Friday, July 26, 2019

Confession: I am Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun)

Sentai Filmworks 2014

Sentai Filmworks 2014
One of my favorite Rom-Com anime is Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. It follows an adorable, plucky highschool girl named Sakura as she tries to win the attention of her long-time crush, the stoic and unaware Nozaki-kun. But when Sakura finally gathers the courage to confess her feelings, Nozaki-kun mistakenly thinks she’s a fan of his manga. In a desperate effort to spend time with him, Sakura ends up helping him ink panels and do research for his writing.

The best part of this show, and where most of the comedy comes in, is how completely clueless and one-track-minded Nozaki-kun is.

You see, Nozaki is absolutely obsessed with his manga. Every waking minute is filled with planning out future scenes, drawing and inking, or gathering research. Even his limited free time is saturated by his work, like when playing a video game turns into a manga storyline!

Sentai Filmworks 2014

I have a confession to make. I am Nozaki-kun.

Writers have a tendency to get a liiiiittle obsessed with their work. And sometimes I wonder if I’m one of the worst offenders. While everybody’s got something they love and know all about, since my main interest is writing, well... that means I pretty much have to know all about everything.

It’s been said that writers are jack-of-all-trades, masters of none, and boy is that true. No matter what kind of story you’re writing, you need to research a plethora of seemingly unrelated topics. So I’m constantly searching for juicy research tidbits I’ll need for future tales!

Like how Nozaki-kun can take something as simple as a bike ride and turn it into a chance to figure out the best way to write a romantic bike scene.

Sentai Filmworks 2014

If I can do that to even mundane, everyday life stuff, you can bet notable locations like tourist destinations, historic exhibits, and museums are even worse. I can never get completely engrossed in them, because while there, I’m actually hard at work. I’m mentally writing down little notes to myself.

“They used this plant to make dye?” Scribble scribble note.

“Ahh, so that’s how people kept their teeth clean in ancient times.” Scribble scribble note.

“Wait, so that’s how they built houses during the 1800’s?” Note note note.

I take pictures not of the scenery or the historic exhibits, but of the museum placards!

Did you know this plant can be used to make indigo dye?!

Sort of like how Nozaki-kun takes photos not of the cute girl who’s hanging out with him... but things to use as references for his manga.

Sentai Filmworks 2014

And it doesn’t just stop with accumulating research. Like Nozaki-kun, I eat, breathe, and sleep stories.

Literally with that last one. My family might be mildly concerned that a good 75% of my dreams are action-adventure tales where I am the only one who can save the world from some natural disaster, alien invasion, or Big-Brother cabal. Most people grab a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but when my eyes snap open? Scramble to find my laptop so I can write down my newest story idea before I forget all the details.

And you’d better not be an interesting person in the slightest, or I’ll turn you into a character in my book. Just like how Nozaki-kun turns his best friend into the heroine of his manga.

Yeah, I can see the resemblance...

If I spend a day outside, I’m going to be trying to put words to how the sunlight feels on my skin, how blue the sky looks.

If I take a walk through the neighborhood, I’m going to notice that weirdly-shaped house and try to figure out what what kind of characters will live there.

And don’t you dare ever ask me about my book. Or at least don’t ask me questions about it after the initial pitch. If you show even the slightest interest, you have opened the floodgates. I will bombard you with hours of worldbuilding exposition including Amboron’s six thousand-year history and the diaspora of the human race across its landscape over the past millennia. I’ll tell you all my struggles and woes as a writer and how hard writing the last book can be. I’ll gush about my favorite character and tell you all their hilarious quirks.

You’ll never be able to escape, trapped with me in my realm of imagination.

...I dunno. That actually sounds kinda fun.

Maybe being Nozaki-kun isn’t so bad, after all.

Sentai Filmworks 2014

(...Also go watch Nozaki-kun; it's hilarious.)

All photos are used under US “Fair Use” laws. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun and all related terms property of Sentai Filmworks. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, July 19, 2019

Theme Talk: Steal Your Heart - Christian Parallels in Persona 5

Note: This post has been edited to correct typos and to slap a spoiler warning on top. Sorry to anyone I may have accidentally spoiled!

This post will contain spoilers for

Persona 5

You have been warned.

