Attack On Titan Episode #71 Is Showing Us How Easily Patriotism Can Swing Into Fascism

For the longest time, Attack on Titan’s theme songs have felt like patriotic national anthems for a country that doesn’t exist. The first theme, Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen, has that classic scream of “Jaeger!” as Scouts fly and slash at invading titans. Flugel der Freiheit makes me want to stand up and chant. And Shinzou wo Sasageyo? Honestly one of the best opening theme songs of all time, a tune I simply cannot resist standing up and singing. It drops harder than Skrillex under 100x gravity, and as far as I’m concerned if you didn’t watch the opening themes for every single episode of Attack on Titan you did not watch the same show I did.

But those national anthems keep taking on a darker feel each time I listen to them, a bit like reading the lyrics to Rule Britannia after learning about what British colonialism was like for everyone other than the British. In Attack on Titan episode #71, a crowd gathers outside of Premier Zachary’s offices, protesting the government obviously keeping secrets from the people of Paradis, despite the military wresting control of the world inside the walls previously to keep them safe and informed. Eren Jaeger, who has unquestionably committed a few war crimes in coercing his country to attack a foreign nation and knowingly killing civilians, is being held prisoner, and the people are up in arms.

It’s understandable, to a point. Eren Jaeger is responsible for freeing the people from the confines of the walls, and they are now free to explore Paradis, the island they have always lived on. No longer under the threat of titans mowing them down and eating them up, they can actually, realistically, go to the beach – something many of them were convinced did not exist just a few years prior. For one man to be responsible for such a transformation in your standard of living is incredible, and it makes sense to almost deify him. Almost.

So the military government of Paradis is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the country just over the water, Marley, is more than happy to strike back after Eren caused such a huge commotion and killed one of their most well known and beloved figures, William Tybur, in addition to eating the War Hammer titan and stealing away the Beast titan shifter. This was a massive blow to Marley, and potentially hundreds, if not thousands, were killed in the process, and Marley is eager for revenge. But Paradis is in no position to strike while their own people are turning on them for the apprehension of Eren Jaeger. This is all being coordinated, of course, by the Jaegerists, who are in part being organised by the likes of Yelena, a Marleyan immigrant. Off topic, but “Jaegerists” sounds like a fandom I would mute on Twitter.

You still with me? Good, because it’s with all this in mind that Premier Zachary, acting leader of Paradis, was assassinated. A bomb was detonated in his offices, his corpse literally flew out of the window, and was strewn across the ground for all to see. It’s at the sight of Paradis’ leader dead before them that one of the men in the crowd shouts “Shinzou wo sasageyo!” and a chill ran down my spine.

Shinzou wo sasageyo essentially translates to “Give your heart,” or perhaps “dedicate” would be a better word. It’s always been a good motto for the Scout Regiment, as they have always been willing to sacrifice their lives if it means furthering the search for truth, and getting closer to freedom for all of humanity. This is epitomised in the Battle For Shiganshina, where former Scout Commander Erwin Smith led dozens of soldiers into the line of fire, into certain death, just for a flash of opportunity, just for the potential chance of victory at the end of the day.

But the story has changed now. No longer are soldiers fighting for the freedom of all mankind, all humanity as they know it. Instead, these soldiers, the people of Paradis, are just fighting other people. It was clear from the memories of Grisha Jaeger and the youth of the other titan shifters that Marley’s enslavement of the remaining Eldian people outside of the walls could not stand. Before the prospect of a discussion was even mentioned, Eren was using the power of the Attack Titan to bring down their homes, forcing the rest of Paradis to either back up his plan, or potentially lose any tactical advantage they had. Eren ensured that the time for discussion was over, and then decided to martyr himself.

We see Eren in a prison cell in episode #69, and he declares to Hange that he could easily escape if he wanted to. So why did Eren stay? Was it a sign of being complicit, proving that he was willing to work with the military? Of course not. Eren was a martyr, and his apprehension is exactly what was getting the people of Paradis riled up. He’s their saviour, their hero, and the man who will bring glory to the New Eldian Empire. Sneaky bastard Eren and the Jaegerists did all of this on purpose in order to throw the entire nation into turmoil.

Cue Pyxis, the wise military strategist. Pyxis knew Premier Zachary well, and yet, his solution is to surrender to the Jaegerists – likely exactly what Zeke, Eren, and the rest of the Jaegerists knew would happen. With the threat of Marley looming on their doorstep at potentially any moment, splitting the nation in two would cause chaos. If Paradis has any hope of weathering the oncoming storm, they have to unite, even if it has to be under Eren Jaeger, a coup leader and dictator-to-be.

Once more, I return to the man in the crowd who threw his fist over his heart and screamed “Shinzou wo sasageyo!” He’s the real victim in all of this, not Paradis, Marley, or even the late Premier Zachary. This is fascism. The information given to him and his protesting pals has been limited. All he knows is that the saviour of the Eldian people has been arrested – with those facts, how could you think anything but that the military government in control of the nation is against you and your prosperity? This selective release of information by the Jaegerists to draw the nation into either civil war or a position of surrender is deliberate, and even though the man in the crowd doesn’t know it, he is being used. Once used as the motto of the scouts, a symbol of hope, “shinzou wo sasageyo” has been reduced to a fascist slogan, one which essentially means; “you’re one of us, or you’re one of them.”

Next: What Time Attack On Titan Airs On Crunchyroll In Every Region

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Am I supposed to write this in the third-person? Do you know how awkward it is talking about yourself like you’re someone else? No one would ever believe someone else has this many nice things to say about me.

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