Pop-culture website Polygon joined in the attacks on popular manga and anime franchise Attack on Titan when writer Tom Speelman declared the the “message of Attack on Titan appears to have Anti-Semitic and pro-fascist leanings.”
Speelman would state that creator Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan “is full of anti-Korean, nationalist, pro-Japan subtext, parallels to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and subtextual references to Nazi Germany.”
What is Speelman’s evidence for his claim? He points to the Pure Titans’ depiction.
“Many of them have grotesque or exaggerated features, from short arms to giant heads to … large noses.”
He adds, “And then there’s the Eldians living in ghettos, wearing star-embroidered armbands.”
Speelman also whines about the military uniforms the Yeagerists wear. He writes that they “have a very fascist uniform sensibility.”
He also thinks the goal of the Yeagerists to “reestablish the Eldian Empire and take their bloody revenge on the world” is somehow a parallel to “the much-beloved right-wing talking point that the Jews (or as they dog-whistle, “Globalists”) either are already secretly controlling the world or are plotting to through finances, Hollywood, or whatever BS that leaks out of their demented heads this week.”
This claim has already been debunked by my colleague Spencer Baculi, who wrote, “If the series were truly anti-semitic, it would be odd for the race being discriminated against by the author to be sympathetic protagonists the audience is intended to cheer on and support.”
Given most of his points have no standing, Speelman points to the idea that “military might is presented as the strongest, truest power of all.”
That’s all of the evidence he offers from the actual manga and anime. He then points to statements made by Isayama. He specifically points out that general Dot Pixis is based on the Japanese general Akiyama Yoshifuru. Yoshifuru served in the Japanese Imperial Army from 1916 to 1923.
Speelman claims Yoshifuru “was responsible for countless atrocities against Korea and China during Japanese occupations.” He doesn’t provide any evidence as to what these atrocities are.
He does point to a blog titled Korea-Japan Relation Saga Part III – WWII from Ask A Korean. The post is meant to detail why there is animosity between Koreans and Japanese. Interestingly enough, Yoshifuru is not mentioned at all in the blog.
And if Speelman did any actual research, which it appears he only looked at Wikipedia given most of his links point to Wikipedia, he would have discovered that Yoshifuru was the general of the Japanese Korean Army for a single year from 1916 to 1917.
He was not involved in the murder of Empress Myeong-Seong. He had retired by 1923 and was not involved in the Kanto Massacre. Nevertheless, Speelman attempts to paint these two events as problematic because the Japanese were involved in them and Yoshifuru is Japanese.
By the end of his article, Speelman writes, “Now, no one can clearly say what Isayama’s true intentions are except for him.”
But he spent an entire article condemning Isayama and Attack on Titan as “Anti-Semitic and pro-fascist.” Let that sink in.
He wrote an entire article attacking Isayama and Attack on Titan and concluded with saying he has no idea if his attacks have any merit. And Polygon published it. That’s the world we live in today.