0 Items | £0.00


Attack on Titan: Before the Fall

Thursday 7th May 2015

Matt Kamen finds little to be proud of in this perfunctory light-novel spin off

Attack on Titan: Before the FallIf anyone needed further proof that Attack on Titan is a cultural juggernaut, they'd only have to take a glance at the bookshelves. While Hajime Isayama's original manga most notably spawned the breakthrough anime series, there are also numerous spin-off and prequel manga, artbooks, and light novels by a host of other creators, all drafted in to craft as much material set in and around the world as possible.

Before the Fall, set 70 years before the main series, falls into the latter category, though it somewhat confusingly shares its title with a manga. The comic version actually adapts the second and third volumes of this novel series, but made it to English language publication before this. I'd hate to second guess publishers, but the probable reason for that is that author Ryo Suzukaze's introductory volume is incredibly dull.

Suzukaze zooms in on a singular aspect of the popular core series – the now-iconic 3D maneouvre gear that the Survey Corps use to swing around and combat Titans – and delves into their creation. It's like novelising the creation of the combustion engine, but without the fascinating real-world history or impact to delve into. Instead, we follow Angel Aaltonen, wunderkind inventor and eventual creator of the versatile devices.

Working for the Survey Corps' research department, Angel's successful weapon designs to date have won him favour with his superiors, though he himself is dissatisfied. Although Suzukaze tries to present this as dedication on Angel's part, wanting his creations to be perfect in order to save as many lives as possible, he only ever comes across as churlish. He's simply an unappealing lead, ranging from stoic at best to grumpy and unlikeable at worst. Even as the story progresses, taking in an expedition beyond the wall and some genuinely thrilling action scenes – the capture of a Titan for research purposes stands out, both for its execution and the borderline horrific treatment the humans involved inflict on the creature – there's rarely any point of connection with the protagonist.

While it's possible Ko Ransom's translation contributes to the unflattering impression of Angel, it can't account for the plodding progression and laughable violence. Painfully stilted dialogue (sample: "Are you sure this isn't some kind of incredibly backhanded insult?") couples with gory scenes that tip the delicate balance from disturbing to plain comical. And these problems are evident straight away – a prologue seeing a rain of severed Corpsmen's heads being thrown over the outermost wall of humanity's enclave feels campy and laughable rather than the moment of terror that Suzukaze is so clearly going for. The occasional art pages by Thores Shibamoto are often the sole point of interest during very dry chapters.

There are some good ideas seeded throughout, such as the sense of fatalism the inhabitants of Shiganshina District have, knowing that they're living as essentially bait for the Titans, or explorations of the self-absorbed politics that govern the human cities. Indeed, in dealing with a level of bureaucracy that champions short-sighted safety over finding a way to rid the world of Titans, it's almost understandable why Angel is so truculent. If only he had some other redeeming qualities.

But the biggest problem Before the Fall has is a resounding sense of pointlessness. In Isayama's manga, the 3D maneouvre gear is a means to an end, a way to provide a sense of extreme motion as the regular sized humans flit around the Titans in significantly outmatched combat. Their origins aren't inherently interesting enough to build a story around, and robbed of the visual impact of seeing them in use, this book lacks any real thrill factor. A novel for the most hardcore of Attack on Titan fans only, those who want to delve into the minutiae of the world and explore every facet of its continuity.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall is published by Vertical.

Buy it now


Attack On Titan Part 1 (episodes 1-13)

was £24.99
Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by giants. Giants are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by enclosing themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest of giants. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a giant in over 100 years. Teenage boy Eren and his foster sister Mikasa witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a super giant that appears out of thin air. As the smaller giants flood the city, the two kids watch in horror as their mother is eaten alive. Eren vows that he will murder every single giant and take revenge for all of mankind.



Attack on Titan: The Interview

Katsuhiko Kitada, Ryotaro Makihara and George Wada talk Titans
The cheering shakes the roof of the ExCel Centre. It’s October 2013, we’re at MCM London Comic Con, and the audience at the Attack on Titan panel has just been asked if they’d like a second season.

Attack on Titan: the Controversy

Hunting sneaky agendas in Studio WIT’s anime blockbuster
Is a hideous flesh-eating fantasy monster, like the Titans in Attack on Titan, ever just a hideous flesh-eating fantasy monster? An army of media studies teachers and political pundits say no.

Attack on Titan vs Akira

What about a world of kaiju zombies...?
"Anger is what really links Akira and Titan. Teen rage is at their core, driving the action in spectacular ways."

Attack on Titan: How Will It End?

The second part, and what comes after...
This is the burning question for Attack on Titan fans, and it’s certainly not answered in the second volume of the anime series. Rather, Volume 2 shows a world which is still in the process of expanding, bringing on a great many vivid new characters – and arguably the most vivid of all isn’t even a human, but a sexy woman Titan who stomps all over the series.

Attack on Titan Music: Linked Horizon

Paul Browne on the bombastic opener for the fan-favourite anime
Based on Hajime Isayama’s manga series, Attack On Titan has inspired TV adverts, a live action adaptation and, more recently, a crossover with Marvel comics that will see the titans battling the likes of Spider-Man and The Avengers on the streets of New York.

Cosplay: Attack on Titan

Eleanor Trace suits up as Mikasa Ackerman from the fan-favourite series
Eleanor Trace suits up as Mikasa Ackerman from the fan-favourite series Attack on Titan


Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass.
In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.
Valentine’s Day is just round the corner and whether you’re spending it alone or with that special someone, we’ve got a selection of titles perfect for the occasion.
Charlotte visits the Himouto! Umaru-chan cafe in Tokyo.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall from the UK's best Anime Blog.