Manga Talk: Attack on Titan

Hello and welcome back to Manga Talk!

Today we are going to be talking about a series where the manga ended last year and the anime seems to want to refuse ending.

I am of course talking about the first volume of Attack on Titan, and as usual there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS, although if you are a hardcore consumer of manga and anime then that won’t be too much of an issue.

Let’s get started!

Summary

The story begins with a group of individuals in a forest dealing with giant creatures and then we flash cut to a young boy taking a nap in the shade of a tree.

This young boy is our protagonist, Eren, and he is accompanied by his adopted sister Mikasa, and the two begin heading home with some stuff they were sent to get.

They encounter a soldier named Hannes, who is drunk with some other soldiers, and they talk about how they are living in a time of peace because the massive 50 meter walls protect them from the monsters outside.

Eren brings up the point that they are becoming complacent, and that they should be going outside to fight the monsters, which reveals his intentions of joining what’s known as the Survey Corps.

At that moment the Survey Corps return from outside the wall, and what started off as 100 soldier, only twenty returned, with the rest dying.

Mikasa tries to use this as a deterrent for Eren from joining the Survey Corps, which doesn’t work, even when Mikasa tells Eren’s parents his intentions.

His mother is against it while his father, Dr. Yeager, addresses that nothing will stop a curious mind and promises that when he comes back from work that he will show Eren what’s in the basement.

We then cut to a young blonde boy, Armin, getting bullied and called a heretic, and Eren and Mikasa stop them from hurting Armin more.

He says that the reason he was getting bullied was because that he said that humans should eventually explore the outside world, and he explains that the government has made it taboo to talk like that.

People seem to not want to think about what could happen if the wall breaks, since things have been peaceful for 100 years.

A loud bang is heard and the kids see what caused the noise.

A massive humanoid creature, a Titan, whose head is clearing the 50 meter wall and kick open a hole through the wall.

As one would expect panic ensues as the Titans start entering through the hole in the wall. Eren and Mikasa go to their house only to see their mother trapped under rubble.

The kids try in vain to get their mother out, but as a Titan approaches, she tells the kids to run. Hannes comes by, and after an internal debate on whether he should kill the Titan or take the kids and run, he chooses the latter.

The mother’s last words to the kids are to survive, and she is eaten by a grinning Titan.

Eren berates Hannes at not killing the Titan, where Hannes breaks down saying that neither of them are capable of fighting the Titans.

The kids manage to make it onto a boat to get to the main city that is covered by the outer wall, Wall Maria, but suddenly a massive Titan charges through, which means that the city contained in the outer wall must be abandoned and brought to the second wall.

Eren swears that he will kill the Titans and we flash forward to see that he, Mikasa, and Armin have joined the military and have just graduated.

That’s a BIG BOY!!

After an explanation on how the walls work and the three different divisions of the military, the graduating class celebrates.

Only the top ten members of the class can be a part of the cushy Military Police Brigade, and a young man by the name of Jean is more than happy to go to, since he won’t be on the front lines to die.

Eren objects to this thinking and calls Jean an idiot for not wanting to help humanity. Jean sees the Titans taking over as inevitable, and that humanity has no shot at survival.

Eren argues that while they have had major defeats, its because of those defeats that they gathered information and that already conceding to the Titans is foolish.

The two fight, and are broken up by Mikasa, who was the best ranked student of their class and has become dead set in following Eren by joining the Survey Corps as well.

Armin decides to join the Survey Corps as well, since while he isn’t well suited for the fighting portion and he was highly regarded as an academic, he feels his talents would be wasted if he didn’t fight on the front lines.

The three meet up with Hannes, who is a squad leader now, who accidentally triggers some memory in Eren, knocking him asleep until the next day.

As everyone gets settled into their garrison, the new recruits that are working wall duty are starting to have an optimistic outlook on the future.

Which is immediately shattered with the reappearance of the Colossal Titan, the one that kicked the wall in.

It hits the wall, fracturing it, but Eren uses the military issue Vertical Maneuvering Gear to try and kill the Colossal Titan. He gets close to slicing the back of the neck of the creature, but the Colossal Titan vanishes.

