Attack on Titan (manga)

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Guren no Yumiya

On that day, humanity received a grim reminder. We lived in the fear of the Titans.

Attack on Titan is an anime/manga about humanity's struggle against Titans, man-eating giants. The story starts in the year 845. A little over 100 years earlier, the Titans appeared and pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. Humanity retreated into a stronghold with mighty walls that the Titans couldn't breach. Since then, humanity has been locked in a stalemate against them.

Eren is a boy who dreams of the world outside the city walls. This fantasy is fueled by the fabulous descriptions of his bookish friend Armin. Even Eren's level-headed foster sister, Mikasa, can't talk him out of it. So what if there are human-eating giants outside the city? As long as people know how to kill them, and the city walls keep the giants out, human civilization can slowly rebuild, and eventually reclaim the world. However, shortly after the story begins, a colossal Titan[1] appears, and destroys an outer wall gate, letting its smaller kin into the city.

It is known for Anyone Can Die, so don't get too attached to anyone. There is a reason why their city is the last human settlement on the planet. Between deaths and the initial mystery surrounding the Titans, this show has lots of spoilers to avoid (possibly even on this page). The show goes far beyond simply showing fighting between humans and Titans. Plenty of attention is paid to the virtues and faults found in humans.

From its relatively modest beginning, the manga managed to become the 17th highest seller in 2010, and a live-action film adaptation was released in 2015.

After 141 chapters collected in 34 volumes, the series ended in April of 2021.

