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Analysis / Attack on Titan

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This is a Zombie Apocalypse series

Theme-wise. Note, that while "normal" Titans are grotesque, they look like stereotypical modern-day Earth humans: overweight, mindless consumers with no real purpose. The survivors die in droves, other than the heroes (and a lot of them too) breakdown in the face of the horror, and go mad or turn on each other.

Warning: Spoilers Off applies to these pages. Please proceed at your own risk.


A recurring theme in Attack on Titan is the need to never give up and keep fighting in the face of adversity. If you don't fight, you can't win. Most characters have something that is currently out of their reach:

Eren and Armin want to be free from the walls, but can't because of the Titans. Mikasa wants a peaceful life, but can't be happy unless Eren is safe. Levi and Erwin want a better tomorrow for humanity, but conspiracy factions are holding humanity back. Annie, Reiner and Bertolt want to return home to their village, but can't until they complete their mission. In the past, Hange wanted to learn more about the Titans, but the military refused to support Titan research. Historia wants to live for herself, but other people keep controlling her destiny.


Each character has something they want, but they can never reach their goals if they sit down and do nothing. Humanity as a whole represents complacency. After 100 years, they are no closer to defeating the Titans because the powers within the walls no longer have any interest in doing so. The common people have largely dismissed the existence of Titans prior to Wall Maria's breaching. Humanity cannot win against the Titans because they no longer wish to fight.

The main characters fight, and struggle, and some are even willing to offer their lives while pursuing change. Though the odds seem hopeless, nothing will ever happen unless you are willing to risk sacrificing something.


Tarot Motifs

  • 0/XXII — The Fool: A naïve soul with untapped potential. Freedom and adventure, but also uncertainty. Infinite possibilities. - Eren
  • I — The Magician: A focused, capable man. Desire for action, initiative, resourcefulness, manipulation. - Hange
  • II — The High Priestess: A veiled woman with a closed book. Mysterious, wise, secretive. - Annie
  • III — The Empress: A fair, powerful woman. Nurturing, femininity, prosperity, motherhood. - Petra
  • IV — The Emperor: A crowned, powerful man. Leadership, action, decisiveness, stability. - Erwin
  • V — The Hierophant: A great priest. Religion, obedience, conformity, tradition. - Nile Dok
  • VI — The Lovers: A young couple, tempted by love. Romance, relations, determining personal values. - Krista
  • VII — The Chariot: A king's magnificent chariot pulled by two horses. War, victory, self-control. - Mikasa & Levi
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  • VIII — Strength: A gentle maiden tames a fearsome lion. Compassion, virtue, courage. Inner strength. - Arminnote 
  • IX — The Hermit: An old man illuminating the darkness. Solitude, need for independence, introspection, wisdom. - Ymir
  • X — The Wheel of Fortune: A wheel with several outcomes on it. Unpredictability of life. Luck, misfortune and perseverance. - Connie
  • XI — Justice: A blind woman with a sword and scale. Fairness, objectivity, truth, rationality. - Jean
  • XII — The Hanged Man: A man hung upside-down in thought. Restriction, need for deliberation, letting go, self-sacrifice. - Historia
  • XIII — Death: The Grim Reaper. An end, and a new beginning. Change. New directions. - Marco
  • XIV — Temperance: An angel pouring water between vases. Patience, slow and steady, purposeful. - Pixis
  • XV — The Devil: A demon with chained men. Hedonism, bondage, addiction. - The Military Police
  • XVI — The Tower: A massive tower is toppled by lightning. Disaster, sudden change, bad omen. - The Colossal Titan
  • XVII — The Star: A woman nourishes the land with water beneath a starry sky. Hope, altruism, renewal. - The Survey Corps
  • XVIII — The Moon: A dog and a wolf howl to the moon. Deception, anxiety, insecurity. - Reiner & Bertolt
  • XIX — The Sun: Children frolic under the sun. Fun, exuberance, positive. - Sasha
  • XX — Judgment: An angel awakens the dead to be judged. Conclusion, moment of truth, absolution. - The First King of Paradis
  • XXI — The World: A figure dances in celebration. Fulfillment, harmony, closure. - ???

