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If you’ve been listening to The Missfits lately, you might have picked up that we asa collective whole are now fascinated with the manga series Attack on Titan.  Rightly so – Hajime Isayama’s fantasy disaster story has everything you could possibly need or want wrapped up in one horrifying package.

Attack on Titan

To You, 2000 Years from Now

Attack on Titan does not pull any punches.  Readers are immediately thrust into a strange, yet familiar fantasy world.  In it, giant humanoid titans roam the countryside eating humans.  The bulk of humanity is housed behind large walls that keep them out.  Or, the walls did keep the titans out before an abnormally large titan showed up and broke an outer wall.

The initial image from the manga is haunting.  As the large titan tears the wall down, our protagonists can only look on in horror.  They are children, completely in the hands of the adults to protect them from this very real threat.  Their lives are turned upside down.

When I say this series doesn’t hold back anything, I mean that they kill our main character’s mother in the first chapter of the series.  Eren witnesses a titan crack his mother’s spine in half and shoving her into his mouth.  While this is a tired trope for action stories, it is effective in setting the gravity of the story.  Additionally, Eren did not need any revenge motivation; he has wanted to become a soldier all his life.  The death of his mother continues to fuel the fire within him.

The World the Girl Saw

For a shonen manga, Attack on Titan is full of powerful female characters.  Don’t let the fridging of the mother fool you; the female companions around Eren are not easily dismissed.  First and foremost is Mikasa, his friend that his family cares for.  Mikasa’s backstory is incredibly awful; her mother was targeted for sex slavery and was killed in the process of the kidnapping along with her father.  Eren showed up before Mikasa could be harmed, but it was her own will to live that saved her life and Eren’s when the time came.  From that moment on, Mikasa no longer played the role of a victim.  Rather, she became a faithful friend and a fearsome fighter.  Mikasa was skilled enough to graduate at the top of her class, and she was recognized as one of the best warriors humanity ever produced.  Mikasa was shaped by her environment, but she never succumbed to it.

She’s joined by stellar female characters like Annie, Sasha, Ymir, and Krista.  Each one is full of depth and personality and round out the roster.

Delusions of Strength

The hype behind Attack on Titan is legitimate.  The story focuses acutely on the resilience of the human race and individual motivation to survive and thrive.  Humanity faces insurmountable odds, and every advancement they make to protecting themselves is met with an equally opposing force from the titans.  What’s more, the story is completely engaging.  There is often little time to rest and recuperate before the next threat surfaces.  The mystery of the titans and their purpose is an underlying story in the series, one that is constantly eluding readers.  Isayama’s linework in this series makes everything feel urgent and important.  He is a master as capturing the expressions.

The main Attack on Titan story has sixteen volumes as of May 2015.  New chapters continue to be released and collected.  Besides the main manga, a parody series called Attack on Titan Junior High is available.  If you want more serious content from this world, you can check out Attack on Titan Before the Fall and Attack on Titan No Regrets.  Before the Fall tells about humanity before the titan broke the wall, and No Regrets is all about that sexy Survey Corps member, Levi.  I highly recommend checking out the anime as well, which roughly covers the first eight volumes.

About The Author

Columnist and Talking Comics Co-Host

Mara Wood holds a Ph. D. in School Psychology. Currently, she works for a public school system assessing students for educational placement. Her research focus is comic books and how they can be used in therapy and educational settings. She tends to spend most of her day reading comic books, writing about them, and thinking about comic books (kind of a one-track mind…). Mara’s other hobbies include reading manga and Star Wars novels, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. She co-hosts Talking Comics and Talking Shojo, and you can find her on twitter (@megamaramon) or on her blog, marawoodblog.com.

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One Response

  1. Gary Chapin

    Mara, great write up, as always. I want to push back on the “fridge” trope … which I don’t think this is an example of. You partially acknowledge this (and please don’t mistake this paragraph as a criticism, more of a conversation), but I think the death of Eren’s mother was a legitimate use of onscreen-loved-one-dying-graphically, and very effective. It is this type of legitimate use that “fridgers” are trying to evoke cheaply. Eren’s mother’s death doesn’t just motivate him — as you say, he was already motivated — but it removes the last relationship from his world that is not dominated by Titan-killing (even Mikasa, who he knew before, is part of Titan-killing, now). After his mother dies, every part of his world is Titan-killing. By extension, then, every part of HIM is Titan-killing … which could be motivation, but is certainly tragedy. And great storytelling.

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