Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A colossal read: Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan

A colossal read: Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan
by rick olivares

I must admit that the sight of a menacing giant with its skin all peeled over -- ala a twisted anatomy lesson -- threatening to break a massive stone wall and the title, “Attack on Titan Colossal Edition” in big bold letters is enough to get my attention. And for me to dig into my wallet.

This volume, written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama, is colossal in size (7x10.5 inches), weight (2 kg), page number (over a thousand pages from the first five books), and price (Php 2,499.00).

Daunting? I read the synopsis and immediately picked it up.

I’ve always been a fan of “giant” literature since I read the Cornish folk tale, “Jack the Giant Killer” (and not oafish Hollywood version that came out last year), as a kid. It was included in a two-volume collection of fairy tales and folklore by Reader’s Digest. So in the years since, I’ve been a fan of Andre the Giant, Marvel Comics’ Giant Man, and Christy Canyon (go figure).

Attack on Titan has those basic elements of Japanese manga and anime culture -- young protagonists versus massive beings in an extinction level event. So if you got a kick out of this stuff as a kid, Hajime-san’s work will keep you riveted (especially when you gravitate to the anime version that is faithful to the book).

The basic plot is how humanity survived an attack by a race of sexless giant beings called “Titans”. They are humanoid in appearance but do not speak nor communicate. It seems that their sole purpose in life is to eat every man, woman, and child like they were munching on cheese sticks; you know -- tasty, easy to eat and you gobble them by the dozen.

For eons, the remnants of humanity lived in peace behind massive walls designed to keep these Titans out. Without warning, the Titans attack and the whole cycle repeats itself. Caught in the middle is young Eren Yaeger who witnesses the tragic death of his mother at the hands of one of the Titans. Eren swears his revenge by becoming a soldier in the Survey Corps. Except that he discovers that he has a direct link to these monsters.

It isn’t only a David versus Goliath story as there’s an element of the anime classic, Neon Genesis Evangelion, where young child pilots have their nervous system synched with massive machines to fight the tall beings called “Angels.”

In Attack on Titan, Eren finds himself able to generate one of these 60-foot giants from his own body while being connected through tissue, cells, and nerves. Because of his iron will, Eren is able to override the basic nature of the Titans which is to wreak havoc and satiate its hunger for human flesh (in the spirit of the recent popularity of zombie culture). The Eren Titan crushes and stomps the giants in his path and eventually presents some form of hope to the human military as a weapon they finally use to do battle the giants on level terms. Yet the military distrusts Eren as the true nature of his being has not been fully explained yet.

So there’s violence and gore. Much like those ancient folklore stories like Jack the Giant Killer that are in no manner a child’s bedtime story.

And… like any good story, you need a Scooby gang and Yaeger’s aides de camp comes in the form of Mikasa Ackerman, an adopted child of the Yaeger family who is fiercely protective of Eren for many reasons. Eren is like the Titans where he is focused only on eradicating them and finding a life outside the walls of his home. He is absolutely clueless about Mikasa’s true feelings for him.

And there’s Armin Arlert, the frail childhood friend of both Eren and Mikasa who bucks his fear of the Titans to eventually join the 104th Training Corps of the elite Survey Scouts. And there are others there – Reiner Braun, Bertolt Hoover, Annie Leonhart, and Jean Kirstein among many others.

The story isn’t simple where its an “us against them” storyline. There are enemies from within and knowing how unpredictable Japanese anime and manga end, there is now way of knowing how Attack On Titan will end. Surely, that will keep you riveted.

Attack On Titan is was the first manga comic tome I had purchased since 2004 when I collected the Battle Angle Alita books. And after devouring it and the first 13 episodes of the anime version in a marathon 24-hour session, all I can say is, I had a colossal time.


Attack On Titan (Colossal Edition) can be purchased at Fullybooked or Comic Odyssey

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