Chess Motifs

  • King (Eren) - The most important piece in the game. If the king is lost, the game is lost. The other pieces will rally around the king, protecting him from capture — often sacrificing themselves to save him. The king can move flexibly, but only one space at a time — any progress the king makes is slow, but steady. Though he is logically more capable than your average pawn, it is a dangerous tactic to use the king offensively. Any movement the king makes must be calculated. Recklessness spells disaster, especially for the king.
  • Queen (Levi) - The most powerful piece in the game. The queen can move forward, backwards, diagonally, and for as many spaces as it pleases. When it comes to offense, the queen is a powerhouse. It also has great defensive potential, able to swat away any enemy that may come too close to touching the king. In medieval times, the queen was a position of exceptional power. In some cases, the queen actually had more political power and sway than the king himself.
  • Bishops (Armin & Jean) - Bishops were the religious advisors of the king, and the church was the second greatest influence next to royalty. As such, the bishops start off right next to the king and queen. Bishops can only move diagonally. As a result, they are highly specialized pieces meant for precision strikes that slip between walls. They are also opposites of each other: one travels on black spaces, the other travels on white spaces, symbolizing opposite ideologies of the same faith. Alone, their ability is limited, but working in tandem, they have great potential.
  • Knights (Erwin & Hange) - Knights were warriors, but were also rich, influential individuals. Highly respected and educated. The knight is a quirky piece. It moves in an L shape. It is one of the least straightforward of the pieces. To be successful, the knight takes very unorthodox, ingenious approaches to take the enemy by surprise. They require forethought to exploit openings that the opponent may have thought were secure. At the very beginning of a game, only a pawn or knight (with its special movement) can make the first move.
  • Rooks (Mikasa) - Rooks stand on opposite ends of the board, representing the castle — the walls surrounding and protecting the king. The rook is a very easy to understand piece as it can only move in a straight line forward, backwards, left or right. While powerful, a rook needs a clear line of sight to strike an enemy, making it predictable. The rook specializes in physical defense, and is most effective at standing between enemy pieces and a valuable piece, like the king.
  • Pawns (Krista, Connie, Sasha, Marco, everyone else) - Pawns are simple pieces. They are the foot soldiers; the normals. Individuals who will fight for their cause, and will likely be sacrificed for it. Pawns can only make a single move forward (with the exception of two spaces on their first move), and can only attack diagonally, further limiting their battle ability. It will often be the pawn who will take the first, dangerous step into battle. The most readily at risk. However, should a pawn make it all the way to the opponent's end of the board, they will be transformed into a queen. No life is worthless. The player must consider the weight of what it means to sacrifice a piece, even a seemingly insignificant pawn.

Mikasa's lines to Annie.

The anime kind of ruins this, but the different lines Mikasa gives Annie at the end of the Female Titan arc are very indicative of how she feels about it. Just before Annie smiles and transforms, she says "I'll carve you up again, Female Titan." There's emphasis on this because she's calling Annie out as the monster she is—she's not a Titan, she's the Titan. The Female Titan, a monster. The next and last words Mikasa ever says to Annie are "Fall, Annie". Short, simple, and powerful. Of note is that she uses Annie's name instead of her Titan moniker. This, while having a dull look on her face says to us that even if she hates Annie, she's still Annie, and Mikasa doesn't like having to do this.

