Hajime Isayama Shares His Inspiration for Attack on Titan
posted on by Kim Morrissy
In an interview on the NHK on May 5, manga artist Hajime Isayama shared his surprising inspiration for the world of Attack on Titan: His own hometown of Hita. Located in Oita, a prefecture in the rural outposts of Kyushu, Hita can feel as if it is cut off from the rest of civilization. The city is encircled by tall and imposing mountains; Isayama grew up wondering whether monsters lay beyond the “wall”.
Even after leaving Hita after high school, Isayama still feels a strong connection with his hometown. In 2014, Isayama was named the tourism ambassador of Hita. Since then, multiple exhibits and fan campaigns have been held in Hita. Isayama even drew an illustration of Levi sitting in a chair he designed for a fashion magazine, which is now being crafted by a furniture maker from Hita.
In the NHK interview, Isayama remarked that he felt ambivalent about his hometown as he was growing up. He felt restless during his teenage years, and ultimately left out of a desire to change himself. “It was not necessarily ambition that drove me,” he commented. “I had a sense of inferiority, a kind of frustration.”
It was this vague, unexplainable frustration that he eventually channeled into Attack on Titan. Two of the main themes in the series are “oppression” and “release”. Beyond that, Isayama admitted that he didn't have any particular agenda or message that he wanted to convey. Instead, he wanted to express the raw anger of the victims of a tragedy, and how it can drive people to aggression.
The titans, on the other hand, represent things to be frustrated with. The titans tend to wander around aimlessly, causing destruction in their wake; it is their very lack of goals that the humans are angered and puzzled by. Isayama mentioned that the titans are kind of like drunk people, although he stressed that real-life drunk people are definitely not that sinister. More than anything, however, the titans represent a seemingly insurmountable challenge to be overcome.
If it was frustration and feelings of impotence that drove Isayama to leave his hometown, it was his accomplishments that made him come back. Isayama has personally attended numerous signings and fan events at Hita, where he is touched by his fans' love of Attack on Titan. These days, Isayama has remarked that Hita feels like a place that he can go to and from anytime.
The NHK interview concluded with Isayama promising that, as the manga approaches its climax, he will work hard to give the saga the resolution it deserves. He also mentioned that he is looking forward to the upcoming season 3 of the anime. He hopes that the popularity of the series will draw more attention to Hita. It is heartwarming to think that even after Attack on Titan has become an international hit, Isayama has never lost sight of his roots.