Persona 5 took the world by storm with its flashy aesthetics and attractive characters, almost single-handedly bringing the Persona series, once only known by niche gaming audiences, to the public consciousness.

Atlus 2016-2017

Persona 5 centers around Phantom Thieves, a collection of high school students who discover they can enter others’ minds and cause them to undergo a change of heart. The Phantom Thieves use this ability to become vigilantes who force criminals to expose, confess, and apologize for their deeds in public.

How do they do this? By using a medley of mythological creatures and deities to combat the shadowy figures that represent the criminals’ malicious inner workings.

Atlus 2016-2017; Screenshot from Persona 5 by JohneAwesome on YouTube

This reliance on mythological beings for combat is a staple of the Persona franchise and its mother series, Shin Megami Tensei, meaning mythological and religious references really aren’t anything new for this series. Still, I found the amount of Christian references and parallels in Persona 5 striking.

The Thief Who Plunders

For starters, both Persona 5 and the Bible are about particularly notable thieves.

Don’t believe me? Check this out.

The Bible contains a couple passages where God equates himself (or his actions) to that of a thief. For instance, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, where “the day of the Lord’s return” is said will come “like a thief in the night.”1 Or, more overtly, Mark 3:22-27, in which Jesus (who is God in human flesh) reveals that he came to “enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods,”2 a metaphor for how Jesus would overcome Satan and save humanity from sin, spiritual death, and eternal torment.

I always thought these passages were strange: they seemed out of place for the Bible and out of character for God. Thieves steal things. Why would the Creator of the universe need to steal anything? And wasn’t that wrong? Sinful?

Funny enough, it was the Phantom Thieves of Persona 5 that helped me understand these verses better.

When humanity chose to disobey God, we chose a life where we would be subservient to our own “distorted desires,” as Persona 5 calls the evil (sinful) desires of humankind. This disobedience put Earth in the hands of Satan (Matthew 4:8-9); essentially, by choosing to sin, we became Satan’s “goods.” However, Jesus came to steal us back.

And this is where the verses comparing God to a thief—and Persona 5’s Christian parallels—come into play. Neither Jesus nor the Phantom Thieves are thieves in the typical sense of the word (that is, criminals who take things from good people). Instead, they’re all “Robin Hood”-like thieves: the kind who steal from criminals to bring about justice.

But the similarities don’t stop there. The Phantom Thieves use their ability to enter into others’ minds (their “superior strength,” as Mark 3 puts it) to plunder powerful, “strong” men,3 just like Jesus does. Neither the Phantom Thieves nor Jesus attempt to steal material wealth and goods; they’re operating on a spiritual, soul-level, dealing with people’s hearts. While the Phantom Thieves snatch away a person’s “treasure” (someone’s most cherished idea) to destroy their distorted desires, Jesus snatches our hearts away from Satan, providing a way for us to be cleansed of our own distorted desires: to form a relationship with Jesus and to become more and more of the purified, true self we were meant to be. In both cases, the “thieves” steal to set people free.

However, one might argue, unlike the Phantom Thieves, Jesus only comes to steal away a heart freely offered. While the Phantom Thieves hardly ask permission of their villainous victims to change their hearts, Jesus never forces anyone to accept his change of heart.

Atlus 2016-2017
Still, there is a case where both parties change the hearts of someone who volunteers—no, desperately begs them—to change her heart. While Jesus does this for anyone who accepts his gift of salvation and chooses to turn to him, the Phantom Thieves do this same thing for a girl who eventually becomes their ally: Futaba, who recognizes she is trapped inside her mind and is desperate for relief, knowing the Phantom Thieves are her only hope for a healthy life.

And this isn’t even the most overt reference to Christianity in Persona 5.

Rivers in the Desert

The thief parallel pales in comparison to the direct Biblical allusions found in the song that plays during the final boss—the unequivocal exclamation point to the game’s themes. The song in question is titled “Rivers in the Desert,” and in addition to being arguably one of the most JAMMING songs on the fantastic soundtrack, its title (borrowed from a line in the chorus) is an incredibly overt Biblical reference.

“A river in a dry land...
Oasis in a singed land...”4

These lines are direct references to the book of Isaiah, which contains multiple passages that mention creating rivers in a desert (or other dry land), including Isaiah 41:18; 43:19-20; and 50:2. Isaiah 43 may be the most direct reference, however; the Bible passage even repeats the reference to water in a dry land just as the song’s chorus does.

