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You Should (Not) Hate Gabi

by Andy Walser 2 months ago in review

An Attack on Titan Character Study

Courtsey of Crunchyroll

I’ve seen a lot of hate on Gabi from Attack on Titan’s current season. People call her annoying, bratty, spoiled, and so on. The hate might have something to do with Gabi shooting one of the most beloved characters in the show as they celebrated what they thought to be a victory in enemy territory.

I don’t get the hate. To my eyes, Gabi is one of the best-written characters on the show. A little aside here: I don’t read the manga, I’m an anime-only fan. With this story, I want to try and change some of that hatred of Gabi’s actions into admiration for Attack on Titan’s character writing. So join me as we look at Gabi in detail.

The Perfect Patriot

To start, let’s consider how Gabi’s introduction. To put it briefly, she was one of the first characters we saw. We met Gabi well before Eren or Levi or any of the other characters we’ve grown so familiar with. These opening episodes strayed away from our main cast to give a sense of empathy for the Eldians living in Marley, including Gabi and the Warrior Unit – the most familiar of whom are Reiner and Zeke. This empathy magnifies the events at the end of Declaration of War when Eren began a rampage as the Attack Titan. That’s the short version; if you want to take a deeper look at this, I suggest my YouTube video on the subject.

The biggest takeaway, however, is that these opening episodes illustrated how the Eldians in Marley and the Eldians on Paradis Island aren’t that different. In fact, I’d consider Gabi to be the purest example of this as she is a direct reflection of Eren. They both have a similar defining moment that sets them on a new course – after the Titans destroy Wall Maria, Eren resolves to kill all Titans. In a similar beat, Gabi declares her intent to kill Eren after he razes her home. Moreover, they are fundamentally the same character as both are perfect patriots.

What do I mean by this? The primary aspect I want to focus on is their absolute passion for their nations. They’re practically zealots. They have an absolute belief that the place they were raised was right. Additionally, they have absolute hate for the perceived enemy, and a deep urge to kill and destroy them. Gabi is the only person who I can think of across the show who has matched Eren’s sheer fury and hatred of the other.

The most recent episode at the time of this writing, “Deceiver,” magnifies this by showing how Gabi interacts with Eldians inside the walls. She hates them, spits on them, refuses to eat their food, and rejects their hospitality because she can’t accept the devils of Paradis being so kind. But the most striking scene of the episode was the one right after she and Falco escaped from their cell.

After fleeing into the woods, the pair takes a small break, and Falco tells Gabi to remove the armband she’s wearing so she doesn’t stand out. This leads to a massive fight; Gabi refuses to take the armband off because the strap of fabric Marley makes her wear to distinguish herself from them makes her “A good Eldian.” In Gabi’s eyes, that little yellow band is what separates her from being like everybody else on Paradis. The only divider between being human or devil.

Courtesy of Crunchyroll

Humanizing Paradis

Gabi and Falco’s exploits in Paradis aren’t limited to a brawl by the lake, however. A young woman named Kaya leads them to a farm/orphanage that happens to be run by Sasha’s parents. None of the characters are aware that Gabi was the one who killed Sasha – not even Gabi and Falco know the connection. Kaya is a character we’ve met before, albeit briefly. In season 2, Sasha saved a young girl from a Titan during Zeke’s invasion of Wall Rose; this young girl is Kaya, now a young woman.

Kaya is also the only person at the stables who knows that Falco and Gabi are from Marley. She carefully conceals this secret because she wants to be like Sasha and help people in need. That’s how Kaya views Falco and Gabi: as people in need. She offers to help them get back to Marley simply because it’s what Sasha would have done.

Kaya is, to Gabi, impossible. She is kind, tries to help others, and harbors a deep love for the mother Sasha couldn’t save. She’s the antithesis of what the devils of Paradis should be and she challenges Gabi by taking her to the overgrown ruins of her abandoned village, asking why.

“Why” is a powerful question in the face of Gabi’s beliefs. “Why did my mother deserve to die?” It’s a question that exposes the absurdity of Gabi’s beliefs. Despite the kindness that Kaya has shown her and Falco, Gabi still considers her a dire enemy. I look forward to watching this relationship develop as Gabi and Falco try to escape Paradis and go back to Marley.

Protagonist

Finally, I want to take one last look at how Gabi was handled during Eren’s assault. Primarily how it reflected the show’s beginning. I touched on this before, but Gabi has a similar origin to Eren. Both were just children trying to live within the walls that confined them until in a single, bloody moment, a Titan destroyed everything.

If the show had opened on Gabi and her friends, then she would be the protagonist. It’s that simple, and it serves to create some stunning thematic material. I am blown away by the show deepening its stance on themes of war with this start. It took the time to explore the other side, to make us care and understand how similar the lives of the Eldians on Paradis and those crammed into Marley’s internment zones are, and mirroring Eren’s storyline with Gabi’s is brilliant.

It also serves as a marker to how our protagonist has changed. Throughout the first three seasons, we often saw Eren and the Scouts on the defensive. There were moments where they took the offense; Erwin’s plan to capture Annie and the mission to recapture Shiganshina District were active attacks against Marley by the Scouts. But here, we see Eren deliver a devastating blow that destroys Marley’s top brass – as well as annihilating an apartment complex filled with families.

Eren has become the monster. He’s now the Titan laying waste to residential districts, slaughtering families, crushing civilians beneath thrown rocks. It’s implied that there have been other missions of similar destruction over the past four years. Not only that, but the Scout Regiment that we once thought was so close seems to have splintered; Eren is practically an enemy of the state at this point, restrained as heavily as Zeke Jaeger at the mission’s conclusion.

Between his newfound aggression and the estrangement from his friends, it’s clear that Eren underwent drastic changes over the past four years. Adding Gabi to the mix helps illustrate this. She is a reflection of Eren and, through her rage, we can see that Eren is now no different than those who shattered his walls.

Attack On Titan’s primary theme revolves around this idea of becoming the monster. We saw this start way back at the beginning of the show as Eren used the Power of the Titans to seal Trost’s wall when Reiner and Bertholdt furthered their assault. The framing of Gabi in opposition to the cast we’ve known for so long deepens this theme. It goes from the most literal approach – Eren taking the form of his enemies – and elevates it to a grander scale – Eren now behaves as his enemies.

This is why I consider Gabi to be such an incredible character. She’s just another kid swept up in a war that happened because of something somebody else did a century ago. Unjustly persecuted and unfairly hated, Gabi became the only thing she could to survive: A good Eldian. The perfect patriot, who would risk her life to bear an armband, so she knew she wasn’t a devil. A warrior fueled by a wave of unstoppable anger to destroy the enemy. Gabi is Eren, and it is brilliant.

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Andy Walser
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