7 underlying themes in the Attack on Titan universe

Attack on Titan characters (Image via Twitter/ @MrLuckyToBeBorn)
Attack on Titan characters (Image via Twitter/ @MrLuckyToBeBorn)

The Attack on Titan universe tackles a variety of serious thematic issues. This attention to detail creates a viewing experience unlike any other.

Fans of the Attack on Titan franchise are able to feel the pain of the characters and relate to the hardships and heartaches they experience. That is, of course, aside from the horror of watching someone being eaten by a Titan.

The way heavy themes are tackled in the series portray the misery of the real world and give a sense of hope and perseverance. While it started incredibly well enough, Attack on Titan got better with every season.

Despite being a fantasy series, mangaka Hajime Isayama ensured that Attack on Titan’s similarities to our reality hit close to home.

To bring some of them to light, this article will delve into seven underlying themes in Attack on Titan.


Attack on Titan: Top seven underlying themes in the series

7) Attack on Titan military is identical to the real one

As with real militaries, the military in Attack on Titan comprises of branches: Survey Corps, Garrison, and Military Police. In Attack on Titan, the Survey Corps are at the forefront of the war against the Titans while the other branches have comparably less to do. Their main priority is to protect the country's leaders from harm. All-important in their own right, but the difference is apparent.

The questions plaguing the commanders are "What should we do now?", "How do we execute this plan?", "What should we sacrifice to ensure we win this war?" The only way to get the answer is to try and hope the right decision was made.

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One could imagine this is a similar thought process that occurs in reality when real wars are to be fought. Attack on Titan clearly did a decent job giving little insight into the many issues the military and their respective divisions have to face on a day-to-day basis.


6) Everything is political

Attack on Titan started as a simple man vs monster series. Over time it became much more. Not only were there titans to be fought, but regular people became enemies as well. This shifted the series onto a far less predictable path, as it got political. Deceit and manipulation, once hidden, came to light, showing the audience just how the world works.

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In the real world, it is often said, “Everything is political,” and for a reason. People get so attached to one particular political party that they impulsively hurt others for not sharing their views. Many conflicts in this world have political origins. The sad truth is that Attack on Titan is so accurately displayed.


5) Beauty in diversity

Not in terms of race but the surroundings and people's mannerisms.

From the looks of things, the world housing Attack on Titan characters does not seem all that different from our own. There are beautiful landscapes filled with lush greenery, fields, large mountains and flowing rivers. All juxtaposing, not only the continuous war taking place but the industrialization taking place within the walls.

As for the characters, they perfectly mimic the ideological diversity that occurs in the real world. Their varied backgrounds, skillsets, and thought processes work together in harmony.

Although each person in the Attack on Titan universe has massively different personalities, which causes them to butt heads at times. But ultimately, they are able to set aside differences for the greater good. Which, in all honesty, is something the real world can stand to learn.


4) Fear is common

One of the major messages of the Attack on Titan franchise is the fragility of life itself. Needless to say, the message is well put across as their world is definitely a dangerous one. Given how terrifying this fictional universe is, it’s no wonder so many live in constant fear.

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In the real world with wars and pandemics, many live in fear. Even without an imminent titan attack, the world is no doubt a dangerous place. The brave ones put their lives on the line to protect and defend the lives of many. Whereas many others live in constant paranoia and fear that at any moment their lives can end.


3) Dealing with loss

No character in Attack on Titan seems to have plot armor. Meaning that at any moment a character that fans love can be killed off. Whether they were a part of the main cast or not. Not surprisingly, characters have to go through loss after loss, be it family, friends, or colleagues.

With such bleakness at hand, Attack on Titan shows the various ways in which characters grieve their losses and how it affects them as they grow older.

Unfortunately, grieving is something almost everyone can empathize with. Many people have suffered a loss, whether it is a relationship, an important person, or an opportunity. Losses can be difficult to deal with and bring about pain unlike anything felt before.


2) The hardships of success

The protagonist of Attack on Titan, Eren Yeager, had one major goal: to kill all titans. After joining the Survey Corps, he realized just how tough that would be. He fails many times, but does not let that stop him. Rather, he takes the losses and uses them to propel him further towards his goals.

This is majorly realistic. It’s unlikely that many people would succeed on the first try, and after that failure, they simply give up. That should not be the case and a page should be taken out of Eren’s book.


1) Classism

At the top of the Attack on Titan social hierarchy, there is a king and the people living within Wall Sina. The further away from the central wall traveled, the lower the class of the people in the area. These lower-class individuals are there to carry out the grunt work of the rich and powerful.

The lower class regions are portrayed as destitute, with people being sold into slavery and struggling to find food. Whereas those in Wall Sina are living lavishly, having enough to eat, comfortable living situations, and jobs that aren’t demanding.

Similar to anywhere on earth where millionaires can be found contrasting with those in poverty. There is always someone at the head, be it a president, prime minister, military generals, and those who stove to be like them. Some would even settle to be known by them, which they believe would raise their social standing.

Where there is classism there is bullying. Right from the beginning of Attack on Titan, Armin was being bullied by a few peers until Eren and Mikasa ran to his rescue. In life, most people have encountered a bully. While it only briefly touched on in the Attack on Titan franchise, bullying is probably one of the most relatable themes.

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Edited by R. Elahi
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