This, however, is only the beginning of the song’s Biblical allusions, references, and parallels. When the song hits the second chorus, it expands upon the above two lines:

“A river in a dry land...
When the hope of new beginnings burned our feet”

This last line is an excellent reflection of the state of the Israelites as they fled Egypt, arguably their most iconic trip through a desert. This exodus represented a hope for a brand-new beginning: a period where they would find a homeland and become a nation, not just a tribe of people or a group of slaves.

The second chorus goes on:

“Now we need it...”

The Israelites required physical water to survive in the desert and the spiritual/metaphorical waters of God’s rescue to save them from the “desert” of slavery in Egypt. The Phantom Thieves also need these “rivers in the desert”: they cannot exist without a river in a dry land, just as we can't spiritually live without God's miraculous work of rescuing us from our sin through Jesus’ sacrifice.

The song continues:

“An oasis in a singed land
Remind us what we're here for:
Creating new life
Creating rivers in the desert”

The Phantom Thieves’ purpose is to create new life—both rescuing those who have been oppressed by criminals and giving criminals a new lease on life by forcing them to confess to their crimes and become better people. In the same way, a Christian’s purpose is to bring God’s refreshment to a dead world that needs new life.

But the song isn’t finished yet. The third verse contains yet another direct reference to Isaiah 43:

“The time for a new start
Is constantly drawing nearer”

In Isaiah 43:18-19, God proclaims he's "about to do something new." Not only is this new start "drawing nearer," as the song says, but God announces that he "[has] already begun" the work.

The song’s bridge, however, has perhaps the most interesting Biblical allusions of all.

It begins with the line, “When a cool drop of water's all I need…”

My first instinct was to connect this line to a Bible story about a poor man named Lazarus who is granted eternal life and a rich man who is condemned to hell. In the story, the rich man is so desperate for water that he asks Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool [his] tongue.”5 But this story didn’t quite match up. After all, it would make the Phantom Thieves the wicked rich man who is parched with thirst—likely due to his crimes and wickedness.

Upon further searching, I stumbled across Isaiah 41:17-20, which refers to “poor and needy” people who are “search[ing] for water... [whose] tongues are parched from thirst.”

Ah. That made much more sense. Every member of the Phantom Thieves is poor and needy: a victim of oppression, lies, and harm. The Phantom Thieves aren’t thirsty villains, suffering the repercussions of their sins… they’re poor and needy people who are desperate for their situations to change.

Cross-referencing this Bible passage with Matthew 5, we see references to some familiar words. Matthew 5 promises good things to “the poor” as well as to "those who mourn" (as Ann does when her friend nearly commits suicide after the sexual abuse the two girls have suffered at the hand of one of their teachers); "those who are humble" (as the artist Yusuke becomes after receiving multiple negative reviews of his paintings); “those who hunger and thirst for justice,” (the explicit goal of the Phantom Thieves), “the merciful” (the Phantom Thieves regularly show mercy to their oppressors), “those whose hearts are pure” (the Phantom Thieves gain pure hearts and attempt to maintain them while seeking to purify their enemies’ corrupted hearts and desires), "those who work for peace" (the Phantom Thieves work to create a world where the innocent can live in peace), and, last but certainly not least, “those who are persecuted for doing right"—as every single one of the Phantom Thieves is due to the public decrying them repeatedly.

In Isaiah 41, God proclaims he “will never abandon” those poor and needy people, but that he “will open up rivers for them... fill[ing] the desert with pools of water.”

The end of the bridge concludes with this line before returning to the “A river in a dry land” chorus:

“A place to refresh heart and mind…”

Living with God is a place of refreshment, the only place where something miraculous (like opening up a “river in a dry land”) can take place. It’s also fascinating that the same word, “refreshed,” is used in Isaiah 43:20: “Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.” Also note the reason why God is making rivers in the desert: to refresh his “chosen people.” How interesting, then, that Joker (and, through Joker, the other Phantom Thieves by extension) is also a “chosen” person, selected to rescue humanity.

Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There: Conclusion

Even with a series as fraught with mythological beings and beasts as Persona, I was still shocked to see a direct Biblical allusion in Persona 5, and even more surprised to see the list of Biblical references and Christian parallels grow the further my analysis progressed.

