If you’re an information geek like myself, you tend to find yourself stumbling upon the most accidental yet brilliant connections to the most random of topics at the most inappropriate times. My recent epiphany moment happened during my Humanities II class this week while learning about 17th century Baroque artists, specifically with Peter Paul Rubens “Saturn Devouring His Son”. Ok, big deal? Some weird mythology painting whatever. Then upon further research came the even stranger, yet familiar imagery from Francisco Goya. Although derived from the 19th century in the Romantic Spanish era in art, it has been said that they both originate from the Greek myth of the Titan Cronus… Wait a minute! That’s why it looked so familiar, ATTACK ON TITAN!!! Could all of this possibly be related?
Upon one of the first articles I found regarding the similarities, DailyDot.com was bold enough to state:
“To understand where Attack on Titan’s monsters originate, we need to look to 19th-century Spain, where the artist Francisco Goya painted symbolic representations of the atrocities of war in the form of gory and eerie images of mythological giants. Goya’s series of Titan paintings inspired both the art and the animation behind Attack on Titan, as well as its English name.”
Very interesting, but where exactly is the proof? I don’t see the creator or producer attached to any of this statement, nor did I find any links on the site. With my brain being nowhere at ease with that particular answer, or with any of the other similar sounding articles, it was time to start digging up some interviews from the creator of the Attack on Titan manga, Hajime Isayama.
In 2012 in an interview with MTV, Hajime Isayama stated that his ideas for the stories spawned from what he calls a “Super Enlightenment Time” which is that half-awake period before hitting the deeper stages of sleep. Upon questioning why the particular use of giants for the central theme, he personally thought giants were just gross in general. When asked if any models were used for the Titan creatures he did not reference any paintings or mythology, but rather used real life martial artists for the body inspiration of the Titans.
“For the Titan version of Eren, I use martial artist Yshin Okami’s body as a model. My ideal is the physique of a middleweight mixed martial artist. I only use the shape of the body as a model”
A later 2013 interview Isayama explained to the Asahi Shimbun (a well-known Japanese Daily Newspaper), that an unpleasant encounter with a customer grabbing the collar of his shirt inspired the Titan creature development. The helpless feeling of not being able to rightfully voice out to in this situation gave birth to these terrifyingly remorseless destructive Titan monsters. However the unattractive illustrated creature design for the Titans was something natural to Isayama. In an interview with Brutus Magazine in 2014, he explained that even as a child he found himself drawing ugly things and it just sort of followed him through adulthood.
According to a 2015 interview with BBC, Hajime Isayama first got the idea for Attack on Titan from an alien based computer game. He felt that depicting the cruelty of monsters devouring man was an intriguing concept. Isayama believes that growing up on a farm was a huge influence for this dark imagery, especially with the normalization of living creatures eating other fellow living creatures for the simple act of pure survival.
While there are plausible arguments to research the deeper meaning behind Saturn symbolism, I don’t see any concrete proof from the creators that all 4 concepts are directly related. Even from an interview with George Wada, the producer of the Attack on Titan TV series, he explained to Anime News Network that Hajime Isayama’s concept of the wall around the city was directly influenced by Japanese culture, especially people becoming very “isolated and enclosed.” With the combination of how strongly effected Isayama was from the guy grabbing his shirt and using mixed martial artist structure for the more advanced Titan creature design, I could more so see the correlation the Japanese nation’s influences vs any other. Although I would like to believe that I was onto something, and dive into endless fellow fan inspired theories, I will have to swallow my pride for now and hope for further evidence to surface from the creators. (╯︵╰,)