“Attack on Titan”, the most important anime of the 2010s?

It is the second Sunday in June 2019. Tens of thousands ofotakus connect to the site of VOD Wakanim. Tonight they will finally know what’s going on “in the cellar”, the main mystery of the series The attack of the Titans. In Japanese, it is Shingeki No Kyojin, literally “The Attack Titan”. English title: Attack On Titan.

This cellar and its content are the nodal point that triggers the textual explanation of this universe, six years after the start of its distribution. The beginning of a series of powerful twists and turns that take us back to the era of Lost. Each episode is eagerly awaited and causes tons of fan chats –Each twist solves one mystery, poses two more, and adds a layer of storyline. Whoever you are, you’ve probably heard of The attack of the Titans, and here’s why.

Between the walls, within the walls, outside the walls

This production is a concept universe: it begins in a timeless village, inspired by a mix between Carcassonne and Nördlingen, in Bavaria. Young Eren Jaëger, like all his comrades, lives locked up. The city is protected by three circular walls; beyond, titans wander aimlessly and kill – with obvious pleasure – the ill-organized exploration brigades. Humanity is afraid and struggles to regain its territory. But the plot must start and a titan «colossal» just smash the first wall.

The area is no longer safe, Eren sees his mother eaten in front of his eyes and commits to it: one day, he will exterminate all the titans. The first step is to join the exploration battalion with his two friends, the icy Mikasa and Armin, the timid. Then learn to defend yourself against these great soulless gadgets that can reach several tens of meters. And, let’s say modestly, that can be found in the most unlikely places.

Le héros Eren Jaëger confronte le Titan Colossal. | Shingeki No Kyojin © Hajime ISAYAMA / Kodansha Ltd

Thus begins a story of which we hardly suspect the extent or levels of reading. Between these two remaining walls unfolds a universe, a whodunit, a vast plot and the intrigue suddenly takes on an extra dimension. In the meantime, a lot of losses and quite a few incredibly effective twists, although the author was probably far from knowing where his story was going from the start.

The latter is Hajime Isayama, an extremely rare author to find success after the equivalent of an IUT of mangaka – especially since the manga, which begins its publication in 2009, displays a drawing… hesitant, to remain diplomatic. But the great scriptwriting ambition and the universe hit the mark, not without taking risks. The constant tragedy of this series contrasts with certain light productions and feel good of the time.

The universe of a generation

To understand the success of The attack of the Titans, you have to look at its meaning and articulate its patterns with the history of the medium and history itself. I spoke with Julien Bouvard, one of the few French researchers in japanimation, lecturer in the language and civilization of contemporary Japan at the University of Lyon 3. An assiduous fan, he evokes a courageous series, without “Gag, no laughter, no humor, no sexualized female or male character. Everyone has the same way of speaking, of fighting and it’s aromantic ”.

It should be understood that The attack of the Titans is central for a generation ofotakus. Your servant is the one who watched FullMetal Alchemist on Canal + and who will swear on this series. There will undoubtedly be a generation Demon Slayer. And, between the two, between 2013 and 2021, hundreds of thousands who watch, read, consume, cosplay The attack of the Titans. In convention, fans sing the German parts of iconic generics, moving, perturbants, sometimes crazy.

This is the second series from the publisher Pika: 100 million volumes sold in Japan, 3.5 million in France. Wakanim, the broadcaster of the anime, tells us that “The audience has grown, feeding on word of mouth, the long tail effect and physical exploitation, but also on competing platforms. The final season is the biggest start in Wakanim’s history in absolute audience. ” Now that the end is in sight, each episode is an event in itself, after a short decade of intermittent progression.

This end was delivered in pain. After having been worn for years by the Wit studio, MAPPA is now in charge of the last episodes. A studio with a worrying number of works in progress, hardly compatible with French labor law. The fans, noisy on social networks, do not hesitate to underline the stigmas of a chaotic end of production.

Two major clues mark the entry of this anime into the mainstream: a debut on Netflix and a TV broadcast dubbed in French on France 4. Its full version is available on Wakanim, divided into four seasons. First in 2013, then in 2017, in 2019, then finally a final arc being broadcast. Hajime Isayama announced the final chapter for early April. The two mediums will draw, almost at the same time, the end of the canon, what a universe as gargantuan as Game Of Thrones failed to do.

