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How To Create The Perfect Villain - From The Lens Of Attack On Titan

Updated: Mar 7

The world is gray, yet in order to understand this color we often look to separate our ideals and morals into two categories, good and bad.

Written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan is set in a world where in order to protect the remnants of humanity, the last humans live in cities surrounded by three enormous walls that protect them from unsettling man-eating humanoid creatures referred to as titans. While this series is renowned for its beautifully intricate plot, the true highlight of the series is its depictions of antagonists. Each season presents itself slightly differently than the last, however, one factor seems to remain constant…human bias.

In many instances throughout the series the viewer tends to initially side with the protagonist and their immediate circle, however what Hajime does to perfection is his ability to muddy the viewer's perspective. Hajime overloads us with more questions than answers which forces the viewer to make assumptions. In the viewers attempt to piece together the bits of information we get, we inevitably find ourselves simplifying the gray into black and white.

Our bias's are caused by the tendency of our mind to simplify the information we receive through the filter of personal experience and preferences. This filtering process is essentially a coping mechanism that allows the brain to prioritize and process large amounts of information quickly. While this ability is effective at finding mental shortcuts to aid us in navigating our daily life, its limitations can cause errors in judgment. Hajime understands this mechanism very well and showcases this “shortcut to understanding” with each of his characters and demonstrates the power it has on human judgment. The audience is even led to the point where it is simpler to choose a side to support rather than remain objective because there are too many perspectives to consider.

As the plot develops, Hajime expertly utilizes this division of opinions and forms groups or factions of characters who all believe in the same ideologies. Through the formation of a hive mentality, Hajime is essentially able to make any character he wants into a villain at any time as the villain more often than not has a differing opinion to that of the majority.

Ultimately, to create the perfect villain you must pit the ideals of an individual against that of the groups. The alienation of an individual will make the once righteous actions of that character seem more malicious, rather than heroic. Good or Bad...Hero or Villain…it’s all the same color gray, just in different shades.

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