Good day, everyone! It’s been awhile, but I’m back for a fourth chapter of Tough Ladies. Today, I want to focus on Mikasa Ackermann from the manga/anime Attack on Titan. I heard about Attack on Titan many months ago, but dismissed it as inaccessible (outside of piracy) until the first subtitled season appeared on Netflix awhile back. Needless to say, I binge-watched it, mesmerized by the setting and characters. Though I mostly wish to engage in some brief character analysis, I also want to extend this into a sort of comparative review in order to help foster interest in the show and the comic, the latter of which I admittedly have little experience.
I do not wish to generalize, but much of the anime available in the United States is either too edited or too awkwardly sexualized for me. Oftentimes, emotional displays in these stories are somewhat painful to watch given the differences in what is considered publicly acceptable in the West and in Japan. There are definitely exceptions, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is one of them. Attack on Titan is rich in character development and contains no blatant fanservice* that I’ve noticed. The creators of this property are surprisingly forward thinking in their construction of female characters, and the several protagonists of the story are very well done, especially Mikasa, upon whom I wish to focus primarily.
Mikasa is sort of the adopted sister of (arguably) the main protagonist, Eren, with whom she makes up an interesting cadre of main characters. Eren is guided almost entirely by revenge, Armin can’t fight very well but is respected for his tactical genius, and Jean starts out that incredibly arrogant and selfish guy you want to punch in the face but grow to respect as you see him confront harsh truths about himself. Mikasa, though, really steals the show. She takes up a role usually reserved for male characters in these sorts of Japanese fantasy stories—the amazingly skilled, stoic swordsman. Other characters repeatedly remark on how Mikasa is the deadliest fighter they’ve ever seen, and she commands a great deal of respect among her fellow soldiers.
One of the top selling points for this series for me is its reliance on common soldiers to tell its story. Much like the Black Company novels by Glen Cook, Attack on Titan deviates from the standard fantasy model of kings, knights, and wizards, and focuses on the experiences of average people forced to fight on the behalf of their leaders in extraordinary situations. And these characters are all so very young, perhaps tragically so, to be forced to fight to safeguard their nation, which is something that may also appeal to fans of the Hunger Games.
I’ve mentioned combat quite a bit so far, but what is it the characters have to fight? Phenomenon that it is becoming, Attack on Titan has worked its way into a variety of media. Let this Subaru ad from Japan showcase the titans themselves.
Much like the zombies in The Walking Dead, the titans are walking horrors cloaked in human shapes that are so common they have become almost a part of the environment. It is the role of soldiers like Mikasa and her friends to safeguard the last vestiges of human civilization against these gigantic monsters. Any fan of Pacific Rim may also find this detail in this series compelling. I can’t give away too much about the titans right now in this post, but suffice it to say they are not as ridiculous as they may seem at first exposure.
I hope this post has inspired a little curiosity about Attack on Titan. I hope it can be a wonderful gateway into other anime and fantasy stories for my readers. We are, after all, still a little ways off from the Game of Thrones season four premiere, and you have to get that fantasy fix somewhere. Check out the subtitled Attack on Titan on Netflix now, or wait for the English dub from Funimation to be finished. Either way, you will not be disappointed.
Let me know your thoughts below! Tweet me @quaintjeremy.
*This week’s comics (or manga) jargon lesson: fanservice. Much like the term cheesecake I mentioned on a previous post, fanservice is obviously sexualized shots of a (usually) female character in an anime or manga aimed at pleasing a (usually) heterosexual male audience. We all have great strides to make, I suppose.