Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Attack On Titan Vol. 1 by Isayama Hajime

For those of you who haven't been following your favorite otaku's blog for very long, I want to go back in history a bit for this particular entry. During the summer of 2013 I came across a fantastic anime called Attack on Titan. I talked about it here. Once the show ended its first season (there will at least be one more... or there damn well better be) I made a vow to actually read the manga. In fact, I made that vow before I actually finished the anime because this show literally had me hooked and you know what I say about supporting the industry, right? 

I really don't say I am hooked too often. While there have been many shows that I have liked watching and looked forward to seeing, I cannot ever saying that a television show automatically made my day better just for coming on that particular day. Thanks to streaming I don't really need to worry about when an episode debuts because it will be there when I want to watch it anyway. But not Attack on Titan. I had to watch it as soon as humanly possible lest my brain explode and ooze out of my body. Indeed, those premiere Saturdays on Crunchyroll graced by scenes of giants eating people and people killing giants were the highlight of my entire summer.

This is normal behaviour, right?

Anyway, my goal to read the manga was easily achievable since it was available for Kindle download at about seven bucks per issue. Each issue clocks in at about 190 pages so far (I am actually on the second volume right now) and generally contain four chapters. I think there's only one issue that contains five chapters. 

My Kindle edition also contained an interview with manga author Isayama Hajime. I'm not sure if those are included in the physical editions or not, but if you aren't into spoilers then don't read the interviews until you are well into the series or have actually seen the anime.

The artwork is similar to the anime, but the anime is definitely more refined. The manga has a certain raw feeling to it. That is probably due to the fact that Hajime is not much of a sketch artist. In fact his greatest strength is in nailing down the setting and weapons. The characters themselves... Well, they aren't poorly drawn, but it seems like sometimes certain characters are drawn perfectly while others are a little uneven.

You see that picture just to the left? Well, this is a good idea of what I am talking about. The titan with the mean and ugly face is drawn pretty damn well. Honestly, even better than the colorized cover art pictured above. The creature looks like something out of Clive Barker's Hellraiser.

Now if you look below the titan's head at the bottom panel you will see a few kids staring up the the 167 foot/50 meter titan in pure terror. Three of those kids are main characters. The black-haired kid with the jacket and the girl with the scarf, especially. Am I the only one who notices a bit of disparity between the execution of the top two panels and the bottom one? The kids just don't look like they were drawn as well.

However, this really is a minor issue. The story is so addicting you will kind of stop noticing after a while. And you can at least tell the characters apart even from a distance.

I've probably just been spoiled to the anime. But the sense that the drawings are uneven in terms of quality persists. 

The strength of this manga is the pace, though. It moves fast. The anime was pretty much the same way, but I didn't realize just how much faster the manga moved until I began it. The first volume takes us up until about episode five of the anime and the ending of this issue such a cliffhanger that I couldn't imagine anyone reading it wouldn't immediately buy the next volume ASAP. In fact, I highly recommend that you keep the next volume on stand-by. Precious time spent doing things like waiting to download the next volume or arrive in the mail is time you could actually be reading the next volume of Attack on Titan. Don't be that guy. 

Volume 1 has a ballsy ending, especially considering it was around before the anime or before any other issue for that matter. However, Attack on Titan specializes in ballsy cliffhanger endings. Just waiting a week for the next episode was insanely trying, but waiting even longer for an unpublished second volume? Oh, that must have been an ordeal for the Japanese folks who discovered this manga before everyone else did. Now I am waiting forever for the next season to come out and it could very well be months before that happens. At least I have the manga for now and I will try to make it last longer than a month. 

However, I have already started the second volume and I can say that the source material is certainly worth picking whether you've seen the anime or not. If you love action, violence, apocalyptic destruction, and a large helping of hell-bent-for-cliffhangers then look no further. 

There's some foul language and a lot of bodies being ripped apart (in case you haven't already gathered that) so I wouldn't give this to your twelve year old as a Christmas gift. But making it a gift to yourself wouldn't be a bad idea. 

And if reading this story about giants eating people puts you in the mood for some kielbasa then feel free to purchase the special Attack on Titan brand of kielbasa, too. 

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