Is the setting of "Attack on Titan" (Shingeki no kyojin) supposed to be Earth in the distant future and Titans suddenly appeared out of nowhere and devolved society to medieval level of technology? Or is this just a completely fictional setting?
In Chapter 93, page 6, we are presented with a geographic representation of the Attack on Titan world:
The region in pink represents the
The region in blue represents the
Nation of Marley
The region in red represents
Paradis, Island of Paradis, or Paradis Island, whichever you prefer to go by, and that is where most all of the story takes place (where Eren & the titans reside)
Cross-referencing with a world map it becomes clear that
if we are using geography as an identifying feature of the Attack on Titan Earth, this is not the Earth that we know. Unless the map was drawn in such a way as to purposely hide defining geographic characteristics, it is likely that the Earth in Attack on Titan is more of an alternate universe Earth. There are a lot of references that we are familiar with, especially later on in the manga, but it is clear that the geography doesn't match up to anything on our current Earth. In addition, the names of these regions are Marley, Paradis, and Mid-East Allies. And the peoples in the first two regions are called Marleyans and Eldians. So it further solidifies that the AoT Earth, while similar, is more than likely an alternate-universe Earth and not the same Earth that we currently reside on.
That means that
since this is not the same Earth, we can not use our own timeline to judge what time period this takes place. It is a completely different world, albeit with a lot of similarities, but it makes the most sense to stick to the timeline that AoT presents to us throughout the manga and anime.
Later in the manga, however, we see that
while Paradis Island looks like it's living in our version of the medieval times, the rest of the world is not.
In fact, we see in chapter 86, pages 146-147, that
during Grisha Yeager's childhood (so some time before Eren), humanity was in possession of airships and military technology that we might have seen from the 1900s to 1930s or 40s. Again, we can't compare the timelines in AoT to our own since we know AoT's Earth is not our Earth but this should help give you a better understanding of the AoT world.
In Chapter 86, page 156-157, we are presented with
military uniforms that look sort of similar to WWI/WWII era uniforms. In the same frame we can also see the soldier smoking a cigarette while taking a break on a mowed grass lawn. In chapter 94, we can also see the type of firearm that this child is carrying which is an excellent example of more sophisticated technology. I blocked out the text in the frames as it wasn't necessary.
So at this point it's obvious that
we did not, prior to these chapters, have a good understanding of the AoT universe and there's a good reason, too. But those are unnecessary spoilers.
I recommend reading the manga for more information on the backstory of AoT for further information on timeline, place, and technology within the AoT universe.
Two captured Titans are named Sawney and Bean, which is stated in-universe to be based on the legend of Sawney Bean.
If we use that same evidence as part of a timeline, there's two possibilities:
- The year 850 means that we are at least 850 years following the aforementioned legend, putting us no earlier than year 2350 A.D. This seems possible but unlikely, as their technology shows no signs of being derived from our own.
- The year 850 is some marker to an event that happened prior to the legend, in which case we have no frame of reference other than that the story must take place in or after the 1500s. This seems to be the more likely answer.
Keep in mind, though, that in the Attack on Titan universe:
The oriental races are wiped out; Mikasa has her mother's oriental blood, but is the last surviving member of the Asian races.
With this in mind, it is highly unlikely that it is in Japan or even nearby (though the location is also unstated). However, seeing how many names are European (Jäger is German for "hunter", Armin is a Germanic name, cf. Arminius & Herman), it's most likely that the story takes place in Germany, or at least in Europe, where the remaining survivors of the Titan catastrophe are now cornered.
I'm assuming it would be in Germany and/or the surrounding European countries. The architecture of the districts within the Maria and Rose walls (including their outliers like Shiganshina District) looks to be very much like traditional German architecture. However, the Stohess District resembles Czech architecture and Utopia resembles Parisian mid-rise styles.
The tall 80m-treed forests which are both in & outside the walls could be the Black Forest in Germany. There is also a small alpine section within the walls & outside, which could be the Swiss/Italian Alps. Not only that, but the characters have German names such as Reiner, Bertholdt, Jaeger, etc.
So first of all, the story cannot possibly be taking place 2000 years in the past. I am not going to talk about technology development or the size of the characters (2000 years ago, Levi Ackerman wouldn't have been considered as short).
Anyway, Sasha gave me the first part of the answer. In the trainee corps arc, we can see her eating a potato, and the potato was imported into Europe from the South America, which proves the story takes place after the discovery of the American continent (Europe really started to grow potatoes in the 17th century...).
But then I ticked on how they calculated the size of the titans. They used "meter-class", which mean they have the metric system. The metric system having been invented after the French revolution in 1789 and was finally accepted by the French Academy of Science on 26th March 1791.
The story should take place after this date.
I've also noted that Mikasa (in the trainee corps arc when Eren seems unable to have his "natural balance") speaks about "artisans" who make the 3D maneuver gear, and with a look with the general development of the city (no trains, no steam boats). This suggests that the industrial revolution (~1840) has not yet taken place. My theory is that titan have appeared (year 743 in the story) between 1791 and 1840 (and that because of that new-found enemy, the industrial revolution never took place...). The story starts with the colossal titan 102 years later (year 845 in the story), which means between 1893 and 1942 in our calendar.
