One crucial point has to be made before answering your questions:
- The literal translation of “Shingeki no Kyojin,” which translates to “Attack on Titan,” into English is “Attack on Titan.” Check out the cover of book one for a visual.
- It’s probably an oversight on the part of the author or his editors/publicists, as there are very little to no signs that would connect the two names.
The most striking alteration is the substitution of “titan” for “kyojin” in translations.
Merriam-Webster defines a giant as:
In Greek mythology, a member of a family of giants ruled the Earth after the birth of Uranus and Gaea but was eventually ousted by the Olympian gods.
one that is monstrously large or powerful; one that is particularly notable for outstanding success
Titan may be a great word to use if you’re going for simplicity, but it doesn’t quite get over what you’re trying to say.
The term “kyojin” is made up of just two characters, which mean “huge” and “human” or “person” in English.
Since “giant” is the most direct term to describe a humanoid creature that is substantially larger than average, it is the more accurate translation of this word.
While “attack” and “shingeki” are close in meaning, the nuances between the two words make “attack” a less-than-ideal replacement.
Similar to a (rapid) military advance or attack on the enemy, “shingeki” describes a highly unique situation.
An oversimplification occurs when the word “attack” is used in conjunction with the preposition “on” and the noun “titan,” which can also refer to one of Saturn’s moons by the same name. The Survey Corps is an example of a vanguard rally/charge, which is another meaning of shingeki.
But before we jump to any conclusions, let’s examine the title more closely. If we were to translate and figure out what the title meant, it would sound like “Advancing Giant.” I don’t think this is what the author was going for, and it certainly isn’t a catchy title.
The English name as it stands, “Attack on Titan,” linguistically implies that “Titan” is a place rather than a person or organization.
Consider the phrase “Attack on Normandy.” The on-target proposition is to fault for this situation.
Assaulting anything “on” typically means that whatever is being attacked is the one doing the attacking, not the one initiating.
The passive construction “attack on titan” suggests that the noun “titan” is the target of an impending assault.
The Japanese possessive particle “no” (in “Shingeki no Kyojin”) is usually translated as either the preposition “of” or the possessive (-‘s).
Kyojin is defined as “something which has” or “is owned by” shingeki in this example.
Giants are typically associated with military vanguard advances and charges, thus it’s safe to conclude that this is where the term originated.
What does this imply, exactly?
Is Shingeki meaning a generic reference to the Titans or a specific reference to someone on the team?
The title may be alluding to Eren Jaeger, since he is the lone giant to fight on the side of humanity and, as such, is the one who paves the way for their army to eventually make a dent in the enemy forces, symbolizing hope for the humans.
Therefore, “The Giant of the Vanguard” or “The Giant Advancing/Charging” would be excellent titles. In essence, this is a reference to the giant who will lead humanity to triumph and salvation.
The original title, given the story’s circumstances, was probably meant to evoke strong feelings. This may not translate as well into English, though, thus the English subtitle (which is usually only there for the “cool” element) is generally something succinct and to the point rather than an attempt at conveying the whole meaning of the translated title.
To improve their search engine optimization (SEO), localizers will sometimes include the romanized Japanese name or whatever the “Engrish” subtitle might be, as in the case of Oreimo; this allows them to attract preexisting links from the source material to their localized version without spending a fortune on promotion.