Attack on Titan remains one of the most popular manga and anime series of all time, instantly becoming a modern classic and certainly needing an Attack on Titan history and overview. For many manga and anime fans, it is the series that got them started in the space, similar to how Dragon Ball and Naruto were for others in decades past.
Even though I’ve been a manga and anime fan since I was little, Attack on Titan holds a special place in my heart, personally, as it was the first anime that I ever watched simultaneously as it was being aired in Japan. The intense action and gripping story immediately pushed me to start reading the manga regularly after the first season concluded.
As such, this Attack on Titan history and overview is especially important to me as this is a series near and dear to my heart. Here’s everything you need to know to get started with this manga series, including the setting, characters, all you need to know about Titans, and more.
Attack on Titan History and Overview: What Is Attack on Titan?
Attack on Titan, or Shingeki no Kyojin, is a manga and anime series that is just over a decade old at this point in time. Taking place in a seemingly fictional version of Earth where the vicious human-eating Titans roam, the story follows a tale of kids trying to survive in this harsh world.
Though it features kids and young adults, this is certainly a series that is not aimed at all ages. It is a dark fantasy manga series, with post-apocalyptic elements thrown in, but has, interestingly enough, found success and popularity with anyone from teens to older generations.
This is in part due to the relentless nature of the series, known for its tragic moments and brutal deaths from the Titans and humans alike. Essentially no character is safe in this area and there are some seriously surprising moments that happen throughout the series.
Furthermore, these twists are harshened by the gore that is prevalent through its pages. There is dismemberment, blood, horrific sequences, and many more that are featured.
This gory aspect of the series has helped to bolster its popularity, spawning memes and viral videos of what some consider some of the best scenes in the history of manga and anime.
That said, there are some comedic elements in the series, be it the more ironic humor in some places or the goofy characters like “potato girl” Sasha. Also, the Titans, while terrifying in their eating habits, are hilariously drawn and have ridiculous mannerisms that can relieve some of the otherwise depressing undertones of this tale.
Attack on Titan History: Manga
Attack on Titan began as a manga series in Japan on September 9, 2009. Created by Hajime Isayama, it was his very first manga and quite the hit for a debut series. However, its actual origins began a few years earlier in a different format.
Originally, Attack on Titan was a one-shot idea manga that he came up within 2006. These one-shot ideas are fairly common and can act as a testing ground to see if a full series is worth attempting for manga creators.
This was not his only one-shot, either, as Heart Break One and Orz followed in 2008. In the end, Attack on Titan was chosen to be his first main manga series and it began serialization in 2009 as part of the first issue for publisher Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine.
This magazine and publisher were chosen after Isayama first approached Weekly Shonen Jump, where classics like One Piece and Naruto are serialized, but changed his mind after the publisher wished for him to tone down his mature content.
Much of the known inspiration for the Attack on Titan series comes from the visual and storytelling aspects. Visually, Isayama has been known to take real-world celebrities as inspiration for the various Titans, such as former WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar being the clear inspiration for the Armored Titan.
There are other possible references, like the Titan from Chapter 2 who Eren has a certain grudge against looking quite like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
When it comes to the storytelling part of the series, Isayama has cited the visual novel game and now anime series Muv-Luv: Alternative as inspiration. In that series, it starts out innocent and charming before divulging into an emotional and tragic fight against monsters, much like AoT.
The initial goal for the manga was to run for around 20 volumes or so, but this eventually turned into 34 in total. After years of Isayama stating that the end of the story was near, it finally came to an end with the last chapter, Chapter 139, on April 9, 2021, in Japan.
Fortunately, it was not long before the chapter was localized in English by Kodansha USA, with the final volume of the manga coming out in English on October 19, 2021.
After nearly 12 years of almost constant new chapters in the manga series, it is now completed and fans are able to see the story in its entirety.
Attack on Titan History: Anime
While the manga for Attack on Titan is quite popular worldwide, so is the anime that is among the most successful animated series to ever come out of Japan, both in its home country and around the world. It took a few years after the manga started for the anime adaptation to begin, taking place on April 7, 2013. The adaptation was originally created by Wit Studio, which was a brand new studio at the time.
Much like this was Isayama’s debut manga series, Attack on Titan was Wit’s first anime to ever create and quite the one to begin with. That said, the staff at the studio were veterans, many of which broke off of Production I.G., who was known for Ghost in the Shell, Guilty Crown, and others.
