Tag Archives: Kodansha Comics

Attack on Titan Volume 1-7

It is the distant future, and giant beings known as Titans who have a taste for human flesh have decimated the planet. Humanity has been beaten back into a three walled city where for 100 years they felt safe and became complacent. The sudden appearance of a 150 meter tall Titan changes everything as humanity loses a wall to the Titans. One boy to survive the initial attack is Eren Yeager, whose hate for the Titans makes him work hard and join the Survey Corps, so he can face and fight the creatures that destroyed his home and family. But in his first battle, he is eaten. When all seems lost for his unit, something happens that changes everything.

Attack on Titan Volume 1-7
AoT 1By Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

AoT2 I thought I was going to be able to let the Attack on Titan bandwagon pass me by. I wasn’t wowed by the first chapter, so I felt no inclination to look further into it. But curiosity and some review copies got me to crack open a volume and I was hooked from that moment on. I thought I could make do without going back to earlier volumes, but as I read further, references to events from the beginning made me think I should catch up. I binge read the first seven volumes, which filled in some gaps, explained a lot of things and even cleared up some misconceptions I had.

AoT 3The series starts just before the wall breach, introducing Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert, who live in the outer city of Shinganshina. After some wanton destruction by the Titans, the story jumps 5 years and we see the three friends again, graduating from military academy. Eren has only one intention; to join the Survey Corp and fight Titans. The first fight doesn’t go well for his squad, but Eren reveals an ability no one, not even he, was aware he could do. He transformed into a Titan. These first seven volumes jump between the past and present, telling the past of the three friends, their time in training, and how they continue to fight to protect humanity.

AoT4I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these volumes. I’d heard plenty about how slow these first volumes were, and that the story didn’t really pick up until volume 4. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Maybe it was because I had read volumes 8-13 first, and I had a lot of questions that I was looking for answers to. These volumes moved quickly as I got to see the beginning of the friendship between Eren, Mikasa and Armin, something that had become a foundation for me when I started reading. The pure commitment between the trio held them together through Eren’s revelation, and solidified their relationship into the one I so enjoyed in volumes 8-10. It also struck down a misconception I had about their relationship. I didn’t think there were any romantic feelings between the three, but reading these volumes made it abundantly clear that Mikasa has some feelings for Eren, that as a typical shonen hero, he is completely oblivious to.

AoT 5These volumes also gave me a different perspective on some of the side characters. Connie and Sasha, who seemed more comedy relief in the later volumes, were shown to be more serious and capable at the beginning. My first exposure to Levi and Erwin were in the spin-off title No Regrets, so seeing their first appearance was bit of a surprise. Especially Levi. I was expecting a more serious and dark character, but he was surprisingly relaxed. He was still blunt, and a clean freak.

AoT 6I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, with more questions than answers being presented with every volume. Why could Eren transform? What did his father do to him and what did he know? Were there any other humans inside the walls that could transform? What did this mean about the relationship between humans and Titans? I liked the way the reader was drawn in to ask the same questions as the characters and want to search for the same answers. I also felt the time jumping was handled well. The transitions between past and present were easy to distinguish and often related to what was going on in the story, making them feel integral to the story and not just tangents.

AoT 7The only problem with these volumes is the art. It really isn’t very good, especially at the beginning. The Titans are supposed to look weird and surreal, but not the humans. Faces are often not one the head straight and there are some problems with proportion. The art did start to improve as the story went on, but it’s fortunate that the story and characters are so engaging that the poor art can be overlooked.

I really didn’t want to get drawn in to Attack on Titan. Post Apocalyptic horror stories really aren’t my thing, but I’m glad I did. Isayama has managed to create an engaging story on several levels, and characters that you care about from the start. While the art does leave a lot to be desired, it gets better, and it’s worth getting through for the story. If you’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on, this one is definitely worth the ride.

