Currently Reading: Shingeki no Kyojin
Here is a manga – a shounen one, at that – that I believe deserves infinite respect that I think it does not receive in the mainstream (the mainstream I define as “my friends IRL”.) This manga has won the Kodansha Manga Award for shounen manga, it is amazing and awesome, and you need to read it TODAY. And I’m going to tell you why!
Here’s a brief look at the shounen manga you should be reading RIGHT NOW, Shingeki no Kyojin.
Summary (MangaFox): Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by giants. Giants are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by walling themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest of giants. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a giant in over 100 years. Teenage boy Eren Jaeger and his foster sister Mikasa witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a super giant that appears out of thin air. As the smaller giants flood the city, the two kids watch in horror as their mother is eaten alive. Eren vows that he will murder every single giant and take revenge for all of mankind
Thoughts so far:
I really started reading this on a whim, I really did. At the time, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t reading nearly enough shounen or seinen manga. Kanojo wo Mamoru 51 Houhou was a faraway memory, and I wasn’t about to read Uzumaki again (the nightmares…) Also, I had no interest in reading delinquent manga, really. So I decided to take a leap of faith and read this, because it sure sounded interesting.
And boy, am I glad I did. Shingeki no Kyojin has now become the shounen manga I swear by, the shounen manga I console myself with when I’m annoyed with Bleach and when I’ve all but given up with Naruto. But more than that, it’s the manga I point to as the epitome of Japanese storytelling…apart from Kare Kano. Hehe.
What I love about the characters in this manga is not any individual character, but the ensemble as a whole and their interactions. All of the characters contribute to this atmosphere that demonstrates the many strengths and weaknesses of humanity – their willingness to elevate someone as a hero one day, and denounce them as a danger to society the next. Even in a society not under the threat of giant titans, isn’t this a phenomenon we deal with every day?
The townspeople as well are representative of how society deals with such problems – even though the individual members remain nameless, their actions and opinions as a whole almost make them like a singular character. In the later parts of the manga, it is shown how religion plays a role in society when it is under threat, and the way religious fanaticism was depicted by some of the townspeople was really interesting to see. As Japan is a mostly non-religious society (most people DO NOT practice religion regularly in Japan), it’s rather interesting to see this depiction of it.
Most of the characters lack really memorable or unique personality traits, but that’s not really the point of this manga. Aren is an interesting case. While he may lack really quirky personality traits, the author compensates for this with the humanity that Aren has in the face of his problems. Aren really wants to do the right thing, and strives to be “good”, in a society that would rather hide and look out for its own self-interest at the expense of a sacrificed few. Looking at Aren makes me wonder how many people would be willing to take his role in OUR society, as it grows more and more individually-centered. Mikasa is a really strong female character, whose growth was a direct result of various childhood problems; I love how she took tragedy and made herself stronger as a result. Armin is also a bit of an interesting case, as I see myself in Armin the most. I don’t really have that much physical stamina, and I would hate to be a burden as well. As a result, whenever I see Armin trying his best, I really cheer for him.
Don’t even get me started on Annie. What a spoiler she is. LOL. I really liked her, and then Chapter 31 happened, and now she’s even MORE fascinating if that’s even possible. I swear, that chapter was better than all of the Vampire Knight plot twists COMBINED. And that’s not something I say lightly.
One other thing I really have to mention about this manga is that I love that all of the character names are completely sensical and could feasibly exist in the real world! This is not always the case with foreign names in manga, so I am very happy with Isayama-sensei’s name choices!
The universe of this manga is amazingly detailed. Not only does Isayama-sensei provide detailed maps and descriptions of the walled town Eren and his friends live in, he also provides information on the titans themselves along with the design of the soldier’s equipment. I thought that that was a nice touch, and helped make the universe of the manga more real.
That being said….
As a shoujo manga reader by nature, I am still bored by action sequences in manga, although I will admit the action sequences in this were rather interesting based on the fact that the soldier’s method of conflict is so vastly DIFFERENT. But then again, I am reading this for the plot, so that’s not really a huge detraction at all, really. Also, I was pretty worried for Armin when he was being attacked by that female titan, so the fact that Isayama-sensei has me emotionally invested in the characters to that extent overcompensates for the fact that I am bored by action sequences.
The art is not pretty, but it isn’t supposed to be. It does its job in an effective manner, and all of the main players are easily identifiable. Isayama-sensei’s art style does have a distinctive look from most other shounen manga I’ve read in the past, so it’s very easy to pick out if you were to put all of the most mainstream shounen manga on a shelf.
The titans deserve their own separate section for me to talk about. The titans in this are the most UNSETTLING things in a manga I have EVER SEEN (except for Uzumaki, which is in a category of its own). While the titans aren’t strictly deformed, they are somewhat disturbing; they may look distinctly human to some extent, but they are so…non-human at the same time, which is what I think unsettles me the most (also, the lack of genitalia…but that’s not something I ever wanted to see anyway). Also, when I saw the titan in chapter one put its head over the wall, I was like, “OH DAMN” in my head. The art there really had an impact, especially when you put the size of the thing in contrast to the humans around it.
Well, that was long, wasn’t it? Basically, any manga that can make me sing its praises for more than 1000 words (which is actually quite long for this blog) definitely deserves your attention.
So go forth and read Shingeki no Kyojin!
Rating so far: 9.0/10