Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

By Hajime Isayama. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

When the buzz for this series first started coming out, right about when it got the Kodansha manga award last year, I recall many people mocking Shueisha for turning it down. The author had shown the series to the editors of Weekly Shonen Jump, and was promptly told that the series was not Jump enough. So he turned around and sold it to Kodansha, and now it’s a bestseller. But they were absolutely right. This isn’t a Jump series at all. Leaving aside the basic horror of the premise, modern Jump simply isn’t this grim. Even Kodansha thought it was more suited to their monthly magazine than the flagship.

The series immediately knows that its strength are the titans themselves. They are huge, grotesque, and unknowable, even as the humans in the city desperately try to discover their weak points and flaws. Seeing likeable characters literally getting eaten by these things not only gives a feeling of desperation to the series, but helps you to side even more with our band of heroes who have vowed to destroy them – particularly the brother-sister team who keep the viewpoint.

Speaking of that, and this is a bit of a spoiler, apologies. I’m not at all sure, at the end of Vol. 1, how I feel about Eren. So-called decoy protagonists are nothing new in manga, and we’ve certainly seen folks we thought would be the hero getting mercilessly killed off right away before. But he doesn’t quite have the right *feel* of one of these, and I’m not sure the manga is ready to follow Mikasa and Armin for the rest of the series. I came out of the closing moments of the cliffhanger thinking along the lines of “…really? How are they going to walk back from that one?” Of course, if I prove to be wrong, it’s quite an impressive step to take. Especially given that the seemingly emotionless Mikasa seems more likely the sort to launch a roaring rampage of revenge after this.

If the series does have a downside, it’s the art when titans are *not* on the screen. There’s a fairly large cast filled with military types here, many of whom I presume will form our core cast. It’s a shame I had so much trouble telling them apart, then, and kept flicking to the montage introduction in the middle of the book to try to get them straight. There’s also some basic siege cliches in here – Eren’s fight with Jean is right out of the big book of war movies.

More to the point, I’d like a few more signs that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This series is still ongoing, at 7+ volumes in Japan, and I really hope that we get a few more bright spots ahead. As if it ends up being the story of how a ragtag bunch of misfits go up against the enemy and slowly die one by one, the story will be fascinating, but far too downbeat for my taste. I hope the 2nd book can show a bit more optimism.

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  1. I refuse to read this one, mainly because bloody Kodansha has spent so much time and effort on it, whilst wiping their butts with other titles like Negima!, which have had major QC issues, to say nothing of Kodansha scrapping extras that Del Rey always included. However, Kodansha COULD find the space for a color advertising insert for this manga you just reviewed. That ticked me off to no end.

  2. I picked this one up myself, still need to get around to reading it, because I’d heard about it before, and figured I could branch out from my normal reading comfort zone to try some horror. Looking forward to seeing it, and wondering if I’ll continue with the series.

    • I think you’ll continue with the series just to see what happens next and what mysteries become solved b/c it’s truly a great series, well, to me at least, hahaha.

  3. Glad you picked up the volume, it’s definitely my favorite series and I’m up to date w/ the chapter releases over in Japan. I have to tell you, when I first read how vol1 ended, a year ago, I was shocked and didn’t know how this serious could continue and stay strong but you find it’s not that hard of a thing to continue for Isayama-sensei.

  4. I bought this and read it immediately and I’m glad I did. It was an intriguing first volume, and it feels like the story could really go places. I predict space has something to do with it since smoke was rising from the gigantic Titan alluding to meteors and comets and the like. I love the urgency of some of the situations, too. Some of it was edge-of-your-seat excitement. I predict that we’ll see humanity through the civilizations as we’re just at humble beginnings now. We may discover there are more humans than we knew on Planet Earth!! I hope so!! So many possibilities. 2nd volume is definitely bought before it’s even printed :)

  5. I totally agree with you re: the grimness of the series. It is rather pervasive and put the efforts of the heroes in a dim light; there were multiple moments during reading the book where I felt like the whole situation was hopeless. As for Eren, I wasn’t totally enamored of him when the book ended so I’m looking forward to seeing Mikasa pick up the reins lead-wise, although that leaves me wondering why the heck they’d build up all this mystery around Eren and his father only to kill him off before any questions were answered. So . . . definitely going to pick up volume two when it comes out!


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