In case you have been living under a rock the past few years this book is quite possibly the most popular comic or graphic novel ever made. I am pretty sure it smashed any and every sales record out there. When I tried to verify that last sentence it is strange how most break it down, so it was hard to verify that exact statement. They break it down by title so Spider-man, Bat-Man, Superman, all the bigger titles, have sold a ton, mainly because they have been around longer. But I think in the last few years no comic has outsold this series.
Hajime Isayama is the writer and artist of Attack on Titan, as far as I can tell I think this is his only published story. This series has won quite a few major awards in the Manga community and has spawned any number of spinoffs including a two part live action movie, cartoon series, and many other novels that deal with the same universe. There is not a ton of information out there on Isayama other than how he got his start and that he is both the writer and arist on this story, which makes it amazing not only from a time perspective but also the creativity involved to keep the story exciting and fresh after 18 volumes.
The story takes place in what appears to be the future, where the entirety of the human race lives in a city surrounded by a giant wall. Long ago the planet was destroyed by monstrous beings that ate humans and destroyed what was left of human society. In order to keep the human race from going extinct they created a giant walled city to keep out the monsters. While attacks have been mild in recent years, they seem to be more and more frequent. The story focuses on group of children who have grown up in this world and how they are the next generation of fighters that will defend the city against the dreaded Titans.
I will start by saying that I am not a huge Manga fan, in fact I think this might be the first book I have read in that genre. There are some really great Manga comics out there I just have never gotten into them. Regardless this one was pretty cool. The story was good and the overall idea was very unique and interesting.
I did not know what the word Manga meant. I always thought it was just the style in which the artwork was done, but I found that Manga refers to comics that are created in Japan and that have a specific style of art. So I was close. Still there are some amazing Manga books out there that have insane sales numbers along with extremely long series runs. I saw where one series has over 79 volumes. Pretty nuts!
I did like this story, as it had some very interesting characters. I did like to see the story progress from when the main group of characters was younger to when they were older, so you get a coming of age story as well. I also liked how mysterious some of the characters were. There is something strange about Mikasa, she seems to always have this other sense about her. Like she is always in control, calculated. I always like characters like this and cannot wait to see how things will play out and what her deal is.
The Titans in the story are the bad guys which are anywhere from 10 to 50 feet tall. They have no weakness other than a small spot on their neck which is the only way they can be killed. In this first book the reader gets to see the destructive power of the Titans, but other than that the reader does not get much information about where they came from or what they want other than to destroy and eat humans. Some also seem to have different powers, as one seemingly “sneaks” up on a group of guards. How does a 50 foot tall being sneak up on anyone? So it appears that they may have some sort of teleporting power? Still the creatures are very strange and not what you think of when you think of 50 foot tall monsters, and are mostly humanoid in appearance.
There are some cool battle scenes as well in the story. What is also interesting are the weapons the soldiers use to fight the Titans. They use a series of ultra-sharp but bendable blades along with a sort of grappling gun. They use the grappling gun to climb onto the backs of the Titans to get them closer to the spot on their necks which is vulnerable. This is obviously not the most ideal method of attack but seems to be the best at the moment. There is also a very detailed description of the equipment the soldiers use including a diagram of the grappling device and how it works. The author has very detailed instructions and says he consulted with real engineers on how such a device would and could operate. This is pretty cool, I mean as a reader I would have been fine with the generic explanation of how the device could work or none at all, as I did not see it as a big deal to explain. But the author goes the extra mile in this case. He also give a very detailed description of the layout of the city and why it is built the way it is. Again there are extra details that add some realism to the story. They are stort of like authors’ notes as you go, which is rare in general, but even more rare when it comes to a graphic novel.
I think it is safe to say that this story has become wildly successful selling millions of copies. With this success came a cartoon series, which I have not seen, but I think is on Netflix. I have also seen where a movie was also made and released in 2015, I have not seen this either but the trailers also look pretty nuts. I think Manga titles have a history of being very long, I think this one runs a span of 18 volumes. Which is pretty crazy when you think about all the work that goes into a single page and what not.
I am not going to delve too much into the artwork as it is a Manga book so you can see the style. I am sure I will anger some fans but I think most Manga art pretty much looks the same, although I will say that you can tell differences in the style. For the most part though, I think it is generally the same style. The one think that I found interesting is that there is no color in the book or the series. I am not sure if this is normal for Manga books as the only other Manga style book I have read is Paranormal Island and it was in black and white as well. But I would not really call that book a Manga book as the artwork in that one was more traditional in my eyes, but I digress. Still I think it would have been awesome so see what this book would have looked like in color. This book is also very small and not the same size as a normal comic. It is closer to the size of a mass market paper back novel, which certianly changes the page layouts. The limited space does limit the different types of page layouts, but still there are some pretty amazing full page splashes that are wonderful to behold.
At the end there is a qutesion and answer interview where the writer answers questions from fans, it is pretty interesting. I always find it facinating to hear what the writer has to say about his work. Plus he seems like a pretty funny and down to Earth dude, someone you would want to hang out with. Pretty cool extra in the book. Also it is important to not that this book is backwards meaning that the cover is actually on the back and you start at what is normall the end. This is how traditional Japaneese books are written and I assume that when it was translated they just kept it that way. It took a little getting use to reading like that but was not that big of a deal.
I liked this book, it is certainly different and has a very unique story. After the first book I am a little confused how the story can continue for 17 more volumes, but who am I to argue with over 52 million copies sold. It is certainly one of the more bizarre stories I have read this year, but still a solid read. You should check this one out if you get a chance.