Since writing my first post on the manga series Shingeki no Kyojin (the official English title is apparently Attack on Titan,) it’s been licensed for an English-language release by Kodansha USA, whilst a Japanese live-action movie has also been announced for 2013. With the inevitably small film-budget it’ll receive, I’m not convinced it’ll look good enough , but then again, it still sounds better than the forthcoming Akira film!
Last night I finally caught up to volume 5 of the series and, man, I just want to keep going. For those that haven’t read my first post on it, Shingeki no Kyojin is a large-scale survival-horror manga about a future-Earth dominated by man-eating giants (known in the series as Titans.) With humanity on the brink and walled up in one last city, the series begins as the Titans break through the city’s first line of defence.
Imagine any zombie film you’ve ever seen, and then replace the zombies with giants. Mankind’s fucked, right? It’s lucky then that the main character, Eren, can transform into a Titan, too!
The first 3 volumes drag us from 1 impending crisis to another, but the next 2 slow things down a bit. Now that Eren’s secret’s out, he’s kept in solitary confinement by the government as it’s decided how best to deal with him; whether to execute him or use him as a military weapon. Eventually, the latter is chosen, and the next offensive is planned. The start of that is about as far as things go in volume 5.
What’s remarkable about Shingeki no Kyojin is how it deals with collateral damage. For every forward step made by the people of the city, there’s a strong emphasis on the cost in human life. Eren is the “Gundam” of the story, but he’s still only 1 giant versus dozens. The larger part of these two volumes is spent introducing us to the young recruits in training. At their graduation, they are given 2 choices: either join the police force or the scouting legion. Hardly ever coming into contact with the Titans, the police are tasked with guarding the city. It’s the easy choice, basically, but the scouting legion is totally the opposite; they are the front-line of humanity’s counter-attack.
At their graduation, it’s explained to the young people that if they were to join the scouting legion, there’s a 50% chance of dying on their first mission. You join them knowing you’ll likely be dead in 6 months. Most walk away there and then, but some stay: stay because their friends did; because they want to make their families proud; or just because they feel it’s the right thing to do.
On the series’ Wikipedia article, author Hajime Isayama notes that his story’s all about “…the idea of walls and complacency in human society as opposed to independent spirit and freedom of the main character.” Contrasting that with the choices made by the characters underlines the human quality of the writing, because we all face tough decisions in our lives, we all get a little complacent and make safer choices. Isn’t it better to fight, though? Than to allow yourself to be trapped, that is? Even if you’re scared, it’s a risk worth taking. I don’t know if I’d join the scouting legion, but I admire the courage and spirit Shingeki no Kyojin‘s trying to convey.