Shingeki no Kyoujin / Attack on Titan
So let’s lay down a little background first.
This ain’t for the faint of heart.
Humankind, as we know it, has been driven to near extinction. All they have left is a small territory, surrounded by walls 50 meters high. Everything beyond… is the land of the Titans. Creatures far larger than humans, and many times more dangerous; giants who exist for one purpose and one purpose only; to devour humans. For over 100 years, the walls have provided an age of peace. But in the lull of security, a day soon arrives, when the humans will see their walls crumble before their eyes.
This beast here is Shingeki no Kyojin or, in what is almost English, Attack on Titan. It’s only been around for a couple of years at this point, amassing 40 chapters worth of material, but it’s gained quite a substantial amount of attention. Most notably perhaps, in addition to high volume sales, is receiving the fairly prestigious Kodansha Award in 2011. Other winners of the same year that ya might recognize are Chihayafuru and Space Brothers, both with quality anime adaptations to their name. So what better time to take a look at this manga than when we have a full fledged anime adaptation announced. That’s right. There is none better.
Shingeki no Kyojin is, if anything, absolutely brutal. Dark, unsettling, and so unforgivingly brutal. And for those so inclined, suitably graphic in it’s gore. Like, seriously. If that bothers you, this is not for you. Yet I still so very much urge people to take a look regardless. It’s simply an exciting story with a lot of complexity to it.
The main focal point here, if ya can’t tell, are the Titans. Who are, if you honestly can’t tell, genuinely creepy. For a story which relies very much on conveying the despair that humanity faces, the Titans couldn’t have taken more fitting forms. Giants are rare enough in fiction like this as it is, so it’s a type of frightful joy to see them handled so well here. These abominations come straight from uncanny valley; clear humans features are put in the blender to create masses of jarring proportions and unnerving facial features. Even when some Titans should by all means appear silly in their design, the execution will always remind you how terrifying these things are.
At which point I should immediately address this author’s weakest point; his art. While it suits the Titans to a T, it paves way to some wonky looking characters from time to time. The majority of the art has a sketchy quality to it which has it’s charming doujinshi-like appeal, but there are some moments where you clearly realize proportions do not work like that. It also shows in character designs, where there’s a case of same-face syndrome. Yet, for all you can say wrong about it, the quality of the art is saved through the power of it’s conveyance. The author understands his story boarding to squeeze every essence of fear he can, and has a sense for motion as the characters whisk themselves around the Titan in their desperate struggle.
The characters themselves, well. We’re introduced to hot-headed Eren Jaeger, who shows a heavy hatred for the Titans and the complacency of humankind, as well as adoptive sister Mikasa Ackerman, who acts as a self-appointed protective figure for Eren. Y’know, being the stronger of the two. In addition, we have quite a bunch of secondary and tertiary characters who you should be more than ready to say goodbye to at a moment’s notice. But that in and of itself is hard, considering how sympathetic most of these characters end up being. They’re motivated in realistic fashion, in both their action and inaction – even those we’re less briefly acquainted with, the fear factor provided by the Titans is enough to drive an emotional impact.
Also? Special mention in that these people, despite living in such an anti-human world, are usually very competent. This goes beyond just physical abilities; these characters keep up with the audience. I very distinctly remember, as it very rarely happens, speculating on the nature of certain mysteries and points of intrigue as they popped up, only to have the characters go through my thoughts in the very next moments. The characters are not idiots.
It’s hard to describe gratification of that level.
Beyond the Titans and characters themselves though, are those mysteries and points of intrigue which persist throughout. From discovering what there might be in the world beyond their walls and reclaiming it to unveiling the nature of the Titan’s themselves; it asks a lot from it’s readers and has thus far repaid in both kind and agony. It’s one of those manga you can definitely call a roller coaster, although with a heck of a lot of going down than up.
I should by all means recommend y’all to read this immediately, but in comes the issue of the anime. With a dedicated staff behind, it could very well fix the aesthetic issues that plagues the manga now and again. The trailer is totally in it’s credit, this could end up being something pretty incredible if done that well consistently. The hiccups I have though are that we have no clue to what extent the gore will be present as it is VITAL for this manga, though the trailer does feature a very brief moment where a poor guy is smashed to bits (haha awesome), and whether or not the off-setting appeal of the Titan will be conveyed as spectacularly as the comic. It’s one of those wait-and-see dealies here. But you won’t hurt yourself checking the manga out. Try out the very first volume (chapters 1-4), it displays a whole lot of what I just talked about and gives a good taste of what you’re in for here.
P.S. As said in my general manga section post, I’ll be covering Shingeki no Kyojin up from it’s current point, although I’m not entirely sure if I’ll make a post on chapter 40. Guess we’ll see at some point next week if it goes up or not.