Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 8, 9, 10 Musings: Cowardice vs Courage & the Makings of an Anti-Hero

Episode eight focuses on highlighting certain characters’ personal skillsets that they have that shall be honed as the season goes on, such as Armin using scheming strategy to help his team get out of a tricky situation with a hoard of titans. (Murder of titans? School of titans? Tomb of titans? Littre of titans? Toolbox of titans! Okay, I’m done now.) We also learn who the emo-ab-infused titan is! One guess and the winner gets a fabulous slap on the back.

One thing that episode eight really does well is bring up the question of cowardice vs courage. When you’re in a do or die situation as these fresh recruits were, and when you’re as young as them, and take into consideration that most of them have never seen traumatic shite in their lives before—who is the better, smarter person? Does running away out of sheer uncontrollable fear and paranoia make someone a jerk? Does standing up and heading into the forays of titan feasting knowing damn well that you’re about to die (most likely) make you a hero?

I struggled with this notion for the entirety of episode eight and then again as I made my way through the next couple segments. While I have never been a soldier and can’t even begin to fathom the complexities of emotions and thoughts that soldiers are burdened with on a daily basis, especially the ones who are smack dab in the middle of war, what I do know is that fear is an incredibly intimidating and overwhelming force of nature. When I was diagnosed with terminal heart stuff, my fear kicked in like I had been consumed by a sandworm. Not even a puny ass titan, a straight up motherfucking epic sandworm of badassry from Dune (books, not films). I wanted to run away and pretend that this wasn’t happening; that I didn’t have this excruciating reality that I now had to contend with. But unfortunately, life doesn’t quite work that way for most people. (If I didn’t have loved ones, then hell yes, I would’ve run away like a rabbit being hunted and never ever looked back, true story). While I can’t relate to these pressures as a soldier, I can relate to them as a refugee and victim of war.

In my first episode(s) post, I chatted a bit about how the one thing that Attack on Titan does phenomenally well is the manifestation of the war-torn refugee experience including awful displacement. Let’s take that up to the next level. What happens when you take a traumatised refugee, hand them some swords and guns, and shove them onto the front lines to fight the same exact creatures that eradicated their lives, their homes, their loved ones, and their countries? Do we truly and legitimately expect them to fight the very essence of their trauma? Or will they drop their weapons and flee in indisputable fright? I know what I would do and I’m not ashamed to admit it either. So, when we see these kids hiding under desks and in the shadows to avoid detection of the monstrosities that have decimated humanity for hundreds, or thousands of years, do they realistically deserved to be called cowards?

There is the other side of that as well: the courageous. (Most) Courageous acts are driven by intense trauma and psychologically fucked-up feelings as much as cowardice and the natural instinct to flee is. Some people get so wrapped up in their denial of what is happening that the only way to move forward is to follow the strict orders given to them as thinking for oneself can become an tremendous action to take. Some also do it out of sheer anger or grief of watching their loved ones die. They don’t give a rat’s arse if they die as long as they take the enemy with them. Is that courage? Is fighting and killing based on the purest and thickest forms of revenge an act of courage or cowardice? Does a hero form from the fires of vengeance, fury, and hatred?

If you answered yes, here’s a lollipop for being horrendously wrong! Anti-heroes, sure. Not heroes.

So…. Long ass rant of words to say this: yeah episode eight was cool. It definitely makes a person think about their position in the world and what they would do if they were suddenly swapped with another person in a lesser inviting circumstance (to put it extremely lightly). As an author and creative, I loved the way these segments (eight to ten) were presented and written because it marvellously highlights the supremely fragile and almost indistinguishable lines between what it means to be a hero, an anti-hero, and even a villain.

Episodes nine and ten are centred mostly on the revelation of Emo-Abs Titan (I have deemed him as such and as such, he shall be known moving forward, don’t @ me). Okay, for those of you who have not seen the anime, close your eyes…


*Clears throat*

Moving right along… Between the turquoisey eyes, the messy black hair, the “rage of humanity” and all of that bloody screaming, it wasn’t difficult to ascertain that this chump was in fact Eren the shōnen boya wonder. Plus, my chest-buster theory was, in fact, correct except instead of bursting out of a titan’s chest, Eren the Emo-Abs brat busted out of the whole damn titan’s everything. It was amazingly satisfying to watch, and that bit made me happier than anything else.

Just as segment eight makes us think about cowardice vs courage, the Eren revelation further cements the intricacies of this debate with more dimension. For example, he’s a titan so automatically it’s assumed that he’s an enemy. But he didn’t consume any humans or kill any of them. His sole focus was on the destruction and decimation of other titans. So, is he really an enemy? Simply because he looks like an enemy? (If y’all are reading this and have not caught the Japanese-American allegories of Attack on Titan, go read this book *slaps you in the face with No-No Boys by John Okada*). Is it an act of courage to imprison him or to murder him without bothering to understand his existence and why he feels patriotic or loyal to those that he does, or is it an act of cowardice?

If you answered yes to it being the former, here’s an ice-cream sundae for you for being horrendously wrong… again! Villains, sure. Not heroes.

Other titbits that had me giggling like a schoolgirl in the embraces of springtime flirtations were Hange Zoë and Levi [last name]. They are my number one favourite characters in the whole bleeding anime, plus at one point I used to ship the Seven Hells out of them… I still do a little bit. They have remarkable chemistry, a deliciously wicked balance of intellect, stupidity, sassiness, and brutality. They do a fantastic job of really showing the two spectrums of interest when it comes to titans (murder vs mad scientist), but these are aspects that really don’t sprout up until later, so I probably shouldn’t have brought it up. But I’m excited to see them, so fuck it.

How shall the struggle for Trost end? Shall Emo-Abs Titan put his titanly skills and assets to use in the beneficial contribution to humanity’s survival?  Will he turn unto catnip for Hange? Will he say, “Fuck you all haters, I’m out,” and then run away to Titan La-La Land? Tune in next week to see, my chums.

Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4
Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 5, 6, 7

Native: 進撃の巨人
Source: Manga by Hajime Isayama
Demographic: Shōnen
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
Season: Spring 2013 (Season 1)
Episodes: 25
Studio(s): WIT Studio
Director: Tetsurō Araki
Content Warnings: Strong violence. Graphic blood, gore, and dismemberment including consumption of humans. Intense depiction of displacement and refugee experiences. Brief depiction of oppression and starvation, and alcohol consumption. Brief scene of physical violence against kids. Food consumption. Death of animals.
AniList: Shingeki no Kyojin
Streaming: CrunchyRoll, Funimation, Hulu, Netflix, Tubi, Adult Swim

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