This Week’s Manga: Almost All Shojo

This Week's Manga

This week is a good week for shojo readers. Kodansha releases the 4th volume of Say I Love You, their new shojo Say I Love You 4title that I was surprised I not only liked but also managed to distinguish itself from other titles by taking a more direct approach to teens, their relationships and feelings. Viz Media has a lot of shojo titles I like, and this week releases three that are high on my list. My Love Story is a new series that I’m hoping will end my bad luck with romantic comedies. Volume 2 is out this week. Natsume’s Book of Friends is a title I would call a comfort manga. It’s relaxing story and engaging characters is perfect to relax to after a rough day. Volume 17 is out this week. Happy Marriage?! is a shojo for a more mature crowd. I’ve enjoyed watching Chiwa’s and Hokuto’s relationship get over the bumpy spots and grow. It’s sad that the series is almost done with Volume 8 now out, but I’m looking forward to a Happy Ending.

It’s not all shojo this week, as the title of this post says. Seven Seas Entertainment releases a title that has me curious but I’m not so sure I’m excited about. Magical Girl Apocalypse takes the next step in the deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre and moves it further into the horror genre. I liked the darkness in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but I’m afraid Magical Girl Apocalypse may go a step too far. Vertical also has a brush with horror with their new title Ajin. It  is also being streamed digitally on Crunchyroll, but for the best translation and presentation, go with the Vertical edition.

My Love Story 2Natsume Book of Friends 17Happy Marriage 8Magical Girl Apocalypse 1Ajin 1

This Week’s Manga: Monster Heart

This Week's Manga

My Little Monster 4Gundam the origin 7With September having five Tuesdays, most of the big releases will hit next week. That leaves this week open for some of the smaller titles to get the attention. Kodansha’s My Little Monster is a series I’m continuing to enjoy. The unusual relationship between Shizuku and Haru is a lot of fun to watch, and the uncertainty of where it will be at the end of each volume makes it stand out from many of the other shojo titles out there. Volume 4 comes out this week. Vertical’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin has proven there is not only a market for Gundam manga, but that premium hardcovers will be coveted too. The series passes the half way point with Volume 7‘s release.

This week welcomes back an old publisher to print. Netcomics has been missing from the print releases for a while. They were one of the first publishers to rent chapters online and to put other publisher’s titles online digitally. Finally they release a new print volume of a new series, Give to the Heart. The premise has a bit of a Bride of the Water God feel, with a Water God trying to win a human woman’s heart, and that woman with something of a grudge against him. It’s sounds intriguing enough that wouldn’t mind checking it out.

Give to the Heart 1

 

Monster Soul Volume 1-2

In the Monster Soul world, a war was waged between humans and monsters, with the monsters falling on the losing end of a treaty. The peace between the monsters and humans is tenuous and monsters are frequently persecuted by humans. As a result, monsters tend to stay away from humans and keep a low profile. One group of monsters, known as the Black Airs, lives boldly with a purpose: to have fun and take care of each other. They get into all kinds of trouble with reckless abandon, but as long as they stick together, they’ll be all right…probably.

Monster Soul Volume 1-2
Monster Soul 1
By Hiro Mashima

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Monster Soul is a two-volume series created by Hiro Mashima before starting on his latest title, Fairy Tail. In the world of Monster Soul, humans and monsters share the land of Elvenland. Since losing the war, monsters have retreated underground, living in dungeon cities. There is still a lot of anger and mistrust between humans and monsters, especially with humans coming down to steal from the monsters’ dungeons. Enter the Black Airs, Mummy, James, Toorah and Aki, four monsters commandos who fought in the war, but now fight to help those in trouble, monster or human.

The Black Airs don’t look all that tough at first meeting. Mummy is a mummy and is the leader of the group, acting often more like a big sister. She is wrapped in pink wrappings that she can control and carries a huge syringe. She also likes to strip out of her wrappings. James is a Frankenstein and was built by humans to hunt monsters, but was too kindhearted to hurt any. He is equipped with all kinds of weapons, and has a propensity for losing his face. Toorah is a golem and is made of a sand she can control at will. She can be a bit ditzy, but also cunning when needed. Aki is very much about his stomach and his fists. He appears to be human, except for the horns on his head. He is a special monster, known as an S-type. He can transform into his soul form, a Dire Wolf, with increased speed and strength. His only problem is that he falls asleep as soon as the battle is over.

