Created by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan is considered to be a masterpiece by many. The show follows the protagonist, Eren Jaeger, and his friends as he takes on a brutal world of giant, man-eating Titans. For more information about the show and where to watch it, you can check out the Attack on Titan fandom wiki. One reason the show is so popular is because of its excellent storytelling. It isn’t an understatement to say that the writing greatly exceeds those of other anime. My favorite aspect of the show is the constant parallelism between differing plot points. I’ve rewatched the show many times and each time I watch through I somehow still find new instances of parallelism even after the story concluded. The relation between plot points occurring years after each other makes many people wonder just how far Isayama had the story planned when he started writing it over ten years ago. As a Writing Major, I’ve analyzed the stylistic elements in stories of all genres, formats, and classification. In this post, I’ve decided to lay out my three favorite examples of parallelism in Attack on Titan to emphasize how amazingly thought out the story is. (Spoiler Warning: There won’t be any manga spoilers in this post, but I will be talking about everything currently aired in the anime).
Gabi and Sasha
Gabi is one of the lesser liked characters of Attack on Titan, mostly due to her ability to constantly mess up our protagonists’ plans. But the reason Gabi is avidly hated by the fandom is because she shot and killed Sasha, one of the most-liked characters, in the beginning of Season 4. Although Gabi is extremely disliked, she parallels most of the cast’s motivations and behaviors, the most obvious case of parallelism being between her and Eren. However, I wanted to explore the parallelism between Gabi and Sasha. Sasha is one of Eren’s friends and a member of the Scout Regiment. She is most known for her comedic value in an overall dark world. The parallelism between the two shines brightest when looking at their actions of saving innocent people. In Season 2 Episode 2, Sasha travels back to her home village that’s been overrun by titans. She finds most of the village has been evacuated, except for a little girl and her mother. Although Sasha isn’t able to save the girl’s mother, Sasha bravely puts her life on the line for the little girl. Later on, after Sasha’s passing, Gabi is put in a similar situation. Gabi and the same girl from the village, Kaya, become friends until she learns that Gabi was behind Sasha’s death. Because of this, they part ways. In Season 4 Part 2, titans have infiltrated the walls and Kaya gets cornered in an alleyway. From the depths, emerges Gabi, who takes out the titan that’s pursuing Kaya. In that moment of saviorism, Kaya imagines Sasha standing before her. When thinking about the fact that enemies from both sides of the war stopped and risked their lives to save an innocent child, it’s realized that the opposing forces are not as different as the world makes them seem. One of the show’s biggest themes is the idea that good and evil are cloudy labels that only make sense when you’re under the bias of one side. The parallel between Gabi and Sasha emphasizes this theme heavily.
Eren and Reiner
Another instance of parallelism between the opposing sides comes when Eren goes undercover in Marley. When Reiner finally discovers Eren has been hiding right beneath their noses this entire time, Eren says the line, “I’m the same as you.” Eren’s actions of sleeping beside the enemy, hanging out with them, and living with them during Season 4 directly parallel what Reiner did while he was undercover in the first two seasons. Not only do the actions of both characters parallel one another, but the image of them shaking each other’s hands occurs in both instances. When Reiner climbs back up the wall in Season 2, Eren assists him by giving him a hand. Before Eren attacks Marley, he also shakes Reiner’s hands. This image is a beautifully twisted image that once again emphasizes the show’s themes of good and evil; it shifts the audience’s perspective of both instances. While we hated Reiner for what he did early on in the show, this moment forces the realization that war causes people to do unimaginable things. And as we watch Eren do the exact same thing we hated Reiner for, it becomes clear that there is no “right” side of war.
The Beginning and The End
The very first episode of the show is recognizable and unforgettable by all watchers. Seeing the giant hand grabbing the wall and hearing Eren’s young voice stutter out, “It’s him. A Titan,” would likely make anyone’s stomach drop. This scene is paralleled in the final episode of Season 4 Part 2. When Eren is in his giant titan skeleton, approaching Marley’s coast with an army of colossal titans, frightened soldiers look on as they realize how helpless their efforts have been. One soldier stutters out the words, “It’s him. The Attack Titan!” The parallelism between this scene and the very first episode shows just how much Eren’s character developed and how the world has changed drastically since then. With these related images, the audience is left confused. We’ve followed Eren’s journey since the first Titan, so we understand the pain, struggle, and heartbreak he went through. But seeing Eren ready to kill hundreds of thousands, we are left questioning what solution we were actually looking for.
Why Care for Parallels?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of parallelism within Attack on Titan. Besides foreshadowing and theme-emphasis, the parallelism in the show also creates a recognizable environment that rewards viewers for all the hours they put into watching. Older scenes are often recontextualized by the parallels and are given greater weight as one experiences more and more of the story. Seeing our beloved characters parallel the villains we once hated adds so much depth to the development of the story. Parallelism is one of the many reasons why Attack on Titan is so great.