Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan is one of the most popular manga and anime titles today. And it’s not just popular in Japan, but the entire world, with fans ranging from celebrities to normal everyday people. But what inspired Hajime Isayama to create his masterpiece work? He recently sat down with NHK for an interview and talked about his work.
Isayama grew up living the rural life in Hita, Oita Prefecture. This made him feel that his life was cut off from the rest of civilization, as the surrounding mountains felt like they were a “wall”. And as he grew up, his imagination made him think there were monsters beyond that “wall”. He also admitted that he felt ambivalent about his home town while growing up. This then led him to grow restless as a teen and ultimately left out of a desire to change himself. “It was not necessarily ambition that drove me,” he commented. “I had a sense of inferiority, a kind of frustration.”
He then said that this vague frustration led him to channel it into making Attack on Titan.
Two of the main themes in the series are “oppression” and “release”. Beyond that, Isayama admitted that he didn’t have any particular agenda or message that he wanted to convey. Instead, he wanted to express the raw anger of the victims of a tragedy, and how it can drive people to aggression.
As for the titans themselves, it seems that they represent things to be frustrated with.
The titans tend to wander around aimlessly, causing destruction in their wake; it is their very lack of goals that the humans are angered and puzzled by. Isayama mentioned that the titans are kind of like drunk people, although he stressed that real-life drunk people are definitely not that sinister. More than anything, however, the titans represent a seemingly insurmountable challenge to be overcome.
If it was frustration and feelings of impotence that drove Isayama to leave his hometown, it was his accomplishments that made him come back. Isayama has personally attended numerous signings and fan events at Hita, where he is touched by his fans’ love of Attack on Titan. These days, Isayama has remarked that Hita feels like a place that he can go to and from anytime.
At the end of his NHK interview, Isayama promised that as the manga approaches its climax, he will work hard to give the saga the resolution it deserves. He also added that he’s looking forward to the anime’s third season, which premieres in July, and hopes that the popularity of the series will draw more attention to Hita.
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