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The majority of characters in Attack on Titan have German names. Does this mean they are Europeans? We know Mikasa Ackerman is Oriental. Did the writers avoid describing her as Asian because in the universe they have created, Asia doesn't exist? (The use of word Oriental may be a direct translation, but I'm not sure.)

Obviously the anime is in Japanese, but this surely doesn't mean the characters speak Japanese? Are characters in Attack on Titan (or any anime) self-aware about the language they speak, or their own race? How do anime/manga creators explain race and language in their art? Is this a detail that is left out because it has no explanation, or is it an answer of "It's just that way"? Maybe anime are created in a fictional bubble with their own set of rules, and viewers are supposed to suspend disbelief.

I know this maybe a silly and or odd question, but I simply can't wrap my ahead around it.

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    Based on the Germanic names, I'd expect most of them are German. Also, related: When and where does Attack on Titan take place? – Killua Oct 21 '13 at 13:12
  • another good example for the germanic names is "Armin" coming from german "herman" – Vogel612 Oct 21 '13 at 13:38
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    So... what are they racing for? – кяαzєя Oct 21 '13 at 13:54
  • It's not that uncommon. In Death Note and Kaleido Star, characters from the US speak Japanese as well. – Madara Uchiha Oct 22 '13 at 16:46
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    Most likely German and race is Human. – user3601 Feb 5 '14 at 4:27
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The Germanic names (Jaeger, Armin, and so on) lead me to believe that the remaining humans, that we've seen so far, are descendants of Germans or at least close enough to them to receive a great Germanic influence.

As for Mikasa, her mother was the next-to-last of their Oriental clan, and her father was of a more Western heritage (having the German name Ackerman). The name "Mikasa" has origins in both Malagasy (of Madagascar) and Japanese (the Mikasa battleship, Mount Mikasa, or the Mikasa-no-miya[nt. 1][ref]). Given that she is simply said to be "Oriental"[nt. 2], we can assume the latter, and she is actually Japanese.

As for the language, it's not uncommon for countries and people who would speak little or no Japanese to be native Japanese speakers in fiction (same with English for Western movies and shows). This is generally labelled (in trope-ville) as Aliens Speaking English (which can also be true for human foreigners) or Common Tongue, essentially saying, "It's easier for the target audience to understand it if everyone is natively speaking the same language." It explains why Russians exclusively speak English in video games, for example.

To make it succinct and clear: It appears that the vast majority of characters are descendants of Germans or similar races, and that they speak Japanese simply because that's the language in which the writer/creator spoke and wished to market it.

Footnotes

  • Note 1: Part of the Imperial House

  • Note 2: 東洋人【とう.よう.じん】 tōyōjin, lit. "Asian people, Orientals"

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    must... resist... urge... to... visit... tvtropes links – Zommuter Feb 24 '14 at 12:22
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If you listen closely to the second opening of the anime (which by the way sounds a lot like an Anthem) most of the singing is done in German. With that in mind, we can say that they're mother tong is German. You can also note the presence of a river running through the city from south to north, this river is most likely the Rhine (but the city must be far away from the sea since they have forgotten about it). This place is also very resourceful in both iron and coal. With all these elements, I can make a safe (-ish) guess to answer you question: 70% German, 20% French, 10% of other... I don't know why, but to me, Pixis looks French (and not only because he's always got wine with him...) Hope I helped.

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    "most of the singing is done in German": this isn't a good justification. IIRC the music in FMA:B series is in Japanese, and the manga-based FMA continuity is set in a fictional country in a fictional universe that uses English. – Maroon Oct 17 '16 at 8:23

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