the Little Red Reviewer

Attack on Titan, vol 1, by Hajime Isayama

Posted on: March 23, 2014

attack on titan 1AAttack on Titan, volume 1, by Hajime Isayama

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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It’s been ages since I reviewed a Manga.  Been watching plenty of anime lately (or to be honest, half-watching. Other than Eccentric Family and Silver Spoon, much of what my household watches doesn’t interest me. But that’s a totally different blog post), but I haven’t read much new manga.

One of the animes that caught my eye recently was Attack on Titan. I had some issues with the pacing of the anime, but because I like the overall storyline I decided to give the Manga a try. One of the major reasons the anime didn’t work so well for me was the uneven pacing. Scenes that felt important to me were quickly over, and overdramatic scenes were drawn out too long.  By reading the manga, I can set my own pace. I can spend as much (or as little) time as I want studying each page and conversation.  The scripts of the manga and anime are pretty much identical, but I did much better with the manga because I controlled the pacing.

Attack on Titan takes place on what can be described as a post-apocalyptic Earth, but this isn’t an apocalypse caused by nuclear war, or smog, or an asteroid hitting. This is a monster apocalypse.  About a hundred years ago, humanity started being attacked by giant humanoid creatures, called Titans. The size of a small  building, the Titans destroy homes and cities, and often eat any humans they come across.  Humanity came up with plans to survive, which mostly included retreating behind tall stone walls.   The designs of the walled cities lure the Titans into attacking the more outlying parts of the walled complex, so they won’t be interested in the less defended areas. Pretty shitty deal for the people living in those outlying areas.

Eren and his adopted sister Mikasa live with their parents in one of those outlying areas.  The family believes they are safe.  There are some hints that Eren’s father was involved in secret research (which I imagine will become very important later), but in the first volume of the manga this is only touched on a little bit.  The town can typically repel most Titans, thanks to defenses on the top of their wall, but one day a giant Titan barrels through the wall, allowing a small army of titans to ravage the city. Eren’s mother is killed by a Titan, and he feels responsible for her death, he wants to know what he could have done differently so that she would have lived. Eren joins up with the military with the hopes of joining the Survey Corps, and Mikasa and their friend Armin join up too.

A few quick words on Eren, Mikasa, and Shonen tropes, because I can’t help myself.  Eren is a Shonen trope-tastic “angry young man”, meaning he is  impulsive to the point of being over the top, he makes rash decisions and life altering promises without thinking through what he’s saying, and no matter how unrealistic the vow, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it, even risking himself and his friends. It often falls to Mikasa to stop him from doing something really stupid, and Armin often becomes the physical manifestation of the consequences of Eren’s rash actions.   Usually these characters have every right to be very, very angry, and it’s not their anger that bothers me, it’s their over-dramatic (and brain bashingly repetitive) methods of communicating it.  The “angry young man”  trope is so often done poorly, but it’s also the main plot of my all time favorite manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, so there’s that.

Okay, sorry for the tangent, back to Attack on Titan.

att on Titan 2

There are a few chapters spent on their military training, and many, many pages spent on the brilliant pneumatic flying machinery the recruits must learn to use. Gas powered pneumatica   propel the soldier forward or upward, and an extendable knife blade helps them grab onto things, and ultimately stab a Titan in the back of the neck, killing it. And it was this, the creative engineering, that really got me hooked on Attack on Titan.  The characters really aren’t anything special, nor are the politics or the post apocalyptic situation.  But these gizmos that strap onto your body and let you leap over and across buildings?  I’ve never seen anything quite like it. You can get a good idea of what they look like from the cover of the manga, and the author gives a few pages trying to explain exactly how it works.  Necessity is the mother of invention after all, and to kill a 50 meter tall monster, you need to get your soldier and your weaponry 50 meters into the air.

att on Titan 1

As the story progresses in this first volume, Mikasa gets Eren out of plenty of scrapes, we learn Armin makes a pretty shitty soldier, and other minor characters are introduced. When a massive, and seemingly intelligent Titan attacks the city everyone is now living in, Eren sacrifices his life to save Armin’s.

To be continued!

Eren and Mikasa are main characters, so Eren can’t be like, dead dead, right?

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12 Responses to "Attack on Titan, vol 1, by Hajime Isayama"

I don’t know how you’re feeling about it, but I am SO,SO tired of Post Apocalyptic Earth SF-F. Seems like it’s been done to death, then done to death again… There MUST be an other way to write a book where things are screwed up than that, even if it’s just a new planet, new colonization, or discovery of an old dead civilization.

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no pun intended, but I’m definitely burned out on the nuclear winter post apocalyptic Earth setting. This one is more of a mystery – why are monsters attacking? where did they come from? type setting. so, a little bit different than the others.

and come on, post apocalyptic is the easiest plot device for well, anything! ;)

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A couple of months ago, I zoomed through the anime in a very short period of time and loved it. The manga seems cool, I had no idea there was so much planning involved for the design of the technology. :o

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Warning, huge reply.

I read the SnK manga a while back and I cannot remember how far volume one goes up to but I know I prefer the anime to the manga. The director is known for big spectacles and that’s what he delivers.

