Advertisements

7 Reasons That Make Shingeki no Kyojin a Daring Social Commentary

Jean

This is what your face is going to look like after going through this list.

Note: Contains swear words.

1. It gives the church the middle finger.

Religious shit1Religious shit2

How many shows dare to criticize the church?

2. It exposes the rotten core of the military.

Military 5Military shit 5

From corruption…

Military shit 1Military shit 2

to playing around…

Military shit 9

to downright power-tripping.

3. It strips off the mask of politicians.

Politician shit 1Politician shit 2

Die you asshole.

4. It touches on the issue of racism.

Racist shit 1Racist shit 2

I’m pretty sure something similar happened in world history.

5. It gives a commentary on social class, too.

Class shit2

Fuck you.

6. Yup, it even slaps ordinary citizens themselves for being so fucking selfish.

Regionalism

Facepalm.

7. …and for thinking only about money.

Taxes shitTaxes shit 2

Yeah right. It’s not like people are dying.

This solid stance on societal issues is what makes Shingeki an excellent anime for me, despite the slowness of its plot and the cliffhanger ending of the first season which made some people rather disappointed in the series. I think that the function of the first season is to establish its grand political and philosophical premise while placing the characters in different subject-positions in the spectrum of things (which I would discuss in greater detail in another post). When viewed in this light, I believe that the series is not exactly about the struggle of Eren Jaeger and his friends but rather about the different contradictions they had to face in the grand narrative of the world they live in.

Advertisements

Posted on November 19, 2013, in Anime Analysis and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. Although I didn’t watch it to avoid hype while being uninterested with its premise, it is said that it is a story about the struggles of our current world where the strong devour the weak. Perhaps from that angle it is indeed a high quality anime that manage to put messages directly the right way. It’s sad that things highlighted in the anime actually happens as I type this.

    • I can assure you. I was critical of the anime at first. Thinking that anything popular can’t be good, but then I watched the first episode of this thing. And…I was sold. I only ask that you watch the first episode before judging the anime.

  2. I do find it amusing that people claimed it was over-hyped and some criticized and slammed it (not referring to Murazrai but the Internet community in general) because they look cool for going against the one anime that was currently popular. Perhaps this act of rebellion and criticism for the sake of criticism (most of them didn’t even watch the series but jumped on the bandwagon of flames because they believed it was over-hyped and thus not watching) could be considered social commentary.

    Personally, I didn’t bother about the hype and just gave the anime series a try because I read the manga a long time ago. Who hyped it anyway? It was good for me, but I don’t know if it was “literary genius” good or just “entertainingly” good for everyone else or a bitter disappointment. The thing about hype is that those people go in with unrealistic expectations that this series must be one that completely blows their minds away or have some sort of deep themes and stuff, and get disappointed when they don’t find those there, then complained. Take away the hype and enjoy the anime for what it is (both the haters and the disappointed), and you will definietly find a series worth watching. No point hating on it either because it was over-hyped and it’s supposedly cool to hate on popular mainstream stuff or because people believed the hype and expected great things, only to be disappointed.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I think it is rather unfair to judge an anime because it just happened to be different from what you expected it to be due to external factors (such as a hype). My friends told me SnK is awesome, I remember going ‘meh’ at the mention of creepy muscled giants, but the series totally did not disappoint. Same with Sword Art Online – for all its flaws (hello ALO arc I’m looking at you), I can say that I genuinely enjoyed watching the show even though it was different from what is expected of an RPG anime.

  3. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Shingeki no Kyojin‘s inner workings is daring social commentary because said commentary is nonspecific to any aspect of current politics. Rather, a corrupt church and state are typical for the genre it resides, that being dark fantasy, and reflects the harsh state of living of the age it attempts to imitate (seems to be Renaissance timeframe). And even if that can be qualified as social commentary for that time period, it’s a bit late to call it “daring”.

