Manga Review: Attack on Titan, Volume 1 by Hajime Isayama

Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), Volume 1 by Hajime Isayama

Genre: Dystopia, Horror

Publisher: Kodansha

Date of Publication: June 19, 2012

Author Information: WebsiteTwitter

Tiara’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars – “It feels hopeless, and the powerlessness of the characters in that situation is very tangible to the readers. However, as human nature goes, you want them to fight and win.”
Nearly a century before the start of this story, humanity is attacked by a group of humanoid beings dubbed “titans” who push them almost to the brink of extinction. Titans are much larger than their human counterparts (with most standing between 3 to 15 meters) and immensely strong. They seem to possess no intellect as they can’t communicate and show no signs of understanding. Even though they look characteristically male or female, they lack reproductive organs, making many question their origins.

They mindlessly graze on human beings, ignoring all other forms of life in favor of only devouring people. Titans have lived 100 years without feeding on people which seems to indicate that they don’t feed on humans to satisfy hunger. Many believe their goal is to exterminate humankind, but the reasoning for that is a mystery. In response to the threat, three 50 meter walls were built, which effectively keep the titans out while keeping the people inside. Talk of the outside world is considered taboo and information about the outside world has been outlawed and destroyed.

Our story begins with Eren Jäeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert. Eren dreams of joining the scouting team and seeing the outside world. The scouting team’s primary goal is to find whatever information they can about the titans with the hope of learning their origins and how they can be eradicated for good. Eren hopes to contribute to that effort. He equates the people within the wall to “cattle” waiting for the slaughter and becomes increasingly disillusioned with the complacency of everyone inside the wall–especially after Armin shows him a book that talks about the outside world and all the beauty humans have had to relinquish.

Mikasa, Eren’s adopted sister and one of the most awesome people in the manga and anime, feels she owes Eren a great deal, and she’s resolved to be by his side to protect him even if it costs her own life in the process. Even though she doesn’t agree with Eren’s decision to join the scouting team, she’s willing to travel that road with him when that time comes.

After 100 years of relative safety, the walls are breached by an aberrant titan–aberrant because it exhibits behavior unusual for a titan and because it’s huge–standing more than 50 meters in height. In the beginning, before the breach, the world that these people live in isn’t exactly bleak inside the walls. They seem to live relatively normal lives, but they’re happily corralled and confident as long as their walls are up. They know the titans are out there and there’s fear of them in the back of their minds, but it doesn’t seem to truly touch the illusion of safety they have behind the wall. The only time the mood shifts is when the scouting team, who always suffers losses when scouting, returns to remind them just how dangerous things are beyond their walls.

Read from right to left.

With the breach of the wall comes the all too shocking realization of how fragile their safety is in this new world they live in (a world they have largely ignored for the past century), how much arrogance has been placed on those walls to keep the titans out. The situation becomes dire quickly since they have nothing that is truly effective against the titans. After a hundred years, they still know very little about them. The titans, and how nigh unstoppable they are, quickly add apprehension to the story, making readers wonder how the people in this book will ever hope to survive. Making the titans themselves more human-like in appearance rather than some fantastic monsters makes the story even more unsettling and grim. It feels hopeless, and the powerlessness of the characters in that situation is very tangible to the readers. However, as human nature goes, you want them to fight and win.

I’m not sure if this was Isayama’s intent, but this manga (and its anime) seem to be an extreme reflection on life now and how those who live in relative comfort sometimes choose to ignore the monsters outside that threaten their comfort until that comfort is actually attacked.

Now, I do like the manga, but I am partial to the anime a bit more because it adds a bit more detail to some of the scenes. Some of the art is sort of awkward in places and distracted me from the story a little bit. Eren is obviously the most important of the three main characters we’ve encountered, but he can grate on your nerves, especially with how hotheaded he can be. I try to chalk this up to him initially having a very black and white view of life. Things are either good or they’re either evil to him. Evil things must be eliminated no matter the cost in his eyes, and he’s very passionate about that. He’s now having to adjust to gray areas in his life, and it’s leaving him a bit off balance right now.

If you’re not a fan of violence, you probably don’t want to read this. If bleak situations where sudden, violent death is the norm rather than the exception, you probably don’t want to read this. The situation is depressing, but you have to hope that, despite whatever frailties and foibles humans possess, their indomitable will to survive will prevail.

3.5 of 5 stars


3 Comments on “Manga Review: Attack on Titan, Volume 1 by Hajime Isayama”

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