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Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Opening to the agonizingly disturbing and descriptive scene involving the discovery of the novel’s titular character, Attack on Titan: Kuklo Unbound is a combination of the second and third volumes in a three volume novel series titled Attack on Titan: Before the Fall. Kuklo Unbound explores the mysterious origins and life of Kuklo, a young boy whose found as a baby within a regurgitated pile of Titan vomit. Later raised within a community that considers him an outcast, Kuklo is despised by practically everyone around him, which is not surprising considering his troubling and gruesome origins.

Written by author Ryo Suzukaze, Kuklo Unbound retains much of the bleak atmosphere that is later witnessed in its source material Attack on Titan, with Suzukaze continuing this direction and painting a very mature, rousing, and interesting look into a world that precedes much of the popular knowledge found later in the franchise’s timeline. Acting as a prequel, Kuklo Unbound succeeds in being a relatively defined character study more so than what is offered later in a franchise that implores a largely sprawling cast and diversity in its narrative.

Kuklo, a battered and bruised pariah within society, is simply yearning to learn more about his origins and finding some purpose throughout a life that does not exactly provide him one. Treated as a relatively lower than dirt when growing up, Suzukaze explores Kuklo with a careful eye towards his nature as if he was a Titan himself. Essentially ‘born’ from within a Titan, Kuklo is often perceived by those around him with the same hatred as they shared towards the Titans themselves, leading him down some hellish experiences explored within the novel.

Firstly living his life out as a sideshow freak among the likes of animals, Kuklo is subsequently sold to a man named Dario Inocencio, whose son Xavi takes a liking to viciously inflicting pain upon Kuklo. This is all in an attempt by Dario to prime Xavi for a life in the military, being willing to expression cruelty at a moments whim. It is only by the grace of Xavi’s kind and caring sister Sharle that Kuklo is given any hope and a chance for escape, with the two both running away and Kuklo joining the Survey Corps years later in an attempt to discover his past.

There is certainly a complex parallel here concerning the state of Kuklo’s place within society and his relationships to that of other human beings, with most of the complexity deriving from his connections to that of the Titan world as well. Negative perceptions can be an awful element of human nature, with Kuklo being at the blunt end of it multiple times throughout the novel, and often times in rather dramatic instances of human depravity.

Suzukaze does deliver the emotional detachment that Kuklo exhibits effectively well, although it does make it somewhat difficult to relate to him as a character given his disconnect from pretty much all those around him, save for Sharle. Characters such as Rosa and Cardina make for far more interesting characters at times, with Kuklo and Sharle being positioned as unvaried in their development later towards the end of the novel.

This does not remove the novel from being particularly gripping though, especially since it takes place before many of the major events that transpire later in the franchise. Offering a foundation in which to explore a popular backstory such as the one found within Attack on Titan provides an illuminating reading experience to say the least. As a personal fan of the franchise, Suzukaze writes with an engaging style that easily reflects the tension and dispirited worldview that Hajime Isayama’s manga counterpart greatly exhibits, focusing on the harmful and savage expressions of humanity as equally as that of the monstrous Titans.

While one does not have to have any familiarity with the manga or anime to enjoy the material here, Kuklo Unbound works extremely well in establishing some fantastic background that will please both fans and those new to the franchise. By combining the last two volumes of the Before the Fall collection into one collective novel, we are provided a continuum that makes Kuklo Unbound an extremely beneficial and enjoyable readable experience. While portions of the narrative may appear jumpy, especially in the beginning, it does straighten out to provide a rather involving look into the past of one of today’s most popular franchises. This alone makes Kuklo Unbound a worthwhile investment to read, with it providing a stirring tale that should find its place on any fans shelf and those wanting to explore the intricate layers of storyline found within the Attack on Titan universe.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • truman

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.isugoi.com/ Miguel

    Thanks truman, will continue to do so!

  • http://breakbang.com/ Advait Panchal

    Phew! You’ll are alive, I thought this site was now a hermit kingdom.

    BTW I really enjoyed this novel, although I felt it was dry but still good

  • http://www.isugoi.com/ Miguel

    Thanks Advait, I will be coming back REAL soon with some reviews! I’m still here and alive, lol!