    The closest I can think of is American politics in how the church and state are used to influence more support for its military interventions and its moral righteousness in “walling off” any counter-definitions of being “American”. However, America’s resources are not as limited as the civilization in Shingeki no Kyojin, nor is its disaster relief as unreliable. It also doesn’t take great pains in recruiting kids to fight for them. The analogy would be greatly flawed if this comparison were actually true.

    I ended up not enjoying Shingeki no Kyojin as much as I thought I would, because as much as it entertained its dark fantasy aspects it also had to pander to its massively shounen aspects as well. This meant I had to sit through perpetual high tension, banal and tired main character ideals, and the good ol’ shounen manga pacing while I waited for the action sequences to start up again. Even if I were to accept or appreciate it for what it is, I sure as hell didn’t like it for those same things.

    • You might have noticed I didn’t write this post personally. My opinions are more aligned with yours than with what uminohoshi wrote, to be honest. Still, I wanted this blog to have some analysis of Shingeki no Kyojin and since I lacked enough interest in the series to do it myself, I let my friend write something. She’s also planning to elaborate some of her ideas in another post, but I’ll leave it to her to address the particulars of your argument. Thanks for the contribution, as always!

    • Hello, hello. Uminohoshi here. You raised some concerns that I think I wouldn’t be touching much on my next SnK post, so I’d like to address them here. I think America is not quite compatible for comparison with the Shingeki universe because it is an affluent and a very much powerful country. On the surface level, the series appears to be imitating the Renaissance period as you said, but I think the appropriate question would be Renaissance where? If we consider the circumstances (people have no freedom, a higher species prey on them), I don’t think SnK is talking about Renaissance America or Renaissance Europe. My analysis is that it seems to be representing the colonized Third World. I came from such a country myself, and the Renaissance politics or society that Shingeki creates is very much applicable at present. For me, just the act of exposing the dark side of things is daring enough because that says a lot about the lens with which the series views the world.

      • Ah, I see. The reason I was so particular about your use of “daring” is because I had a much different, more extreme nuance of the same word running through my head as I read it.

    • First of all, how can you say that the commentary is “non-specific”? To explain further, let’s point out that the political system of SnK is primarily a Monarchy and by showing the injustices that the non-nobility encounters in this system is in-itself a specific commentary on this political system. However, this does not mean that we can only apply this on this type of political system. It makes you realize that in the current dominant Democracy + Capitalist socio-economic framework of the world, we still see such injustices in the system. That also includes the strong influence of the Church over the State (which I believe is also apparent even in such a well-developed country as America- teaching Creation instead of Evolution in some states I believe?) These are commentaries that are not so much pointed out in anime, or any other form of media in that manner. SnK does not try to comment on any specificly existing nation, rather it comments on the dominantly existing system of the world- One in which the strong feeds on the weak, those who are most skilled are sent farther from the problem riddled areas of the nation (I pertain here to skilled people from third world countries going to first world countries in order to “live a better life”), the Church interferes with the state, etc.

      • SnK does not try to comment on any specificly existing nation, rather it comments on the dominantly existing system of the world

        This is precisely how I can say that SnK’s commentary is non-specific. You can glean some similarities when it comes to the corruption of first world nations, but ultimately the anime does not comment on any one specific government that exists today. Additionally, I agree that SnK’s form of government closest resembles a monarchy. My question is: does SnK’s commentary on its monarchy pertain to a specific monarchy or monarchies in general? If it is specific, which nations are we talking about? If it is not, then what exactly do you mean by “specific”?

        • I never said that it was specific to anything. What I wonder about is why you say that it is “non specific to ANY ASPECT of current politics” when again, this anime is clearly a criticism of the current dominant political system of the world despite the supposed difference in political models.

          • Indeed, saying “aspect” was confusing and saying “nation” would make much more sense. I did not mean it in the way you interpreted, and I apologize for that.

