One of the things I generally feel I should do is expand my general knowledge of, well, lots of different things. My Geek blindspots include anime and manga, and to be honest, those are some pretty daunting areas. I’ve heard some great things about the One Piece series, a friend of a friend even has a nami one piece figurine, who I believe is a well-known character. Where can someone whose seen only a relative handful of anime movies and has only really read the original Akira manga go from there if he is interesting in learning more?
Well, I might as well give it a shot with the first in what I hope to be a somewhat ongoing series of reviews, beginning with something I saw two episodes of on Netflix, Attack on Titan. My understanding is Japanese comics work a bit different in that they tell one story for however long it takes and then that’s that, so let’s try one of the more currently popular ones out there.
Attack on Titan comes from creator Hajime Isayama. The basic story is this: at some point, giant, man-eating beings called Titans appeared out of nowhere and started just eating humans. What little is known about the Titans says they don’t really need to eat humans for nourishment, and they won’t bother any other living thing. They just like eating humans. Most run about 50 meters high, walk around naked but don’t really have any genitals, don’t seem to talk, and just start chomping on any human they can get their hands on.
To that end, after they nearly wiped out the human race, the survivors retreated to a series of walled towns and cities, with the wealthiest and most powerful living in the central part behind the most walls. It’s been that way for about 100 years, with a military branch called the surveyors the only ones who venture outside to keep an eye on the Titans and destroy them when possible. It usually isn’t.
The book opens (and my copy was published the Japanese way with the pages and panels being read right to left instead of left to right) with two kids Eren and Mikasa. They might be siblings. I am not sure. Eren’s father is a doctor who gets summoned away to treat patients in an inner wall when an unprecedented “colossal Titan” (who doesn’t seem to have any skin) appears, towering over the walls that are normally far too tall for any Titan to see over. He kicks in a hole and allows the relatively smaller Titans to storm the town, eating everyone they can, including Eren’s mother.
Five years later, Eren, Mikasa, and their friend Armin have all graduated from military training. Eren wants to fulfill a lifelong ambition of fighting and perhaps exterminating the Titans. Mikasa, who has been protecting Eren forever, wants to continue to keep an eye on her friend. Armin is a question mark since he seems to be something of a coward, freezing at the first sight of a Titan while the other rush off to fight with the grappling hook devices. Eren, ostensible hero of the book, has long chafed at being confined by the Titans inside the city walls and has no greater ambition to see the outside world, plus revenge himself against the creatures that ate his mother. Titans only have one weakness, even able to regrow heads in minutes if a lucky cannonball hits one. They can be killed only by slicing through a section of the back of their neck.
Clearly these things don’t die easily.
The book actually works very well. The cover compares it to The Walking Dead, and that’s not a bad comparison. There’s some grisly horror in here, intermixed with survivors hiding from a threat that seemed to come out of nowhere. Eren, and to a lesser extent Mikasa and Armin are all fairly well-developed as characters, and the ending of the book may have readers wondering who the real hero is. I know there’s a lot more to this story, and the seeds are set for mysteries along the way, like where the Titans came from and what, if anything, they want. But I’m pleased with this. Let’s say nine out of ten class conflicts.