One hundred years ago, the Titans appeared and began eating humans. Humanity built three concentric walls to hide behind: Wall Maria (outer wall), Wall Rose (second wall), and Wall Sina (innermost wall). For a hundred years, those walls allowed people to live relatively peacefully. However, a few people, like Eren, resented essentially being caged. Why shouldn't humans go outside the walls, learn more about the Titans, and try to reclaim the world? Some people, like Armin, theorized that the walls might not last forever.
Then one day a colossal Titan appeared, breached Wall Maria, and allowed other Titans to enter.
Here's the thing: I've seen both seasons of the anime, and I loved the show. I disliked Eren, the main character, but that didn't seem to matter. The action scenes were fabulous, and the plot twists were so gripping I couldn't stop watching. Unfortunately, season 2 ended with lots of questions still unanswered and, right now, the best way to get answers is to read the manga.
That's pretty much the only reason why I'm going to read more than this first volume. From what I've been able to find online, Attack on Titan is Isayama's first series – he's done maybe two or three one-shots prior to this. And, oh, it shows.
I've read several manga series where the story is written by one person and the art is done by someone else. I wish that Attack on Titan had been done that way. While Isayama's story ideas are pretty good, he wasn't ready to be drawing something like this. While some panels are okay, a few are so bad that it's hard to tell what was going on. Action scenes and small panels fare the worst, human characters are often sloppily drawn, and the Titans look terrible.
Okay, now that I have some of my gripes about the art out of the way, on to the story and characters. Like I said, I've seen the anime. I can't review this like someone who hasn't. I already know what's going to happen and that, while this volume is incredibly bleak (Isayama is not shy about killing people off), all hope is not lost. I'm guessing a newbie would think otherwise, considering that one of the series' biggest early plot twists happens right at the end of the volume.
There's not really much in this particular volume to interest someone who's seen the anime, and, as a result, it's kind of boring. It's basically the same events, except the anime presented things more chronologically. The manga shows some of the chaos right after Wall Maria was destroyed and then skips straight to Eren, Armin, and Mikasa's Training Corps graduation and the next great blow to humanity's existence. There's been only one training flashback, and it was limited to a classroom lecture on Titans and the way they can be killed.
So far, most of the characters have barely had a chance to make an impression. Eren is still annoying and still unaware that Mikasa is the primary reason he has survived as long as he has. I like Mikasa and Armin, but I think that may be due more to my memories of the anime than to anything in this volume, because neither character has done much yet.
All in all, I'll continue with the series because I want to make it to scenes that weren't in the anime and volumes that haven't been adapted yet. I'm not sure how long this will take. I'm crossing my fingers that Isayama's artwork gets better with each volume.
One thing I did appreciate about this volume were the extra pages explaining a few details about the walls, the towns that jut outside the walls, and the three-dimensional maneuver gear.
A word of warning to Attack on Titan newbies: You may want to avoid reading the 3-page interview with Isayama at the end of the volume. One of his answers includes a spoiler.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Fullmetal Alchemist (manga) by Hiromu Arakawa; Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (anime TV series); Fullmetal Alchemist (anime TV series) - Those who like "son is obsessed after mother's death" stories may want to give this a try. Edward and Alphonse are far less crazy-eyed about it than Eren, though, possibly because Eren's obsession started even before his mother died. The manga and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood follow the same approximate story. The first anime, Fullmetal Alchemist, diverges from the manga after a certain point and then becomes radically different. As a starting point, I'd recommend either the manga or the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, both of which are excellent. Brotherhood rushes through several early events a little too quickly, effectively ruining the emotional content for anyone who doesn't already have a familiarity with the series. I've written about volume 16 of the manga.
- Claymore (manga) by Norihiro Yagi; Claymore (anime TV series) - I've only seen one episode of this, so I don't know a ton about it, but the descriptions I read make it sound like a good fit (violence, threat to humanity, and monster-killing soldiers). In this series, monsters called Yoma prey on humans and live among them in disguise. Claymores, young women who have become half-monster in order to kill the Yoma, are humanity's only hope.