Like the manga, it has taken its time and is not trying to finish too soon. In fact, while the first season of the show aired from April 2013-September 2013, fans would have to wait several years for the next one to come out. This was due to the anime quickly catching up to the manga with its first season alone. Plenty of time was given for the manga to get further ahead and the hype to build around the legendary first 25 episodes.
Eventually, the second season began April 1, 2017, about four years later, and concluded on June 17, 2017, with only 12 episodes in total. The third season did not make fans wait too long this time, though, with the first 12 episodes appearing between July 2018-October 2018.
The last 10 episodes of season 3 aired the following year April 2019-July 2019 and would be the last ones to feature Wit Studio as the production company.
For unknown reasons, MAPPA, known for Yuri on Ice, In This Corner of the World, and others, took over with the final season. This change in production company was immediately noticeable in the visual style, quality, and even some of the character designs looking quite different.
The final season of Attack on Titan began airing December 2020-April 2021, with only the first 16 episodes of the season appearing there. The final part of the final season began on January 10, 2022, and will conclude the adaptation after around nine years since starting.
It’s in the name, it’s in the memes, and it’s what people think of when they think of Attack on Titan: the Titans. The single biggest element of this manga’s universe and that which dominates the storyline. The Titans are essentially the monsters that are the central antagonist of the series and the reason for all of the pain, suffering, and world events that are going on. It all began with the Titans as the root of everything.
As such, it is crucial that readers going into Attack on Titan understand what they are as they are one of the elements that can be both the most confusing and surprising at times.
Because of how central the Titans are to the plot of the series, it is also worth noting that talking about them is going to necessitate light spoilers in some regards. So, if you do not want to know anything about some of the events that happen a few chapters in, now is the time to turn back or skip to the next section of this Attack on Titan history and overview.
With that out of the way, the general idea of the Titans is that they are huge, lumbering humanoid-like beings that roam around the world outside of the three walls where the last remnants of human civilization are.
The Titans are the cause behind the near-extinction of humanity and it is in fear of them that humans now live in what is essentially a very large cage. Titans are many times larger than normal humans, with different classes attributed to them.
Appearance-wise, they look like naked humans but lack reproductive features. Titans can range in size and shape, anywhere from two meters to upwards of more than 10 meters in height as seen in the cases of the unique Colossal Titan.
With their large size, it would be presumed that they might be slower than most humans, which is the case for some of them. However, there are abnormal Titans that exhibit strange behavior and can even run quite fast.
Because of this unpredictable nature, the Titans are not to be trifled with, especially when it comes to their carnivorous eating habits. Their diet seems to only be comprised of meat, which includes humans and even other Titans in some rare moments in the series.
The Titans love nothing more than to hunt down normal humans and eat them in typically gruesome ways. Though they appear humanoid in appearance, they do not seem to have any form of notable intelligence or use verbal communication, for the most part.
There are exceptions to this, though, and this is where the spoilers for the manga series come into play. While most of the Titans are zombie-like in their one-track mind of hunting their human prey, there are some that are intelligent and unique.
These Titans include the Armored Titan and the Colossal Titan that have both unique designs, sizes, and even abilities. In the case of the Armored Titan, it has thick, nigh-impenetrable armor that keeps it capable of withstanding major attacks and even breaking down the stone walls.
Then there is the Colossal Titan that towers over everything in sight, including the other Titans, and is dangerous in its own right. It is soon discovered in the story that these Titans are unique because of their nature as being real humans who can transform into them at will.
The setting for Attack on Titan is set in an undetermined time period that resembles that of 18th or early 19th century Europe. That said, it is not necessarily taking place in an alternate version of that part of history, as there are hints that it could even be in the far future.
It takes place in the last bastion of human civilization after the apocalyptic world events 100 years beforehand where the Titans almost wiped the humans off the face of the planet. Once that occurred, the remaining people moved into the final cities of the world that are hidden behind three great walls of protection. These three great walls are massive and cover an unbelievable amount of area.
There are many miles between each of the three walls, allowing for plenty of forests, fields, farmland, and cities to be throughout the location. Each wall is surrounding the human civilization like a circle, with each wall being expectedly smaller as you go inward.