Perhaps I should have anticipated it, but I never saw it coming.

Looking cool, Joker.

Notes and References:
  1. 1 Thess. 5:2 NLT
  2. Mark 3:22-27 NLT
  3. Mark 3:27 NLT
  4. “Rivers in the Desert,” Composed by Shoji Meguro, Lyrics by Benjamin Franklin, Performed by Lyn Inaizumi, Persona 5 Original Soundtrack.
  5. Luke 16:19-24 NLT
All photos are used under US “Fair Use” laws. Persona 5 and all related terms property of Atlus. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, July 12, 2019

Excerpt - The Misadventure of Donovan and Aevyrn: Part 3

Aevyrn's adventures with his friend Donovan continue in this newest excerpt!


To Part 1

[On holiday, Aevyrn and his friend Donovan, two elf military trainees, decide to go for a forest romp and get hopelessly lost. After being attacked by unknown creatures, Aevyrn slowly regains consciousness here in the unfamiliar woods...]

Photo by Vincent Foret on Unsplash

The pain returned as a distant throb, waxing and waning. My eyes flickered open, and I lurched up with a scream.

…Or, well, rather, I attempted to sit up. I hardly made it three inches off the ground before the searing pain in my ribcage and skull returned with full force. Needless to say, my back slapped back down against the cold, hard floor. My head swam.

Even as I waded through the unbearable, burning pain, my senses were beginning to return to me. I knew I had no weapon. Not that I could do much about that: I was struggling just to clear my mind and think; I had no chance of using my knife effectively while drowning in this muddle, let alone finding the blade in the first place.

But my training had not completely deserted me. As I lay still, more details shifted into focus: my torso’s bare skin grazed the cold stony floor of what appeared to be a cave, and a soft fabric was wrapped around my forehead and chest.

Where am I? I wondered, for surely I’d been dragged somewhere away from the battleground. I remembered no cave there.

From the corners of my consciousness, I began to register a voice: a husky tone, harsh and deep though not masculine. I ignored the unseen woman and tried to prop myself up on my elbow. But I fell to the ground, again unsuccessful.

The voice I’d ignored began to rise in pitch and urgency… and closeness. As I winced from my own painful folly, a blurry image swept into my line of sight: the woman, bending over me and shouting at me angrily.

Bewildered, I raised my hands in a feeble attempt to defend myself. The pain swiftly joined her in shouting at me. I had no choice but to heed the messages, dropping my guard in defeat.

Instantly the shouting stopped, and I felt the fabric peel off my forehead. I grimaced and grunted as a cool, wet cloth touched my head. Whatever liquid the cloth contained stung, but after just a few moments, the pain had ebbed from a shrieking cry to an aching murmur. For the first time since the attack, I felt as though I could breathe again.

My wavering gaze cleared and finally focused on the woman, who was still leaning over me, now silently looking over my body with the clinical intensity of a chirurgeon. As she pulled the cloth away, her brown eyes were cold and hard and focused, as if her look alone could sew back together the wound on my forehead. Her skin was a dark, milky-smooth brown. Her jet-black hair was tied back in a thick knot that rested on the nape of her neck.

She was quite beautiful, despite her deadly stare.

I stirred a little, uncomfortable under her gaze. “Atalim tu ai?” Who are you? I asked, hardly recognizing the weak, hoarse voice that ushered from my parched throat.

The woman’s fierce gaze shifted from my forehead to my eyes. A hesitation, a slight hint of uncertainty in her stare.

“Estalis telim ai?” Do you understand me?

The woman’s gaze shifted back to my wound. She offered no further reply.

Evidently not.

She ran her thumb above the wound on my forehead, muttering. Her voice, although at first harsh and dark, seemed to soften along with her gaze. However, I could not understand a word.

I closed my eyes and sighed. She does not speak elf… Nor was she an elf, for she lacked the telltale pointed ears. I rested my head on the cold stone floor in surrender to her ministrations as I resumed my observations.

The cave air felt moist and cool, though I could hear crackling and felt warmth to my left; I turned to see a small fire built there. On the right, the woman knelt beside me. My father’s knife was nowhere in sight (I assumed it was either lost to the forest or the woman had found and taken it). And as for Donovan—

Donovan! The urgency came crashing back on me: the haunting sound of his screams in the dark.

