Titanic. Gargantuan. The two biggest shows of the spring 2013 season could hardly have more fitting titles. Both have easily succeeded at living up to their substantial hype thus far. As the most talked about series of the season (barring perhaps the controversial Flowers of Evil), I feel like any post that I make about either one at this point would be token at best – I have little to say about either show that has not already been said. I’d rather not rehash the praises of both shows’ gorgeous animation and unique settings, or Titan’s spiderman gear and potato girls, or Gargantia’s Sugitabot/lesbian lobster pirates. While I have do have my complaints about each show – for example, neither has really won me over with its characters for the most part, and the writing in each has been merely competent rather than anything extraordinary – I’d rather not dwell on those lest I belie the fact that these are my second and third favorite anime of the spring so far and are overall very good shows well worth a watch. So I’ve decided to instead put forth a comparison of these big series’ biggest defining qualities – their Big Things.
In Shingeki, the Big Thing is obviously the titans themselves. Towering, man-eating, humanoid hunks of exposed muscle, they are the sheer embodiment of some horrific, existential nightmare. The humans in Shingeki are no longer at the top of the food chain: quite contrarily, they are utterly helpless before the unstoppable behemoths that are the titans. Walls can’t keep them out. Guns can’t make them dead. No expedition to study them has yielded any useful intel. For a creature so large, against which the humans are so helpless, there appear to be a very large number of them – it would take considerable effort from a small army of humans to bring down even one titan; with the large number of them that seem to be out there, Eren’s goal of eliminating each and every one seems all but impossible. The humans are clearly and hopelessly outmatched by the titans’ superior physical capabilities. The titans here are a conceptual antagonist, representing everything that is repressing humanity and that humanity cannot hope to overcome.
In Gargantia, the Big Thing is Chamber, perhaps better known as the Tomokazu Sugitabot. Sugitabot and his pilot come from a culture where warfare is the norm – they’re trained as soldiers from a very young age to fight in a seemingly perpetual battle with some alien enemy. They know of virtually nothing that is not war. When they are suddenly transported to a flooded planet Earth, the more primitive, more peaceable culture is completely foreign. Having only had a crash course in the mysterious ettiquette (which here means: when to and when not to kill people) of the Earth culture, Sugitabot and pilot respond to a threat to the Gargantia by annihilating the attacking pirates with their superior technology and combat prowess, and effortlessly sending their leader “blasting off again”, Team Rocket style, when the rest of the fleet comes for revenge. The pair of them could probably single-handedly eliminate the entire human population of this patch of sea with little trouble if they so desired – so superior is their technology and fluency in warfare. Initially, they are told off for attacking the pirates so harshly, but later, the crew of the Gargantia comes to see the usefulness of Sugitabot’s enormous power. Sugitabot and pilot are the protagonists of Gargantia’s story – we’re meant to cheer them on (if somewhat grudgingly) as they defend the Gargantia from the pirates, try to learn the ways of the Earthlings, and find their way back home to indulge in the right to feast and reproduce.
What we can see in this comparison is the alternative points of view the two series take in regards to their Big Things. In Gargantia, we see through the eyes of the Big Thing – we see the comforts to be had in overwhelming power and at the same time the confusion that can result from such a disconnect from the powerless – the ease with which one can go overboard and the difficulty of empathizing with those lacking in the comforts of power. In Shingeki, we experience the unstoppable force of the Big Things from the perspective of those who cannot stop it, the fear of the powerless in the face of overwhelming power wielded by those who cannot hope to empathize with them – those who are so disconnected from them that they view the powerless merely as food.
Through these shows and their perspectives on Big Things, we can see the source of a lot of the tension in real-world conflicts stemming from differences in power. How the Big Things – those with Big power – cannot comprehend what it’s like to be without power, as if they were a different species entirely. How the power inherent in their actions can so effortlessly force itself upon those unwilling to receive it. How oppressed and helpless the powerless feel when overwhelmed by these actions, and how those feelings drive the desire for retaliation. Gargantia and Titan place us on opposite sides of this power struggle, and by looking at both alongside each other, it’s easy to see where the aggression and conflict between the sides comes from.
So I guess, in conclusion, that Shingeki OP has really become quite a thing, huh?