Envision massive, multiple zip lines in the forest. Next, imagine soldiers fighting for their lives by firing weapons allowing them to climb these zip lines. Finally, throw in man-eating, mythological giants chasing these soldiers and destroying humanity without any remorse. You have Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan.
What began as Isayama’s 2009 manga, Shingeki no Kyojin (“Advancing Giants”), morphed into a television series this year. Eren Yeager is the main character, searching for justice after his mother is killed by Titans. Titans are towering, seemingly mindless creatures who eat humans for no logical reason. It’s not for nourishment, nor are they capable of speaking to share some type of vendetta. They don’t pursue animals or other Titans, so the violent mystery is perhaps the most unbearable trait of these circumstances. Eren has made a pact, along with his adopted sister Mikasa and their friend Armin, to protect mankind by destroying the monsters.
Pockets of military soldiers have discovered Vertical Maneuvering Equipment, the zip-linesque technique that gives them eye-level attacks. In order to maintain this plan, arduous physical training is required. Children bent on making wrongs right become young adults pushing themselves for a chance at glory. Eren does this in a bull-headed, naïve fashion. Mikasa is the quiet, focused expert. Armin provides heart and genius. Such great characters promote the show’s value.
Although it’s a morbid premise, an audience should temper the shock value with hefty life questions splashing out like a healing fountain. How does one move past dark tragedy? What will drive a person to protect their loved ones, even in the face of madness? Could a life be risked if things won’t immediately change for the better? Yes, life is terribly awful and inappropriate. Yes, it is immaculate and adorably innocent. Each open-mouthed tragedy gives way to heart-caressing laughter and a sugary taste of freedom. This is how humanity works.
The three afore-mentioned characters find loving friends, and lose or battle against them during the course of the series. They have tough choices to make. Become one of the soldiers to most likely die for an unjustified cause, or stay safe behind the village walls. One of my favorite episodes involves the day when these elite, lonely warriors are hand-picked by the military’s general. Out of a crowd of hundreds, just about ten remain to plunge towards death. Those who stayed had different reasons for doing so. It becomes clear that the prevailing reason is payback for what’s happened. The opening theme song for the first part of the season ended with such desperate cry for vengeance.
Now it’s time to unplug lofty metaphors, and plug reality into their place. While the 2013 citizens of Greensboro, NC aren’t careening through trees to take down flesh-eating demons they are fighting the everyday battles of the spirit. A damaged friendship or a cranky spouse provides the opportunity to face the worst and produce the best. This production comes through God’s divine plan, through encouraging conversations, through books by positive psychologists, through walks at sunset, through the faces of children, through so many things. What can be gained from the story of “Attack on Titan” is the knowledge that no matter how tall the pursuer, love is waiting just a tree away.