Attack on Titan Vol 1 by Hajime Isayama
At this point, given the ubiquity of Attack on Titan on manga best seller lists, reviewing it is a bit like reviewing the air, but I decided to finally get around to reading this series when Mangablog alerted me to the crazy deal for the kindle edition of the first volume that was running recently. Sometimes I have no trouble reading manga on my Kindle Paperwhite, but I had more difficulty figuring out what was going on with the art with the reduced size, and quickly switched over to reading this manga on my iPad instead.
I’ve been reading a bunch of post-apocalyptic fiction recently, just because there are so many YA dystopian novels out there, and I’m also in the middle of reading Justin Cronin’s The Twelve. Attack on Titan is an interesting twist on the dystopian genre as many years into the future humanity has retreated into walled cities in order to protect themselves from the Titian, giant zombie-like humanoid creatures who enjoy eating human flesh. Eren is in many ways a fairly typical brash and opinionated shonen hero, whose close companion is a quieter and seemingly more pragmatic girl named Mikasa. Eren is worried about the complacency his town seems to be developing, as Titans haven’t attacked it for a long time.
Sure enough, a devastating attack on the town follows, as a Titan bigger than anyone has seen before easily breaches the wall, causing panic and confusion in the town where few humans are equipped to deal with a direct attack. Years later, Eren and Mikasa are ready to take their work assignments in the town, and they have to choose the safer duty of directly protecting the townspeople or joining up with the riskier survey corps. Eren wants to avenge his family, and Mikasa is quietly determined to follow him in order to protect him.
By far the weakest element of Attack on Titan is the art. The characters are drawn stiffly and not in proportion. For much of the time Eren and his comrades are yelling at each other, with facial expressions that don’t have very much variation. At the same time, the more detailed renderings of the Titans are plenty creepy, with their musculature visible on their bodies due to lack of skin, wide jaws, and shark-like rows of teeth. In contrast to the art, the worldbuilding in Attack on Titan is excellent, and it is clear that Isayama has spent plenty of time plotting out the events in his future history, thinking through the weapon systems and defenses the humans have constructed, and setting up the relationships between the characters in an interesting way. The first volume ended on a cliffhanger that was both shocking and weirdly refreshing from a manga plotting perspective, making me wonder a bit if Attack on Titan is going to be serving up a bit of metacommentary about manga plot cliches. Even though the art was fairly awkward, I was still able to follow along with the action sequences, and the Titans were genuinely unsettling, with their grimacing silence and habits of eating people in one gulp. I’m a little leery of taking on such a long series, but I can certainly see why Attack on Titan is so popular.