Monster Soul 2The Black Airs face off against both humans and monsters looking to cause trouble. Human bounty hunters who try to capture rare monsters for their bounty, more monsters rising up in revolt against the humans for revenge. What you are doesn’t matter to the Black Airs, only what you do. Along the way their past is revealed as well as the adversity they faced and overcame to become the heroes they are seen as today.

I enjoyed reading Monster Soul. The characters are goofy and quirky with just enough pathos for the reader to care about them. I liked Aki a lot, with his one track mind to his stomach, and his Dire Wolf form is cool. James’ face constantly falling made for some good laughs. I didn’t care so much for the male gaze with Mummy and Toorah, but that goes with the territory of a Mashima title. The story breaks up easily with the first volume being stand alone stories that introduce everyone, and the second volume is one arc that brings together the themes of friendship and harmony. There is plenty of action, and each of the Black Airs get to show off in at least one battle. It also has quite a bit of humor. I liked the in joke about human kids catching monster for play fighting. The drama is well done, and emphasizes the Black Airs bonds of friendship.

While Monster Soul is fun, it’s also fairly average for a shonen series. The action is the focus as the Black Airs fight different and eventually more powerful foes. The art is very Mashima. You can see some of Lucy in Toorah, and Natsu in Aki. Mashima straight out states that Mummy became the model for Erza. Mashima set out to do a series about the flip side of RPGs, wondering how the monsters in those games felt, and in this respect he succeeded. He does a good job showing the monster’s side and making them sympathetic. But with the series being so short, it felt rushed at the end, as the pasts of the Black Airs were revealed in short flashbacks. If you’re a fan of Mashima, or enjoy fun action stories, you can’t go wrong with this series. And at only two volumes, it won’t hurt your pocketbook either.

Review copies provided by publisher.

This Week’s Manga: What Manga?

This Week's Manga

Attack on Titan GuideWow. I thought I was stretching it last week. This week there is hardly any manga being released. Kodansha and Viz Media are about the only companies with anything coming out, and barely any at that. So let’s spotlight some related-but-not-manga titles.

Attack on Titan Before the Fall novelKodansha releases the first to 2 books about Attack on Titan. Attack on Titan Guidebook: Inside and Outside is a look behind the scenes of the manga and anime. At nearly 400 pages, it features interviews with creator Hajime Isayama, his editor and staff of the anime adaptation, concept art from both the manga and anime, and an exhaustive guide to the characters and world of Attack on Titan. There is even a papercraft kit to make your own Colossal Titan head! This is a must for any Attack on Titan fan.

Vertical, Inc. isn’t just a manga publisher. They also print novels, so it’s of no surprise that their leap onto the Attack on Titan bandwagon was to get the light novel series, Attack on Titan Before the Fall. This first novel is a prequel not only to the Attack on Titan series, but also to the manga of the same name as well. This first novel focuses on a blacksmith named Angel who helps to fight the Titans the only way he know how. If you’re hungry for new Titan material that also expands the world more, this is the title for you.

Say I Love You Volume 1-2

Mei Tachibana has always been a loner. In her 16 years, she has never had a friend or a boyfriend. She doesn’t talk to anyone at school, and is teased mercilessly. All that starts to change when she catches the eye of the popular Yamato, who decides she will be his girlfriend. Mei doesn’t know what to think of Yamato, or if she can trust him, but she does think she might be falling in love with him.

Say I Love You Volume 1-2
Say I Love You 1By Kanae Hazuki
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99USD
Rating: ★★★★½

Say I Love You has the all too familiar premise of the popular boy taking a liking to the most unpopular girl, but this series succeeds with its quirky yet relatable characters and a realistic look at the problems teens face in high school.

Mei Tachibana is a loner. Betrayed by those she thought were her friends in elementary school, Mei turns her back on friends and friendship, and relies on herself. She is strong-willed and speaks her mind when she thinks it’s called for which can get her into scuffles. Her dislike of her fellow students and the cliques they get into makes her the target of bullying, but she suffers them with complaint or even little thought. She doesn’t believe anyone will come if she calls for help, so she never tries.

