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A Guide To The Surprisingly Deep Symbolism Behind 'Attack On Titan'

Updated September 7, 2018 20.0k views11 items

If you don't take the time to look under the surface, Attack on Titan can feel like a gratuitously violent anime about man-eating monsters terrorizing humanity. However, there's a lot more to the series than what can be gleaned from a casual viewing.

Online fans have put their heads together to collectively interpret symbolism in Attack on Titan, ranging from the meaning behind military emblems to Eren's deep connection with a Tarot card, the Hermit.

Like the symbolism in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. the attention to detail is surprisingly meticulous and nuanced. 

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  • The Military Police's Crest Jabs At Their Incompetence

    The Military Police's Crest Jabs At Their Incompetence
    Photo: Wit Studio

    In theory, the military police's role is to allow humanity to live safely and peacefully within the walls. However, thanks to extreme corruption within the division, they rarely uphold their described role.

    The force's crest is a green unicorn, which has multiple meanings. Traditionally, unicorns have healing powers and can greatly benefit mankind—just like this police force can.

    However, unicorns are also mythical creatures, which could be interpreted as a slight jab at the military's nonexistent ability to do their job.  

  • There's A Reason Why There Were Nine Founding Titans

    There's A Reason Why There Were Nine Founding Titans
    Photo: Kodansha

    According to the the mythology of Attack on Titan, Ymir Fritz was the first Titan to ever exist. After she died, her power was divided across nine different successors, who then created the rest of Titan-kind. But why nine successors?

    Nine is an important number across a wide range of cultures. In Japanese culture, which is most likely to have influenced Hajime Isayama's work, nine is an unlucky number, as its pronunciation (kyuu) is similar to the word for agony or torture (kurushimi).

    Turkish mythology may have influenced Isayama as well. According to the Turkish creation myth, Kayra Khan formed the Earth and everything on it—including a branchless tree he found pretty lackluster. 

    Kayra Khan added nine branches to the tree, and from those branches, nine clans were born. Those clans went on to create humanity, just like the original nine Titans went on to create the rest of their kind. 

  • Eren Has A Deep Connection With Tarot Cards

    Tarot cards are used to divine fortunes. By interpreting the images on the cards, readers can determine a querent's fate. Eren Jaeger seems to be connected to one of the Major Arcana cards, the Hermit

    Tumblr user kyojinofbraveos breaks down all the reasons why the card applies to Eren and his journey. Both the Turkish name for the Hermit (Ermis) and the character's name (Eren) are derived from the same root (er), which means "reaching."

    Eren specifically means, "The one that has reached to wisdom, to inner peace, to wisdom within himself." The card, which depicts an old man on a journey, indicates one who is striving to become an Eren. 

    The Hermit stands on a precipice holding a staff. While this imagery has a variety of complicated meanings, the short version is the staff represents wisdom, power, and authority—things Eren has to work for to achieve.

    Meanwhile, the Hermit's stance implies he has accomplished something immensely difficult through hard work and sacrifice, though the journey left him isolated. Eren suffers powerful losses on his journey to discover the truth about the Titans, and despite the obstacles, he achieves his goal. 

  • The Card Predicts Eren's Future

    The Card Predicts Eren's Future
    Photo: Wit Studio

    If Eren is linked to the Hermit tarot card, that also says something about his future

    Hajime Isayama claimed that eventually, Armin, Mikasa, and Eren will go their separate ways, ending in opposition. The hermit removes himself from society for the sake of achieving higher wisdom—Eren may eventually need to leave his friends to do just that. 

    There's also a more dramatic outcome. The Hermit carries a lantern with the Star of David inside it. This star represents the Light of God, or in the case of Eren, the knowledge and power the Goddess Ymir gave him.

    The star also represents harmony and balance, two things Eren still hasn't attained. In order to strike that balance, he may have to destroy all the other Titans and create a new God. Is he capable of such an onerous feat?