This manga has got me shook !
I’ll admit, before I picked up Attack on Titan, I genuinely thought it was going to be a fight manga with little happening by way of plot. I’m enthused to find how wrong I am ! This manga has something which I feel is missing in a lot of stories that I have read lately and that’s a great concept, executed with an even better plot, fast pacing, and great dialogue. I borrowed the first volume of this manga from the library, not wanting to waste my money on it until I feel that it is worth it, only to have now decided to buy the colossal edition of Attack on Titan, which contains the first five volumes of the manga in a larger and glossy-paged format. So let’s talk about why I feel this excited.
To begin with, I should let you know about the plot. … Attack on Titan takes place in, what appears to be, a very small section of Earth. Here, there are three circular walls (one placed inside the other), sized at 50 metres high, which guard the humans from the Titans.
The three-wall design is a safety measure allowing the humans the opportunity to evacuate to within the next wall, in the event of Titans breaking through the outer walls. The structure holds up for 100 years with not a single Titan managing to break through. Further, as the tallest Titan is sized at less than 15 metres, they wouldn’t be able to climb/jump over the wall either. For a century, this holds true, and the human race lives peacefully within these walls. However, one day, as Erin, Mikasa and Armin (our three leads) are resting by a river, they hear a commotion. Running right over, they stop short to see a cloud like smoke rising from behind the 50 metre high wall, and a few seconds later, the head of a colossal Titan rising to look over. Naturally, the appearance of a Titan – and an unusually tall one at that – terrifies the people and causes a mass evacuation to take place, as it kicks a hole in the wall to let the smaller (but still disgustingly tall) Titans through. During this stampede of Titans brutalising a significant number of the human race, Erin and Mikasa (who appear to be twins, or, at the very least, closely aged siblings), suffer a loss which acts as a motivator for the brother (Erin), later on in the story.
Five years later, we join Erin, Mikasa and Armin at a graduation ceremony, where they are finally ready to take up roles (choosing from three) to help guard against the Titans. This is really what that intro was leading up to and, I must say, the beginning does a fine job of letting us see the characters’ personalities, and to understand their pain and motivation for why they choose the guard roles that they do later on. I may as well just say – all three choose to join The Survey Corps, which has the most dangerous role of venturing outside of the walls to hunt down and find out about the Titans. Erin’s goal is simple, he wants nothing more than to kill every Titan; our protective Mikasa will follow her brother wherever he goes; and Armin is … well … the weak link … but we still love him … poor loser.
For me, the concept of giants forcing humans to become prisoners is interesting, but, without a great plot to go with it, it’s not enough to create long-term intrigue. Thankfully, the manga has so much intelligent story-telling behind it that I don’t think I’ll be losing interest for a while. The smartest story-telling allows the reader to empathise and really understand the situation that the characters are in, and the best way to do that is to create a world that is similar to our current one. That’s more than possible to do, even in fantasy. For example, J. K. Rowling created the concept of killing and torturing mudbloods, which is a reflection of the Holocaust. This is fantasy but in a very real way that allows the readers to connect, even if it’s just at a subconscious level. Similarly, in Attack on Titan, the writer, Hajime Isayama, also seems to have incorporated real-world concepts to make the story relatable. The first appears to be the Great Wall of China; or, at least, that’s what the 50 metre wall protecting the humans reminds me of. The second looks to be the Titanic, and I say “looks to be” as I don’t actually know what Isayama’s influences were, but this is just what it appears to be. So, with the Titanic, the major issue is that there was a crisis which they were not prepared to handle. In the same way, the response to the first attack of the Titans is described as being a crisis which they were “ill-prepared to cope with”. By connecting these real world ideas, the story feels a lot more personal to me, because I can understand the gravity of the situation a lot better. In other words, it takes me into the fantasy, rather than breaking the spell and throwing me back into the real world.
As much as I adore Attack on Titan so far, I can’t say I don’t have any gripes with it. My only issue is the artwork. There are so many errors when it comes to anatomy, perspective and proportion that it got on my nerves in the beginning. Normally, when I come across art with glaring errors like this, I can’t help but be put off from the entire story. However, for the first time, I found myself willingly ignoring the errors to keep myself gripped within the story. This is a complete testament to the strength of the manga, because if the story was mediocre, I wouldn’t even get past the first volume with the amount of errors this manga has. On the plus side though, each panel has interesting shots and the inking has that scruffy style that suits the horror nature of this manga. I definitely find it quite confusing though that the artwork can have some really advanced techniques going on, only then to have mistakes appear in the basics (anatomy and proportion). My hope is that, as the volumes advance, that the art will get better.
Finally, I’d like to end this post by saying that this is a manga that I will be reading at least the first five volumes of, so if you’re interested in reading my reviews on them, please do follow this blog. … Until next time – take care !