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Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama – Manga vs Anime

One of this season’s anime sensations is based on Hajime Isayama’s manga with the same title, Attack on Titan. The series has been called a “one-in-a-decade hit” with its extremely popular anime adaptation, followed by over 20 million manga copies sold in Japan. The Attack on Titan anime has won multiple awards (e.g. Newtype Anime Awards) for best director, best script, best soundtrack, best theme song, title of the year, etc. In other words, saying that it’s one of the most well-received titles recently would be a huge understatement. But what makes it so great?

The Story

Attack On Titan by taitsu22In a world overwhelmed by mysterious giants called Titans, habitable areas have become extremely scarce, reduced to a city protected by three giant walls.

Several hundreds of years ago, the Titans suddenly appeared and with seemingly no real goals have started to devour humans. Due to this, most of mankind has been wiped out, and the rest are now living in terror, hiding behind the walls, spending their lives inside their man-made barricades.

Time passes, and even though humanity is still forced to live within the great walls, the city hasn’t suffered any attack for the last 100 years. Then out of the blue, teenage boy Eren Jaeger and his foster-sister Mikasa witness the outer wall destroyed by a Colossal Titan without any warning. To make things more traumatic for the both of them, they are also forced to observe how one of the many smaller-sized titans eats their mother–and this is the moment when Eren vows to kill all of them.

He intends to do this by joining the Survey Corps (a.k.a. Scouting Legion), whose members use a system called Manoeuver Gear, which essentially lets them swing around on wires from one building to another with extra speed and a pair of sharp blades in order to fight Titans.

The Manga

Attack On Titan (manga cover)Published in 2009, the on-going manga currently boasts 11 Japanese and 8 English volumes, licensed by Kodansha Comics USA/Europe in 2012, not long after the first Asian release. Isayama mentioned that he intends to finish the series with 20 volumes, which should mean it is half over.

The art style is quite edgy, and a lot more (psychologically) disturbing than that of the anime. At the same time, some titans tend to look probably intentionally funny, despite being horrifying because of their nature, height and creepy anatomical proportions. They are also fully naked with their skin missing sometimes, which is an odd combination for any respectful giant.

The frequent plot twists and emotional trauma hold your attention (and more than occasionally rip your heart out). Just to give you an example, the average non-primary character’s lifespan ranges from two to three manga chapters. Sounds like a friendly concept, right?

The Anime

The anime consists of 25 episodes and ran from April 2013 until the end of September 2013. The suspense-filled fantasy/action setting soon gained a wide and diverse audience, and that’s when the manga picked up in sales.

Attack On Titan (DVD cover)The animation isn’t always perfect, but it comes quite close to it. It’s intense, expressive, and fitting with its uncommonly thick outlines. Composer Sawano Hiroyuki made sure to create an impressive soundtrack for the show, which adds a lot to the experience. It must also be noted that the opening and ending tracks are excellent. Linked Horizon’s “Guren no Yumiya” (“Crimson Bow and Arrow”) and “Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai” (“This Beautiful Cruel World”) are once again extremely popular songs, filled with German words none of the vocalists can actually pronounce right, but that doesn’t take from the fact that they’ve done an amazing job capturing the Attack on Titan-feeling.

The German undertones are quite visible, as some of the soundtrack’s titles are in German, and a lot of characters’ names follow the same pattern (Dietrich, Ackermann, Kirschstein, Feulner, etc.), with Eren Jaeger (Hunter) being the lead example, playing a pun on how he intends to hunt down every single titan.

In order not to sound completely biased, I must mention that the pacing can be quite bumpy. Sometimes things happen way too fast and it is hard to keep up with the plot, and then again there are episodes, which can almost feel like fillers. It is irregular, but it shouldn’t take away much from the enjoyment in general. However, if you aren’t quite into gory details, lots of bloodshed and shocking scenes, you might want to give it a second thought, as Attack on Titan doesn’t mind playing with your emotions and showing you the ugly truths of its world.

Comparison

Attack On Titan by ANG-anggThere are quite a few differences between the anime and the manga. First of all, the anime’s ending doesn’t exactly follow the real storyline. As for the characters, some relationships are portrayed differently, and the creators naturally left out some seemingly insignificant but nuanced details, which would give one a better understanding of a character’s actions or feelings.

Some arcs were very rushed in the anime, and it is definitely worth to read the manga to cover those gaps. Moreover the anime raises a lot of questions–the manga answers some of them, and the secrets which haven’t been revealed yet are bound to be explained in the future.

Further Media

Three spin-off manga are simultaneously being serialised, and all of them have been licensed by Kodansha Comics USA/Europe. The first volumes of each will be released in spring and summer 2014.

Other than these, a light novel, Attack on Titan: Before the Fall written by Ryou Suzukaze began in 2011 with a story set before the events of the manga. The three volumes which have been published in Japanese so far will be released in North America in summer 2014.

Apart from the five video game adaptations (some of them to be released this December in Japan), a live-action film is also in the works, but no release date has been announced for the movie yet.

Title image by taitsu22.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar E.Maree says:

    This was really interesting, thanks Dori. I’ve seen all the current anime eps and read Vol.1 of the anime, but I thought the manga rocketed along and I missed the longer training scenes from the anime. Very interesting to hear that the manga is usually the *less* rushed medium.

    • Avatar Dori says:

      Thanks, Emma! The original works usually tend to include more detail, and that’s the case with Attack on Titan, as well. I like both the anime and the manga, but if you’re looking for those longer scenes, I’d definitely recommend the latter.

  2. Avatar William Tasker says:

    I’ve only read the manga but this has definitely gotten me interested in watching the anime

  3. […] can read the pretty lengthy / in-depth review here, or if you take a look at the Reviews page, you can find a list of all my past and upcoming […]

  4. Hi Dori, great article. I am obsessed with anime and Japan too. I have a Japanese-based character in my book, who I adore. AOT was recommended to me by an anime friend, and I watched on Netflix. Love, love, love!! AOT is classic anime–no holds bar, in your face, guts and gore–I wanted more. I found the manga later. I think, because of the success of the manga, the anime purposely left things out. Perhaps to drive more people to the manga…

    dmd

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