Manga Review: Attack on Titan, vol 1
Series: Attack on Titan #1
Published by Kodansha Comics on June 19th 2012
Genres: Science Fiction
Buy from: Amazon • Book Depository • Comixology • Wordery
In this post-apocalytpic sci-fi story, humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming mankind. Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world for years, killing everyone they see. For the past century, what's left of man has hidden in a giant, three-walled city. People believe their 100-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, but the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about to change everything.
Review note: This review will contain references to the anime, and as such may contain minor spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Like the rest of the world it seems sometimes, I too got caught up in the wave that was Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin in Japan). There was an explosion of cosplayers at Armageddon immediately after, and I was infinitely grateful that Madman NZ had the entire subbed series on their site for viewing. I binged it then, and now that I have Netflix I’m watching it again (the dub this time, because I like to compare these things).
From the first time I saw the opening credits I knew the show was something special. I mean, how can Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen not pump you up?
(I also really like the opening from the second half of the anime, Die Flügel der Freiheit. So. Epic.)
So since I got a whole lot of Attack on Titan volumes for my birthday yesterday, I get to a) read beyond what I managed to borrow from the library (basically until the end of the first season of the anime) and b) write reviews for it. Hooray!
So for those familiar with the anime, volume 1 of the manga is the entirety of the Fall of Shiganshina and the beginning of the Battle of Trost District, with a time skip of the full five years between these arcs and only a few brief flashbacks and references to events during those years. While the time jump does allow for the story to skip straight into the main arc and all its action – as well as the nice bookends/parallels that come from the two appearances of the Colossal Titan – I can’t help but feel that the time skip removed me as a reader from the bulked up roster of characters. It does have an amazing break-neck pace that works in its own way, but as a person who loves their character development I would have liked to get to know characters, even just a little but – and especially when the body count starts rising. The little glimpses of characters like Jean and Marco and Connie are good, but I would have loved to have seen more of that throughout.
(Of course, if I had not seen the anime first, and thus did not know they brought the 104th Training Corps arc earlier, I might not have cared so much. Or maybe I would have, and instead been all, “Who are these guys?” That is the frustrating thing with viewing adaptations first.)
The artwork is fantastic throughout, with great attention to detail on the buildings and structures as well as human and titan character designs. The faces are all unique and expressive, the bodies are all different, which all serves to give each character an easily identifiable look right down to the silhouette. This is most obvious on the back cover of the manga, which features the top ten of the 104th – each character is distinctive. Plus the clothing is cool.
Mikasa, Reiner, Bertolt, Annie, Eren, Jean, Marco, Connie, Sasha and Krista.
Despite the limitations of a static medium, there is still a heavy sense of movement and action. Scenes with the use of vertical maneuvering equipment of course don’t stand up to the anime but that is solely because one is a medium with actual movement. The other thing I – I don’t want to say like because it’s gross – approve of is the level and depiction of violence and gore in the art. Attack on Titan doesn’t shy away from depicting the violence inherent in its premise, but instead of showing nothing but chomped in half bodies all the time, Hajime Isayama understands that oftentimes the best horror comes from the impending violence. So instead of a bloody stump of a neck without a head, we see the soldier struggling as the mouth closes; we see a woman and child in shock next to a giant boulder, from under which two legs protrude.
And in a famous sequence, we are alone with a woman as she weeps in terror and begs not to be left alone even as she watches her children flee, hopefully to escape with her lives. The sense of helplessness and oncoming terror is palpable; the horror is for us as we are just as helpless as her and her children as we watch her doom approach and can do nothing. Just like so many in Shiganshina, and later Trost.
The last detail I like about the artwork is the inclusion of in-universe material detailing the three walls, titan information, battle strategies, and how the vertical maneuvering equipment work. It’s a detail other works might not include, but here it really helps the world-building and is an excellent supplementary piece.
Overall, volume 1 is a great introduction to an amazing series, and I highly recommend it for both fans of the anime and for people who have yet to see the show. Right now all of the main series is 50% off at Comixology until the 14th of December, so there’s your chance.