She meets Yamato when his friend Nakanishi teases her and she roundhouse kicks Yamato instead. This attracts his interest in her and he starts to pursue her. Yamato is popular for both his looks and personality. He is friendly with everyone, but isn’t seeing anyone. He doesn’t like the bullying that goes around at the school, so most of it happens when he’s not around. Mei doubts Yamato a lot at first, especially as she hears the rumors about him, but he keeps trying to prove his sincerity and always comes when she calls for help.

Say I Love You 2Along with Yamato comes new friends for Mei. Asami is a girl with large breasts who hangs around Yamato. He doesn’t tease her or make her feel self-conscious about her breasts, so she really likes him. She and Mei become friends as Mei hangs around more. Yamato’s friend Nakanishi takes a little longer to come around, until Mei helps him get with Asami, who he has had a crush on for a while. Mei’s first real rival is Aiko, a girl Yamato knew in middle school. She used to be overweight, and after a bad breakup asked Yamato to sleep with her and he agreed. Aiko has serious body issues and crush on Yamato, but he doesn’t reciprocate. She tries to warn Mei off, but she doesn’t scare so easily.

Say I Love You shows Mei’s journey to going from a loner to finding first love, but it also shows a lot of the problems teens face physically and emotionally. Asami and Aiko both have problems with their bodies, and it affects the way they interact with others. Asami just wants to be accepted for who she is, not what she has. Aiko can’t accept who she’s become with Yamato validation even though she has Masashi who does accept her. Another of Yamato’s friends, Hayakawa, has a lot of “friends with benefits” but no real connections. He has to get put into the hospital before he realizes how empty his life has been and what he really needs to fulfill it. The series also doesn’t beat around the bush about teen sex, as a lot of characters do it or talk about it. This is treated realistically as well, and even Mei and Yamato get a moment, though nothing happens.

Say I Love You has plenty of drama and a budding romance that is a lot of fun to read. The realistic ring to the characters and situations makes it more interesting and stand out from the shojo crowd. You may think you’ve read manga like Say I Love You, but it’s really nothing like anything other series out there.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Manga at the Harveys 2014

AoT 1This last week at Baltimore Comic Con, the Harvey Awards were held. Like the Eisners, the Harveys honor the best in comics and sequential art. Unlike the Eisners, the Harveys are nominated and voted on by the comic professionals themselves. It’s about creators honoring other creators for their work. While the awards center mostly around American comics, manga does get a nod in the “Best American Edition of Foreign Material” category. This year, three manga got nods: Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama and published by Kodansha Comics, Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto and published by Viz Media, and Showa: A History of Showa Japan by Shigeru Mizuki and published by Fantagraphics.

All three titles have their merits. Attack on Titan, while sorely lacking the art department has a compelling story and interesting characters, things that have made it a huge franchise both in Japan and here in the States. Volume 1 of the series has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for almost 70 consecutive weeks. Sunny is a semi-autobiographical slice of life story about several kids living at the Star Kids Home orphanage, and one of the few constant things in their life is the old yellow Sunny in the backyard that the kids use to escape their real life problems. It won both the Slate Book Review and Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies’ Best Graphic Novel Prize earlier this year. Showa: A History of Showa Japan covers the events of the first 14 years of the Showa period, from 1926-1939. It won the 2009 Asahi Prize in Japan for its contributions to culture and society.

While all three titles are worthy, only one could claim the prize. And the winner, surprising or not, is Attack on Titan. Having read the second half of the series out so far, I can understand it winning. The story touches on lots of different topics, and is a suspenseful, thrilling adventure. I can only imagine the story won on these merits. While the art has improved a lot since its first few volumes, it still has problems.

cyborg_009_coverAlso nominated, but not in the Foreign Material category was Deron Bennett’s Cyborg 009, a comic adaptation of Shotaro Ishimori’s manga of the same name, and published by Boom! Studios. The series got several nods in the categories Best Original Graphic Novel, Best Letterer, and Special Award for Excellence in Presentation. Unfortunately, it lost in all three categories, but the book is an interesting adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the original while trying to appeal to a wider audience.

This Week’s Manga: Wanna Catch Up!

