The use of Erin’s Titan power is unbeatably to the advantage of the human race, however, the means about this power is much question for the audience and even in the show. Because this concept is shared through a story, the writers lean the audience towards one specific conclusion- the one that moves the story along the best.
This formula is quite an art. Story telling moves people and introduces us to new ideas, lives, and cultures. Jesus, my literary hero used stories to share the truth in the form of parables. Stories promote concepts by appealing to the individual person into seeing the similarities between the character and his or herself usually resulting in a moral lesson at the end. The same applies to concepts with negative connotations and lessons of disappointment. Stories have the power to force our minds to draw conclusions even if that conclusion is a bad option according to our worldview.
I’ve seen this done many times by presenting a situation where both options would be a mistake leading the character to pick the lesser of two evils. Audiences start to slowly justify the ends with the means blurring right and wrong as the favorable option on the measuring stick does indeed start to look not only justifiable, but positive. These are concepts are popular since it’s very applicable to society. But, are our lives really filled with only bad and worse choices? Does every decision we make have to have a right and a wrong answer?
Attack on Titan highlighted this question for me. The writers wanted us to come to the conclusion that using the Titan’s power was not just the best option, but a morally good one because of all the positives it could accomplish. This view however tries to ignore the whole picture. The power of the Titan is a productive and good force, but this conclusion can only be drawn after watching the growth of the Titan as a character and the struggle so many went through to train him to become a positive force.
How many hurdles did Erin as a Titan have to overcome? Not only did he have to gain the trust of the whole town, he had to learn how to control the power. What do these hurdles say about the Titan’s power as a whole? Initially, the Titan was unstable and destructive causing a negative effect on the characters and setting. The answer to why, is because when you put it plainly, Erin as trying to use the same “evil” forces he’s fighting against to defeat the real and same evil. If you put it in an equation, does this story imply that two wrongs make a right?
Is it fair to conclude that the Titan power is evil being used for good? From the perspective of the characters, since there are no other options, this defaults as the best choice. Their measuring stick becomes skewed as the situation becomes more complex. The most interesting perspective and perhaps most accurate however, is the one of the writers. To create conflict, they must bring in grey dynamics or the story wouldn’t be worth while. They admit that the Titan’s power is questionable because the same power has been for so long defined as evil. Thus, here are two conflicting views presented in the same story. The interesting thing is that the writers push us to conclude with the characters instead of themselves. They show the power changing your point of view has over what you can define as an accomplishment.
Let’s take a look at the development into this “wrong” maturing into a “right” according to what the writers want us to conclude. A major theme in this anime and almost every other one I’ve seen, is using the power of your own strength to overcome everything. This comes from a worldview that stresses shame if one falls short. Erin is put into a very shaming situation where his failure means the loss of much life. Shame is used as a tool with him to force him to succeed. Like anyone, this draws our hero to draw into himself then use all of one’s strength for a purpose.
In the western world, we’re driven by guilt, a very deep and emotional state of mind. The Lord tells us that he will save us from our shame and guilt because he has taken all our sins upon himself. (It literally killed him). In my worldview, I’m not forced by anyone to accomplish anything because of guilt or shame. I also don’t have the same type of drive as anime characters to use my own strength to accomplish my goals. I believe that God has made perfect plans for me, so I don’t have to stress over needing to be strong enough to accomplish anything. In my reality, I have the Lord fighting on my side, I don’t need a Titan to do my dirty work. Since I am not perfect, my personal strength will always fail me. My expectations of myself are always to high for me to accomplish on my own. No matter how hard I work, it’s the Lord and his plans that will provide me with opportunity in my life.
Oppositely, Erin has to use his own strength to fight the Titan’s battle. The Titan, in all his grandness, also represent the great inner turmoil that Erin has to address in order to achieve hero status. Erin has to use his strength, labeled as a positive and good force to counteract the inherit evil and negative effects of his Titan. The message, although subtle here is that our individual goodness can defeat evil. This also implies that humanity is in fact inherently good. As a Christian, I see humanity in the opposite light. I have established that my personal strength is faulty, and it’s the Holy Spirit who is the good force in my life. I cannot individually originate “goodness” to the degree God wants me to. But I also can have peace about that fact, because I don’t have to accomplish all that by myself.
As a character, it’s Erin’s partnership with the power of the Titan that develops him into a better person. Controlling such a questionable force gives Erin confidence and status. Erin becomes strong because of this. When looking at this from my worldview, it’s illogical. Erin would have to have a stronger and purer will to control such a power that originated in evil. I know that such things cannot be done alone, proven by my own failures as a human. Erin shows incredible growth by defeating his inner demons then proceeding to control the Titan that is realistically impossible on a spiritual level.
Is this message applicable to anything in the modern day? As we see all around us, the forces of good an evil are very real, but much differ based on viewpoint. The intension in Attack on Titan are indeed very admirable. We need to be teaching our generation to work as hard as Erin to protect each other and crush the forces that threaten good. This struggle however, was not an accurate depiction of how the everyday person defeats his own evil, and that’s not just because the are no Titans in the modern day. Humanity tends to believe they are stronger and more moral then we really are. As much as we’ve accomplished, look how much more we’ve failed. As much suffering and failure Erin and the rest or the corps faced, they had the ability to find enough power to suppress evil. If such an even came about, would humanity really be able to work hard anywhere near the degree Erin did? I very much doubt it as much as it saddens me to say. I do have faith however, that there will be a day when the Lord will join us to fight the battle against evil and our teamwork will be more pure then anything humanity can accomplish on it’s own.