To live in a fascist nation is to surrender oneself to the government, monarchy or any other central authority one lives in. In the 6th decalogue of fascism Mussolini writes “Do not ever say the government will pay… because it is you who pay;” Showing that a subject is in servitude to the government and not the other way around. Attack on Titan is however critical of the government. In Chapter 55 of the manga where Erwin explains the unlawful killing of his father at the hands of the military police and his realization that the government officials he had spoken with wanted nothing more than to protect their positions and garden homes, Isayama portrays the government officials’ preoccupation with protecting material wealth as selfish and detestable. Not only this but Erwin was liaising with government officials hoping to strike up a deal in hopes of achieving his personal and individualistic goal of symbolically avenging his father by finding the truth about the Titans. That is why in the scene we are first told about the circumstances of Erwin’s father’s death and his own great sacrifice to achieve this goal with his beating at the hands of the military police. It is here we see the values of Attack on Titan are in direct contrast with fascism as fascism “accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with the State”. Erwin’s action of both individualism and opposition to the state is portrayed as heroic and morally correct. “Had you shown that you actually gave a damn about protecting the people you govern I would have stood by and watched as you sent Erwin to the gallows, in fact depending on the choice you made all of us were prepared to forfeit our lives.” Erwin furthermore is a key character in understanding the anti-fascist subtext within Attack on Titan for he is designed around the archetype of the ubermensch. However, I would argue that instead of filling his archetypal role that coincides as an aesthetic property of fascism Erwin is actually a deconstruction of the ubermensch. The greatest example of this is his bodily sacrifice that happens at the climax of season 2. The final decalogue of fascism states that “One thing must be dear to you above all: the life of the Duce.” The Duce being in this context a leader in which an individual within a fascist society would pledge their life to examples being Mussolini himself and of course Hitler. Erwin when caught by a Titan does not let his soldiers risk their lives in saving him but instead orders them to charge onward “Slipping through isn’t going to be easy. ADVANCE! Commander Erwin! I said ADVANCE, GOD DAMNIT! Eren’s right in front of you, do not falter!” Showing that the life of the Duce is not what soldiers should live for like fascism insists but instead the dream of freedom of peace for humanity, and this action of his results in a mission success. The untrustworthiness of those in positions of power is not just limited to the State, also within Attack on Titan. Isayama presents those in positions of power as fickle, selfish, individualistic and inherently human. They are not presented as aesthetically perfect role models like those seen in fascist art. From the lovable drunkenness of Hannes to the satirical undermining of the King “Pixis! Wait, Pixis! PIXIS!” Attack on Titan seems to have no respect for authority outside of one’s own authority on oneself. Perhaps the most memorable example of this value revolves around Keith Shadis. Whilst training to become part of the military Eren is unable to balance on the 3d maneuver gear. As a result, he’s ridiculed relentlessly by Shadis and faces the unfortunate reality that perhaps he is not able to become a soldier. Shadis is however, wrong. Because of his own selfish distaste for Eren as it is revealed in Chapter 72 of the manga, that Shadis was once in love with Eren’s mother Shadis is unable to account for the possibility of broken gear when assessing Eren. Although this plot point seemed trivial to many when first aired, over time it is shown to seamlessly blend into the anti-fascist themes of attack on Titan. A fascist state uses authority and enforces discipline to control the lives of its subjects, but how could an unreliable Authority be trustworthy? Through this example Attack on Titan pokes holes in the idea of benevolent Authority by showing that those in positions of power can be just as flawed as those that are not and that therefore one should be critical of the structures of power that they are subjugated by. To convince a soldier therefore that first of all their Duce is worth dying for and secondly that authority must be followed with no exceptions, a fascist must place great importance on martyrdom. There is a tendency in Nazi propaganda to portray death of one’s own nation As heroic, the ultimate sacrifice, and a true act of martyrdom as seen in films such as ‘Hans Westmar’, ‘Kohlberg’ and ‘Wunschkonzert’. This glorification of death links to the belief that individuals exist wholly within the State and that their self-sacrifice to protect the State is the final and greatest act one can do to reject their government or ruler. Many soldiers of the Survey Corps did not die nobility or heroism as implied in the Doctrine of Fascism that “War alone sets the seal of nobility…” for humans, but instead die in vain and irrelevancy. In Chapter 1 of the manga Keith Shadis leads the remains of the survey corps back into town where he’s confronted by the mother of one of his dead soldiers named Braun. At first he tries to keep up the facade that the son’s death helped further humanity’s goal to restore freedom But is unable to keep the lie alive. Instead he admits in an emotional outburst that due to his incompetence Braun’s death accomplished nothing Isayama does not glorify death in Attack on Titan like fascist propaganda would but instead portrays it in the grim reality that it is. I cannot help but think of the shocking reveal of Marco’s death, his body lying there brutalized and inanimate only for Jean to discover. “I-is… Is that… Marco?” When Eren is quite literally trapped within the belly of the beast It’s really not subtle, is it? He recounts on how his dreams were taken from him, and that although he and his peers were ready They had achieved nothing. This presentation of death is antithetical to fascist martyrdom. The anti-authoritarian themes of Attack on Titan that I’ve explored here muddy the waters for a wholly fascist reading of the show. Join me next time where I look at the Marxist subtext of the series.