The young Erwin Smith is a rising star in the Survey Corps, humanity’s only hope of defeating the man-eating monsters known as Titans. Ruthless and dispassionate, Erwin’s mind is devoted to strategies and intrigue. But beneath Erwin’s feet is another world, the Underground, where humans are born and die surrounded by the garbage the Capital throws away. Here, the criminal Levi survives on his wits and agility. But when these two ambitious men cross paths, who will prove himself stronger?
I, like many fans of the manga or show, have succumbed to the awkward and strange charms of Levi. Humanities strongest and shortest whose dialogue mostly references shit. Thus, when it was announced that Levi was going to get this spin off that would delve into his past I was beyond excited. However, almost every problem I have with the manga boils down to one simple thing. It does nothing that a functional flashback needs to do and thus didn’t need to be made. Let’s start off with what the manga does well. First of all, marketing wise, it was a smart move. They brought back more of the most popular character in the series. This was something that the fans asked for and the fans got. Secondly, the art is stunning. I have some on and off problems with the art in the original manga. Occasionally, it’s art was solid and brilliant where the scribbling quality of the lines and warped character proportions complimented the hectic environment and frightening scenarios. Yet, most of the time, I found myself so distracted by the artwork that it was difficult to get past. In perfectly normal scenes, characters would be drawn so strangely that their necks looked broken or their heads looked like jelly beans (real thoughts I had in multiple scenes). In contrast, the art of “No Regrets” is stunning. It is constantly crisp, the anatomy is consistently perfect and yet the characters still have the intensity of the original. The time period of the story is also a smart one. It choses the time period between when Levi lived below ground and transitions to him joining the military. Thus, we get to see him interact with some of the characters from the original and see how their relationships begin. I truly enjoyed seeing what Levi and Erwin’s relationship looked like before Erwin captured Levi’s devotion. On to the parts that I was not such a fan of. First and foremost, it does not show us the creation of Levi. Often, I find that the best parts of prequels or flashbacks are seeing a younger version of a character transform into a character the fans know. However, when we see Levi in “No Regrets” he is the fully formed Levi we already know. He is already glaring and terrifying. He has already seen hardship. He already has his cleaning obsession. He already is Levi. I wish they had gone back further to see more of how he made it underground. I wanted to see where he got some of the strange habits he has (holding his tea by the brim, cleaning obsessively, making jokes about shit etc.) I wanted to learn something new about him. Ultimately, we don’t even get to see how his relationships with characters transform either. We know that his coldness towards Erwin later turns into respect from the original AOT manga… but we don’t know how. All the information from “No Regrets” is technically information we were given in AOT or could have been inferred. We knew that Levi grew up below ground. We knew that Levi lost a lot of comrades he cared about. We could have completely guessed that he and a lot of his comrades wouldn’t get along well at first, since he was recruited and didn’t choose to join. What new information do we get except for the names of a few extra characters? If this manga had been the beginning of a slightly longer series that builds more on his relationship with his comrades, I would be completely fine with that. However, according to the information I’ve found, 8 chapters is all we’re getting. My other negative, is that Levi does not make a great main character. He’s quiet and surly. He doesn’t say much for a character we follow around a lot. We have more access to the thoughts of the people around him than we do his. He works well as a side character because he pushes other characters to their extremes. He puts other characters in uncomfortable situations by the very nature of his personality and forces parts of their personality out that we don’t often see. Eren, the shouting crazy child with a rebellious streak, is completely cowed by Levi’s forcefulness. Hanji and Levi make excellent friends because of how directly contrasting their personality types are. The men he leads have such trust in him despite Levi’s knowledge that he has the ability to make the wrong decision. Levi is far more interesting when he has other people to work off of. Plus, with later chapters of AOT, we’ve learned way more about Levi than the spinoff dedicated to him has told us. In the brief flashbacks we got for him in AOT, we have learned more than they gave us in 8 chapters of having him as a main character.
This story deals with Levi and his small band of misfits who dwell in the underground. They cross paths with a younger Erwin who is a squad leader at this point. Levi and Erwin's relationship in this manga is much different from what you would come to expect via Attack on Titan. It is very interesting to see how everything plays out (There is a small subplot that helps drive the main plot, and this contributes to the two being at odds). Levi gets further development and you see a slightly more primordial version of the Survey Corps. My only gripes are that the story is too short and you don't get to really connect with the newly introduced supporting cast. The art is crisp and similar to Attack on Titan. I perceived a wide range of physical differences between characters, so it's easy to tell people apart. The environment has a genuine feel to it that brings the scenes to life. My favorite parts of this series are the characters and their interactions with one another. The situation that Levi and his two companions find themselves in really lets each of their qualities (good and bad) shine through. All three of them are quite different and their conversations can be fun and interesting. Erwin also is shown as a great military mind who is on the verge of revolutionizing the Survey Corps. It's cool to see his rise to prevalence. Overall, I am sad that this series only has two volumes. It sets things in motion and then wraps it all up rather quickly. The story is relatively simple and there really isn't much of a twist to speak of, but the ending does provide a pretty good explanation as to why Levi carries himself the way he does. It also leaves a small question in the back of your mind about what Levi's final destination will be. This is a good read and any fan of Attack on Titan would likely glean at least a decent satisfaction from what it has to offer.
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