This is the preface to a series of essays I will be writing about the Anime Attack on Titan. I hope for these essays to be a kind of “and yet it moves” for our understanding of people, to get you—the reader—to look at these episodes and dig into why different aspects of them are empathizable and what they capture about human nature. Too often when we try to think about human behavior, we rely on vague statements or motivated hypotheticals. My angle of attack here is simple: I think this series captures key aspects of human organization, so I’m going to describe what I see and you can let me know what you think.
I am writing this series because my passion in life is to try to describe the patterns and principles of human communication, to show how it is an ecosystem of sublimely efficient and subtle microeconomic organization. I call it Coalition Companion because it is a meditation on how coalitions are born and evolve. Is that too many words? I really just mean to say that people organize in really interesting ways, and while lots of fields of study take bites out of the whole—anthropology, sociology, managerial studies, psychology, cognitive science, and linguistics—I can’t help but feel that the divisions between these fields and their foundational assumptions have become more distracting than the simple question: When I look at some humans, what is going on?
These essays will not be complete play-by-plays. The intention is for you to watch an episode, then read the accompanying essay. I will link to the crunchyroll page for each episode to streamline this, while also including pertinent screenshots as anchor points.
There’s a lot in AoT, and I won’t be able to cover all the themes. One strain of things I want to think about more, but will likely write little about, is how Attack on Titan reflects impressions of war in the modern era deeply influenced by WWII, the atomic bomb, and modern political structure. Exploring this aspect of the series deserves a book of its own, and I’ll mention it at times, but the focus here will be the micropolitical way people form groups in dynamic situations and how that influences and is influenced by everything else.
Indeed, I think of AoT as the best visual primer of micropolitical organization I have yet found. I haven’t read the manga yet, but I’d like to take a moment of thanks for 諫山創 (Hajime Isayama), its creator, because it has profoundly enriched my ideas and given me source material to discuss things with examples. That is the only way to discuss things, really.
Updates will be approximately weekly, with one essay for each episode. At some point this will speed-up a little bit, because I would like to cover all the current episodes, before the final episodes arrive in the U.S. in early-mid 2022.
(If you’d rather not read these, but still want to see my other essays, simply filter the term “Attack on Titan” from emails sent with this sender, I’ll be careful to not mention it or use a euphemism in other posts.)
For those of you who will be reading Coalition Companion, welcome. I’m brimming with excitement about all there is to dig into.