COMIC REVIEW: Attack on Titan vol. 1

Mankind has hidden behind impenetrable walls for a hundred years, complacent about the risk of the giants roaming outside. What happens when the impenetrable fails and a century-old horror strikes again?

Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by giants. Giants are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence and who devour human beings. A small percentage of humanity survied barricading themselves in a city protected by walls even taller than the biggest of giants. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a giant in over 100 years – before teenager Eren and his foster sister Mikasa witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a super-giant that appears from nowhere.

Attack on Titan seems to have caused quite a stir in the anime/manga world of late. In recent months I’ve seen loads of blogs, tweets and status updates about it, so after an unsuccessful trip to the comic shop I thought I’d treat myself to a copy. Manga isn’t my usual playground, the only series I’ve read all of is Death Note, although I’ve dabbled in the odd volume of various titles from the library. This volume is presented in the original right-to-left reading order, which I know some people find difficult but I find clicks into place after a few pages.

I knew almost nothing about the series when I bought it, deliberately so as whilst I’d seen list of people mention it I didn’t want to load up my expectations. Since reading this volume I thought I’d check out the corresponding episodes of the anime, as it’s available via the Netflix US service.

The story has a split timeframe structure, our protagonist Eren is shown at about 10-12 years old and then 5 years later. It’s a minor thing but they don’t put a year suffix on the date (it just says 845 instead of 845AD for example) so I didn’t  immediately realise the number on the page was referring to a date. It makes sense that they wouldn’t be using Anno Domini but would’ve been easier if there was something else in its place. It becomes clearer later on as we see Eren graduating from training to join one of the cities military forces.

I appreciated that the story doesn’t overly spoon feed the world building, we don’t know if this is Earth, whether it’s the past or future and how the Titans came about. I’m sure this will be revealed over time but it left me intrigued, which is a good thing.

A key plot point, but not a spoiler, is that life inside the walled cities is very much normal, having not been attacked by Titans for a century. I struggled a little with how even a small city could be sustained without significant agriculture and how everything could be so “normal”. Where does the stone come from, where is the wheat for bread grown, where are animals kept? Maybe this is covered later, food shortages are certainly referred to in the anime. The anime is quite a bit more expansive in its storytelling, things that take a page in the comic are decompressed for the cartoon and take a slightly different order. The individual scenes seem to be scripted very closely to each other though.

Hajime Isayama’s art didn’t jump out at me, as is frequently the case with manga that I’ve read, I mentally filed it as “generic manga art” which may show a lack of discernment on my part. I did have one or two issues following the action in some of the bigger set pieces. The Titans themselves are nicely designed, different enough that they’re not just tall humans, and the Colossus Titan is very memorable in appearance. There are a handful of insert pages which show details designs of the cities or the equipment used in fighting Titans, which seemed a little heavy on the exposition side of things.

The test of any first volume of a series has to be whether you feel inclined to buy further volumes, and I do.

Title: Attack on Titan vol. 1

Publisher: Kodansha

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Dave W

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: