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.
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.
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?