Between wanderlust and rejection of Japan

It is funny to note that the series meets a curious echo in 2020. For Julien Bouvard, “The heroes will seek this truth, but it is not without consequences for their world. There is almost a conspiratorial touch, QAnon and antivax. There is no direct connection between the two, but there is almost a fictional connection. That’s why it works, in both cases. ”

We quickly understand that everything in the DNA of the series, was doomed to please a Western audience. Heavy atmosphere (smiles are rare), European universe, but also a-little-something that rejects the codes of the country of origin. The scholar thinks that in essence Isayama describes theand «Galapagos syndrome».

Like an air of Carcassonne … | © HK / AOTF

“At the time of the publication of the first chapters, the controversy over the analogy between Japan and the Galapagos Islands was in full swing: it was felt that the country had focused too much on technologies – portable clamshell, washlet – and habits endogenous, which is only found in the archipelago, in the same way that extremely rare animal species are present only on the Galapagos Islands, Julien Bouvard analysis. A kind of autarky that would place Japan outside the world, out of a taste for conservatism. We can have fun assuming that the archaic and padlocked civilization found within the walls of the Maria Wall is a kind of metaphor for Japan in the late 2000s, except that Isayama clearly represents it with European attributes. “

Historical and military echoes

The attack of the Titans stands out with its ubiquitous military aesthetic. She glorifies combat, uniforms, dying for one’s homeland, and sings about asymmetric and desperate battles that are ultimately won not by technical superiority, but by courage. A tone that can intrigue, but the explanations for which can be historical.

“These heroes are soldiers, there is a coup, they are going to dismiss one of their own. The Japanese like this kind of story, explains Julien Bouvard. On February 26, 1936, a group of idealistic soldiers tried to overthrow the government and called for the restoration of Shôwa, to give more power to the Emperor, to fire parliamentarians and to establish a military dictatorship. This failed coup has inspired many works in Japan. It gave a romantic vision of the military rebel who has a cause, an ideal. ”

If one can find clues and resemblances to figures from Imperial Japan, it is difficult to The attack of the Titans a war pamphlet, especially if you articulate it with its alpha audience.

It is tempting to interpret a “Militarized masculinity as in typical shooting games Call Of Duty, which, in this context, can glorify the army, tempers Julien Bouvard. But the public of The attack of the Titans is feminine. If we go to Ikebukuro [l’un des plus grands quartiers de Tokyo, ndlr], at Otome Road, the more feminine inclination ofAkihabara, there are a lot of goodies [de cette série]. Fascination [des téléspectateurs] for the army is aesthetic and does not transform them into nationalist militants either. “

With his pig character, Rivaille is the official mascot of the cast. | © HK / AOTF

This is not the first series to bring the historical and military field into pop Japan, nor to have fun with its codes. This was, among others, the case of the series Hetalia, who personified the Axis, Allies, Neutrals and about everyone to make them hug. But as Julien Bouvard laughs, “It’s parody, it’s a real story subject, but it’s not while reading Hetalia that one becomes a Nazi ”.

[Attention, à partir de ce point, nous évoquons la réinterprétation historique centrale de cette œuvre, c’est donc un très gros spoil.]

The distanced report to World War II happens to be a great source of inspiration for The attack of the Titans. After the famous episode of the cellar, we understand that all this is only a vast metaphor for the pogroms and the Shoah. So what the hell is Japan doing in there?

The last quarter of the storyline embraces an unexpected historical counterfactual. | © HK / AOTF

Julien Bouvard summons empathy. Like the Eldians, an oppressed people, the “Japanese have experienced an American occupation for seven years. It’s a reading we can do ”.

Children atone for their parents’ war

Which brings us to a recurring and dated Japanese pop motif. Why are children always sent to war, be they in robots or titans? Julien Bouvard evokes a generation which bears the weight of the previous one, never ceases to expiate it and which articulates a long chain of works of which The attack of the Titans is the last link. “Since the immediate post-war period, there are childish heroes who are given an important role in the defense of the country, of the widow and the orphan.”

An embodied robot motif, for example by Tetsuwan Atomu (it’s up to you to guess who it is before clicking) and Kaneda Shôtarô, from Tetsujin 28. “A child is piloting this robot. It is carried out by the imperial army, but used to defend the values ​​of democracy and freedom. But it is a 12 year old kid who has the fate of the country in his hands ”, explains Julien Bouvard. Apparently naive works, where we show the ambiguities and the sufferings of children, who laid the foundations of future cult series.

Alas, like an ultimate subversion, The attack of the Titans talks more about the loss of innocence. It is an internal revenge that is finally starting, and we will soon be witnessing its effects. At the beginning of April, all that will be over, and it will remain a complete, sensible, morally complex, aesthetic and formidable series, for all audiences from teenagers. The hardest part remains to be faced: landing on its feet.

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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