14 Nov / Attack on Titan (vols. 5-10) by Hajime Isayama, translated by Sheldon Drzka (vols. 5-8) and Ko Ransom (vols. 9-10)
Publishers Weekly credits Attack on Titan with the recent manga rebound in the publishing industry. PW calls it “one of the best selling comics series in North America – yes, not just bestselling manga, best selling comic series, period.” School Library Journal says Titan has “become one of the most widely read manga series of all time.” Anime News Network has the supporting numbers, noting that Titan is the “Top-Selling Manga in Japan by Series” for the first half of 2014, selling almost double the copies of #2. According to the New York Times Best Sellers list for Manga (oh, that holy grail!), 20%-40% of the top 10 since June (that’s only as far as I went back) are some volume of Titan.
Curiosity, of course, wouldn’t let me ignore this worldwide phenomenon of man vs. colossal beast. To catch up with the story thus far, click here. You need to get familiar with the fantastical plot, unpredictable action, and surprisingly multi-dimensional characters before delving further. This is not a narrative which you can just drop into; you’ll need and want to know what happened before to understand what’s next. The cast is sprawling, the missions many, the history not linear, so get prepared.
Fast forward 2,000 years into the future when the dwindling human population occupies a heavily guarded three-ringed fortress. The walls, however, can no longer hold back the incoming Titans, and Wall Maria – the outermost ring – has already fallen.
Volume 5 opens with Eren Yeager on trial for being a traitor, a Titan, or both. His life is spared … for the time being, because humanity’s survival depends on what was buried in his basement in Wall Maria, which is now deep in Titan territory. And so the 104th Survey Corps is assembled – in spite of a death rate of 90% made unmistakably clear – with courageous, elite soldiers who still volunteer, led by Commander Erwin Smith. Still in the midst of a vicious battle in Volume 6, the 104th is finding their greatest challenge is an abnormal female Titan. She’s nothing like the slow, single-minded, feed-me-human-flesh breed; in fact, who she most resembles is … Eren.
Although the female Titan seems safely trapped as Volume 7 opens, her identity remains a mystery. Progress is repeatedly impeded by ongoing attacks, and Eren is forced to morph into his Titan form. Of course, he’ll need saving (again), and by Volume 8, he’ll also need to be … well … kidnapped. The multiplying body count sends the surviving Corps back inside, but they seem to have brought the Titans with – because, suddenly, the female Titan is back. Her eventual submission reveals a frightening secret about the construction of the actual walls. Weren’t they built to protect the humans …?Or …? And how can the Church possibly be involved?
Wall Rose has been breached by Volume 9, revealing the tallest Titan ever seen, and the first to be covered completely in fur. That’s not the biggest shock: this one who looks the least human, can actually talk human, although his communication skills are anything but inviting. With further destruction looming (literally), messengers are sent in four directions to warn the scattered villages while Eren declares he’ll seal up this latest wall break – as long as they can find it.
Volume 10 provides a pivotal narrative twist, focusing on Corps soldier Krista Lenz, who looks more wide-eyed bunny than elite warrior. But her shared past with fellow soldier Ymir holds another future-changing secret. Among the quickly dwindling survivors, two more will show their traitorous transformations.
A strictly segregated society loyal to dubious officials, a powerful church whose leaders are up to something shady, an ultrawealthy family with a less-than-honorable past, suffering masses, diminishing resources, giants that gobble up the small guys, and only the children can be the truest heroes. So did you think this was all impossible fiction?! Mwaahahahahahaha! No wonder the series is resonating so widely throughout the world! Stay tuned …
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2011-2013 (Japan), 2012-2013 (United States)