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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Manga Review: Attack On Titan GN 14

Attack On Titan volume 14
Author: Hajime Isayama
Kodansha Comics
192 pages
Commander Erwin has finally come to a decision: Putting their own wealth and position ahead of the survival of humanity, the royal government is no longer fit to lead. To execute their leader’s most audacious plan yet, Eren and Krista will have to put themselves in peril yet again, and Armin, Mikasa, and the rest of the Survey Corps will have to turn from humanity’s guardians into traitors. If they fail this time, they’ll face not a Titan’s gaping mouth, but the gallows…
Maybe this is a sign I'm slowly starting to get burned out on the Attack On Titan manga, because this volume was good, but it was frustrating at times and ridiculous at others. For a series centered around colossal human-looking beasts that tower above everything and eat people like gummy bears, you expect a certain level of the absurd but volume 14 really takes the cake.
It's not even the fact that the series has shifted its focus from fighting titans to fighting government corruption, because in such a closely collected community of paranoia and desperation as those who live behind the walls, this kind of in-fighting is bound to happen. No, it's just that some of the plot twists that Isayama throws at us with the subtlety of a quick brick that has me groaning.

A lot happens in the 14th book—gruesome torture scenes, the dissolution of one of humanity's last defenses, a revelation about Historia's heritage, and a terrible truth about why certain groups want Eren so badly. But everything is introduced so quickly and in such quick succession that we aren't given much time to fully appreciate the gravity of these events. Which, okay, fair enough, neither do the characters, but this pacing doesn't work as well for the reader.
This volume paints both the inner government system—the MPs, the leadership, everyone—in a horrible light, but it also doesn't do our protagonists in the Survey Corp any favors either. Now that they have brokered some questionable deals, tortured people both physically and psychologically for information, and sacrificed others for the bigger issue of stamping out corruption, there is no way any of them can claim any sort of moral ground.
That's probably what Isayama was going for, putting his characters into shades of grey to show how terrible their situation is. Even if Levi and his colleagues don't plan for a bloody coup of the king's throne, they're already expected casualties on every front as they fight to change who controls the rest of humanity.
Also, thanks to this volume, fan opinion will certainly split on favorite captain, Levi [Last Name Withheld Because Major Spoiler]. On one hand, he gets into a rip-roaring fight and shows off the kind of impressive prowess that terrifies and excites fans of all kinds. On the other hand, he physically abuses Historia and treats Mikasa and his other Survey soldiers like dirt.
For me, this book really took the appeal out of Levi; luckily, his lack of appeal is equaled out by Hanji and Arwin becoming badasses and clever scheme masters who could easily take the reins if something happened to Levi. Seriously, Hanji straight-up punches furniture out of frustration and makes it explode. Hanji is on a Dragon Ball Z/Super Saiyan level right now.
Otherwise, this volume is a big clusterfuck of major events as the Survey Corp go from being the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel, as they realize everyone around them lies and the royal government has no intention of giving up power so easily. This leads to a lot of gripping, dramatic scenes in which loyalties are tested and humanity is questioned. It also leads to some harebrained dramatic reveals, such as the eleventh hour reveal of the government assassin who gets into a fight with Levi, the ensuing battle being one of the more ridiculous moments in Attack on Titan history.
I can't say this is a terrible volume of Shingeki no Kyojin. There is a lot of advancement in plot, several characters get some serious development, and we finally learn why Eren is so important to the government. It is, however, definitely one of the more poorly paced and convoluted volumes in recent events. It doesn't help that the art shifts from being very good to looking messy at points – when did manga get 'sakuga' moments, again? But if you like your Survey Corp members dark and conflicted and dealing in the spilling of blood, you will most likely enjoy a majority of this latest book.