Transcription of J Michael Tatum's thoughts on Eruri
I took it upon myself to write up a transcription of J Michael Tatum’s (writer for the English dub of SnK and voice actor for Erwin Smith) thoughts on
yaoi Erwin and Levi’s relationship. I thought this way it might be easier for people to read, since he shares a lot of interesting headcanons and analysis about the series in general!
Question: What are your favorite character dynamics, specifically?
J. Michael Tatum: From the show or just in general?
Q: From the show.
JMT: This is going to sound kind of self-serving, but I really like the dynamic between Levi and Erwin— [applause]. Not because I think they’re a couple; I mean I can dream too, but I don’t necessarily think that the text so-to-speak supports that, though it doesn’t say that they aren’t! But regardless if whether or not they have any romantic feelings for each other, which we can argue until the cows come home, there is definitely something— some mystery to their friendship that we as an audience are left to our own devices to infer, which I think is interesting. I love very subtle exposition, you know, that’s like, how is it that Levi was a real bad-ass and for some reason Erwin was the only guy that was able to get him to straighten up—no pun intended—and [audience laughter] I didn’t really mean to say that I think Erwin and Levi—!
I mean, honestly, even as a writer, I don’t quite know what their relationship is because it’s honestly complicated. It may be that they’re just friends. It may be that Erwin was just like, “I see a lot of myself in you, so I’m going to kick your ass because I know what you need to keep from dying at an early age by being a dumbass.” And it could just be that they have this kind of brotherly relationship that Levi himself is kind of bound and obligated to make. I mean, I think it’s pretty clear that whatever else their relationship is, at some point, one of them saved the other’s life and feels a debt to the relationship—whatever it is—for just being alive, and that drives them, constantly.
But they have this weird… like, when they actually talk to each other —and they only share the screen a handful of times in the entire series; they’re not together very often. And when they are, they’re speaking very curtly, and they’re speaking about military maneuvers like, “Oh, what do you think we should do about the She-Titan?” Or whatever. They don’t go, “Hey, remember that time? Like when we were kids? When you kicked my ass?” They never do! They never discuss their past. They never discuss it.
Again, getting back to what I said earlier about all the drama of human dynamics being compacted into this world where, you know, you don’t have time to speak your mind or talk about things that we think really and truly matter in our life, such as feelings, or, “Can we explore this? I’m confused, I want to talk this out with you.” You don’t have time for that when you’re besieged on all sides by huge giants that want to eat you. So if there IS a romantic element to their relationship —and there may be— it’s kind of sad how it can’t be realized, because they simply don’t have the emotional breadth or space in which to do it, because the first order of business will always be survival. So, I like that they leave it unstated, which leaves your imagination to run wild and go: God, I feel for them, because there’s so much they can’t—like, they can’t even have an obvious friendship because they’re moved by this path like, ‘we have to do this, we have to do this’. Their sense-of-self is very precariously balanced by what they have to do, which is just to live another day. And in their case, that their people live another day because they’re in charge of everyone else’s lives. And the burden that puts on them leaves them no time to go, “[sigh]… let’s go grab a beer and talk about getting a puppy!” [laughter]. I mean, it’s never going to happen while the titans are around so it’s making everyone’s—everyone’s—interpersonal relationships much more succinct. Tragically so, because there’s simply no time to be yourself. No time to live and survive and not get eaten. Think about that for a moment: that’s pretty Erwin.