For the most part, the three walls and the towns within are divided into a largely caste-based system where the poor and less important citizens are near the outermost wall, while the rich and powerful are in the heart of everything.
This allows for the most danger to be upon the downtrodden members of society and for evacuation to the inner walls in the event of an emergency, like Titans somehow coming inside. If a breach like this were to happen, the methods are in place to move as many people as possible into the next wall and so on to keep everyone inside of them safe.
The three great walls in the setting of Attack on Titan are Maria, Rose, and Sheena, going from the outermost wall to the innermost one. There are districts that are placed around the walls that act as diversions in the event of an invasion from the Titans outside in the rest of the world.
One such district is Shiganshina, which is the town where the story of Attack on Titan begins. It is one of the districts in the outermost area of the land, right in front of the Wall Maria.
As one of the outlying districts, it is also among the most vulnerable and in danger of invasion from the Titans through the gates or by some other means. It is also the hometown of the main characters Eren, Armin, and Mikasa, which the story revolves around.
There are a lot of main characters in Attack on Titan, being that it is an epic that centers around many different organizations, groups, and an entire society of people.
As such, I am going to divide up the main characters into those who are part of the central group of heroes in the story, while also addressing the others who are outside of that particular team. Keep in mind that there are some necessary spoilers for the first couple of chapters to explain some of these characters.
The crux of the general store at the beginning of the Attack on Titan manga is centered around the cadets who are attempting to join the military in order to fight back against the horde of Titans who have invaded.
The hero of the Attack of Titan story and from whose perspective most of the story is told is Eren Jaeger. He is a young boy who grows up in the town of Shiganshina, alongside his two best friends and loving parents, including his father who is a renowned doctor.
At the beginning of the story, Eren’s town is the first to be attacked by the Titans and he ends up on the run. With a heroic and dedicated goal of eliminating all Titans, he ends up with a fascinating power that puts him at the center of the entire effort in defeating them for good.
Joining Eren on the run and eventually becoming a military cadet is his best friend Armin Arlert. Armin is a young blonde boy who is seen as a weakling who gets bullied often by the kids around. While he may not have the strength and determination of Eren, he is a fighter in his own right with the mental fortitude and genius strategy unlike anyone else. He becomes a valuable asset in the fight against the Titans.
The other childhood friend of Eren’s who joins him is Mikasa, a young girl who looks unique compared to the other citizens of the civilization and has no family of her own outside of Eren and Armin.
Mikasa is a quiet and reserved person, but she has enormous loyalty to her two friends and a strength that is unrivaled. She will do whatever it takes to protect the people that she loves and joins up with Eren and Armin in the military training.
There are a few other notable cadets that eventually become significant characters in the story, such as Sasha, who is known for her appetite and loving nickname as the “potato girl.” There is also Connie, a friend of Sasha and a kind man.
There is Jean, a natural-born leader of sorts who joins up with the cadets alongside his pal Marco. There is also Krista, a girl with mysterious circumstances who is kind and an important character.
There is also Reiner, a blonde young man who is in the training corps and one of the strongest in the group. He and his friend Bertolt joined up together. And last but not least, the final notable person is Annie, another strong candidate who mostly keeps to herself.
Other Soldiers and Characters
Outside of the core group of training corps characters, there are other military branches that are focused on, like the Survey Corps. This group contains the bulk of the fighters who go out beyond the walls and fight back against the Titans.
Of this group, the most famous is Levi Ackermann, a cold and calculated killer of Titans. Levi is easily the strongest soldier in the entire world, with ruthless cunning, and unstoppable fighting power against the Titans.
Alongside him is his commanding officer and leader of the entire Survey Corps: Erwin Smith. Unlike Levi, he shows a bit more emotion and how much he cares about the soldiers and the future of humanity. He leads with thoughtful strategy while doing what is necessary.
From there, we have another Survey Corps member in Hange Zoe, a researcher who obsesses over studying Titans and finding out more about them. Lastly, one of the main characters is Grisha Jaeger, the father of Eren and a notable doctor who goes missing near the start of the story.
Where to Read and Watch Attack on Titan
Now that you know the Attack on Titan history and overview, you might want to check out the manga and anime series for yourself. Given that the manga just finished and the anime is well on its way to doing the same, now is a great time to binge read and watch.
