[Manga Review] Attack On Titan: Before The Fall Vol. 1

[Manga Review] Attack On Titan: Before The Fall Vol. 1

There’s always a man, a blade, and a titan.

What They Say
A CHILD OF CARNAGE
Cut alive from his mum’s uterus after she was eaten by a rampaging Titan, Kuklo has spent his life in chains as a freakish interest and a feared abomination. Eventually the lad they call the “Titan’s son” finds himself sold to rich merchant Dario Inocencio as a plaything for his cruel and ambitious son Xavi. Kuklo knows nothing but abuse and negligence, but help may come from the most surprising place

In the American comic book business it’s not uncommon to see properties enlarge into franchises with multiple authors writing and drawing exactly the same characters.

There are exceptions to that rule, and customary it’s a matter of popularity and cash. So here we have one of the first spinoffs of the Attack on Titan collection. I’m inquisitive as to how much input Hajime Isayama has on this side story, which in turn is actually an adaptation of the light novel spin-off of the exact same name.

Isayama isn’t just known for the quality of his artwork, and although he’s a particular fashion there’s certainly a… rough quality to it. Since he’s not directly involved in the spinoff, we get a different artist’s interpretation of his universe, with individuals that appear much closer to typical anime designs. The one titan we see still resembles the hideous monstrosity that it should be, but far less grotesque and not humous at all.

This story takes us back about 70 years to a time before the fall of Wall Maria. I believe this implies it’s only 30 years since the walls were assembled, which makes me wonder if the public knew what the source of the walls were at the time this story takes place. The characters and setting appear virtually identical to the current timeline, except perhaps skewing a bit more medieval. What is missing is the tools of the trade, none of the Survey Corps members have steering gear. The populace appears far more compliant and less panicked subsequently we’ve seen post wall autumn. That doesn’t mean that all is well in the kingdom.

The storyline begins with a cut away to an event which saw an individual titan wreak havoc on the outlying city of Shiganshina district. It was the first episode in thirty years, and the devastation was wounding.

Yes, the protagonists name in this story is Kuklo. They gloss over his toddler years and we rejoin him as a sideshow exhibit in his early teens. He lives the life of a prisoner, the terrifying ‘son of a titan.’ A noble decides to purchase him that his son can use him as a punching bag, revealing the nobility of the world of Titan hasn’t transformed much.

The great daughter of the family gets it into her head the creature in the basement is going to kill them all and steals down to take him out herself. This is the fascinating part of this story, while caressing a knife as she whips herself into a frenzy about it. It becomes evident that many of the common citizens in the world behind the walls don’t know what a titan really is. It would be hard to mistake a boy that is unremarkable as anything but a regular human. (Nevermind what we currently understand about titans from recent volumes of the principal string.)

Sharle learns that the monster in the basement is only a boy and strives to teach him everything he never got a chance to learn. She ’s careful enough to not get noticed, and the two keep up their ruse for two years before her family decides to sell off him and marry away her. With a guarantee to escape their imprisonment, the two formulate a strategy to escape and run off together. Yeah, I don’t see this going nicely.

This volume feels like it’s over in a flash, and it doesn’t help that space was taken up to reprint. Aviator chapters are usually pretty intriguing, but this one offers little in content that is new. There’s additionally a little preview of Attack on Titan: Junior High, which is an ever more unexpected little of branching media.

In Summary
A fast paced start to what could turn out to be an interesting side story in the Attack on Titanuniverse.  These starting chapters tread a lot of familiar ground while trying to be shocking, evoking a few other well known series in it’s set up.  There’s much we don’t know about the early years after humanity built the walls, and sadly this manga doesn’t seem to be addressing any of those mysteries.  Instead we’re treated to a tale of human monsters rather than titans.  With the backstory all set up in this volume I hope the next provides for more action and a greater look at the world behind the walls.  It’s clear that the protagonist has a long road ahead of him toward gaining freedom and respect.

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