As a character of Attack on Titan, Kuklo is well-rounded and interesting. While Suzukaze skips over large swathes of his life in order to move the story along, we still get an understanding of his emotional issues. He was treated as less than human since his birth to the point where even he himself wasn’t sure if he was really a person. Sharle was the first one to truly see that there was no way he could be other than human, and through her kindness and willingness to help, he becomes able to accept who he is and what he wants to do.
She’s also the only one we see him be really comfortable with. While he befriends Cardina and Rosa, you get the feeling that he’s always holding something back. They don’t truly understand what he went through the way Sharle does, and rather than explain it, he simply stays at an emotional distance. This is most obvious with Cardina, who appears to honestly like and admire Kuklo, a favor Kuklo always stops just short of returning.
More interesting, however, is the role the Survey Corps plays in Kuklo’s life. They are the ones who find him and inadvertently condemn him to his horrible first fifteen years of life, and later when they see his skills and stamina (brought on by what he suffered at Xavi’s hands), they recruit him, essentially playing on his inner conflict in order to use him for their own ends. Admittedly, it is difficult to see how that last is all bad, given what humans face in terms of threat level from the Titans, but there’s still an uncomfortable aspect to the way they rope him in.
This and the fact that Sharle, who begins as a promising character, is woefully underdeveloped and underutilized are the chief issues with the plot of the book; the aforementioned lost chunks of time are a little disconcerting but don’t really affect the story very much. Vertical’s translation has a conflict of language in places, mostly sounding fairly formal but for the use of the word “guys,” which is the most slang/colloquial the book ever gets. It feels out of place in a text that regularly uses phrases like “Seeking the cruelest way to kill their own kind was nothing but demonic.”
Suzukaze does an excellent job of making the Titans terrifying and bringing Isayama’s world to life as well as making us feel for Kuklo. Vertical’s edition contains both volumes of the Japanese original, which was a very good move as the story would have felt unnaturally bisected if we had to wait months between halves of it, plus it reads very quickly in terms of pacing. Fans of Attack on Titan should enjoy this glimpse into the world’s past and those new to the franchise may find this an easy way in, as the book is pulpy good fun. Kuklo Unbound gives us what the original manga does in novel form, and there really isn’t much higher praise that an adaptation can get than that.