It's a completely different universe and settings than ours (still Earth though, just under different circumstances). However, according to technological advances and the construction style, I'd say that the year they describe, around 800 - 900 doesn't seem far fetched.
As for the location, I'm not sure, the names of the characters don't seem Japanese, something European maybe?
My guess is 52.2051, 47.5557 on your map. It makes sense geographically - perhaps Germany led the way to the evacuation, and it seems more logical for Asians to have arrived here rather than in Western Europe.
The one thing I looked for was that there are rivers that passes through all the districts, through all 3 walls. Though the map referenced in the manga seems to have two rivers (one running north-south and the other running east-west, roughly speaking) crossing through the walls.
It doesn't say where they are except for the name of the walls the humans hide behind as protection from the titans. But seeing as the character names are of German decent (and even some of the lyrics from the anime's openings), I'd say they're in Germany, or somewhere in Europe that has very strong German influences. In all reality though, they're just somewhere on Earth, hiding behind walls from human-like, man-eating creatures
As for the time... It might take place in the distant future, after humanity has gone (nearly) exinct
I read an article stating that the story take place in Bavarian era. Too bad I forgot where I read it, and after a brief check on wiki, it is said that There had been a kingdom ruled by a king in the Bavarian Era, in Germany, and we know as well in the anime that the three walls were under a King's reign.
Since some of the characters in the show talk about the world before (Hanji and naming the titans after the infamous cannibal Sawney Bean), it's completely likely that the series takes place in the future rather than before common times.
As for location, it's most likely that the Walls are located in Germany, or nearby in Europe. However, it's also likely for the series to take place in Northern US, border-lining with Canada. Mostly since many German immigrants settled in that area, and majority of SNK characters are German. At the same time, it leaves room for reasons of why there are many other nationalities, like Japanese and French. Since America is just one big melting pot in itself.
Well, flintlocks such as in this show, weren't really made as well as they were her until the 1700's. Though, as we can see, from multiple parts in the manga. As-well as in the show, their ships are wooden, and they are pre-industrial era. Which means, this show probably is taking place at about 1750-1800 AD. As they are past the renaissance, though, they did not quite reach the industrial era yet. Which means, it is actually probably in the 1800's as technology has halted for a hundred years. As the titans came into play in the 1700's, and for 100 years people have just been halted. If you notice though, if this had happened 100 years after, in 1850. Or 1950, the titans would not have been much of a problem due to the weapons. It is almost as if the titans came at about the perfect time, where humans were just un-able to mass murder the titans. If it were set after a modern era however, then there would obviously be better machinery around, such as tanks, airplanes, or even spacecraft. It is quite evident that it is pre industrial, and this is evident not only through their weapons or technology for that matter. But their clothing as-well. Many nations at the time had organized looking clothing, and a system of departments for the military. So, the best bet for when this show is occurring is from the 1700's, when the titans arrived, till the 1800's, which is when the show and manga takes place. If anyone says it was in the 900's, remember, weapons and technology such as in this were not seen on a mass scale, or at any large scale at all. 1700'S = Titan Arrival, 1800'S = AOT
What about in the opening episode where it says "To you, two thousand years in the future"? At first I thought it meant that we're (roughly) two thousand years after the rotation from BC to AD, but since the show starts off in 845 (or 844, can't remember atm) that doesn't make sense since we're obviously not in the year 2845. The other option would be to add two thousand years to our current timeline making it 4013 and then subtract 845 to get 3168, the year that the calendar supposedly reset again. It bothers me that it's not clear when the story is supposed to take place because I think it would help in solving some of the mysteries if we at least had a time period to work off of. Then again, maybe that's the point.
Since the titans have only been on the earth for 100 years, and the people left only have technology of Cannons, ect. They obliviously aren't going to be in a future of our timeline with this technology, but they could be if other events were changed in their past. But it seems way more likely that they are around the year c.700-c.900 on the original timeline.
I always thought of it as a futuristic collapsed society type theme. They were forced to build walls and revert back to medieval society but they focused their technology on their ODM gear to combat the titans. There is reference to the past (our current real life time). Perhaps the biggest supporting evidence of this was episode 6 where Misaka's kidnappers are talking about her race and they state:
"she's exotic. what they used to call an Oriental.You know about all that right? back when there used to be different breeds of people, a bunch of them from the far east came scrambling here for safety. the old perverts in the capital really go for that sort of thing. this little beauty's going to fetch a mint at auction. it's great business. she's the last of her kind. all the rest of her people died out."
hope that helps. the year that it starts out on is 845 so the yearly calendar reset for some important reason, but it hasn't revealed a lot about the history yet (just that the titans appeared over 100 years ago.) As far as location goes it's safe to assume that it is probably German. accounting for the kidnapper's claim that there is currently only one race and we have names like: -Yaeger (german for hunter) -Arlert is old german anglo-saxon, and Armin's wiki page trivia section states that "The name 'Armin' may have multiple meanings, either from an old German word meaning "whole", or "Herman", meaning "soldier"". http://shingekinokyojin.wikia.com/wiki/Armin_Arlert -Erwin - Derived from the Germanic name Hariwini, composed of the elements hari "army" and win "friend".
Add it all up with a lot of blonde hair (Armin, Reiner, Nanaba, Christa, Annie, Erwin, etc) and it seems that they were leaning toward a German-oriented character base with names that are literal puns toward the fact that they are soldiers.