On the issue of the shounen character tropes – that’s part of the genius of the show. Eren is a hot-headed idiot and all that typical shounen bluster that usually works in other shows – train hard and shout a lot – don’t get him anywhere so it usually falls on Mikasa and others to take up the slack and they get developed as characters. It also emphasizes just how dark the show is. We get a set of female characters in the manga and anime that are badass – and I don’t buy the idea that being in love with someone undercuts their heroism.

The sense of flight and speed that using the three dimensional maneuver gear is brilliantly relayed in the anime, not so much in the manga – and it’s not because of the medium – Tsutomu Nihei’s manga delivers a sense of speed and distances covered brilliantly.

Did you find the pacing of the Trost arc too drawn out? I thought that the pacing was pitch-perfect for embedding us in the lives of the characters. The initial shattering of the calm and then the short training arc before an extended trip through grim horror. That gruelling battle to halt the Titan incursion from Wall Maria and re-take Wall Rose was gut-wrenching and a perfect set-up for the second-cours of the series where the anime flew into overdrive with the introduction of the Survey Corps. Granted, certain deaths do lack some impact because the overall story structure was altered to make it more linear but I think the anime is superior – that OST was just whoa!

Now that I think about it some more, I did prefer Annie’s development in the manga.

Few titles caught my imagination like this and I have been watching anime and reading manga for years.

If you’ve finished the anime I’d be interested in finding out your opinions on it. Here are my First Impressions. Here’s my mid-season thoughts and my
final thoughts. Warning, massive spoilers.

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oh, i completely agree that the 3-D vertical maneuvering in the anime is absolutely excellent. Those were some of my favorite scenes, and they were paced just fine. It was more the dialog scenes that i had pacing issues with, all the melodrama that felt overdone and needless after a while. Eh, it’s the same issue i have with a lot of shounen, which leads me to believe it’s user error.
I don’t remember how far I got in the anime, but to Trost, and the “big reveal” with Eren. Is that the end of the first season?

I don’t want spoilers beyond what I’ve seen/read, so I didn’t read your final thoughts, just your First Impressions and Mid-season thoughts. Yes, the animation is excellent, especially the 3-d maneuvering scenes, but for some reason the show just didn’t grab me. I didn’t go out of my way to watch it. guess I”m just not as into anime as I thought.

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The big reveal with Eren is just before the halfway point but WHAT a reveal! That whole episode where Mikasa is on the verge of giving up… God-tier. Just wait until you get outside the walls with the Recon Corps and see the next Titan threat. I was rocking back and forth with glee over those sequences in The Forest of Giant Trees and the final two episodes… OHMYGOSH!

As for the pacing issues – I don’t buy the idea that one battle shouldn’t take up so many episodes. The relentless focus on it makes the world and the situation all the more real and gripping and slams home just how uneven the odds are. It leads up to a moment of pure freedom and joy when humanity begins to fight back and venture beyond their defences.

It’s easy to get jaded when it comes to anime – no more moe, please! – but this show renewed my faith and then some. This, Kyousogiga, My youth romantic comedy is wrong as I expected made some excellent television viewing. I’d definitely recommend Kyousogiga to you.

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Yeah, I got halfway through the anime–which I was watching mostly because it was THE anime to watch last year–and I stopped because I was so disengaged. Like you said, the pacing was off. I got bored. One battle should not take up nearly a third of a shows first season!

I’m surprised you didn’t really mention the art, though. How is it? I’ve heard it gets nigh unreadable at times.

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The artwork in the manga was pretty good, I could always follow the action. i actually liked how the faces were drawn in the manga better than how they were done in the anime. But Genki Jason is right, the 3-d maneuvering scenes in the anime are stunning.

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This seems like something I should probably be reading, just to be engaged with Japanese SF. I may not have the patience though. There must be a mountain of SFF manga out there that I am missing.

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[…] now I’m off to read the Little Red Reviewers take on Volume One of the manga. Feel free to enjoy this video of the Attack on Titan opening credits, redone with cats (because […]

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Okay, I waited to read this until I finished the anime (I wrote a little blurb on it: http://wp.me/p2jiqJ-vi). I agree with you on the pacing, but I think because I watched while I was on the treadmill it rolled off me – there’s nothing like action to help you forget that you’re, you know, exercising!

Like a lot of things I watch, I wanted the characters to sit down and say things to each other like “look, Eren, I know it’s hard. But you really need to be less impulsive – you’re not really helping anyone, and it’s very dangerous.” That said, my tolerance for anime can sometimes be gauged by the number of times a character blushes and lines come off of their cheeks, and it was rare/non-existent in AoT. Oh, and there was no terribly done romance, also good.

So as someone who’s never read manga (I struggle with comics that are in black and white) is it a good one to try as my first?

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if you enjoyed the anime (which you obviously did), then you’ll do just fine the manga. the dialog is word for word the same, the order of flashbacks might be a teeny bit different, but you’ll see a lot that you enjoy.

low tolerance for characters who blush constantly? brother I hear ya!

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