Attack on Titan: Junior High, Omnibus 1

Attack on Titan: Junior High, Omnibus 1Creator: Saki Nakagawa
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781612629162
Released: March 2014
Original release: 2013

Attack on Titan: Junior High is one of several spin-off series inspired by Hajime Isayama’s hit manga Attack on Titan. Saki Nakagawa was selected to work on an Attack on Titan series after entering a manga contest. (Coincidentally, both Nakagawa and Isayama attended the same design school.) Although Nakagawa is the writer and artist for Attack on Titan: Junior High, Isayama has had some input into the series’ development. In fact, he was the one who suggested creating a manga along the lines of Tsutomu Nihei’s parody series Blame! Academy. And so Attack on Titan: Junior High was born—a comedy manga that somehow manages to combine Attack on Titan with contemporary Japanese school life. The manga began serialization in 2012 in Japan and the first two volumes were collected in 2013. Kodansha Comics is releasing Attack on Titan: Junior High in an omnibus edition. The first omnibus, collecting the first two Japanese volumes, was published in 2014 and Kodansha was kind enough to send me a review copy.

It has been five years since Eren was traumatized from an encounter with a Titan. Now that he’s in junior high he finally has the opportunity to seek revenge—both humans and titans are counted among the students and teachers of Attack Junior High. Of course Eren has other pressing matters to attend to even while his hatred of Titans remains at the forefront of his mind: making allies out of his classmates (which he’s not particularly good at), surviving epic games of dodgeball and choosing the perfect after-school club (which are both more dangerous than they might first appear), not to mention trying to stay on the upperclassmen’s good sides (which can actually be rather difficult). On top of all of that, Eren is a member of class four, a group of first years who all have their own quirks and issues to deal with. All together they’re a bunch of weirdos, but none of the other classes at Attack Junior High are much better. It’s really saying something when the Titans are the most normal ones at the school.

To really appreciate Attack on Titan: Junior High requires familiarity with the original Attack on Titan series and to some extent familiarity with Attack on Titan fandom as well. Some of Attack on Titan: Junior High will be funny, or at least amusing, even to those who haven’t read Attack on Titan, but the manga works best when it is directly parodying the original series and using it as its framework. All of Attack on Titan‘s most well-loved and reviled characters make an appearance in Attack on Titan: Junior High with some of their personality traits taken to a comedic extreme (although some were fairly over-the-top to begin with): Eren is a single-minded fanatic; Mikasa is overprotective of him to a fault; Sasha thinks about nothing but food; Jean is an arrogant ass; Hange succumbs to fits of ecstasy at the mere thought of Titans; Levi is obsessed with cleanliness, and so on. These characteristics were true of the original cast, too, but Nakagawa has stretched them to their limits in Attack on Titan: Junior High.

Nakagawa is clearly a fan of the original Attack on Titan series and is having a lot of fun with Attack on Titan: Junior High. In addition to using Isayama’s characters and taking them to their ludicrous yet logical conclusions, Nakagawa also uses pivotal and memorable scenes from Attack on Titan, giving them utterly ridiculous and absurd twists to emphasize their more comedic possibilities. The darkness, death, and destruction found in Attack on Titan is almost completely missing from Attack on Titan: Junior High. It can be just as frantic and frenetic, but as a parody the manga is much more lighthearted in tone. Even characters who have long been dead in the original series have an active role to play in Attack on Titan: Junior High; it seems as though no one really has to worry about dying in Nakagawa’s series. The worst thing that really happens in the first omnibus of Attack on Titan: Junior High is some stolen lunches. Granted, for students that can be an extremely tragic event, indeed.

Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of Attack on Titan: Junior High, Omnibus 1 for review.

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