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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Manga Review: Attack on Titan GN 15

Attack On Titan volume 15
Author: Hajime Isayama
Kodansha Comics

192 pages

Hange’s interrogation of a Military Police squad has revealed that Krista (a.k.a. Historia Reiss) is the true heir to the throne. The Corps quickly moves to enthrone her as queen, but a homicidal MP leads a squad that abducts Eren and Krista and throws the Corps into disarray. With Erwin arrested and the Survey Corps on the edge of dissolution, are Levi and Hange finally out of options? (Source: Random House)

I remember not being very enamored of the previous volume of Attack On Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin but I couldn't remember why until I looked back over my review of it. It was a bit of a messy, clusterfuck bomb of a book that threw a ton of plot twists at the wall just to see what would stick, which is really no good way to construct a manga. By comparison, the fifteenth and latest volume of AoT is pretty great, even though in some ways they both share the same narrative issues. Yet, this book handles these issues so much better and puts an end to a subplot that had been threatening to drag the series into the muck for a while.

In this volume of Shingeki no Kyojin, there is almost no Eren so why is he on the front cover? Riddle me that, Kodansha Comics. I mean, he gets maaaaybe two scenes at the very end of the book but that's it. Hanji should have been the book's cover girl. She is the big MVP of these chapters, after all, next to Erwin, who takes the blunt force of the wall government's criticism of the Survey Corps and yet still manages to send all of their asses tumbling down when their hypocrisy and rank greed is exposed before their citizenry.

Political intrigue is not the only focus of this volume. While Erwin destroys the government's reputation in court, the Survey Corps guerilla faction led by Levi are functioning outside the scope of their official capacity and lurking in the woods as they hunt down any and all leads to finding Eren and Krista, still kidnapped by mysterious forces and being held who the hell knows where. They end up running across two members of the MP, who start out as hindrances but end up being helpful in the efforts to clear the Corps' good name and spread the truth about what is happening within the walls.

Here's why I really liked fifteen more than fourteen: events moved at a much brisker pace, the action was evenly distributed across the chapters, and the more political events had a real sense of urgency to them as opposed to the more boring aspects of bureaucracy Hajime Isayama had been bringing up before. We have now seen our heroes in true danger - Erwin is pretty much ordered to the gallows at one point - and we have also seen our heroes defend themselves in public like a gang of flying, blade-wielding Robin Hoods, all to expose the corruption of the people who were meant to lead and protect them. We have also briefly seen Eren and Krista in the grasp of their kidnappers, reminders that while groups are clashing in the city, there are still rogue titan-humans with terrible plans in mind for Eren.

By the end of this volume, you will be thoroughly impressed by the speed of the story and the fact that Isayama's focus has shifted back to Eren, whose fate has taken on a much different meaning based on the information now in Levi's grasp as well as the scant flashbacks seen through Eren's eyes before the book's conclusion. I've never been the hugest fan of Eren but his narrative arc is the most central of the series and I'll be glad to see Attack on Titan explore more of Eren's past as well as his immediate future as a human/Titan hybrid. I just hope we aren't waylaid by more West Wing-esque shenanigans before that happens.

PS: Hanji will mess you up, angry nerd style, goggles and all, and therefore is better than all your faves. But you already knew that!