Terrifying thought, right? Towering monsters, mindlessly rampaging through our towns and cities… the idea of actually being in that situation IRL makes Attack on Titan even more horrifying to watch. Nevermind recoiling at the nightmarish faces on screen (and they are genuinely the stuff of nightmares), there would be widespread panic if a Titan or several suddenly pitched up intent on chowing down on humankind. And, let’s face it, a real person wouldn’t be able to survive the whiplash of using the 3D manoeuvre gear, never mind the comparatively simple act of running away from a Titan.
So what would our governments do if the horrors of Attack on Titan crashed into our world, devastating everything in their path? Here’s how things could play out according to real-life emergency strategies.
The Titans’ Arrival
In the anime, Titans appear simultaneously around the world at the same time. Hordes of lumbering giants are devouring humans across the planet, leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake. First, let’s look at the bright side. It’s likely that wars, conflicts, and political quarrels would be pushed aside and forgotten about (for the time being) as governments and rulers scramble to deal with the immediate threats in their countries. The blind panic caused by the predatory Titans would cause chaos. Local police and medical services would rush to deal with specific emergencies and casualties.
In the UK, depending on the threat, armed police can be authorised with a ‘Shoot to Kill’ order. With Titans roaming the streets, that order would definitely be given to help protect civilians and medical staff. The official aim of the order is “To prevent an immediate threat to life by shooting to stop the subject from carrying out their intended or threatened course of action. In most circumstances this is achieved by aiming to strike the central body mass (i.e. the torso).”
Unfortunately, however, that directive isn’t going to do much to take the Titans down; they’re going to need to aim for the back of the neck. But, of course, if this is the first attack of its kind, those with shoot-to-kill powers aren’t necessarily going to know that right off the bat.
In the US, governors can call the National Guard into active duty to assist with natural disasters or domestic emergencies. The Constitution of the United States states that the purpose of the National Guard is to “execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasion”.
To say Titans are invasive would be an understatement, so there’s every reason for the National Guard to be called into service to help “repel” their onslaught. Some states like California have Emergency Management systems for large cities to help spread the word and deliver advisories quickly. NotifyLA lets users choose how they want to be informed if a disaster unfolds; voice messages, texts or emails. That would certainly be an interesting voice message to receive: “Titan attack, don’t get eaten”…
Evacuation and Evasion
In some natural disasters, people are reluctant to evacuate since they think they can weather the storm, like the Floridians who refused to evacuate during Hurricane Dorian in August 2019. And that’s despite some saying the situation was “insane” and “scary as heck”. We’ll tell you what’s scary as heck; a 15-metre tall Titan swiping civilians out of the streets to snack on. No one is going to try to hold their own against that.
They may be able to hide, however. In London, the obvious option is to run down to the underground and hide in the stations – it worked in World War II during the Blitz. In September 1940, 177,000 people used the Underground as shelter in the Blitz, and a November 1940 consensus discovered that around 4% of Londoners slept down there.
This wasn’t always safe — some civilians were killed in direct hits, and some during a stampede at Bethnal Green Station. But in the event of a Titan attack? We’d take hiding underground over cowering in a high-risk high-rise or being out in the open running on the streets.
Of course, you’d have to try to keep quiet, but that shouldn’t prove too difficult — just apply the standard protocol observed by commuters of not talking to your fellow man or woman. You want to remain undetected, so that a Titan doesn’t try to smash its way down there. Remember when Annie transformed into her Titan form and stomped through the ground to crush the tunnel to the empty Underground city below Stohess District? That wouldn’t be ideal.
The only comfort is that the tunnel was directly below the surface, rather than 40 metres or so, as with underground train networks. With that in mind, what are the best stations to make a beeline for? The deepest Tube station comes in at 58.5 metres, and that’s Hampstead on the Northern Line on the outskirts of London, and — in central London — the deepest is the DLR Concourse at Bank, at 41 metres. Across the pond, in New York, the deepest underground subway station is Washington Heights on 191st Street, at 55 metres.
This won’t help the rest of the world where it’s lacking an underground network, obviously, but at least they’ll avoid the type of cramped conditions that Londoners and New Yorkers are already well used to — being packed in like sardines at rush hour is par for the course.
The Fight: Weapons and Tactics
The armed police would be the first ones to figure out that Titans don’t go down easily, and soon after that, the military, and subsequently the government, would likely figure out the weakness in their neck.
While it hasn’t been explored much in the show, the Attack on Titan manga explains that the discovery was made by accident when one of the Survey Corps blew himself up before being eaten – destroying the Titan’s head and killing it in the process. After that, it was trial and error, before another member of the Corps created a prototype of the 3D manoeuvre gear and attacked a Titan, slashing its neck. With our modern technology and weapons, though, we’d arguably have a better chance of beating them.
Since the show takes place in a different universe to our own and the society depicted in Attack on Titan is only semi-modernised, their military units rely on rifles, cannons and the Omni-Directional Mobility Gear to kill Titans. Obviously, this swallows a lot of time in battle.
So never mind hurling yourself through the air with swords (as we’ve already discussed, this would likely be impossible for us mere mortals), just use high-calibre sniper rounds or an apache attack helicopter instead. Let’s not be silly and suggest nuclear weapons. Think of the death toll and collateral damage.
But since our military forces have incredibly powerful tanks and jets, obliterating the nape of the neck could be quite easy with some precise targeting, or drone attacks. Predator Drones could be used for targeted strikes, and since they carry two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, you’re not going to need any more ammo than that to take out the enemy. Good luck regenerating from that, Titans.
