INTERVIEW: Attack on Titan Creator Hajime Isayama Reflects on the Series’ Ending, Game of Thrones and More
Crunchyroll News sits down with Hajime Isayama for an interview from Anime NYC!
Much to the delight of fans from across the country, Anime NYC welcomed award-winning Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama to the Big Apple as a guest of honor for his first-ever visit to the United States.
Isayama was open about his anxiety to meet and speak with fans after the “controversial” conclusion to his series. However, the creator was welcomed onto the stage of his Kodansha panel with uproarious applause, and later, a standing ovation from a special event hall at max capacity. When asked about his process in forming the story of Attack on Titan, Isayama replied, “I still have doubts within myself. Did I land it? I’m not even so sure. I still struggle on this point and I’m very sorry about that.”
The reaction from the audience was the contrary. Thousands of fans roared with cheers and words of encouragement.
“I’m trying not to cry,” Isayama smiled, wiping his eye as the applause began to die down. This elicited one last encore of warmth from the audience.
https://t.co/3fxqZcEBlK#AOTMemories #AnimeNYC pic.twitter.com/sG3SYZcbT1— Kodansha USA (@KodanshaManga) November 20, 2022
In a special message to fans ahead of his visit, Isayama said since many of the themes in Attack on Titan were heavily inspired by American media and culture, this was a trip he had always dreamed of taking. The day before the Kodansha panel, Crunchyroll had the pleasure to sit down with Isayama for a moment of his jam-packed schedule for a one-on-one interview.
After the time skip and the introduction of Marley, Eren disappears from the spotlight for some time. What was your intention in removing Eren from the narrative at that point in the story?
Isayama: It’s actually something I’ve always wanted to do as a storyteller. First, we have no information about the characters that we’ve familiarized ourselves with and switch the perspective to the enemy’s side – or who we thought was an enemy – and start to explore their perspective as well. And then just around the time we start to familiarize ourselves and sympathize with their point of view, we introduce the main characters as their enemies. How I would feel about it and how the audience would be feeling about it was kind of beyond my control, but it was always something that I wanted to do and intended to do.
What do you imagine Eren would have done if he never joined the Survey Corps? If he never would have succeeded with the tampered ODM gear all those years ago. What kind of actions would he take?
Isayama: I think Eren would have had a rotten life. He would have an unfulfilling life, to be honest. And being inside of Paradis, he probably would have continued to be oppressed and possibly just extinct without anything he could do about it. Or he might have lived without knowing that his end was coming soon. He might have just continued to live the 13 years time limit.
The Attack on Titan world is so vast but what language do you imagine the characters communicate in?
Isayama: I think they would be speaking in what would be considered a universal language in the world. You know, a good comparison in real life would be English, but it has to do with the history of oppression and colonization. The strongest language would become the universal language in that world.
Announcements of Isayama’s presence were found all over the city
from subway cabins to street posters, and taxi cabs. (Photo: Leah President)
At the beginning of Volume 5 in the side story “Ilse’s Notebook,” the titan Ilse encounters is able to speak, which is uncommon for most titans. Because of that, did that titan have royal blood or what was special about it?
Isayama: When I received that question, I thought, ‘That would have been a great plot,’ after the matter. It’s a great idea.
So, will we find out in the future?
Isayama: So, in the beginning, I was just starting to develop more the idea of titans. There are normal titans, and there are abnormal titans. I considered normal titans to be kind of like programmed beings and then some of them would contain a ‘glitch’ almost like a defective item from a factory. That’s as far as I thought about that titan when I was writing the story.
As you concluded the series, are there any aspects of the story you wish you could have changed?
Isayama: So, I have a lot actually. Whenever I look back at the story that I wrote, I have so many things that I wish that I could have done differently. It’s almost hard to name exactly what that was. Every time I look back on my stories, I’m always thinking about you know—remorse and regret is what I feel from looking back on my own stories.
How have you personally changed since volume 1?
Isayama: I had a great deal of trouble communicating with other people when I started writing the manga. And that was actually one of the drives of writing this story. But now, I have become older and maybe more mature…I have become quite different from that time.
Do you foresee any further spinoffs or do you feel you’ve told as much of the Attack on Titan story as you could?
Isayama: I have no plans right now.
Can we expect additional backstories for characters such as Hange and the original members of Squad Levi?
Isayama: Regarding Levi, I actually have something in my mind, but at the same time, I don’t know if I will be able to write that or not.
Can I ask what you mean by that?
Isayama: For example, I have imagined what the story of Levi would be in my mind, but at the same time, whether I am able to output it, that’s a whole other story because writing a manga is a really difficult task for me.
Was there a reason you strayed from any direct romance themes within the Attack on Titan story?
Isayama: Number one, it was embarrassing to me to write stories about love between characters. The other reason is that if I continued to go into those kinds of tangent stories, we might lose focus on the immediate main plot of the story. So I wasn’t really motivated to go in that direction.
You are a fan of horror movies like It Follows and Hereditary. Could we possibly expect a horror story to be published by you in the future?
Isayama: As a manga? Maybe I wouldn’t go into the realm of horror. However, I do enjoy the films themselves. Maybe as like a feature film. And that’s a maybe. However, it’s not like I would want to direct the film or anything. It’s more like whenever I’m watching these films I think to myself, “I can make these stories scarier.”
Fans share messages of support at the ‘Thank You Message Wall’ at Kodansha’s convention booth.
(Photo: Leah President)
You are a notable Game of Thrones fan. What did you think of the new House of the Dragon series? Do you have a favorite character?
Isayama: I watched all of the first season and really enjoyed it. Even compared to the first season of the original Game of Thrones, it was well done. I like Aemond Targaryan. I think that character’s face looks really good, as an actor.
And the finale!?
Isayama: I was watching it with my wife and she’s not really about the gore scenes, so she was looking away. And so she asked ‘Oh, what happened? [I said] ‘Oh, you didn’t watch it? Here, let me rewind it for you!’. She got really mad at me.
Then finally, to what extent did you draw from historical events when writing Attack on Titan and how did it influence you as a creator?
Isayama: I think where there’s a hint of truth, it makes a story very believable. So when I came up with the design of the world view—for example, the world view map, I kind of flipped it from the real-life world map to something similar, but different. People would be able to understand the context without explaining everything. For example, the Eldian and Marleyans. They’re really kind of similar to what the Germanic people and Romans went through 2,000 years ago. That’s kind of the unsaid rules that I keep in my stories.
This interview was conducted with the help of Misaki Kido, a translator, host and marketing director for Kodansha USA.