            Still, I do have an issue regarding your argument. Specificity is important in social commentary of a political system because it strengthens the impact and allows those aspects to become relevant to our lives today. Because the political system is non-specific, it’s impossible to determine whether it’s selectively a social commentary or merely a trope in the dark fantasy genre. If you do not have a specific definition or example of the “current dominant political system” and exactly where this happens, then how is this commentary authentic or timely? The more general the message, the more diluted the impact is on society.

            Besides, wouldn’t it be more apt to say that SnK is a commentary on human nature instead of an existing political system?

            • I think that human nature and politics are something that you cannot take separately. And that’s something that SnK surely achieves here.

              For example, the very “fear” that people feel when they face the titans (a perfect example of human flaw thus a commentary on human nature) is not something inherent in them, rather is an outcome of a complex political schema of the system within SnK (This is because these people are left without knowledge of the outside world, as a result of government decision to ban curiosity on the outside world in order to “preserve” human life within the walls. Ironically, it’s also the very same ignorance which leads to mass hysteria later on with the invasion of Wall Maria. Ignorance leads to irrational fear after all.) Fear, as a result of political agenda, has become self-perpetuating, especially the deeper you go into the human sanctuary (which is also reflective of how ignorant and how decadent humans become, the higher the class they are part of -politics, not merely human nature)

              In order to satisfy the need for a more specific example in the juxtaposition of SnK to real life, let’s view this in perspective of undeveloped countries. Political dynasties in the third world are rampant. And the gap between the upper class and the lower class is more obvious in the third world. The upper class consists mostly of landlords (since third world countries lack the industry and therefore are more dependent on an agricultural system) and these landlords also end up as the owners of big business corporations. Suffice it to say, despite the supposed democratic system in the 21st century, the socio-economic paradigm still bends toward feudal in the third world.

              And so going from that perspective, SnK reflects this kind of life. The upper class who are safe, well fed, and rich are in the innermost part of the walls (just like how the upperclass in the third world live happily in their sprawling villas, located in safe exclusive villages in the rich part of the metro)

              The poor farmers who struggle to earn a few bucks everyday are exploited, since there are many of them and they are powerless and voiceless in the fields miles away from the seat of politics which is the metro. (much like how the refugees of wall maria are exploited to produce more food and later on forced to sign up for the “retaking” of the wall).

              People sign up for the military in order to be given free housing and a decent wage to feed their family, but these lower class recruits rarely get promoted, since only people who get high marks in the exclusive military academies get the higher ranks. (Much like how only the top 10 of the class gets to enter the Military Police, who ironically live safely within the inner walls, far away from the horror of the front lines. Also the Military Police constantly fear a coup-de-etat from the other two branches of military precisely because they have become accessory to the decadence of the inner walls and its lavish and ignorant lifestyle.)

            • But that’s not a connection to politics at all. What you speak of is a demonstration of naturalist philosophy.

              Titans are not an organized threat, nor do they represent any neighboring nations that bear any resemblance to the walled kingdom. Titans are more akin to forces of nature. The source of the fear is not necessarily their mysteriousness; it’s their suddenness. Could you truly prepare for a Colossal Titan? And even if you could, why would it stop you from fearing it?

              Let’s use a tsunami as an example. The 2011 Japan tsunami was reported early, but overconfidence in the sea walls caused many, many more deaths within populations who chose not to evacuate. Compare this to, say, the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which caught nearly every population by surprise and without proper warning, so no one was able to evacuate on time anyway. Based on that information, could you determine which tsunami is scarier? More evil? That’s a stupid question to ask, isn’t it? There are no motivations that propel tsunamis; they just happen, and they can kill people within a moment and at a colossal range. And that is what’s equally scary about them.

              Which connects back to what I was saying about naturalism: the philosophy states that the world isn’t evil or benevolent, it is indifferent. Uncaring. That neither heaven nor hell exists and that we’re merely at the whims of nature itself. The Titans represent this to a ‘T’. The people’s reactions are representative of this philosophy. It is not connected to politics.