Colossal Titan Strategy
Let’s ramp up the stakes a little by introducing the Colossal Titan, which can only be killed by pulling the person controlling it out of the nape of the neck. For this, we’ll need the big guns. Just as an example, a .50 Browning Machine Gun has a potential firing range of 7000 metres. That’s like shooting from New York’s Empire State Building across to the opposite side of Central Park — but that wouldn’t be a particularly damaging shot.
Its actual range for an effective strike is 3000 metres – so from the Empire State Building to the Bethesda Fountain near the Lake in Central Park, which should give you a decent range so you can keep a safe distance — providing you’ve got a good aim, of course. Better get some sniper training in, in order to bring that Colossal Titan down before pulling the person out of the neck.
The second part of the maneouvre could prove trickier still, since you’ll need to get up close and personal to the Colossal Titan in order to finish the job. Being that it would easily swat tanks, jets and drones like flies, how to get close enough to extract the person inside?
How about a HALO jump? High Altitude Low Opening insertions are used when aircrafts can’t safely fly over enemy territory without a danger to the jumpers. Special Forces troops then jump from between 15,000 feet and 35,000 feet, free-falling at terminal velocity, before opening their parachute at 3000 feet. Rather them than us.
There would need to be a whole squad taking on the operation just in case they miss the target, or meet an untimely death. Killing the Colossal Titan would be similar to the series – they’d have to cut the nape in a one-metre slice, ten centimetres wide and pull out the person. The blades in Attack on Titan that are up to this job are made of the fictional ‘Ultrahard’ metal – and have a thickness of 4.5 millimetres. We don’t have these, nor do we have military-grade swords that could punch through the super-strong skin and muscle of the Titans.
So, what’s the biggest blade a soldier could jump with without being weighed down too much — because no one’s expecting them to hurl themselves out of a plane with a huge sword, right? Well, a machete might just do the job. Take a look at the Coldsteel Latin D-Guard machete, and how easily the 53-centimetre blade slices through the meat in the video below. It’s brutally effective. Now, it might be tough to slice through the Titan’s nape, but with a soldier or two applying their full force, they might just be able to use their machetes to slice their way through.
Given how much piping-hot steam a Titan can emit, they’d all also need to be wearing fire-proof protective gear to withstand the heat. Kūsō Kagaku Dokuhon worked out that a 60-metre tall Colossal Titan would release steam at 602℃. Most firefighters wear personal protective equipment made with Nomex and Kevlar, which can withstand 700℃, so that should be up to the task. Let’s hope they can strap a parachute over the top. It’s a tall order, but someone has to do it. With the Colossal Titan down, it’s time to help civilians.
Medical Response and Relief Effort
When it comes to First Aid, paramedics and other emergency services would have difficult choices to make in the heat of a Titan attack. Would saving one life draw the attention of the towering beasts and then put more people at risk? There’d be some heartbreakingly difficult choices to make.
The logistics of evacuating the injured while Titans are swinging their arms and causing mass destruction everywhere are also pretty tricky, and it’d take the combined efforts of all the emergency services, and more, to evacuate civilians. Luckily, the United Nations have contingency plans for disaster situations. Though, if they’ve got a plan for fighting giants, we’d be surprised. After an emergency meeting to discuss the disaster they could deploy the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (or UNDAC).
Representatives from UNDAC can attend any disaster across the world within 48 hours, and are equipped to be self-sufficient no matter the situation. Let’s hope their equipment is Titan-proof. Once their boots are on the ground, the UNDAC teams begin coordinating with other aid groups to figure out where’s best to send help and to outline priorities. As UNDAC operative Markus Werne puts it: “Our job was to make sure that we were going to be able to provide coordination for those incoming teams. As they were arriving, they wanted to know where they could be of best use, where the needs were and how they could get set up so they could start saving lives immediately.”
While air evacuations might be difficult in some areas under attack from hordes of Titans, coordination between the military and the rest of the emergency services would provide a window for evacuating civilians a number of ways — either by air, land vehicle and as a last resort, by foot.
With thousands of people fleeing from Titan attacks and setting up camp elsewhere, it’s probable that MSF (Doctors Without Borders) would also arrive onsite and work with UNDAC to stop the spread of disease among refugees — particularly in developing and war-torn countries. Makeshift shelters, weather, and unsafe water all come with their own problems, especially in a confined environment with a condensed population. So it’s not just the Titans we’d have to worry about, but disease and sanitation too? Brilliant.
MSF’s first action when arriving at a crisis zone is to establish where all the water access points are, and how close they are to toilets and wastewater. From there, they decide how to make the water safe, whether that’s via water trucks, chlorinating the water or having to drill boreholes. They also hand out filters to the most vulnerable refugees — small children, pregnant women, the elderly and the sick – so that they can make their own water safe to use.
MSF are used to setting up hospitals in conflict zones across the world, so that will also be a priority for them as they treat casualties. They’re currently doing incredible work in the Yemen Civil War. The MSF’s teams at the hospital there recently treated 119 patients with 24 hours – an incredibly resilient effort in a truly horrific situation.
So, having figured out a strategy for taking down normal Titans, and undertaken a mission worthy of Tom Cruise to bring down the Colossal Titan, as well as put plans in place to evacuate civilians and help displaced refugees, we’d say the world is relatively well equipped to deal with a real-life Titan attack.