Story/Art: Hajime Isayama
Translation/Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka
What They Say
For the past century, what’s left of mankind has hidden in a giant, three-walled city, trapped in fear of the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming humankind, but the sudden appearance of an enormous Titan is about to change everything…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Let me start by saying Attack on Titan is asking for a colossal suspension of disbelief on it’s readers. A fantasy (or is it science-fiction?) world where mankind has been pushed to the brink of extinction by a species of giant monstrosities with human forms, and an appetite for human flesh? Comics ask the reader to accept these kind of set ups all the time, but for some reason Titan pushes that acceptance to it’s limits.
It might be that way because so little is explained in the beginning, and the reason for that seems to lie in the character’s lack of understanding what lead to humanity becoming trapped in a country of walls. It’s just something the everyone has come to accept, living as they have for hundreds of years in their walled cities. In fact, the population had become convinced that they are safe that it takes a fifty meter colossal titan breaking their outermost wall to convince the population otherwise.
We’re introduced to Eren, a boy whose well respected doctor father was away on business when the titan’s breached the wall and ate his mother in front of his eyes. Eren has all the hallmarks of the idealistic protagonist, complete with the requisite tough and timid best friends. His one major desire is to kill every last titan so that humanity can once again roam the world. He and his best friend Mikase end up graduating top of their class and take up positions in the titan fighting squads with their classmates.
Most of this volume felt like set up, leading to a vicious and shocking final quarter of the book where it becomes very obvious that this isn’t a typical fighting manga. Characters are mercilessly slaughtered in gory detail by the titans, who swallow some whole but usually bite their victims in half. Suddenly these creepy looking mannequin like monsters actually seem threatening.
The art in the series has a strange, uneven feel. It’s rough and a bit ugly, and the action scenes are a confusing mix of lines whenever the fighters are swinging and shooting through the air. The ugliness works in the stories favor when it comes to the grotesque looking titans, who are a mix of hilarious and horrendous. There’s also broad range of body types and facial types in the cast, and the titans, which is nice to see as variety is often a shortcoming many artists have.
As an extra, there’s an interview between the author and his editor, which contains brief but huge spoiler. I’d recommend avoiding the interview if you have any interest in continuing the series, at least until after volume 2. There’s also a translated preview for the next volume which, unlike the interview, doesn’t spoil anything at all.
Volume one of Attack on Titan is a mixed bag. What appears to be the story of a young man rising to become the best quickly turns to a tragic disaster, a desperate fight against impossible odds. The story does a great job luring the reader into a false sense of security, although the sheer weirdness and absurdity of grotesque giants devouring mankind keeps drawing me back out. The art is off awkward looking, and the titans are laughable looking monsters. The leads are, so far, somewhat generic kids who fall into easy archetypes, which makes it hard to root for them. The ending of this volume is a potentially story changing event, and it’ll be interesting to see where it all leads from here.
Content Grade: C +
Art Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: June 19th, 2012