Could he be here, as well? I hardly dared to hope.

“Have you seen my friend?” I asked her, this time wise enough to use the Common tongue.

Then another thought came crashing in. “Am I your prisoner?” I added.

I could only hope my accent wasn’t too thick to understand; I hadn’t needed to use Common for the past year or two.

The woman glanced at me with a hint of disdain in her gaze. She did not reply, offended by my question or not understanding my Common either. Then she began untying the bandages on my ribcage. And she poked at the wounds there with her deft fingertips.

“Bleeding heart, woman!” I cried out in pain and surprise.

Still bent over her task, she barely glanced up to bark at me, as if scolding a child to be still. Then her gaze returned to the wounds on my torso.

I bent my head to look up at them myself... and she and I both grimaced in unison at the look of the lacerated flesh.

The woman rose and strolled over to the fire, and for the first time I noticed the small clay pot sitting beside its flickering flames. She took a scrap of cloth from the cave floor, and I realized it had likely once been part of her uniform: she wore a short tunic, but her trousers were scandalously short and torn, revealing her legs above the knee. Clothing, cloths, and bandages were all the same green hue.

She dipped this new cloth in the clay pot and wrung out the excess liquid. Then she returned to my side and jabbed the soaked, hot cloth into my stomach.

I hissed at the stinging pain. What on earth is in this salve?

Again the woman snapped at me, though this time her voice was gentler, and I would swear I heard her laugh.

As she tended me, my gaze again drifted up to her. “Did you rescue me?” I murmured, mostly to myself. This time, she did not even look up to acknowledge I’d spoken. Her nimble hands quickly cleaned the cuts and sponged off excess liquid. Her stare was fixed on my torso wound.

She’d clearly had experience tending to wounds. Perhaps a healer of some sort? And judging from the fact she spoke no elvish, she was either human or…

“Are you a fairy?” I asked as awe began to tint my whispering voice. I was aware fairies dwelt near these parts, but I’d never in my life expected to actually meet one.

The woman glanced up at me, just a reflexive peek, but for a moment—just that moment our eyes met—all her fierceness melted away into the softness of her deep, rich brown eyes.

I watched her wordlessly, for my voice had fled at the look in those deep pools. And for a moment—just a moment—she stopped her work to return my stare. The look in her eyes shifted to curiosity—intriguedness.

And then, in an instant, it was swallowed once more by her no-nonsense attitude as she resumed tending my wounds.

Well, I had business of my own to tend to.

“My friend,” I croaked out despite my voice—or lack thereof. I cleared my throat and tried again, though the quality of my tone was no better for it. “Please, my friend—a man, an elf like me—”

She continued nursing my wounds, ignorant to my pleas in a language she did not understand.

I considered attempting to sit up once more to gain her attention, but I knew that would only delay my mission. So I did the next thing I could think of—I snatched her hand mid-dab.

She glanced down with an exasperated sigh. That much I could understand no matter which language. She struggled to pull her hand out of mine, but I held fast.

“My friend,” I enunciated, using my free hand to pat my chest and then motion to my side, as if another person were lying next to me.

Her forehead went from a crease of frustration to questioning.

“Male.” What other words might she know, if any? None that I could think of. I tapped my pointed ear tips. “Elf.”

Her eyes lit with the first hints of realization.

At last! A spark of communication. I began pantomiming gestures, growing more and more excited. “We walked—through the woods.” I waved my hand wide to signify the leafy trees. “We were attacked.” Then I hesitated, wondering whether I should attempt to imitate the sound the beasts in the woods had made.

As a horrified shudder wracked my back, I thought better of it, opting to brandish my imaginary knife instead. “My friend... gone.” I looked around the cave. It hardly took any work to appear at a loss.

Have you seen him? Do you know where Donovan is? I practically pleaded.

When I finally released her hand, the woman held out her open palm toward me in a “wait” gesture. Could that be a shared sign between our tongues, or did it mean something else to the fairies?

She scooted backward across the cave floor, rising to her feet and kneeling down among a bundle of belongings, searching for something. She then returned, presenting me with my father’s hunting knife.

Reunited at last. I pulled it out of its sheath to inspect it. The battle in the woods had dulled the blade, but nothing that a whetstone couldn’t fix.

