Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Series: Attack on Titan #1
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shounen, Fantasy, Dystopia
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: June 19th 2012
Synopsis: What’s left of humanity survives in fear for their lives in this exciting, terrifying new manga that’s a number one bestseller in Japan. Humankind is down to just a few thousand people who live in a city surrounded by three concentric walls. The walls protect them from their enemies, the ravenous giants known as the Titans. The Titans appear to have only one purpose: to consume humanity.
For one hundred years, what’s left of mankind has lived in the city on earth, protected by walls that tower over even the Titans. Untouched by the Titans for a century, humanity has become complacent. But Eren Jaeger has had enough. While his fellow citizens are content to hide, Jaeger has the passion to take action to not only protect the city, but to learn what the Titans actually are. But on his first mission he comes face to face with horrors beyond his imagination… and secrets from his own past that could shift the tides of war.
Jarger and his friends are determined to survive. But everything about their situation is a mystery that only becomes more complicated the more they learn. Attack on Titan is a breathtaking debut from a young talent, and a phenomenon that is sweeping Japan! (Source: Midtown Comics)
I have always felt that the giants in fiction today are starting to become bumbling, stupid fools that just happen to be oversized and love destroying things, stripped of the fear they held around them a long time ago. So whenever I see this wildly popular manga series online or in the bookstore, I think nothing of it and pass by it. That is, until the anime adaption started airing this year and I saw the opening. And that opening was just so glorious that I just had to at least try out the first volume of Attack on Titan.
(If you are going to watch the video shown below, I would really recommend watching it in HD mode and taking the time to read the english subtitles.)
After reading the first volume, I couldn’t help but think of myself as an idiot for ignoring this title. Hajime Isayama has completely went above my expectations with his portrayal of the giants, or titans in this manga. These monsters aren’t intelligent but they actually make that up with their extreme brute force and numbers, causing humans to go down in the food chain and become prey. The humans are constantly losing battles against the titans, losing hope, and losing dignity, later retreating inside a wall that is no more than a cage in humiliation, only to have it be broken down one hundred years later, right when the people inside it are starting to feel safe and peaceful . Hopefully the mangaka keeps writing the titans in this way.
There are always people who don’t like gore and nudity, so I feel the need to talk about how those things come into play in this manga… There isn’t much gore in this manga so far as I’ve seen in other manga, but there is definitely a lot of dead bodies shown and the necessary gushing of blood whenever a titan slaughters and eats a human. Although, manga is in black and white so I don’t think that this should take away someone’s enjoyment of the series. Also, while the giants are naked, they can’t reproduce sexually, meaning they don’t have sex organs (thank God). So for the people like me who don’t like excessive nudity don’t have to worry… Unless Isayama spontaneously decides to change that…
As of this first volume, my favorite aspect is the wonderfully realistic depiction of emotion that Isayama can write and draw. Screaming and crying isn’t just inserted, but is executed in a powerful way that made me want to cry also. Like that scene when the only surviving members of the scouting legion that come back from a mission outside the wall and a mother finds out that only her son’s hand is with them, or that scene when Eren finds his mother stuck under a pile of rumble that was their house before the titans broke through the wall, is carried away from her, and watches as she is killed by a titan. Both those scenes and others were beautifully executed in a way that only made it more terribly emotional.
The characters are great and I am really invested in their story of fighting back and survival. One of two male leads, Eren, does have the common motive of trying to avenge his mother’s death by crushing and killing all of the enemy and also has a desire to escape from the confines he is currently under, but it doesn’t matter if the motive is common in fiction if it is done well, and it is in this manga. Armin, the other male lead, is very weak and hates himself for that, ignoring all his other good qualities. Again, it has been done before but is written well. I’m really looking forward to reading about his growth. And like Eren, he also has a desire to escape from inside the wall. Mikasa isn’t at all like many other females in the shounen genre. She hasn’t had much page-time yet, but she is clearly a person who is tough and won’t be a damsel in distress.
Attack of Titan‘s current side characters are not exactly memorable and really only serve as characters to help out the main three and to get eaten. I’m not exactly a fan of this but it is kind of required as this manga is all about titans and humans battling. But this is the first volume, and If the side characters do get a more important role than their current one, my love for this manga is only going to increase.
Isayama also includes a couple of lovely pages that give information on how the wall was constructed and how the equipment the characters use to fight the titans work. It’s all very thought out and I appreciate that a lot.
The art is hand-drawn and it shows quite a bit. Not that that is a bad thing. The backgrounds are wonderfully detailed, as well as the characters. I do think that the body proportions are a little off sometimes, especially in the beginning, which is when the characters are children. But the flawed drawings of the humans are immediately made up for with how the titans are drawn. They are incredibly unsettling, many of them having mouths that are set into huge grins, never turning into anything else. The colossal titan is the most remarkable as it is literally only muscle, bones, and teeth.
Attack of Titan‘s first volume is an extremely good beginning and introduction to what the mangaka is able to do. If the utter brilliance of this manga continues, well, I dare say that it might be able to tie with Pandora Hearts as my favorite manga and might even beat it. I know that this might be too early to start assuming things, but I am seriously impressed. Also, that cliffhanger is freaking genius.
Book #1 in my Japanese Literature Challenge…