              As for your examples of specific commentary, I still have no clue what places you’re talking about. I do not argue against the state of third world countries, but what nations also happen to recruit children as their frontline?

              Besides, my insistence on the commentary being specific was because the OP thought the commentary was “daring”. Since it’s clear that she means differently, I don’t have an argument for that anymore. I can accept that it’s just general, non-specific commentary.

  4. I could nerd about how amazing this anime is forever! it’s so rich in both a psychological, and sociological levels. Great post

  5. This anime never seemed that great to me but that post opened my eyes.
    It’s an amazing anime that dare to go again’st the norm and point out the flaws others are too scared to exposed in a thoughtful manner. It makes you think but it never goes overboard to bore it’s viewer. A paragon of virtue among misery.
    I have never seen it nor do I intend to but now I know that I must praise it.

    • Haha, maybe it wasn’t the greatest idea of mine to make this post come straight after a troll post, but the message of this article is completely genuine from the author’s perspective.

      If you’re curious about my opinion on Shingeki, I do agree with what you seem to be implying in that it’s overhyped, but that in itself doesn’t mean it’s a terrible show or that it doesn’t have anything to say about society. It would be an exaggeration to call it a “daring” social commentary, though.

      • Oh I just though it was a sarcastic post. I mean I’m sure everything said is true but it’s just all very common for any show (or game) set in such time period and subs didn’t seem to denote anything special with the writing either. But like I said I haven’t seen the thing.

  6. Eh, the show’s good. Not “the best thing evar OMG Levi is hawt” good, more like “Season 1 Walking Dead” good. The slow pacing kills it for me. Also, I don’t know about you guys but all these seven points, I’ve seen it done before. Maybe not all at the same time. The only one I can say is Dragon Age: Origins pulled all these points much better. I know it’s not fair to compare a 20 something episode anime to 100 hour game but ‘bold’ and ‘brave’ is not something that’s all that bold or brave.

    I’d like to critisize the first point though. My biggest problem with portrayal of religion in the anime is not the negative light, it’s more of bad presentation. To quote a friend’s theology professor, “Everyone is a theologian though not everyone is a good one.” It’s clear the church is hiding something sinister. But the thing is, we don’t even know anything about the religion. Yeah the walls are holy and stuff but religion isn’t just about worshipping something or someone, it’s a way of life.

    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. Usually I’d let the issue of religion slide but since it’s clear that something big is going on, I have to say something about it. It’s badly written, even for a fantasy religion with clear Catholic influences on it. Compare to this to say, the Chant of Light from Dragon Age or Elder Scrolls numerous beliefs, it pales in comparison.

    Also I’m a 40k fan. You don’t know the meaning of grim until you know 40k. Oh look, giant abominations wanting to eat us. Just another day in the Imperium.

    • I’ve also seen these seven points in other series, but I think Shingeki deserves some praise for putting them all together in one narrative. I have never encountered one which dealt with all of these, but then again, I haven’t watched that many series myself. I did not exactly think of how these seven points were done in other series and instead focused on the fact that Shingeki incorporated them. I think my intention 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’m not trying to make any comparisons, although that would’ve contributed more on to the discussion.

      As for the religion, I believe that the “church” in SnK only represents certain aspects of faith or belief, which is idolatry. But alas, this is a really sensitive topic to tread on. I just found the show daring for presenting the dark facet of some religions. At this point, I didn’t think that there is something really big going on about the religion in SnK and its relation to the Titans except that it’s possibly being used as a propaganda to keep the people inside the walls and prevent them from wandering outside. We can only wait if there’s really something huge in store for us. (I’ve just started on the manga, so forgive me if anything’s happened pertaining to this!)

  7. I read somewhere on a blog that there was no “deeper” meaning, no message between the lines in this anime, and I was so aggravated because they couldn’t be more wrong. You put it into words my friend. This anime isn’t just about Eren Jaeger and his vengeance. When you look at the environment, there is a lot more to it, there are metaphors, like the walls shutting the people inside, and small comments, like the gear needing to be renewed and the gas rationed, it says a lot about the society in which they live. And I just love that about the show.