As the woman’s gaze locked with mine once more, she performed some miming of her own: she pointed to me. Pointed to the knife. Pointed out of the cave. “Elfff,” she pronounced slowly, with a thick accent.

But I understood it.

Then she pointed to herself... and made a motion of drawing a bow.

Pointed to me again. Pointed to herself again.

Pointed outside the cave.

And then, she said another word I understood:


Perhaps I’d found an ally in searching for Donovan after all.

Previous Excerpt (Part 2) ----- Next Excerpt (Coming Soon!)

Characters and story inspired by Mitchell Anderson and me.

From Him, To Him

Friday, July 5, 2019

Theme Talk: Ymir and Historia - Dealing with Hurt (Attack on Titan)

This post will contain spoilers for

The Attack on Titan anime

You have been warned.

Funimation 2013-2019

In a world overrun by rampaging man-eating giants, it’s little wonder every character in Attack on Titan experiences pain and loss. Despite its fantastic premise, Attack on Titan deals with real psychological and emotional issues, such as how to handle hurt. The show highlights two opposing ways of dealing with that hurt through its characters Ymir and Historia.

Funimation 2013-2019

Funimation 2013-2019
Ymir and Historia have suffered tremendous pain since their early lives. They have loved and lost to the point of near numbness. Neither grew up with loving parental figures. Ymir was an orphan who initially grew up in poverty; Historia is the illegitimate child of a nobleman, and her own mother wished she’d never given birth to her.1 Each had some small bright spots in their lives that were eventually torn away from them, often in violent and traumatic ways. Ymir was adopted by a cult that worshipped her—and they would later be persecuted and tortured by the authorities. Historia had a half-sister who would pay her visits but would erase her memories of their time spent together; and Historia’s mother would later be murdered right in front of her.

Funimation 2013-2019

Both Ymir and Historia were told by society that they were unwanted, undesired, and unloved. That they were better off dead. Their loss and hurt are quite similar, but Ymir and Historia take vastly different paths to deal with that hurt.

After attempting to sacrifice herself to save the only family she ever knew—only to find it all worthless—Ymir takes a self-centered approach. “If the world is going to be cruel no matter what I do,” Ymir thinks, “then I’ll live only for myself, not caring how cruel I am to other people.” When Ymir gets a second lease on life, she spends her days stealing, cheating, and sneaking around, doing whatever she desires. And seeing Historia on the same path she was on before, she tries to teach Historia her new way of dealing with hurt: be kind only if you get something in return.2

Funimation 2013-2019

Though Ymir isn’t always consistent in her adherence to this philosophy (she occasionally sacrifices her own wellbeing for Historia’s), she does stick to her philosophy on dealing with hurt in the end. To get what she wants, Ymir risks Historia’s wellbeing, going against her captors’ wishes by leaving to find Historia and see her one last time.

Funimation 2013-2019

“Even if it means taking her future away, I’ll do what it takes to live and meet her,” says Ymir.3

Even when once again under her captors’ watchful guard, she again reaches out to Historia, even if it means endangering her. In the end, Ymir has chosen to do what she wants, regardless of the wellbeing of others... doing “nice things” as long as she gets what she wants—Historia—in return.

Regardless of whether we admire or admonish Ymir for her decision to pursue her own desires, the fact remains that in order to deal with her hurt, Ymir has closed herself off to the world.

Funimation 2013-2019
Ymir does not care about other people except for Historia. After losing the cult—the only family she knew—she decided to spurn the world... and to close her heart off. Ymir not only chooses not to care about anyone besides Historia (whom she tends to care for in an inherently selfish and unhealthy way); she also chooses to largely ignore her sense of empathy. Despite infrequent moments of empathetic actions—when she joins the army to help Historia; tries to encourage others to live the way they see fit; or has an amiable conversation with fellow trainee Bertoldt about a friend of his—Ymir largely does not care about other people. She’s mostly closed her heart off to the emotions of others.

She became a thief to serve herself, not caring whom she stole from or sold to. She regularly bad-mouthed the other trainees in the corps, even Historia herself. During her conversation with Bertoldt, Ymir completely ignores the fact that three feet away, Bertoldt’s comrade is choking another fellow trainee unconscious. Ymir just doesn’t care. She’s chosen to close herself off to make sure she’d never be hurt again.

