Attack on Titan (vols. 1-4) by Hajime Isayama, translated by Sheldon Drzka
Check out this headline from last week: “‘Attack on Titan’ Drives Manga Rebound at New York Comic Con.” With over 1.5 million copies in print in the U.S. (which actually seems a bit paltry compared to the 40 – not a typo! – million worldwide as of earlier this year), the various spin-offs are multiplying, including related “light” novels (a three-parter announced by innovative Vertical, Inc.), an anime series, an animated feature film, video games, a live action film, and more. [If you’re planning on searching for the ‘more,’ you’ll get more comprehensive results if you use the Japanese title, >進撃の巨人 [Shingeki no Kyojin], which literally means ‘march of the giants.’] “Attack on Titan is riding a wave of popularity that shows no sign of waning,” the article concludes. Of course, I took that as a directive to get reading … so here’s the latest #MangaFriday post – get ready for apocalyptic, alternate dimensions.
“To You, 2,000 Years From Now,” the series opens, and the future is definitely not looking good. What’s left of the human race has been relegated to a heavily guarded three-ringed fortress, contained by what should have been impenetrable walls. Outside this “Human Territory,” the Titans run free – they’re a behemoth breed of human-like beings that lumber naked, lack genitals, and live to feast on screaming, struggling human flesh. They nearly wiped out the entire human population 107 years ago. While the survivors have lived in relative peace for 100 years, they’ve never been able to escape “the terror … of being dominated by [the Titans] … and the shame … of being held captive in a birdcage.”
Peace comes to a devastating end when a Colossus Titan easily, shockingly scales the outer 50-meter wall, launching a tragic bloodbath. Titans in the past have been not more than 15 meters, and such a behemoth has never even been imagined. The humans lose control of the outer ring of their territory – called Wall Maria – which amounts to roughly a third of their already limited domain. Even more tragic is the loss of 20% of their quickly dwindling population.
Among the survivors emerge three protagonists: the inseparable duo of Eren Yeager and his sister-of-sorts Mikasa Ackerman, and their mutual friend Armin Arlert whom the pair have always protected from constant bullies. Five years after the surprise attack, these three are among of the top 10 military trainees, each of whom must choose to serve in one of the three units: the Garrison, which protects the walls; the Survey Corps, which venture beyond the safety of the walls to fight in Titan territory; and the Military Police Brigade, which maintains order within. Eren is the most driven, having witnessed his mother being eaten alive by a Titan; Mikasa is the most physically gifted, with natural aptitude that is “historically unprecedented”; Armin is physically incapable, but his brain makes for a most superior weapon.
Volume 1 ends with yet another vicious Titan attack, as Armin watches Eren being devoured. The battle rages between man and beast in Volume 2 as the body count increases exponentially. Mikasa’s violent back story is revealed, including her lineage as the hapa daughter of the single last Asian woman. Volume 3 sees the Titan onslaught temporarily quelled, but Eren’s reappearance amidst Titan ashes puts him at risk of being a possible traitor. Armin struggles physically and emotionally to bring back Eren from an abyss of Titan proportions in Volume 4, as more personal history and background about the chosen top 10 are divulged. Eren holds the literal key to the Titan world, and somehow, the humans must get back to fallen Wall Maria to search for answers …
Fantastical plot, unrelenting pacing, unpredictable action, impossible odds, multi-dimensional characters all woven into a narrative built around the unconditional bonds of family, no matter how unconventionally members are brought together: 40 million readers worldwide have joined the journey. Call me a lemming, but I’ve jumped on the bandwagon for the duration for sure!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2010-2011 (Japan), 2012-2013 (United States)