Manga vs. Anime: Attack on Titan / Shingeki no Kyojin

Welcome, one and all, to my second anime/manga comparative piece. Seeing as it’s horror season, today’s focus is the mega hit that is Shingeki no Kyojin, aka Attack on Titan. Now, I’ll be running this comparison based on the first colossal edition of the manga. If you haven’t seen these, they’re basically collections of large numbers of chapters (in this case 1 – 22) in a truly titan print size (17.7 x 26.5cm rather than the normal 12.7 x 19cm). This little expedition takes us right up to the first appearance of the Female Titan part way through episode 17 of season one of the anime, so there’s plenty of scope to look at how the two media forms differ here.

So, let’s look at the story first. Both stories open in much the same way: the attack on Shiganshina, the introduction of the Colossal and Armour Titans, and the death of Eren’s mother. Once we pass episode two though, the anime and manga proceed to do things slightly differently. The anime takes a very linear route to the tale, showing the teens as they go through training to becoming soldiers, taking them smoothly up to the return of the Colossal Titan and the Battle for Trost at the end of episode four. The manga, however, jumps from Eren, Mikasa and Armin’s escape from Shiganshina to the closing scenes from episode four in Trost, with a brief run-down of the various new soldiers by name. The training portion of the story is covered in chapters fifteen to eighteen, fitting in as a flashback during the aftermath of the Battle for Trost.

So, which route works better? Honestly, I think that the anime took the best approach to the story here. By showing the events in order, we were able to get short introductions to many of the characters and watch them interact, meaning that we can connect with them before they get put in peril. This allows us to feel sympathy for them and to see the beginnings of growth for some. By simply plopping us into the middle of the battle, the manga may leave new readers cold to the extended cast, at least initially. The flashback then interrupts the flow slightly, moving us away from Levi first meeting Eren, and dropping us back in the past just as we want to see what will happen next. It’s not like it doesn’t work, but it just doesn’t feel like it works as well to me.

AEM Shin

The comparison doesn’t just favour the anime there though. While competent, the art in the manga feels less polished than that of the anime in my opinion, certainly when it comes to the humans. While the action scenes are suitably kinetic, problems arise when characters are standing still. At times, a very simplistic approach has been taken to facial expressions for example, leaving the characters less emotive on the whole. The real shame with this is that the manga really shines when it comes to the monstrous titans themselves. If anything, the manga’s art when it comes to the giant antagonists shows a great degree of skill and a high attention to detail that matches the anime with ease. Unfortunately, the flip side to this is that it serves to highlight the disparity when it comes to the humans.

Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. When you look at the shot of Annie below, the art is really rather good.

Annie Corpse

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m entirely down on the manga here. What I’ve read is enjoyable, and there isn’t anything in there that’s off-putting. It’s simply a case that I feel that the anime executed things to a higher level, at least up to the end of this particular collection. The franchise is successful for a reason, and whatever form your enjoyment of it takes, it’s much the same story. The cast is just as interesting in both versions, and the ongoing intrigue around what’s actually going on is thoroughly enjoyable. For me, the anime works best but what about yourselves? Do you have a favourite version?

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8 comments

  1. I’m not a big reader of manga. I read the occasional books (most recently Battle Angel Alita), but I have not yet begun on the Attack on Titan series. The sheer number of volumes for it, has kind of stopped me from starting with it. I already have way too little time in a day as it is lol 😂 Still, I liked this comparison. To be honest though, I think I will stick to the anime series for this one 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    • I would say personally that, as long it ends up doing the whole story, the anime feels more polished to me as a pece and is probably worth sticking with. I knwow aht you mean though. There are so fw manga that I actively follow now, and even then I’ve only gt the lsit I have ebcause two of my favourites (Black Lagoon and Dogs: Bullets and Carnage) are on hiatus.

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  2. I have only watched the anime (season one) but from what I have read elsewhere other people agree that the anime trumps the manga in terms of artwork. It’s cool that the cartoon rearranges events slightly to make the story flow better. That’s one of the benefits of being able to look into the future when doing an adaptation. Authors who work one chapter at a time, to meet deadlines, might well do the same if they could time travel.

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  3. I started the manga, and my first thought was how ugly it was. Especially in the Colossal Edition, there are huge images of… well, badly drawn characters. I know it gets better, but when you first start it and now have several years worth of anime pictures plastered all over, it’s hard to choose the manga, at least for the first few volumes/episodes.

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  4. True that the anime looks better than the manga in AOT, especially since I was just reading the manga a couple of minutes back!

    But, honestly, I can’t choose because I haven’t watched the anime at all… I AM a hardcore manga fan after all!

    Personally though, I actually like the flashbacks popping in here and there, because it let’s me go back to scenes I’ve read before with a different perspective when I re-read the manga, giving me more feels than the first time.

    However,talking about artwork, which is an important thing for me, I’d have to try the anime whenever I find time.
    Again, not to sound too contradictory, but I had a vague sense that the art style of the manga somehow FITS with the storyline and emotions. Especially the rough backgrounds that somehow increased the sense of dread as I progressed with the story. The main theme of horror was well represented in the looseness and unpolished art that we witness.
    Then again, I mostly prefer manga over anime, so I don’t want to be prejudiced.

    On another note, I may not be continuing the series at all. I’m around the 60th chapter but it isn’t really keeping the interest anymore. Can you tell me if the ending is worth continuing, or if I should leave it for later?

    Liked by 1 person

    • In terms of the ending, I couldn’t honestly say as I only own up to where the post covers in the manga. I really enjoyed find if the reveals in the second season of the anime, but I was already really enjoying the story so, assuming the addition is continuing to be spot on, you may find that it won’t grab you Abby not than it already has.

      For me, whether I prefer an anime or manga varies from series to series. I do wonder if my opinion would have been different if if read the manga first though and so been familiar with the story layout and art of the manga before watching. Loose is a good way to describe the art though.

      Liked by 1 person

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