Funimation 2013-2019
By contrast, Historia has chosen to keep her heart open to the needs and feelings of others. Even after all the terrible things she’s seen and been through, she still attempts to be kind and gentle to others. She sneaks a loaf of bread to a fellow trainee who had to go without supper. She’s willing to throw away her own life attempting to rescue another trainee in the middle of a blizzard. She brings horses and supplies to fellow soldiers on the battlefield, risking her own life and limb. She selflessly throws her livelihood on the line to advocate on Ymir’s behalf when Ymir’s allegiance comes into question. She’s even willing to be taken captive in order to rescue Ymir from their enemies.

Granted, it’s unclear to what degree Historia is serving others out of the goodness of her heart and how much is just wanting to appear good so she can die a hero. There’s plenty of moments where Historia seems to accept Ymir’s philosophy too: moments where she throws caution to the wind and does as she pleases, or moments like the one where she proclaims, “I’m starting to hate humanity! Let ‘em get wiped out by Titans! I’m humanity’s biggest enemy! Got it?! I’m the worst girl who ever lived!”4

Funimation 2013-2019

But despite her conflicting motives, the fact remains that Historia deals with her childhood hurt by remaining emotionally open and vulnerable, listening to the needs of others and serving them, even to her own detriment. She wants to be a loving, caring person who can help others survive and overcome their hurt.

Funimation 2013-2019

She says so herself: “When I see people crying to themselves, saying they’re not needed... I wanna tell those people that’s just not true! No matter who! No matter where! I’ll come to their rescue!”5

Funimation 2013-2019
This is ultimately why Historia tries to be so kind to everyone she meets. It’s why she brings bread to a starving Sasha. It’s why she tries to drag Daz through the snow on a sled when she can barely stand herself. It’s why she tries to keep Ymir safe despite the unkind or cruel things Ymir has done in the past. It’s why she chooses to save Eren over obeying her father’s wishes. It’s why she chooses to take her rightful place on the throne and become queen even though it’s the last thing she really wants to do. Historia sees the hurt others are going through because she wants to help people as she was never helped.

Funimation 2013-2019
Keeping your heart open in this way—especially in a world that can take everything from you—takes incredible strength.

“Just look how strong she’s become...” Eren thinks to himself as he watches Historia prepare for battle—one that will require her to kill the father she was just beginning to get to know. “For the longest time, I thought she was the weak one,” Eren confesses. “I had it wrong.”6

Funimation 2013-2019
Eren may not have meant Historia’s emotional strength, but it remains no less true; Historia has been and remains one of the strongest characters emotionally in the show for choosing to remain open and sensitive to others’ needs. In fact, the show would have been over halfway through the most recent season had it not been for Historia’s heart.

Attack on Titan never shies away from showing the dark parts of human nature and the toll it takes on others. However, Attack on Titan also shows that there can be no future without people choosing to remain emotionally open.

As always, please be considerate of us anime-only dweebs who haven’t read the manga. :) Spoilers will, unfortunately, need to be deleted!

Notes and References:
  1. Attack on Titan; “Old Story”; Season 3, Episode 3; Directed by Tomoko Hirakata; Written by Hiroshi Seko; August 6, 2018; Funimation.
  2. Ymir, Attack on Titan, “A Dim Light Amid Despair: Humanity's Comeback, Part 1,” Season 1, Episode 3, Directed by Kiyoshi Fukumoto, Written by Hiroshi Seko, April 21, 2013, Funimation.
  3. Ymir; Attack on Titan; “Children”; Season 2, Episode 10; Directed by Kenji Imura; Written by Hiroshi Seko; June 3, 2017; Funimation.
  4. Historia Reiss; Attack on Titan; “Wish”; Season 3, Episode 7; Directed by Hiroyuki Tanaka and Ken Andō; Written by Hiroshi Seko; September 3, 2018; Funimation.
  5. Historia Reiss; Attack on Titan, “Outside the Walls of Orvud District,” Season 3, Episode 8, Directed by Matsuo Asami and Azuma Ryōsuke, Written by Yasuko Kobayashi, September 10, 2018, Funimation.
  6. Eren Jaeger; Attack on Titan, “Ruler of the Walls,” Season 3, Episode 9, Directed by Yasuhiro Akamatsu, Written by Hiroshi Seko, September 17, 2018, Funimation.
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From Him, To Him