Is it true that Isayama said that Eren must follow Levi's shadow in order to grow/develop? In an interview?
Hello anon! Yup, this is true.
It happened on an interview about Levi, in the August 2014 FRaU magazine. I’m sure you guys have seen this cover around many times!:
This is the same magazine that gave us a lot of important info about Levi (he has insomnia and only sleeps 2-3 hours on his chair, he has good resistance to alcohol and doesn’t get drunk, he fears mold, he takes 3 minute showers, etc.) and about his relationship with other characters (this is the interview where he said Eren is the best at cleaning, too!). Honestly that magazine was so good, it even had character horoscopes, haha.
I am quoting you the translation for the part you asked for:
Isayama: I have also sensed Levi’s appeal, and he is a character that makes me happy whenever I get the chance to draw him. He truly plays a role that helps the main character(s) preserve stability. If Eren has to march forward in pursuit of Levi’s shadow…the entire series could also progress in a similar manner.
(Eren can become shaky whenever he is angry/emotional, but Levi wouldn’t budge in the least). Levi probably can’t express himself like this any longer… Convulsing means that your anger has reached some type of limit, but Levi has probably already evolved past that stage.
Levi is a character who existed since I was conceptualizing everything. His personality was settled upon way back then.
1. How I’m interpreting this part from the Chinese is that Eren needs to continue chasing Levi’s shadow in order for the series (And himself) to evolve.
2. Yes, it’s definitely possible that Levi also used to have such emotions/react in such a way - but the nuance here is not that he simply “grew out of it” but has become rather desensitized. It’s meant to incite sympathy towards him, as far as I can tell from the language used.
I love this because it shows how important Eren and Levi’s relationship is for the story. I know that many times, when we get a lot of Eren and Levi official art, merchandise, etc., when they’re featured side by side in magazines, advertisements, and all that stuff, our first reaction is to think: “well this is because ereri is popular and they’re thinking on profit”.
And yes, that might be correct, but it’s not the only reason. Their relationship is essential for the story. There’s always been paralels between them in the manga, which have been analyzed and discussed again and again, but this is great because this info is coming from Isayama himself, he’s saying it with his own words, and he’s showing us a little bit of his view on them.
He already knew when he was creating the concept of the story, that Levi was going to exist and was going to be a huge influence on the protagonist. And for the ones who read the manga, we have seen how Eren has evolved a lot already. I am really eager to see him after the timeskip!
I know many of you are sad and dissapointed because the lack of interaction between Eren and Levi lately. But Isayama’s story is huge, and has been expanded even more in the latest chapters. On top of that, this is a monthly manga, so things move really slow. But this here, is a real confirmation that Eren and Levi are very important to each other and to the whole story. This honestly makes me really happy and gives me hope that there still will be meaningful moments between them in the future.