Is Attack on Titan the Perfect Metaphor for Growing Up?

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By Yali Perez

If you could be transported to any world in anime, chances are the world of Attack on Titan might not be your first choice. Or your second. I don’t blame you.

Life inside the walls is filled with fear and uncertainty, and achieving a sense of happiness (or even comfort) isn’t easy. Despite the grim world that Eren, Mikasa and Armin find themselves in, the series itself is an action-packed capsule of hype and excitement, with new episodes trending on social media as they air.

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But it’s curious, right? A show with a world so few would want to visit is one we can’t wait to watch every week. Maybe that’s because, obvious differences aside, the world in Attack on Titan is a lot like our own. And in my opinion, it’s the perfect metaphor for the struggle of growing up and becoming an adult, something we all experience.

Think about it. We already know the series is more than just humanity defending itself from Titans. And maybe, just maybe, underneath all of that ODM gear and the twists and turns of the political climate, its lead characters are just trying to…grow up.

Growing up is tough

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Eren, Mikasa and Armin start Attack on Titan as kids living safely behind the walls. They’re (mostly) happy kids who spend their days playing, sharing their dreams for the future and looking upon their protectors with reverence.

But this happiness is fleeting, and even though the tones of the first episode of the series feature vibrant colors and sunshine, it all comes crashing down when the Colossal Titan peers over Wall Maria.

Their safety, happiness and normalcy continue to dissipate with each emerging tragedy, from new Titans to the loss of teammates. Young Eren watches in horror as his mother is eaten, and the trauma he bears then shapes his adulthood.

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It might seem a bit extreme as a comparison, but if you’ve ever been a teenager, you know we all have some sort of Titan that takes us from childhood to adulthood. For some, it’s trauma or grief. For others, it’s puberty.

Titans are examples of external forces beyond our control. Nothing these three kids could have done as children would have prevented the attack. And we can’t prevent growing up. But that’s not a bad thing! The growing up, I mean.

The strongest of walls

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Consider the possible symbolism of the walls. Each wall was designed to be stronger than the other. But once the final wall is destroyed, there’s nothing left to protect the most important parts of humanity. You’re vulnerable.

And we all have walls that protect us as children. Maybe that’s our parents, our siblings, our faith or our friends. Sure, maybe those walls aren’t destroyed by a Colossal Titan, but they’re certainly tested.

Think of how Eren, Mikasa and Armin had their walls come down. They lost family and the remainder of their childhoods. Emotional and physical walls were broken. And we see this process in many of the series’ characters from this moment. There’s Mikasa’s stoicism and Armin’s anxiety, things that can be tough to cope with.

But that’s relatable. The things we did to cope as children don’t exactly work when we’re grown. We all have to learn to change as we grow. And now, in Attack on Titan Final Season, our adult heroes not only have to survive their enemies, but the cruelness of reality.

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They are now on the front lines of a war they never imagined themselves creating. They want revenge, justice and more, and resources are limited. For most of us, growing up means “adulting.” We pay bills, take care of children of our own and work to make life easier for the ones we love. That’s tough, too.

But just like the characters of Attack on Titan, we can face extraordinary circumstances with creative solutions. As we get older, we grow emotionally and work to face our challenges head-on, whether it’s a bad breakup or the loss of a family member.

We don’t know yet if Eren, Mikasa and Armin will find a happy ending, but we can look at Attack on Titan as a metaphor for growing up, and seek to find that happy ending for ourselves. As for them, we’ll just have to wait and see as Attack on Titan Final Season, and this Modern Epic, continues.