Hajime Isayama’s ongoing manga series Attack on Titan has become a worldwide phenomenon, spawning multiple spinoff manga series, anime, live-action films, games, and other media and merchandise. The franchise has been such a resounding success that Kodansha Comics, the manga’s English-language publisher, has even broken its rule of not releasing anything that isn’t manga. The first exception was the Attack on Titan Guidebook: Inside & Outside. More recently, in 2015, Kodansha published Rikao Yanagita’s The Science of Attack on Titan as translated by Ko Ransom (who also happens to the translator for the guidebook and the Attack on Titan: Before the Fall novels, among other things.) Since I’m fascinated by Attack on Titan and its immense popularity, I was particularly glad to have the chance to read a review copy of The Science of Attack on Titan. The volume was originally published in Japan in 2014 and is the first work by Yanagita to have been released in English. Credited as the Senior Researcher of the Sci-F/Fantasy Science Research Institute, Yanagita is a fairly prolific writer who has authored other “The Science of” books as well.
The Science of Attack on Titan is divided into four main sections. The first and longest, “Surprising Titan Fundamentals,” focuses on the Titans, specifically investigating their strengths and weaknesses. Once Titans have been established as the fearsome creatures that they are, in the next section Yanagita asks and answers the question “What Should I Do If Titans Attack?!” Appropriately, this is followed by “Anti-Titan Measures: How Effective Are They Really?,” a section exploring in-series technologies such as the vertical maneuvering equipment. (Also included: an entire chapter devoted to the awesomeness of Levi.) The final section, “Simple Questions about Attack on Titan,” is a sort of catchall for remaining topics that didn’t really fit into the previously established categories. There are also shorter one-page investigations called “Lingering Fantasy Science Questions” scattered throughout the volume. Accompanying the text are relevant panels and pages taken from the Attack on Titan manga as well as additional illustrations by Maru Fujishima that can be quite humorous.
Although the readers who will probably be the most interested in or at least the most likely to pick up The Science of Attack on Titan are those who are already familiar with Attack on Titan as a whole, it is only fair to give the warning that the volume does include spoilers for the franchise. Most are fairly minor, but there are a few major twists that are discussed as well. The Science of Attack on Titan is based on the original Attack on Titan series up through the thirteenth volume in addition to the first volume of the Attack on Titan: No Regrets spinoff manga, the Before the Fall prequel novels, and the Attack on Titan Guidebook. Unless readers are trying to avoid spoilers at all costs, they shouldn’t be too daunted by Yanagita’s thoroughness; only a basic knowledge of Attack on Titan, and its characters and setting is required to enjoy and understand The Science of Attack on Titan. There is no need to be well-versed in all aspects of the franchise in order to follow the book. The Science of Attack on Titan is approachable and friendly for novices in science, too.
The Science of Attack on Titan may be inspired by Attack on Titan, but for the most part Yanagita spends more time discussing real-world physics, chemistry, biology, history, technology, and such than he does Attack on Titan itself. The franchise simply provides an excuse or jumping off point to explore interesting scientific concepts and how they might or might not apply to the series. Unsurprisingly, Yanagita’s analysis shows that many aspects of Attack on Titan could be nothing but fantasy, but it’s very exciting when it appears that something from the series could actually work. The Science of Attack on Titan is written to be both entertaining and engaging, though how funny it is will depend on an individual’s personal sense of humor. While Yanagita address serious science, he recognizes that Attack on Titan is a fictional work and that subjecting it to such critical scrutiny can be inherently funny. As a result, his approach in The Science of Attack on Titan is informal and comedic, but also informative. Ultimately, the volume’s greatest value is probably in encouraging those who are interested in Attack on Titan to discover just how cool real science can be. Even I learned a few things that I didn’t previously know.
Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of The Science of Attack on Titan for review.