Comics/Graphic Novels

A Guide to Reading Attack on Titan

Vernieda Vergara

Staff Writer

Vernieda Vergara is a freelance writer who loves anime, manga, and all things creepy. Her work has appeared on Den of Geek, Women Write About Comics, The Comics MNT, and other venues scattered across the internet. She lives in the Washington DC suburbs where she takes care of far too many plants and drinks even more tea. Twitter: incitata

Anime fans, time to get excited. An air date for the second season of Attack on Titan has finally been confirmed: Spring 2017. Don’t miss it! After reading Attack on Titan is fun and all, but this is a series made to be watched.

For anyone wondering what Attack on Titan is…Well, it’s arguably the biggest manga property to come out of Japan within the last decade. Imagine a world where humans have been wiped out by man-eating giants. The last remnants of humanity have retreated behind towering walls built to keep the giants out. But what happens when those seemingly impenetrable walls fail? What happens to mankind then?

So opens Attack on Titan, when the outermost wall of humanity’s last bastion falls and sends series protagonist, Eren Yeager, and his childhood friends, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert, on a path that leads them to joining the Survey Corps, a military branch charged with the task of exploring beyond the city’s walls and finding a way to defeat the Titans. The first season of the anime adaptation aired in 2013, catapulting Attack on Titan up the bestseller charts. Remember, the true purpose of anime adaptations is to drive sales of the original manga in Japan and Attack on Titan gave perennial juggernaut One Piece a run for its money that year.

To say that fans have been anticipating a second season of the anime for a long time is an understatement. But if you’ve only come upon Attack on Titan recently, no worries! We have you covered here at Panels.

Like Naruto, Attack on Titan has grown bigger than its original concept. Unlike most manga titles, which consist of only one main series, Attack on Titan has multiple manga spin-offs, light novels, videogames, and even a couple action films, in addition to the anime. For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to focus on the manga titles because when it comes to reading Attack on Titan, it’s easy to get confused.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
The core series that started it all! At 19 volumes and going strong, the main series follows Eren Yeager as he joins the Survey Corps for the purpose of killing Titans, which were responsible for destroying his hometown and killing his mother when the outermost wall fell. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, things are never so easy. Eren’s journey uncovers some mysteries about the Titans, the inner workings of the military and nobility, and a big secret that his father was keeping. Attack on Titan is not your standard shonen manga. There’s a high body count—no resurrections or fake out deaths here!—and Isayama doesn’t shy away from showing the bloody results.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall 1. Story by Ryo Suzukaze. Art by Satoshi Shiki. Original story by Hajime Isayama. Kodansha.Attack on Titan: Before the Fall by Ryo Suzukaze and Satoshi Shiki

Originally a light novel written by Ryo Suzukaze, Satoshi Shiki began a manga adaptation in 2013. If you’ve ever seen any Attack on Titan-related visual, chances are high that you’ve seen the military gear that the characters wear. Crucial to the soldiers’ success is something called three-dimensional maneuver gear (3DMG), which allows them to fight against the Titans. Before the Fall takes place 70 years before the main series and chronicles the development of the 3DMG.

Attack on Titan: No Regrets by Gun Snark and Hikaru Suruga
While Eren is the protagonist of Attack on Titan, I think it’s safe to say he’s not the fandom favorite. That honor belongs to Captain Levi. Known as Humanity’s Strongest Soldier, Levi is a Titan-killing machine. No Regrets delves in Levi’s origins as a street thug from the underground city and how he came to join the Survey Corps.

(Please: if you read the main manga, refrain from including spoilers in the comments. I know it’s been a couple years since we discovered Levi’s family ties, but if people are new to the series or only watch the anime, this will ruin a fairly large reveal.)

Attack on Titan: Junior High by Saki Nakagawa
As you’ve probably noticed, Attack on Titan is a pretty serious manga. Hard to keep things light and happy when you’re under constant threat of being eaten and killed by giants! But reading Attack on Titan can get depressing after a while, especially when Isayama kills off your favorite characters. If you need a change of pace, let me introduce you to Attack on Titan: Junior High. Junior High is a parody series of Attack on Titan. In fanfiction lingo, we’d call it an alternate universe scenario. Instead of battling Titans in a post-apocalyptic landscape, our characters are…junior high school students. Scary.

Spoof on Titan by Hounori
If you’re hankering for more Attack on Titan parodies, you’re in luck. Spoof on Titan is another comedy series inspired by Isayama’s manga. This one is in 4-panel format, which is a format traditionally reserved for gag comics in Japan. If you read Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, you’ll be familiar with it.

And there you have it: a crash course in reading Attack on Titan. I know some librarians have been stumped by the “junior high Attack on Titan” request coming from teenaged patrons, so hopefully this has cleared up the confusion. There is indeed a series where they’re in junior high.

Any questions about reading Attack on Titan? You know what to do.