Manga of the Month: Giganto Maxia

Giganto Maxia (ギガントマキア)
by Kentaro Miura

hisui_icon_4040 At one point in time most of us have wondered what if one author did a title in a genre they don’t normally work in or did their own take on an established or popular premise. You might wonder what if Kaoru Mori did a science fiction series or what if Mitsuru Adachi did his own version of Princess Nine. I have seen that question asked on various podcasts as well as our own podcast. It is a fascinating what if that that just generates speculation naturally. We have even discussed it here as well. So it is always interesting to see what happens when it actually occurs outside the space of pure theory. It does not always work out for the best. Sometimes artists work in their chosen genre for a reason. A novel concept by one author can seem like nothing more than an also–ran when the same idea is used by another person a little later. But it can also lead to some wonderful variations and unique stories that show you an unexpected side of a mangaka. It does not matter if it is a success or failure. It always is an informative experiment.

I bring this up mostly because Giganto Maxia distinctly feels like what if Kentaro Miura did his own version of Attack on Titan. It is not a 100% copy-paste but it is fairly clearly inspired by the former. (At least I would be shocked if that were not the case.) So the question is can Kentaro Miura outdo Hajime Isayama in writing stories about humans fighting giants in a post-apocalyptic world or should he stick to the adventures of Guts and less than merry band? (Or should he stick to playing THE iDOLM@STER if you want to be SUPER bitter.)

In the wasteland the former gladiator Delos and strange girl Prome search for a way to return life to the barren earth. In their path is the empire and their giant beasts know as Giganto, the few remaining tribes not in the empire who are distrustful of outsiders, and the horrors that thrive in all of the wasteland outside of the remaining pockets of humanity. Delos has strength and kindness and Prome has intelligence and mystical powers but is that enough to survive in a world seemly designed to snuff our their small light of hope?

It is really easy for me to say that Giganto Maxia is Kentaro Miura’s Attack on Titan but modern Internet criticism can be very quick to point out similarities between shows in a very reductionist fashion. I just came from a convention with a panel entitled Shingeki no Eva or How I Learned That all Anime are the Same and There’s no Such Thing as an Original Plot Anymore. It can be a lazy way to dismiss or criticize a show without digging in deeper to why the show succeeds of fails. They both revolve around a devastated humanity terrorized by humanoid shaped monsters the size of sky scrappers. Both series have human sized characters that can turn into giants. Most importantly there is this tone that humanity is dying and then the main characters might just be their last chance at survival. At first they might seem like the same series. 

Now there are some major differences between the two manga. The worlds are very different. The world of Giganto Maxia is clearly a devastated world with scarce resources and all sort of dangers outside of the giants. In Attack on Titan there is actually a far more abundant natural world since the Apocalypse. Most of the remaining  humans are in one walled city in Titan where as there are many separate bands of humans eking out an existence in the wastes alongside a sprawling empire. Delos is also a wildly different character from Eren Yeager. Delos has a tremendous amount of strength and combat skill but his compassionate nature and diplomatic tone are always to the forefront. No one would ever describe Eren Yeager that way. There is also nothing even remotely analogous to the odd girl who is Prome in Attack on Titan.

If you give Kentaro Miura nothing else you have to admit that his art is head and shoulders above anything Hajime Isayama has done in Attack on Titan. Hajime Isayama sort of succeeds in a heta-uma sort of way but it pales in comparison to even a fresh-faced Kentaro Miura so a Kentaro Miura with over 34 years of experience is in a completely different league. He is able to replicate much of the uneasy and even creepy vibe of the Titans with the Giganto. The Giganto have that same mixture of organic and inorganic as well as humanoid and inhuman that really make Titans so disquieting. At the same time Kentaro Miura’s sense of anatomy and composition is just leaps and bounds more professional while being able to retain that nightmarish and gruesome vibe that helps Attack on Titan succeed.

OK the BIGGEST flaw of the series is Delos and Prome are sort of weird and can easily turn people off to the whole story. I could try to merely allude to it or dance around it but I think that is disingenuous. Prome’s bodily fluids are apparently both nourishing and regenerative. This means she is constantly offering to pee on Delos to restore him to full health. To his credit Delos wants none of this. But this means that you have water sports running gag in the book. Delos and Prome age difference already made their partnership sort of sketchy but this really makes the uncomfortable nature of their traveling party quite possibly a deal breaker.

I will also mention that this seems to be the setup for a much longer series that never got made. The adventures of Delos and Prome clearly continue past the first volume with several story hooks being setup which never go anywhere since the series ended after a single book. It is hardly the worst place to end the series but it does has the distinct feeling that the story was just starting up when it abruptly ends with a gag chapter.

I’m not going to say that Giganto Maxia is THE GREATEST MANGA OF ALL TIME. In fact I would probably only grade it a 6 out of 1o. I’m mostly bringing it up because it is such a great tool to study of two different artists take the same kernel of an idea and  go in very different directions. As the whole series is only one volume long it is hardly a year-long commitment to compare it to the far more established Attack on Titan.There is wealth of analysis to dig into from either comparing the series to  Attack on Titan, examining the range of Kentaro Miura as an artist, or just dissecting the volume on its own.

– Alain

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