Finally, the secret of Eren’s basement is being revealed.
So, if you’ve been following Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin up to this point, you’re going to want to read this chapter for sure: http://mangastream.com/r/attack_on_titan/086/3727/1
When I first saw this opening set of panels I thought: what, wait…. seriously?
The kids’ mother admonishes them further not to ever go outside the walls. Given that this was Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin, I was thinking, okay, maybe we’ll see the wall of Maria. But, no the wall looked like this:
The dirigibles, the people on the streets of the town calling the kids “filthy-blooded brats,” the officers at the air ship landing site who ask for “papers’ and then mete out cruel punishment/murder… yeah, if I wasn’t SUPPOSED to think Jews in World War II, Isayama-sensei really kind of screwed up.
But it turns out the Grisha and Fay are not Jews, they’re something called an “Elden.”
Of course the kids go over the wall and of course they’re found and punished. It seems, at first like maybe Grisha has taken the brunt of it, but no. Just to underscore how evil these guys are, we discover Fay was never returned home, but brutally killed.
When Fay is found dead by the riverside and the police come to Grisha’s house we get the whole backstory from Grisha’s dad in the form of “re-education.” Turns out, Eldens are Shifters or are in some other way related to the first Titan, Ymir. (Presumably, not the Ymir we know, as in the “Dancing Titan,” but some previous Ymir.)
There’s some very mystical stuff about how the Titans came to be. Apparently, the first Titan “made a deal with the devil,” like, literally.
Apparently, the Elden used the power of the Titan to take over the continent and generally wreck havoc–genocide, land grabs, the usual power-hungry greed stuff.
There was some way in which Ymir split her soul into nine parts after she died, and then things get a bit murkier. There’s some kind of civil war that happens. The motivations, beyond greed, aren’t clear, but somehow, someone manages to “gain control” of seven out of the nine Titans. King Fritz (same surname as Ymir) escapes to the island of Paradis and builds “three layers of walls around them for protection.”
With that one line we now know both where we are (on the island) and how it is that the Titans got inside the walls in the first place. This also explains Connie’s mom and the overabundance of Titans in the “now;” everyone there is an Elden/descendant of a Shifter.
But Grisha’s family was part of group of Eldens that got left behind on the Marleyan mainland. They’re unprotected by their king and so have to live in fear, inside a ghetto, etc.
The story progresses and our hero grows up, becomes a doctor like his father, and then meets a guy in the resistance movement. This part of the story is all pretty sympathetic because who in their right minds would root for the
Nazis Marlyans? Especially after Grisha finds “ancient” documents (provided by their insider informant named ‘Owl’) that appear to imply that the Eldens weren’t entirely motivated by greed, but may also have helped bring technology to all the people, Marlyans and Eldens alike. Of course, Grisha can’t actually read Hebrew the ancient texts, but he figures the pictures make it obvious.
The mysterious ‘Owl,’ then sends them a magic princess, in the form of a woman named Dina Fritz–yep, as in King Fritz. Instantly
Eren, er… Grisha falls in love with her and they have a plot coupon, er… a kid.
More years pass and we find out that King Fritz is not just a coward, but apparently a narc, because somehow the Marlyians figure out that the Eldens are up to something and now are demanding tribute in the form of child soldiers from each of the ghettos. Grisha apparently thinks this is a perfect time to cash in his plot coupon, only he comes up a dollar short when the little bumpkin has a bad case of Stockholm syndrome and turns in his own parents.
What do I think about this? I’m not sure. I mean, I’m glad we’re getting some answers, but so far they’re uninteresting. I rather adore that the first Titan appears to be a random woman (Norse?), but the critical thing that’s missing for me is motivation. I get the apple imagery. This is the Titan’s “Eve.” But, even the mythical Eve was motivated by something. She wanted the fruit of knowledge which God had forbidden humans to eat. It was called the fruit of knowledge because it was clearly sentience, the thing that separated us from our fellow animals, the revelation that we were “naked,” causing Eve to invent clothing, which is the same as tool-making, in my personal opinion. No other animal wears clothes.
So, okay, my personal take on the Biblical Eve aside, there’s not even some obscure line like “the fruit of knowledge” to give us any reason why Ymir wanted ‘The Power of the Titan.’ Her descendants use it for boring reasons–to kill people and take their stuff–but why did she go to the trouble to seek out ‘the Devil’?
And the imagery is flipped. She’s giving the Devil an apple, the fruit of knowledge and in exchange becomes naked… and, more bestial (?) I mean, yeah, that works, but I’m still left with the question of why? How did Ymir come in possession of the “apple” that she could give it away, and, even if it’s all just a giant metaphor, it still seems to be a big thing (pardon the pun) to have given away for the ability to become some hybrid cross between The Hulk and Giant Man.
There are armed soldiers around her when she’s first depicted in her Titan form, but it’s not clear what they do, only that after she dies and splits her power, things go to the sh*tter.
They have spears… and what? Are they Romans?
I don’t know. I’m glad to be getting some of this information to puzzle out, but the story, itself, is continuing to disappoint me. I don’t feel any closer to understanding the WHY of any of this.
Maybe Isayama-sensei isn’t going to give it to me, either. I mean, I suspect this is all were going to get in terms of a history lesson of the origin of Titans and that’s hugely disappointing because it kind of literally tells us nothing: a woman got the power, people used it badly, the end.
Okay, I guess there are a lot of things in the world that are just this stupid. “Some guys over there wanted the stuff people had in another place and so atrocities were committed and people are still angry about it,” pretty much sums up a lot of the conflicts in the real world. But, I kind of feel like the point of fiction is to make sense of it all. To plumb the depths of WHY people do what they do.
And we’re still getting none of that. Nothing I find terribly interesting, at any rate. Weirdly, it wouldn’t have taken much. If Isayama-sensei had added just even a hint of a personal story to Ymir, even something cliche, like, “In revenge for a son lost at war….” or something, I would been less annoyed by this whole backstory, I think. Maybe we’re just supposed to assume something interesting motivated her. Maybe Isayama-sensei left it blank intentionally to avoid the cliche, but in doing so, it has left me hollow. Why should I care for the Eldens other than the extremely obvious and broadly painted connection to the horrific discrimination against the Jews?
That’s probably the other part of this. It’s not that I’m some kind of freak and I wouldn’t sympathize with the holocaust, it’s that I sympathize AUTOMATICALLY. It’s an easy ‘A’ when you play the Nazi card. You make someone look or act like Nazis in an obvious way–oh, yeah, I get it, I’m for whatever they’re against, no matter what. Nazis are never good guys. You put someone in a Nazi uniform and you push them off a cliff in a movie and I cheer. I never have to know anything more about that character, ever, because killing Nazis is always something to celebrate, full stop.
But that’s super lazy in terms of writing, unless you’re writing about actual Nazis. It’s like reaching for the lowest hanging fruit. No effort has to be made to show motivations when there are Nazis on screen (just push ’em off the cliff!) Isayama-sensei took a giant brush of black and painted everything black or white and destroyed any potential shades of gray as soon as he went there in terms of imagery and language.
So, having Ymir’s original motivation might have helped. If I knew what she wanted, what STARTED all this, what forced the Marleyians into the role of complete evil, it might have added a little depth to this.
But so far, nope.
We’ll see what the next chapter gives us next month.