Hajima Isayama’s Attack on Titan, an extremely successful series both in Japan and internationally, is set to gain more Western popularity. Soon, we’ll all know who Mikasa is, and her fans won’t only number among those wearing AOT t-shirts at anime conventions. Kodansha, the publisher of the series in Japan and the distributor of the manga here in the U.S, has decided to team up with a variety of well-known comic book artists and writers to present the Attack on Titan Anthology. The anthology will feature several short stories delving into the world of Colossal Titans and apocalyptic building swinging.
Kodansha’s Japanese branch was trying to figure out a way to attract more western readers outside of the niche manga-reading market. Kodansha’s American division suggested creating a western-style comic book to attract fans of superhero or otherwise mainstream comic books. Kondansha’s Japanese branch was immediately on board with the idea, Isayama included, and executives of the company began to track down artists and writers interested in reframing the manga series. Some artists even reportedly contacted the company so that they could be part of the project.
There’s a wealth of talent behind this installment. The team creating the new Batgirl of Burnside is a contributor, as well as writers and artists Paolo Rivera (Mythos), Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese), Kate Leth (Bravest Warriors), Kevin Wada (She-Hulk), Faith Erin Hicks (Demonology 101), Gail Simone (Birds of Prey), Scott Snyder (Batman), and Asaf and Tomer Hanuka (New Yorker).
Attack on Titan, in its classic manga format, has over 50 million copies in print with an ongoing animated adaption, a couple of video games, and an upcoming two-part live action movie, so the series was a prime choice for developing outside interest into manga. The series has been praised for its story, atmosphere, and unpredictability – especially in comparison to the beloved characters within the Marvel and DC worlds. Readers know that Superman and Spiderman are going to survive (or return immediately after dying), but in Attack on Titan, much like Game of Thrones, anyone could be the next to go.
Kodansha hopes to spark interest in previously uninterested parties more familiar with the writers and art styles of western contributors, rather than the characteristic enlarged eyes and over-exaggerated expressions common in Japanese manga art. Considering Isayamas appreciation for western comic books, he was more than happy to allow various American talents to use his characters and world to create the collection of various stories.
The anthology will not be the first to attempt to merge manga and comic books’ opposing visual rhetorics together. In fact, there was a short eight-page blurb in a Japanese magazine called Brutus that held a selection of Marvel characters battling titans from the same series in New York City. While Kodansha was already mulling over the anthology before the comic released, this was one of the first instances in which American comic books and Japanese manga really came together as a collaborative project.
Batman: Gotham Knight is a collection of different short stories that follow Batman in his struggles to fight Gotham’s crime. Each story is animated by a different Japanese studio, while the writing is done by Americans. While the project wasn’t handed completely over to the Japanese as the Attack on Titan Anthology has been to Americans, the attempt to fuse both giants of print media was a refreshing one – which we hope continues.
Japan and America are huge distributors and creators of their respective genre of comics, so seeing an appreciation for either in the opposite country is satisfying. And with the inevitable success of the anthology, this collaboration will ideally give both American comic books and Japanese manga the opportunity to expand their audiences.