Another year another Anime Boston! Held every year at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston, just blocks away from the site of the recent Boston Marathon bombings, this year it ran from May 24th to the 26th, Memorial Day Weekend. Now in it’s 11th year, Anime Boston is the premier anime convention of the New England area, and is among the top five anime conventions in North America! Each year the con features a different theme, with theme serving as a backdrop for promotional skits, materials, t-shirts, decorations and more. The con also highlights fan panels that stick to the years theme, and often has contests and video programming which also tie into the theme. This year the theme was yokai and ghosts, which meant we had a bevy of supernatural themed panels! As a single individual I decided to try to give a fans eye perspective of the convention, highlighting some of the fan panels and a few of the industry panels as well.
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Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan continues to bring it’s own unique blend of action and horror to the page in these two volumes. Human civilization teeters on the brink of extinction as the attack of the Titans which began in the first volume continues. Following the first volume’s shocking ending, Mikasa and Armin find themselves coping with with the loss of a friend as they attempt to slow the Titans rampage within the city, but when a mysterious new Titan appears and begins to attack the other Titans will this be the weapon they need to turn the tide, or is it simply an abnormal Titan who will turn on them as quickly as it did on the other Titans?
While I’m still enjoying the series I must admit that my enthusiasm was slightly dampened by these two volumes. There’s plenty of twists and turns story wise, more intriguing world building, and a nice flashback to a hugely influential moment in the lives of Mikasa and Eren, but the Titan’s attack on the city feels like it’s happening at a snails pace. In addition, despite spending quite a bit of time on exploring the relationship and friendship between Mikasa, Eren and Armin, none of the trio feel terribly compelling or interesting at this point. Right now they’re all one note characters, the sullen determined one, the smart cowardly one, the driven and brash one, etc. This lack of personality is simply compounded by the fact that everyone seems to speak in the same voice. At times I had the feeling that you could rearrange the dialogue so just about anyone said anything and it wouldn’t seem terribly shocking or out of character.
Visually the book continues to suffer when there aren’t fight scenes filling up the page. By the third volume it’s pretty clear that Hajime Isayama’s strong point is in conveying motion, intensity and impact when it comes to these action sequences. They’re easily the highlight of the series and there’s a fantastic sense of speed, momentum and even desperation as the various human defenders zip around on their grapple lines. Sadly, it’s also fairly clear that his weak point is in depicting the quieter moments, as those are often full of awkward poses, limbs at slightly odd angles and more. The character designs continue to suffer from the fact that nearly everyone is in their late teens, early twenties, wearing the exact same clothes and with similar hair cuts. It’s undoubtedly because most of the cast we’ve seen so far are in the military, but it from a readers perspective this uniformity of appearance works against attempts to differentiate the characters from one another. Bizarrely enough, some of Hajime Isayama’s weaknesses turn out to be virtues when it comes to the depiction of the Titans. Their disturbingly human faces are often off set by strangely proportioned limbs, oversized jaws, far more teeth than a human would have and more. It gives them a deeply unsettling feel, as do the looks of seemingly child like bliss that they often wear as they’re devouring their prey alive. In addition, the action scenes and facial expressions that the characters wear do a fantastic job at expressing the horror and trauma that these young kids are facing on the battlefield.
Despite the noticeable flaws, Attack on Titan is still a fairly enjoyable read that comes with some of the most intense and dynamic action sequences I’ve seen in a long time. The world building and the mysteries Isayama’s setting up are intriguing and interesting, but the characters lack of personality makes it difficult to care about them when the drama all unfolds. Hopefully with time this will change, but right now it occupies the same place as fun but forgettable movies. It entertains, but it probably won’t stick with you for the long run.
Attack on Titan, Vols. 2 + 3 are available from Kodansha Comics.
Attack on Titan, Vol. 1
Created by Hajime Isayama
Kodansha Comics, 208 pp
Rating: Teen (16 +)
Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan is a weird, science fiction/horror tale of humanity under siege. For hundreds of years the small group of humans who survive have lived behind massive walled cities, afraid to step foot outside lest they fall pray to the Titans, giant humanoids who attack with no warning and seemingly no motivation. It’s been a century since the walls were breached, which means it’s about time for a change.
Attack on Titan received quite a bit of positive buzz when it was released in the U.S. last year, and after reading the first volume it’s rather easy to see why. It’s a survival horror tale about humanity under siege, something that’s all the rage nowadays in the form of zombies and the like. Attack on Titan taps into that same psychic vein, only this time the maneating threat comes in the form of giant humanoids. Add in some rather likable characters, namely Eren, a young man who’s tired of humanity living in a giant cage, waiting to be picked off by the Titans, and add a little sci-fi and fantasy element with regards to human civilization and the weaponry created to do battle with the Titans, and you have a recipe for a rather fantastic action/adventure story. Eren’s incredibly likable and while he’s rather head strong and impetuous, there’s just something about his motivation and desire which makes him a compelling lead, someone you want to root for and see win.
Hajime Isayama’s artwork is very strong in some areas. There’s some lovely thatching going on through the book, and the costuming and clothing all feels a bit more grounded and realistic rather than some of the over the top designs often seen in manga and anime. The combat scenes are energetic and generally easy to follow, while being imaginative and exciting as well. Eren and the rest of the human armed forces utilize a complex harness and grapple system which allows them to scale the Titans, walls and any other tall object, leading to some lovely scenes of characters swinging and flying through the air while in combat. In addition, the artwork breaks down and becomes even more sketchy and thatch heavy, adding to the feeling of motion and giving everything strong sense of momentum. The art’s weak point comes through the stiff, awkward body language and poses of many of the characters in non-action scenes. Also, Isayama’s faces leave something to be desired as well. While they’re not horrible or misshapen, many of the human characters look a like, making it difficult to tell them apart in several instances.
Attack on Titan seems like a clever, well done action series with the potential for some incredible fight scenes and enough mystery and world building to leave readers wanting to know more. While the artwork is weak and awkward in some areas, at this point I don’t think it’s enough to really take away from the fact that this is a pretty damn entertaining read.
Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 is available from Kodansha Comics.