Titan Shifter Names, Bodies and Faces

This is a genius part of Isayama's design, because it shows ideas and motivations with the Titan Shifters beyond their physical resemblances. Reiner's is the clearest, as stated elsewhere with the fact that he is Becoming the Mask. But moreover, Reiner's name means warrior, and given he's the armored titan, the faceplate and armor gives him the look of a knight. We know Reiner's greatest motivation, or at least one of them, is Bertholdt's safety, meaning Reiner is the knight fighting for the royalty, with Bertholdt's name meaning "bright ruler" and Bertholdt's Titan being the biggest. Annie's Titan has the strange flesh gaps running from the sides of her mouth, up her cheeks, and to her ears, that looks alarmingly like a smile. This can be said to be a representation of Annie's true nature, as in her Titan form Annie shows a distinctly sadistic personality and seems to even enjoy it at points. Her Titan's face also has deeply sunken eyes with strange rings around them, looking much like circles under a person's eyes from lack of sleep, which may be both physical and mental, as it seems Annie's sleep schedule is not the best. Bertholdt's Titan has a Slasher Smile set into its face, but covered with muscles making it frown. Bertholdt later would cry out that nobody could enjoy what he has to do. The mouth in question is also locked closed by those muscles, in a manner representing Bertholdt's very quiet nature. Lastly there is the steam produced, mimicking how Bertholdt is often seen sweating. Ymir's Titan has no lips and has sharp fangs, representing how Ymir speaks to and regards others—without a filter.

Attack on Titan is an Anti-Fascist Work

While initially criticized as having strong fascist leanings in ideology and aesthetic, it has become clear during the final arc of the series that Attack on Titan is not a celebration of fascism but a whole-hearted criticism of it. This is mostly due to the existence of Marley, which provides an excellent foil to Paradis in that while Paradis is fascist out of a need for survival, Marley is fascist of it's own willingness. Even when arguing that Marley could be justified in keeping the Eldian population oppressed out of fear of their Titan Shifter abilities, it is shown that many Eldians actually agree with the Marleyans that the Nine Titan Powers are dangerous and should be kept in containment. This, combined with the years of socio-political oppression and xenophobic hatred towards the Eldians is actually re-igniting the race war that apparently almost destroyed the world, and many Eldians simply want to be equal to their fellow Marleyan citizens. It is also made clear many times in the narrative that the fascist tactics of both nations are only working because of their respective situations- Paradis needs to have a strong military force otherwise it will be overrun by the Titan threat, and it is shown at the end of the Uprising arc that the average populace would much prefer a monarchy or democracy rather than a fascist autocracy. Marley on the other hand is said to use the Warriors as a weapon to oppress other nations despite being oppressed more than any other by the Titan threat, repeating the mistakes of their past in a vain attempt to keep a fascist stranglehold on their nation and the surrounding ones. This, combined with how critical of warfare Attack on Titan is, shows that Isayama intends to criticize fascist ideology by showing what a permanent modern total war state would actually look like- political unrest, xenophobic segregation, and utter devastation.

Thematic Parallel Between King who created the walls and Eren (Spoilers for chapter 121 and beyond)

So there's a real neat thematic point that's made with Eren and the King Fritz who created the walls. Both of them have been enforcing their will onto the other users of their Titans' power. In King Fritz's case, it's him enforcing his ideology onto his descendants and overriding their free will to bend to his fatalistic view of the world. He overrides all of their own thoughts and desires to enforce the notion that Eldian's should be killed off for their sins. In Eren's case, it's him using his ability to speak to previous users of the Attack Titan and show them his memories of the future to make them do whatever he wants to get the outcome that he desires. The parallel between these two is clearly meant as a means of comparing and contrasting their methods and see where they're similar and where they differ. King Fritz decided long in the past that the Eldian race deserved nothing more than to be killed by the rest of the world in a bid for peace that would apparently come from their extinction. Eren has seen what kind of world has been created out of that ideology and used his knowledge of the future to influence the past users of the Titan Power to get them to do exactly what they needed to do to get him the power when he needed it to accomplish his goal, up to and including influencing Grisha to kill the royal family within the wall. The question then becomes; are these two really all that different from each other? Or is there something that sets them apart? Is either one of them really right in their ideals or the extent they're willing to go to to fulfill their goals and bring their ideals to fruition?