeger, Leonhardt, Braun) and as you said, the setting resembles the setting in Germany. Mikasa is the only Asian person around so I’m going to assume not many people outside of Western Europe made it inside the walls. You could argue Spaniards—but they’re not Latino, they’re Spaniards. You could also argue the distinct lack of black people because slave trade was a thing and the close proximity to Africa, but overall AoT isn’t really set in a world we really know too well. It’s perfectly logical (albeit disappointing) to have mostly white European people.
I really can’t help but agree with the overall idea that any form of media lacks Latino and black representation though. Unfortunately, AoT might not be one to critisize though.
I am sure that Eren is half turkish & german
I’m calling bs! If Mikasa is half Japanese, surely a person (or people) from Spain or Africa could have easily made it within the walls.
aw man. I just realized these comments are from a couple years ago. You all got a big storm coming. 👁👄👁
Hi. I’m the author of this article. Care to explain? 😅
you know another race is exist outside the wall (spoiler)
Kiyomi, an asian from Hizuru, and some bunch of turkish in mid-east ally force (Fort Slava)