While the wall isn’t broken yet, they have already begun evacuation proceedings and assembling the troops.

Armin has a brief panic attack, but is calmed down by Eren and Mikasa. Jean, on the other hand is upset that he wasn’t able to get to the interior in time and is forced to fight on the front lines.

The job of the garrison is to protect the citizens as they evacuate, and unfortunately Eren and Mikasa are forced to be separated, so Mikasa makes Eren promise her that he won’t die.

We learn a bit more about Titans, with some of the major points being that up until recently with the Colossal Titan (at least mentioned by Eren) that they don’t act intelligently, only eat humans and not other creatures, regenerate missing body parts (including the head) quickly, and that their only weak spot is in the back of the neck.

Eren, Armin, and a bunch of other fresh recruits charge in confidently to face the Titans, only for a bunch of them to get killed and eaten by the Titans, with Eren losing a leg in the process.

Armin freezes in fear and is about to get swallowed by a Titan, which triggers a flashback where Eren and Armin bond over a book that Armin’s grandfather has that talks about the outside world and how they both want to see it someday.

Eren forces himself up and as a final act of heroism, pulls Armin out of the Titans mouth, says goodbye and gets eaten, ending the volume.

Soaring High!

There are a lot of things that the manga does well, and it’s why the manga has become as popular as it has.

Firstly, let’s talk about the art. The humans are very well done, from character design to expressions to the gore. I want a lot of emphasis on how well the expressions are done and how well the gore is done.

The expressions are almost hyper realistic, with much more detail showing how the characters are feeling, usually dread and terror.

As for the gore front, while there is plenty of it, there isn’t a lot of lingering on the gore, which is good because it makes the story feel violent, but not to the point that it revels in the gore.

It is meant to be terrifying and scary, but not make the gore the focus, which is why the detailed expressions of the characters also help here.

What also helps in the art side of things is the design of the Titans. While they are humanoid in shape, there are plenty of wacky and weird designs that look off putting. The Titan that ate Eren’s mother had a creepy smile, some have massive torsos and tiny limbs, some are just completely disproportionate.

This provides an almost uncanny valley effect where they look almost human, but something is definitely off, which is intentionally done to again show the horror of the Titans.

What else the story has going for it is the overall theme of the story: the dangers of becoming complacent.

While this is a topic that I am definitely underqualified to talk about, the main theme is that even if something hasn’t gone wrong, it is better to prepare for when something does go wrong.

It’s an interesting philosophical debate on how prepared a nation should be against a threat, and the dangers of being complacent, which always seems to be relevant in the modern day.

As weird as it is to say, I like that the feeling of dread is maintained throughout, that the good guys don’t always win and sometimes the best thing to do is run.

Again, a debate on fight or flight which presents another whole avenue of discussion.

Bloody Mess

While the discussions on these topics are fine, it does feel like that is most of the dialogue of the volume.

There is only some dialogue that develop characters, and it could be me having been spoiled from the anime, but there was a lot less character development in this first volume than I expected.

I don’t know if the training sequence of the anime was filler or it will be shown in future volumes of the manga, but there are some bare bones to these characters.

Eren is vengeful against the Titans, Mikasa is skilled but clings to Eren, Armin is smart but weak and panicky, and some side characters get small things added that are somewhat irrelavent.

We see the top ten graduates of the division, but we know very little about them, and other random characters that have some dialogue are killed near the end when there is little about them to care about it.

I know that the anime fleshes out some of the side characters early on, and I feel that it was missing in the manga.

That really is my only complaint about the manga, but it is a substantial one.

In Conclusion

I would highly recommend this manga especially if you love very well detailed and creepy art and some potentially interesting philosophical discussions.

Now this comes from me having seen some of the anime, but while there are aspects that I do like, I will not follow the manga. I do highly recommend it for everyone else, but this is not the story for me personally.

I will not be posting on Friday, but there will be a double post on Saturday to make up for it! It will be a Manga Talk about the popular isekai manga That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime! There will also be a Saturday Special where I will talk about hype and expectations.

So until then,

Heiwa to sayonara!

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