    • Oh, hello there! Right you are. At first I wanted to write about all the metaphors and stuff, but I held back because I might get too carried away and make my analysis more heavy-handed than the show itself. I wanted to keep it light, and this is the result. Maybe I should’ve just went through with that idea, now that I think about it. I’m up for a discussion, if you want! I only have a few irl friends to talk about anime.

  8. thebloodymarquis

    I don’t know. A lot of these moments are just peppered through the show instead of fully expressed. And these scenes could be alternatively interpreted as people just being assholes for the sake of being assholes instead of some thorough social commentary. Like everyone acts like assholes in Heavy Rain, and nobody takes that as social commentary.

    • That could be an alternative interpretation, yes. But I think there’s too many political references in the series to just shrug them off as people being assholes. I think we have to look at the bigger picture here. It is clear from the start that the basic DNA of its politics is survival of the fittest, the strong eat the weak. Considering such context, I find it hard to interpret these seven issues as simply there for drama. And if we examine the narrative further, this show is not exactly about Eren himself but about humankind and the kind of society they have itself, as I said in the post. I believe these little peppered things contribute much in our analysis of the SnK universe.

  9. “This solid stance on societal issues is what makes Shingeki an excellent anime for me”

    It seems like after all these years, typical shounen action are still something I like, especially if done right, and I think the thrilling but brutal fights in Shingeki no Kyojin are still my favorite part of the show^^” But the different societal issues depicted in Shingeki no Kyojin is definitely of interest. In wars, societal issues always get worse then usual, and I like how Shingeki no Kyojin specifically highlighted that particular aspect, showing how selfish or greedy humans can get in times of desperation and conflict – especially when they aren’t fighting against fellow humans but titans.

    • The fights did not exactly feel shounen-y for me because in SnK, death is just around the corner compared to other shounen series. No over the top techniques and death-defying stunts, but this rawness is what I like about the show. Characters introduced to us just a few minutes or episodes back suddenly die on us. Mortality is slapped in our faces like that. It’s kind of refreshing from the usual shounen in which every one is basically immortals.

      • That’s exactly why I like SnK’s actions so much, it’s unconventional, it’s nothing alike typical shounens (think I kinda contradicted myself above >_<). Humans aren't fighting other humans or creatures the same size as them, humans are fighting against gigantic monsters and indeed, death is just around the corner. Now that when I think about it, SnK is more seinen than shounen, lol.

  10. To be honest, SnK harping on society among any of these points is at a pretty superficial level. I’m actually at a point where I dislike going against the masses because it makes me appear as a massive killjoy/contrarian; but it’s true! These “social commentaries” are either a half-hearted attempt through infrequency or through any lack of elaboration, rendering the points just as mute as saying “X is bad”.

  11. If you ask me, Titan is this generation’s Fullmetal Alchemist. Both are shonen series about young adults with ambitions and trying to achieve them, despite seeing how corrupt and cruel adults can be.

  12. Talk about giving too much credit. I mean all they do is just show that it happened and leave it at that. People are corrupted! what a fucking epiphany I won’t know unless Attack on Titan show it! Man! RACISM OHMYGOD! IT EXITS? Attack On Titan is really overrated.

  13. Hi Uminohoshi,
    I would like to know which episodes of SnK each of these stills are from because this is perfect for a project that I am doing. :) If you could respond ASAP, that would be amazing!
    ~Iris

  1. Pingback: A Seasonal Review — Summer 2013 | Draggle's Anime Blog

  2. Pingback: Blogathon Blitz: Fantastic Memes | Illusions to Illusions

  3. Pingback: Froggy’s Top 5 Anime of 2013 | Fantastic Memes

  4. Pingback: 2013: Year in Review | Chromatic Aberration Everywhere

  5. Pingback: I Miss Being A “Filthy Casual” | Fantastic Memes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: