Check-in Station: Shingeki no Kyojin chapters 1-9 (why manga is better than anime)
Manga is a treasure trove of good and horrible ideas. Sometimes those ideas come together in the same work. One of the more horrible ideas that come to mind is Cambria, another one involves hermaphrodite half-breed alien screwing their way through high school and self discovery. You really got to wonder what goes through a mangaka’s mind when they work through these ideas. The ideas behind Shingeki no Kyojin seem to have not been born from a working mind, but from a feverish, frightened mind in a nightmare. Humanity mindlessly struggling to survive, to hold onto peace, sanity and hope. And then it’s just as mindlessly shattered by chaos. Is there any point to living? Is there any point to me reading something so helpless?
The story of Shingeki no Kyojin (Advance of Giants) seems to revolve around a close-knit group of childhood friends, Eren Jaegar, his adoptive sister Mikasa, and Armin Arlelt, their less than stellar best friend. We follow them as they survive a brutal titan attack, lose family and friends and eventually join the military. The humans in this story survive in a giant city surrounded by a series of epic walls that keep the titans out. These walls have worked for humans for over a hundred years, and at the beginning of the story the civilians of the city see the military as an almost wasteful resource, believing that they’ll never get out of the walls and the Titans will never get inside them.
Too. Damn. Bad. Suddenly a titan so huge that it makes the other titans look like small pets in comparison comes along and kicks a hole in the wall, disappears, and now the city is soon swarmed by the titans. This pushes all the events of the story forward. The humans fight back using a kind of gas powered repelling equipment to get around the titans and kill them at their lone weak point, the nape of their necks. It’s basically their lone source of retaliation, seeing as any other wound inflicted upon the titans are quickly regenerated.
The titans’ undeniable strength leaves the humans in a conceivably hopeless situation. The humans are devoured like candy bars. You’re constantly exposed to scenes of humans eaten alive, or bitten off piece by piece. It comes through plain and clear, how hopeless the situation seems.
So it may come as a surprise that I actually am enjoying this manga a bit. It’s not entirely hopeless, the manga manages to pull a hail mary during the last couple chapters. Pulling a pretty awesome twist that gives the humans even the slightest hope, and giving to insight into hopefully what it is that makes the titans what they are. It’s just enough to convince to me to hang on and keep reading.
There are some things that I hope get improved as I continue to read. The manga has a terrible habit of jumping around. From present day to flashback, it’s jarring as there’s no clear hint as to when or they do these chop jobs. I was never a fan of those techniques when I read shounen battle manga and they do these flashbacks to help add characterization in the middle of a battle. It won’t fly with me here.
I complain from time to time about how shows sometimes ruin their atmosphere with comedic tropes and slapstick comedy, but I wouldn’t mind this series adding a little more levity to the narrative as well. It’s often just so damn depressing seeing all these people horribly eaten or murdered. I have no problem with the pacing itself, but if you’re gonna pound me with these “heavy” chapters, then you need to add some sort of a intermission in the atmosphere.
Other than that, it has the makings of something memorable. The action (when I can follow it) really gets your heart racing and gives you a very primal, desperate feel. Hopefully the characters grow on me too, because while I very much want them to live. They just strike me as a very pitiful group of scared, incompetent, psychotic or lifeless people.