One day while gathering firewood with his “sister” Mikasa, Eren Yeager woke up from a dream crying. But what was he dreaming about, and what does he have to cry about?
In the year 845, humankind has been forced to retreat behind 50-meter concrete walls in order to protect themselves from terrifying man-eating creatures known as titans. For the townsfolk, it was common sense that staying inside the walls was safe while venturing outside the walls was life-threatening. So who in their right mind would have any desire to go outside the walls?
Upon re-entering the town, Eren and Mikasa pass a group of guards drinking on duty.
“We get hungry and thirsty hanging out here all day,” says the guard named Mr. Hannes, “What’s the big deal if liquor happens to be among the rations sometimes?”
“But in an emergency, would you be able to fight drunk?!” asks Eren.
Mr. Hannes looks confused and asks, “What kind of emergency?”
“I don’t believe this!” says Eren, “I’m talking about if they broke down the wall…AND INVADED THE TOWN!!”
A little irritated at Eren for raising his voice, Mr. Hannes ensures Eren that if the titans break through the wall, they would be on top of the situation.
“But that hasn’t happened in a hundred years,” says another guard.
Eren cautions the guards that it’s dangerous to feel at ease, but Mr. Hannes can’t imagine the titans even putting a dent in the wall. In his mind, when guards get mocked for “Good-for-nothing sponges” that says that they are living in a time of peace.
“It’s just like Hannes says,” adds another guard, “Hell…I can’t understand those guys in the survey corps who wanna go outside the wall!”
“We don’t have to go outside the wall for our whole lives,” says Eren, “We can eat, sleep and survive just fine here…but isn’t that…like being a caged animal?”
Eren and Mikasa walk further into town. The bells start ringing, signifying that the survey corps has returned. Eren and Mikasa rush to see them. All of the soldiers return injured and defeated. A mother comes running to the survey corps asking for her son Braun. A scout brings the mother something wrapped in a cloth. The mother opens the cloth and reveals a severed arm.
“That’s all we were able to get back,” says the squad leader.
The mother asks if her son was useful. She begs the leader to tell her that her son’s death brought humanity one step closer to beating the titans back.
“Of course!” said the leader, then he paused, and said, “No…our survey this time…this time, too…we…we accomplished NOTHING!! Because of my incompetence!! All I did was get my soldiers killed!! We didn’t come any closer to finding out what those things really are!!”
Meanwhile, the townsfolk are upset by the survey corps’ performance.
“That’s just awful,” says a townsfolk, “If only they’d stayed inside the wall, they’d all be safe and sound…soldiers are nothing but a waste of our taxes…basically our taxes are being used to fatten up those bastards by providing them with ‘snacks’.”
Eren whacks the towns person in the head.
Fortunately, Mikasa drags Eren away before the situation gets worse.
Eren and Mikasa return home and the family sits down at the table.
“Eren said he wants to join the survey corps.”
“Mikasa!! I told you not to tell them!”
“Eren!!” says Eren’s mother, “What are you thinking?! Do you know how many people have died because they dared to venture outside the wall?!”
Eren’s father turns to him and asks, “Why do you want to go outside?”
“I hate the idea of spending my whole life inside the wall, ignorant of what’s happening in the world outside!!” says Eren, “And besides, if there’s no one to carry on, everyone who died up to now will have died in vain!”
Eren’s father just stares at his son, then he gets up and prepares to leave.
“Wait, honey!” cries Eren’s mother, “Talk some sense into your son!!”
“It doesn’t matter what anyone says,” responds Eren’s father, “There’s no holding back an inquisitive mind.”
Then the father turned to his son. “Eren, when I get home, I’ll show you what’s in the basement that I’ve been keeping secret all this time.”
Eren gets excited.
After the father departs for his trip, the mother turns to her son. “Eren, I won’t let you do anything as foolish as joining the survey corps!”
“Foolish?!” says Eren, “The way I see it, people who are satisfied living like caged birds are the real fools!”
Eren runs away angry, then the mother turns to Mikasa. “Mikasa, that boy is fool hardy…so help him out if he gets in trouble.”
“I will!” agrees Mikasa.
Eren and Mikasa leave the house and find their friend Armin getting beat up. After scaring the bullies away, they sit down beside the river.
“So when I said the human race should eventually go to the outside world, he punched me and called me a ‘heretic’,” explains Armin.
“Damn it,” says Eren, “Why do people frown on even the slightest mention of wanting to go ‘outside’?”
Armin explains that it’s because humans have lived peacefully inside walls for 100 years, and people are afraid that if they go outside the walls carelessly, the titans could get in. Also, there’s the fact that royal policy says that even having an interest in going to the outside world is taboo.
“I mean, for sure, I think the people who believe we’ll be safe inside this wall forever have a screw loose,” says Armin, “Just because the wall hasn’t been breached in 100 years…there’s no guarantee that they won’t break through it today, for example.”
“What was that?!” asks Armin.
“An earthquake?!” asks Mikasa.
“Let’s check it out!!” says Eren.
On the way, Eren gets distracted by a metallic sign of a bird swaying in the wind. (Perhaps the idea of living like a Bird in a Cage is ringing in Eren’s mind.)
When the three get in view, they see this:
…The hand of an incredibly large titan. And as if the hand wasn’t bad enough, a head looms over the top.
“That day, the human race remembered the terror of being dominated by them, and the shame of being held captive in a birdcage.”
**Images were obtained from the Kindle Edition of Attack on Titan.