Here’s the conclusion to the post of two days ago:
The mistake Attack on Titan made was to introduce tragedy before we had ample time to get to know the three main heroes, creating few places for identification due to the hopelessness and harshness of the world in which they lived, and shortly into the series introduced plenty of characters to ensure that we could never truly get to know the protagonists or any of the other characters either. Concerning the former, the very first episode gives us a few places to try to identify with the three main characters: they help one of their number against some bullies and two have a nice family. However, the very situation of being in a walled town surrounded by man-eating giants with technology similar to the Renaissance period of Europe demands that more than this is given to the audience for identification to take place.
A couple of other things which don’t help is that one protagonist, Eren, wishes to join an elite combat unit designed to kill giants beyond the walls and that his adopted sister wishes simply to follow him wherever he goes. Not many children in modern society are driven to join an elite combat unit designed for what is essentially a Reconquista at the age of fifteen! Also, in modern society, most women don’t set the goal for themselves of meekly following in their brother’s footsteps. Then, any hope of us identifying with them as a family unit is destroyed by a giant killing the protagonists’ mother and the break up of the family following the giants breaking into the walled city.
An additional charge against this world is that the people are too cruel and cowardice too rampant. The cowardice among military personnel reaches heights never seen in history or present times—at least, among the European nations from where we base our understanding of the medieval world or America, the country with which yours truly identifies most closely. Even if their opponents are giants, military men cringing in fear and running away from the combat for which they were trained sharply differs from the conduct of soldiers from all eras. Furthermore, the majority of the people are shown to be greedy, selfish, and generally sheep to be slaughtered. This kind of attitude dehumanizes people, who are made in the image and likeness of God, because we see a universal lack of virtue by which human beings show their excellence.
Of course people have faults, but they are less than they should be in this regard. The total lack of virtue makes them less than human, taking away another level of identification. At least in Claymore, we have soldiers in the Holy City who are universally more ready to die than back down before the monsters laying waste to their city. Going back to Attack on Titan, we are greeted to an episode showing how the heroine’s family was killed by slave traders when she was very young so that they might capture the heroine for the child slave trade. Eren, also very young at this point, was forced to rescue her by killing two of the three slavers. The heroine killed the third to save Eren’s life. Most people, due to the extreme horror with which child sex slavery inspires, cannot really identify with a world where people make a living according to this trade. Even though it really exists on this earth, nothing quite so demonstrates the dictum that evil is a deficiency of being rather than a positive existence. Also, children generally do not kill at this age, and this marks yet another difficulty in bringing people to identify with the characters.
Claymore‘s technology is less than that of Attack on Titan, also involves monster slaying, tends toward the dramatic, and proffers characters who are essentially superheroes; yet, they succeed in making the audience identify better both with the heroes and villains than Attack on Titan. Claymore almost appears to be a study in identification. The first episode features Raki, a young orphan, meeting Claire, one of the aforementioned superheroes known as Claymores due to the long blades they wield, in a backwater town. Everyone is scared of Claymores, but Raki appears drawn to Claire and accompanies her through his town asking questions. This is all meanwhile the villagers hide in their homes scared of both the monster concealed in the village and the Claymore sent to save them from it! This reminds one of the first principle of love which Scheler describes: “In the spiritual love of the person, a new principle comes to light. For apart from his acceptance of the mere existence of the other person as given…’Persons’ cannot be intuitively understood (by reproduction of their spiritual acts), unless they spontaneously disclose themselves.”1 Claire has a bit of difficulty opening up, since she’s used to being shunned by everyone except other Claymores. Raki seems to have more in common with Claire than the other villagers: his very courage is such that the sight of his family having been just massacred by the monster does not deter him from trying to strike the monster, and he continues struggling against it until Claire comes to save him. Once Claire leaves, the villagers toss Raki out of town, fearing that he might by way of infection become a monster himself!
Despite this ostracism and the grim nature of the second episode, where Claire must kill a friend who has succumbed to the monster side of hers (It turns out that Claymores gain their powers by grafting the monsters’ flesh into their bodies, giving them a dark side which eventually overcomes them.), the high level of tragedy does not deflect the viewers’ feelings permanently down the road of benevolence. The reason for this is the conversation that goes on between Raki and Claire, whereby they learn new things about each other and come to realize how similar they are. In spite of Claire’s cold exterior, we also see the beginnings of a romantic relationship between the two—more fully realized in the comic than in the anime. By this constant self-revelation, we are drawn to move from the level of identification through all the levels of sympathy until love for the characters is ultimately reached. Therefore, we do not look upon their grimmest hardships with an attitude of mere good will but our emotions become truly entangled in theirs, and the greater the struggle, the more the audience desires to see the victory.
So, I hope by the juxtaposition of why Claymore succeeded while Attack on Titan failed shows the necessity of love for good drama, especially over an extended period of time. For such love to be reached, the writer must follow the ideas Max Scheler described in order to bring the audience through the lower levels of sympathy to love. If cogent identification cannot be established between the audience and the characters, then the audience can never fall in love with the heroes. Without this love binding the two, the audience would probably rather be in the mood to ask the writer to no longer place his characters in the midst of horrendous suffering than eagerly hope for their triumph.