This Week's Manga

It’s a slow release week this week, so it’s all about the titles I want to catch up on, but other shinies keep distracting me! Kodansha has picked up the pace lately by adding many titles I want to read. I’ve read the first volume of Sherlock Bones and did enjoy it, but 2-4 have been languishing on the shelf waiting for me to pick them up. With the release of volume 7, the final volume, I may as well just wait and read the whole rest of the series in one go! Seven Deadly Sins vol 4 comes out this week, adding to another growing stack of unread shonen. I have a lot of those I keep meaning to wheedle down, but then things like new Attack on Titan volumes come out and I’m off after the shiny things again.

Viz Media is my usual point and click into a virtual basket, but this week there is only one title that I am of course woefully behind on. 07-Ghost vol 12 comes out this week, bringing the series only 5 volumes from finishing, and me 7 volumes behind. At least it has an end in sight and I unlike so many shonen titles.

Dark Horse Comics occasionally grabs my attention, and their score of CLAMP manga is one of the ways they’ve done it. Legal Drug Omnibus collects the three volumes published before it was put on hiatus. The series returned in 2011 as Drug and Drop, which will drop in 2015, that appears to be ongoing, but with CLAMP, who knows. I was put off by the title when it first came out, but I’ve since learned to appreciate CLAMP and their works, and am interested in reading this series, especially with just one volume to lug around. Unless it also gets a digital release.

Sherlock Bones 7Seven Deadly Sins 407-Ghost 12 Legal Drug Omni

 

My Little Monster Volume 1-2

Shizuku Mizutani has a goal; to have an annual income of 100 Million Yen. To do that, she has to have perfect grades and is always studying. She doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t think she needs any. Then she meets Haru Yoshida. He is a First Year like her, who should be in the desk next to her, but hasn’t been to school since the first day. She takes some printouts from their home room teacher to him, and he decides they are friends. This starts Shizuku on a path of making friends and maybe even falling in love, as long as they don’t get in the way of her grades.

My Little Monster Volume 1-2
My little Monster 1By Robico
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99USD
Rating: ★★★★☆

My Little Monster sort of sounds like a “good girl falls for the bad boy” story, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. The characters are more like misfits, damaged from events in their past that have kept them from finding real friendship and relationships, making them much more interesting to watch and their stories more compelling.

The story centers around the relationship of Shizuku and Haru. Neither has any real friends. Shizuku doesn’t because of an incident in elementary school that made it difficult for her to trust other and just rely on herself. Haru got a “bad boy” reputation because of his physical strength, but is really a good guy. Their personalities are somewhat different. Shizuku is straightforward, to the point of being blunt sometimes. She comes off as cold and unemotional, but just doesn’t know how to act around people since she has spent more time studying than interacting. Haru seems scared of the other kids at school, except when someone is being bullied or threatened. He’ll jump right into the fray and start fighting. He is also clueless about how to act around people, but he is more naive than cynical. They are both socially inept be for different reasons.

Their relationship is like a see-saw. When Haru has feelings for Shizuku, she doesn’t for him and visa-verse. Haru confesses first, and then when Shizuku is ready to reciprocate, he just wants to be friends. Then when he comes to realize he might like her as something more, she wants to go back to just being friends. Up and down, up and down. Just like a see-saw. I think that’s what I find most intriguing about their relationship. There aren’t any big dramatic moments that make them change their minds. There are these moments of realization. Haru, when he kisses Shizuku and doesn’t see stars, starts to think he doesn’t like her that way. Shizuku realizes her life has changed, but that she doesn’t have to lose focus of her goal, and can just be friends with Haru. It’s such an unusual take on a teenage romance that it really intrigues me.

My Little Monster 2The cast of supporting characters really helps. Shizuku gets a girl friend in Natsume, a girl with really poor study skills who wants to make friends. She’s really pretty, and can get the boys attention, but the cold shoulder from the other girls. Sasayan is on the baseball team and is just hanging around Haru and Shizuku because he thinks they are interesting. He’s also a regular at the arcade and batting cages owned by Haru’s cousin Mitchan. And then there’s Nagoya, the chicken. Haru found him and started bringing him to school until they got the administration to let him keep it as a school pet. I love the chicken. He doesn’t do anything, but it’s just funny to watch Haru dote over it.