Tropes used in Attack on Titan (manga) include:
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The soldiers' specialized blades can slice into the giants' weak spots that even cannons have trouble destroying. The trade-off is they are so easy to dull and break, each soldier carries twelve of them and can still run out.
  • The Ace: Rivialle, and to a lesser degree, Mikasa Ackerman.
  • Adapted Out: In live action movie, both Levi and Erwin were removed, basically because of the Japanese actors having problems with pronouncing their names and not of the Loads and Loads of Characters.
  • After the End: The giants have taken over the world and the surviving humans have regressed to barely knowing anything else about it.
  • All There in the Manual: At the end of certain chapters, an extra page goes into detail on certain aspects of the world. Examples include a roughly to scale picture of the walls and how much area they protect and details of humanity's technology.
  • A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away: The setting is primary Earth.
  • Anyone Can Die: And how.
  • Art Evolution: As time goes on, the art starts to get steadily more detailed and the action scenes start getting better, as well as the art of drawing faces.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The only way to put a giant down for good is to destroy or carve out the base of its neck. Even destroying their head won't kill them.
  • Badass: Anyone who survives more than one encounter with a Titan in general. Notable mentions are Mikasa, Ryner and Rivaille.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Titans. Justified because they really don't have sexual organs.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: More than one person has concluded that suicide is preferable to being consumed alive by a Titan. One unnamed soldier decides to opt out of the story than be food for the many Titans trying to get into the building he and the rest of his comrades held up in.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Titans and humans who can turn into titans; the fact that how they work makes very little sense is an important plot point, as one of the Scouting Legion's stated objectives is to better understand Titans and how to better defend against them/kill them.
  • Building Swing: Soldiers use the Omni-directional Mobility Gear powered by compress gas to make use of this trope.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Transformation into a Titan.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Exaggerated by the above example. Subverted with several characters, as they start to wonder if they could ever fight against the Titans yet continue to fight due to an uplifting speech or some sign of hope.
  • Dual-Wielding: Very common among the human soldiers.
  • Eaten Alive: Titans almost always kill this way.
  • Fan Disservice: The one, female[2] Titan has a great figure and is obviously athletic. How obvious? Well, it's hard to ignore all those toned muscles, considering there is no skin to cover them.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted. Both somewhat primitive guns and cannons exist.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: The wall cult believes the walls are divine, and the amount of protection they provide depends on the amount of faith/worship their creator, the Great Architect, is given.[3]
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: The titans have a much stronger instinct to munch on humans than to seek safety under cannon fire, which they'll just shrug off, anyway. They can also strike with enough force to destroy their own limbs, then wait for it to grow back.
  • Gorn: Human-Titan battles get messy fast.
  • Grappling Hook Pistol: A pair of these attached to a full body harness is standard equipment for the soldiers, being all that keeps them alive against giants.
  • Great Wall: The concentric walls protecting the city of humans. They're dozens of meters tall, and thick and strong enough to have been repelling the titular giants, who are essentially living humanoid siege engines, for at least a century. If built in the real world the outermost wall, Wall Maria, would encompass a roughly circular area stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, or from Amsterdam to the Aegean Sea in Europe. Naturally, the outer rings fall at the start of the story.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Eren makes it perfectly clear he wants nothing more than to exterminate the Titans and reclaim humanities presence outside the walls.
  • Healing Factor: An ability inherent in all Titans until they're put down for good.
    • This was the deciding factor in the first battles between Titans and humans, as humanity had possession of weaponry that could easily blow off Titans' heads but they just kept growing back.
    • Eren benefits from this ability after becoming a Titan.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Eren dives into a Titan's mouth to pull Armin out. He succeeded, but at the cost of being swallowed whole (minus an arm).
  • Hopeless War: The prospects for humanity's survival are pretty low for the first episodes.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Titans.
  • Kaiju: The Colossal Titan. 60 meters (roughly 200 feet) of skinless steaming monstrosity.
  • Kill All Humans/Super-Persistent Predator: Titans explicitly target humans alone, ignoring any other animals they come by. It's not even because they're hungry; they don't need to eat.
  • Land of the Shattered Empire: The Walls are actually the remnants of Eldia, which was in ancient times used by the Titans to build their empire. However, due to internal conflicts, it collapsed during the Great Titan War. The nation of Marley then rose to global power.
  • Last of Her Kind: Mikasa Ackerman whose (mother's) race (called oriental) was wiped out by the Titans. Makes sense given that the walled city's region seems roughly analogous with northwest Europe, so east-asian analog humans would have been for the most part much too far away to take refuge there in time.
  • Leitmotif: Some Titans have this. They tend to sound pretty urgent.
  • Mauve Shirt: Titans find recently introduced and named characters to be very tasty.
  • More Teeth Than the Osmond Family: A universal feature of the Titans.
  • No Conservation of Energy: As pointed out by a teacher, Titans produce a large amount of body heat, yet they will only eat humans... who haven't been available to eat in large numbers for nearly 100 years.
    • If the observations about them slowing down when they're deprived of light is any indication, their bodies act like solar panels to absorb and use energy.
  • No Ontological Inertia: A Titan's body quickly dissolves after their death. Arguably justified in that their excessive amount of body heat makes dead Titan flesh spontaneously combust.
  • Not Quite Dead: Eren, and in a surprisingly better shape than before.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The soundtrack makes use of a language that is certainly not english. Often the soundtrack doesn't sound merely ominous, but urgent. Which makes sense when the threat of extinction is smashing through the gates.
  • Ontological Mystery: How and why did the Titans appear over a century back? How did they become so numerous as to make humans an endangered species when they don't even have a way to reproduce? Why is their biology so improbably weird? Where did Were humans more or less technologically advanced before the coming of the Titans? Where exactly in the world is the walled city? Is the setting another world where there are humans, or was it Earth All Along? What's the deal with some humans being able to turn into Titans? Who (or what) is Ymir?
