Welcome everyone to another Christianity v. Anime! Writing this post is me, RishRaff, as always. The focus of today’s post will be one of the most popular anime ever, Attack on Titan. Just to give an advance warning, there may be heavy SPOILERS ahead, so read with caution. With introductions out of the way, let’s jump right in.
Why Christianity v. Anime?
For anyone who missed my previous Christianity v. Anime post, which I encourage you to check out if you enjoy reading this article, here is a quick catch up to why I am writing this. Japan is one of the most secular countries in the world, yet a lot of traditions and attitudes are rooted in religion. Christianity has an interesting backstory in Japan (which I encourage you to look up), and does have a presence, albeit minor, in the modern day Japan. As such, anime provides a useful tool for examining the attitudes of the Japanese towards Christianity. I desire to search out these insights, and see what I can glean from various anime that deal with Christian elements. Attack on Titan has a surprising number of references to the Bible, both on visual and literary levels. I want to explore these a little bit, and give a little bit of my input as to what they add to the show. For those unfamiliar with the series, a plot summary is provided below. You can also check out our review of Attack on Titan if you wish.
Summary: Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by Titans. Titans are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by enclosing themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest of Titans. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a Titan in over 100 years. Teenage boy Eren and his foster sister Mikasa witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a Colossal Titan that appears out of thin air. As the smaller Titans flood the city, the two kids watch in horror as their mother is eaten alive. Eren vows that he will murder every single Titan and take revenge for all of mankind. -Anime News Network
Titans of Anime, Giants of the Bible
The surprising wealth of Biblical references in Attack on Titan, whether intentional or not, can be primarily tied to the Titans themselves. Huge, humanoid, and very violent, they are a nightmare to just about anyone. Yet, they share very close ties to the giants mentioned in Genesis 6:4. They are mentioned again Numbers 13:33, and are properly known as Nephilims. Aside from the obvious parallels of them being humanoid and giant (as Nephilim is frequently translated as giant when going from Hebrew to English), they share one other interesting trait. They both descend from humans. The Titans, or at least some of them, are capable of taking on a human form, or vice versa, as evident with Erin and Annie. While the Nephilim do not have any confirmed transforming powers, their parentage is stated in the Bible to be “…when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them… (Genesis 6:4).” The sons of God are the fallen angels and the daughters of men are human women. As the Nephilims and Titans are both perceived as evil, perhaps this is a reflection that great evils can come out of humans, very easily. One other side note that does not pertain to the topic of Nephilim and Titans, but in episode 2, there is a priest reciting something as he walks against the crowd and toward the Titans. At first I thought is was a Bible verse, but after some research, realized he was quoting from Dante’s Purgatorio, specifically Canto XIX and Canto XX.
Erin as a Christ Figure
One thing that surprised me about the show (in a good way) was the use of Erin as a Christ figure. A Christ figure is a literary device/archetype commonly found in literature. A well known example would be Aslan of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Christ figures are typically recognized by their position in the story as a savior of some sort and typically undergo some kind of death and resurrection, whether physical or emotional. They also have other traits in common with Jesus Christ. Erin fulfills all these qualities. His death comes swiftly in episode 5, where he is devoured by a Titan as a result of performing a selfless act in saving Armin. The resurrection comes a short time later, with him apparently returning to life (he never truly dies) as a Titan, ready to do battle. Erin is also a savior in the eyes of the people, having plugged the hole in the Wall and was even given the title “Humanity’s Last Hope.” Another interesting parallel between Erin and Christ is that both are subjected to an unfair trial. Shown in episode 14, during the trial Erin is accused of allying with the Titans and is even beaten, despite having done nothing wrong. Sound familiar? Jesus was accused of being an agent of Satan (see Mark 3:20-27), and was granted an unfair trial in what would turn into his Crucifixion and Resurrection.
I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I appreciate you all taking the time to read it! If you have noticed any other links between Attack on Titan and the Bible, feel free to comment below. I welcome any kind of discussion, or even disagreements! If you have any questions, please ask and I will explain as best I can. Thank you!