The stories start out like the usual shojo fare, but turn out like anything but. The boys that bullied Haru for money come back to apologize and end up helping to build Nagoya’s henhouse. Haru starts smiling more and girls start to pay attention to him more, but a fight with upperclassmen sends him back. Upperclassman Oshima starts to like Haru, but instead of confessing her feelings, she explains Shizuku’s to Haru. I really enjoy all these twists. It’s great not knowing how things are going to turn out.

My Little Monster is a great read, especially if you are getting a little tired of all the upbeat, perky heroines in shojo. Shizuku’s cynical and analytical view on life is a refreshing change. I am really looking forward to seeing how the see-saw is going to change this time, and really want to find out more about Haru’s and Shizuku’s background. There have been a lot of tantalizing hints dropped, but I really want to see more.

Review copies provided by publisher.

This Week’s Manga: Stray Killers

This Week's Manga

This week has some interesting titles coming out, as well as ending. Kodansha has just one title; Noragami: Stray God Vol. 1. This title was announced to some excitement last year, as it also has an anime that was streamed on Funimation, giving it name recognition that may help move the volume. We’ll have to see if it makes to the NYT bestseller list next week.

Vertical Inc., releases the 4th volume in their foodie series, What Did You Eat Yesterday? Seriously, if you’re not reading this series, why not?! It has something for everyone, foodie or not, and Vertical always puts out great editions.

Viz Media says good-bye to two of its titles. Midnight Secretary, the josei-as-shojo ends this week with Vol. 7. I did enjoy the first two volumes with caveats, but am still interested in reading more. It’s on the to-read list. Dawn of the Arcana, a true shojo also ends it’s run with Vol. 13. I have the first two volumes that have been languishing in my to-be-reviewed pile for a while now. Maybe this is a good time to pick them up and finally check them out. Finally, Time Killers by Kazue Kato comes out. It is a series of short stories by the creator of Blue Exorcist, another series I should read the first volume of some day.

Noragami 1What did you eat yesterday 4Midnight Secretary 7Dawn of the Arcana 13Time Killers

 

Attack on Titan No Regrets Volume 1

The young Erwin Smith is a rising star in the Survey Corps, humanity’s only hope of defeating the man-eating monsters known as Titans. Ruthless and dispassionate, Erwin’s mind is devoted to strategies and intrigue. But beneath Erwin’s feet is another world, the Underground, where humans are born and die surrounded by the garbage the Capital throws away. Here, the criminal Levi survives on his wits and agility. But when these two ambitious men cross paths, who will prove himself stronger?

Attack on Titan: No Regrets Volume 1
Attack On titan no regrets 1Written by Gun Snark (Nitropolis); Art by Hikaru Suruga
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror/Shojo
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I went into this volume with no preconceived notions. I started reading Attack on Titan late in the series, at volume 8, so while I had heard of the characters Erwin and Levi, I didn’t know who they were. I knew they were important leaders in the Survey Corps, and big deals to fans. This story alone was enough to increase the circulation of the magazine it was published by 10 fold. Even though this story is supposed to be about both Erwin and Levi, this volume at least, is really all about Levi.

Levi is the leader of a trio of thieves who use Survey Corps maneuvering gear to get around the Underground where they struggle to survive. Levi is a stoic man of few words. He has perpetual dark circles under his eyes and doesn’t seem capable of smiling. But he cares a lot for his friends Furlan and Isabelle, the only two people in the world he trusts. He will fight and possibly kill for them, and they look up to him as a protector and leader. He is incredibly skilled in using the maneuvering gear, despite having never been taught formally, which is what catches the attention of Squad Leader Erwin Smith.

Erwin is a very earnest member of the Survey Corps, and rather savvy with manipulating the political side of things to get what he wants. He is determined to do anything and everything it takes to build up the Survey Corp. He recognizes the threat the Titans pose, even as the people and politicians grow complacent after so many years without a breach. He is even willing to work with criminals, by bringing in Levi and his group. Erwin isn’t seen much in this volume, but it is obvious he is watching them.