When it comes to the Attack on Titan manga, there are a couple of places that you can read it, mainly depending on whether or not you want to do so digitally or with a physical book in your hands.
You are able to read the manga online on the Crunchyroll Manga website or app, depending on if you wish to do so on your computer or smartphone/tablet. Some of the manga is free to read there, but other chapters may require a subscription.
if you’re looking for physical copies of the Attack on Titan manga volumes, there are plenty of places to look, including online retailers like Amazon and physical bookstores. I actually started reading it years ago at my local library, so there is a chance yours may have it as well.
If you are starting reading after watching the first half of season 4 of the anime, you will want to start with the 117th chapter of the manga as the show left off on 116. When it comes to the anime adaptation, the best places to watch it are going to be Crunchyroll or Funimation. These anime services have all four seasons and counting of the show available there for viewers to watch.
Better yet, the final part of the fourth season is being simultaneously translated and offered with English subtitles soon after its release in Japan, so you do not have to wait long to watch the new episodes. It is also being broadcasted on Funimation with the English dub version, for those who like that, in addition to the English subtitles one.
Question: What is the backstory of Attack on Titan?
Answer: The backstory of Attack on Titan is quite detailed and complex, and also fairly spoilery. It is best recommended that you experience the backstory of this series naturally as the manga progresses and more is revealed to you.
That said, if you want the shortened version of the backstory right now, here is the best that I can do without spoiling too much of some of the big twists that come later in the manga.
The basic backstory is that humanity now lives within the three walls of civilization that are left after nearly becoming extinct 100 years prior due to the titans. The remaining humans are descendants of the first ruler to hold the power to transform into a Titan and it is from him that the other Titan powers came.
Question: Is AoT set in the past?
Answer: This is a difficult question and one that is debated by some. There are those who consider Attack on Titan to take place in the past of Earth, likely around the times of World War II, but in an alternate timeline.
In this alternate timeline, the world has Titans now, which changed how the events of World War II happened. That said, there is an alternate theory and one that I think is more likely the answer.
In my opinion, no, AoT is not set in the past, but rather in the future. There are hints at this story being post-apocalyptic and perhaps even post-post-apocalyptic, and that is what I believe.
It could be far into the future where events caused humanity to lose much of the technological revolutions over the millennia to revert back to a more industrial stage. From there, the Titans are discovered and cause another apocalypse in nearly destroying humanity.
Question: What caused Attack on Titan?
Answer: This depends on what exactly you are asking. If you mean the backstory of the series, that would be what was mentioned above in a ruler creating the Titans, destroying much of the world, and leaving humanity behind three walls.
If you mean the very beginning of the series where Eren’s hometown is attacked by the Titans, this is another case of spoilery territory.
Without giving away too much, the attack on Eren Jaeger’s town of Shiganshina happens because of two humans who can transform into Titans: the Colossal Titan and the Armored Titan.
Question: Is Attack on Titan good for beginners?
Answer: I do think that Attack on Titan is great for beginners. As I mentioned at the beginning, this was a first for me in many ways, despite being an anime fan for decades prior to this.
While I did read manga occasionally, mostly stuff like Naruto and Pokemon, I mainly watched anime. Attack on Titan was the first anime that I ever watched as it was airing week-to-week, and it was great for that.
It was also the first manga that I ever read ongoing as it was coming out and it was excellent for that, too. I think that the dark and serious story was quite different at the time and more Western-feeling in some ways. I have it to thank for my love of manga now.
Question: Is AoT a real story? (Based on real-world events?)
Answer: When it comes to if Attack on Titan is based on real-world events or places, I think that, yes, it most definitely is. Eren Jaeger and most of the main cast seem to be German citizens, though the country itself has a different name in this story.
Mikasa, another main character, is implied to be Japanese (again, with a different country name) and the setting seems to be based heavily on Germany and other European countries. In this way, almost all of the story seems to be based on real locations.
As for real-world events, there are elements to the series that harken back to World War II and could be inspired by it in some ways, like the state of the world, the walls, and various symbolism, including the Titans themselves.
Attack on Titan History: Conclusion
For more anime and manga goodness, we highly recommend checking out My Hero Academia, both in the anime and manga form. I previously created a history and overview for that series as well.
If you find that you are already finished with Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia could be a great new series to begin reading and watching. Like Attack on Titan, it deals with characters with superhuman powers that allow them to save the world.