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Our biggest giants also lack skin.
  • Parental Abandonment: Eren has to watch his mother get eaten and his father goes missing shortly after. Mikasa technically suffers from this twice.
  • People Farm: Eren claims this. He is being metaphorical. The walls are intended to keep Titans out, not humans in. And the Titans have no apparent intention of allowing humans to survive long enough to breed.
  • Perpetual Motion Monster: Given the To Serve Man entry, and that Titans have been almost entirely cut off from their sole food source for over 100 years, humans naturally came to this suspect something along these lines. They get their energy from light. If deprived from light long enough, they die While they do slow down from certain conditions, they never truly stop until their nape is destroyed.
  • Power Incontinence: It turns out that Eren's Titan transformation the second time around was quite uncontrollable, even attacking Mikasa, his sister. As it turns out, he's in some kind of dream state, where things are as they were before the Titans breached the wall. The last time, when he killed the Titans, was also apparently a dream-like state to him. In other words, his sub-conscious might exert some influence on his Titan form.
  • The Power of Trust: Horribly, horribly subverted. 'Entrusted' is synonymous with 'doomed, with extra grief and guilt on the side, hold the silver lining'. Eren learns this the hard way in chapter 27.
  • The Power of the Sun: Titans are solar powered. The researchers have to occasionally expose the captured specimens to daylight, so they don't die. They actually don't derive any nutritional value from humans, which leaves in-universe researchers just as puzzled as the readers.
  • Power Trio: Eren, Mikasa and Armin.
  • Powerful, but Inaccurate: The cannons that are mounted on the enormous walls are capable of maiming Titans by severing their limbs with a direct hit. Although, the odds of them actually hitting the Titans are kind of slim.
  • Redshirt Army: The Scouting Legion, of which the main characters are an integral part. Their job is to literally "die as heroically as possible".
    • OTOH, the experienced soldiers of the Scouting Legion are also the Badass Army (of the story), especially compared to the Stationary Troops who man and reinforce the walls.
  • The Reveal: Annie is the Female Titan. Later, there's already a Titan behind the final wall.
  • Revenge: Why Eren wants to kill every Titan really bad.
  • Schizo-Tech: Humans have cannons and flintlocks for ranged combat. On the other hand, they have pressurized gas grappling hooks.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: The Scouting Legion has a lot of missions end out that way. Unfortunately, the human race is in such desperate straits that continuing suicide missions in the hope that something will pan out someday is probably more sensible than turtling behind walls that have been recently shown to be merely delaying the inevitable. And then there's the fact that many of their most promising efforts are intentionally sabotaged...
  • Sleeper Hit: The mangaka originally sent the manuscript to Shonen Jump, but was rejected. Then, he proceed to sent it to Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, a monthly offshoot of Weekly Shonen Magazine. It was a new mag with their only real hit being xxxHolic, which wasn't even the original mag where it was published, it was just being moved there in 2010 from Young Magazine, a seinen magazine. Now, the manga is one of the best selling shounen manga in Japan, surpassing Bleach. See here.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Elen or Eren
  • Square-Cube Law: Titans are shockingly nimble for their size. When a researcher cuts one of [4] arms off, it weighs almost nothing in her hands.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: Eren's Titan mode
  • Takes One to Kill One: Besides incredibly impractical human weaponry, the only thing that easily damages a titan is itself. To the point where one takes out its own head trying to swat someone on its face.
  • Tempting Fate: In a church, a priest preaches that the 3 Goddesses [5] will keep the walls impregnable so long as clergy's faith is held fast. They form a human wall, linking arms, and praying in a circle. A Titan promptly smashes into the church, slaughtering everyone inside, by accident, having been on its way to simply climb over the wall. And then, Annie seems to have help on the other side that is breaking down the wall, anyway.
  • To Serve Man: Titans eat only humans
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Arguably Eren during his childhood, since there is only one flashback of this type of behavior. He took it upon himself to save Mikasa and obviously planned how to kill the criminals that abducted her. He explained why he did this to his father that he "merely put down some rabid dogs. Sometimes they just happen to look like people."
  • Try Not to Die: Mikasa says this to Eren before they part during the Titans' second invasion of the city.
  • Uncanny Valley: The Titans often fit in this category. They definitely aren't consistent in appearance. In general they look like male humans (and then made bigger, and then probably have this trope slapped on to various degrees). The Colossal looks a lot like a typical human male, if scaled up to over 50 meters tall..., without hair, or lips, or cheeks, or skin.
  • Unskilled but Strong: Almost all Titans.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Eren snaps when the female Titan keeps on killing all the people protecting him, and he becomes a titan so he can slay her outright.
  • Wall Around the World: Except for the very first scene, the whole story takes place within walled areas.
  • Weak but Skilled: The only way the inherently physically much weaker humans can survive multiple Titans encounters is to be very skilled.
  • Wham! Episode: Chapter 9, Eren is alive with all his limbs intact and he was the Titan that attacked other Titans.
  • What Could Have Been: This series could have been published in Weekly Shonen Jump, Isayama Hajime first brought his pilot to Shueisha, but the the editor who evaluated his work said that it was good, but not to for Jump standards;[6] then Isayama gave his pilot to Kodansha (Shueisha's direct rival), he was accepted in no time at Bessatsu Shounen Magazine. The first two volumes sold more than 1,500,000 copies - Jump, and consequently Shueisha, lost a giant new hit to its greatest rival.
  • What Do You Mean It's for Kids?: It may be one of the most relentlessly serious, dark, violent, and horrifying shonen manga in recent memory, easily on par with some of the grimmer seinen out there.
  • World's Strongest Man: Rivialle. He is considered to be humanity's strongest warrior, and for good reason.
  1. later named "the Colossal"
  2. Titans don't have any genitalia, so it's just secondary sex characteristics, here.
  3. although maybe if the Great Architect is not given prayer he simply chooses to protect them less.
  4. it was a 3-meter-tall class. One of the small ones.
  5. The namesakes and declared builders of the enormous concentric walls that protect humanity
  6. "This is manga, we want JUMP!" that being his exact words