Levi and his friends have some prejudices to get pass after joining the Survey Corps. Some members and the leaders object to people from the Underground being brought with no military training. But, as they train with the other squad members, many of them start to see their strengths. Isabelle has an affinity with animals, which lets her show off her riding skills. Furlan is the calm and sensible one of the three, trying to keep the peace, mostly between Levi and the others. He also has some plan in mind, that somehow involves Erwin, but only hints have been dropped so far. Then there’s Levi. His skills are no illusion as he shows in both training and actual combat. His more unorthodox methods bring down a Titan, and his skills take it out. Levi is almost as awesome in combat as Mikasa!

The art is a well done, looking enough like Isayama’s style while still being good. I love Levi’s fashion sense, both in his civilian clothes and in his Survey Corps uniform. The Ascot is just perfect on him! The action sequences are well done, with lots of lines flying, clouds of smoke from the canisters and swords gliding through the air. There really isn’t a moment of this volume I didn’t enjoy.

Attack on Titan: No Regrets Volume 1 is a great start to a series about some provocative characters. Since this is an origin story, it’s not necessary to have read the main series to enjoy this one, but a basic understanding of the universe would help since there are no explanations. I’m looking forward to volume 2 but not the wait until October. I’m also sad that it will also be the last volume. I wouldn’t mind watching Levi and the gang for another couple of volumes.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall Volume 1

Cut alive from his mother’s womb after she had been eaten by a rampaging Titan, Kuklo has spent his life in chains as a freakish curiosity and a feared abomination. Eventually the boy they call the “Titan’s son” finds himself sold to wealthy merchant Dario Inocencio as a plaything for his cruel and ambitious son Xavi. Kuklo knows nothing but abuse and neglect, but help may come from the most unexpected place…

AoT Before the Fall 1Written by Ryo Suzukaze; Art by Satoshi Shiki
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99US
Rating: ★★★★☆
Buy the Book

Even though it was easy to get into the original Attack on Titan fairly late in the series, it’s even better when you can start at the beginning. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall is prequel to the original series, taking place 70 years in the past. While it didn’t take much to get me onto the original Attack on Titan bandwagon, I was jumping even faster to ride with Before the Fall.

The story follows Kuklo, who has been persecuted and abused his entire 13 years for doing nothing but surviving. He burst from his mother’s womb after she had been eaten by a Titan, and people’s fear and misunderstanding made him the freak and outcast we see at the beginning. He can barely speak and has very few thoughts beyond surviving. He doesn’t understand why he’s beaten and ridiculed, and can barely speak, but he does have the presence of mind to know when he wants it to end.

Enter Sharle, the daughter of Dario Inocencio. She fears the Titans and their “son.” She decides to do something about him one night, and discovers Kuklo is no Titan, but just as human as she is. She is a kind and caring person. She helps Kuklo, first by feeding him, then by understanding him. A friendship grows between them as he learns about Titans and the human world, and he plots his escape.

I enjoyed this volume. Kuklo’s and Sharle’s relationship really pulled me in. I understand why Kuklo’s origin and dark history had to be shown, but it didn’t compel me as much as Kuklo’s realization and growing determination to learn about both humans and Titans. His driving need to know if he really was a “Titan’s son” made the continued abuse tolerable. Sharle was just as interesting. The daughter of an aristocrat wouldn’t be expected to pick up a dagger and try to kill a Titan. She showed strength along with her tenderness, and a mercy Kuklo had never known. I was really glad the volume ended the way it did. Kuklo shouldn’t be the only one escaping a cage, and Sharle is stronger than she thinks.

The volume did feel kind of short, with only three chapters. The original “trailer” for Before the Fall was included to help fill up the space. It does look like a movie trailer, with narration, lots of Titan action and one shocker to reel you in. If you look at it that way instead of as a chapter, it makes a lot more sense.

The art is very different from the original manga. In a lot of ways it’s better. The style reminded me a lot of The Guin Saga Manga published by Vertical, Inc and illustrated by Kazuaki Yanagisawa. Shiki did a good job of expressing the characters’ emotions, especially Kuklo’s. His expressions are the only way to tell what he’s feeling for much of the volume.

You don’t have to have read Attack on Titan in order to enjoy Before the Fall. The story stands on it’s own with two great lead characters that I am looking forward to following in the coming volumes. In no way is their journey going to be easy, but it is sure to be filled excitement.

Review copy provided by publisher.