Attack on Titan, Vol. 9

By Hajime Isayama. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

(Note: This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher. So was the Sailor Moon review yesterday, come to think of it. Also, DO NOT discuss spoilers for Vol. 10-present in the comments, even if it is legal on Crunchyroll now. Also, this review spoils shamelessly everything before Vol. 10.)

There’s so much to talk about in Volume 9 of Attack on Titan that there’s no way I can get to everything. So I apologize to Mike, who tried to have an awesome battle scene but showed off his human frailty instead, and Beast Titan, who is fascinating and clearly very important from here on out, and the horrible tragedy of Connie’s village, and Eren, who finds new resolve – again – in finding ways to destroy titans. Because I’m going to talk about Sasha right now.


It’s not exactly a secret that I am very fond of Sasha. Her scene in Volume 4 was not only funny, but came at a point where the author was finally trying to differentiate the non-stars from each other and help us remember who they were. We saw her resolve even in the face of stark terror when she chooses to join the Survey Corps, and see that resolve fail in action when she begs for her life after a Titan gets the upper hand. She, along with Connie and Jean, represent the “normal folks” of the 104th Trainees. And now she’s on a mission to notify the Northern villages that Titans are coming – including her own village.

The way this chapter is framed is fascinating, though I do wonder if I only see that because of extracanonical knowledge. The author apparently planned in this chapter to kill Sasha off, only to have his editor say “Doesn’t it feel like the wrong time to do that?”. And really, up until the moment Sasha slips out of the Titan’s wet, bloody grip, the whole chapter feels like an epic farewell. She was able to rescue the kid, and now she goes out fighting in a glorious death scene that contrasts against Mike’s stand against Beast Titan in the previous chapter.

We get a flashback to her father, which establishes Sasha as conservative, set in the old traditional ways, and (of course) ravenous. He calls her a “bit of a coward”, which apparently sticks in her craw, as it doesn’t seem like too long after that she’s joining up. We also get another flashback, seeing Sasha interacting with Krista and Freckled Girl Always With Krista, showing Sasha has been trying to hide her natural accent and talk formally so she doesn’t sound like a hick. Freckled Girl objects to her not being herself, while Krista notes that no matter how she acts, Sasha IS herself by definition. It’s a cute flashback, even if Sasha is somewhat puzzled as to why she’s thinking it as she heads for her death. We even get the “yes, my life was filled with moments like these” musings we always see before a character is killed off.

Except she doesn’t. She uses her hunting skills to get arrows in the Titan’s eyes, has a narrow escape, and meets up with the one survivor of the village, a little kid who has met up with… her own village, who are alive and OK. Including her father, who is rather stunned that the cool woman who took down a Titan as his daughter. So instead of going out in a blaze of glory, the entire chapter is recontextualized as a women coming into maturity, realizing what is selfish and what is selfless, and gaining the respect of her family. Love it.

By the way, Freckled Girl is actually relevant enough to get a picture in the front of the book now, though she’s listed as “Name Unknown”, which might surprise anyone reading this volume, who has forgotten that her name was never revealed till now. It’s a surprise as THE ENTIRE INTERNET knows her name. Luckily, we learn it here as well, in Sasha’s flashback, as Krista calls her Ymir. Hrm… where have we heard that name before? Not since Vol. 5, so the reader might be forgiven for forgetting. Hange doesn’t forget, though, and is stunned to find that someone named Ymir is among the 104th Trainees… especially as Krista seems to be hiding a big secret as well.

The Attack on Titan manga tends to veer back and forth between big revelations that are well signposted in advance (Annie’s true identity, Ymir) and things that come pretty much as “Wait, WHAT?” moments. Krista having a secret identity and being the one person who can choose to say why the Walls Are Full Of Titans is the latter. I suppose you can connect her general kindness to all things to a religious upbringing, but it still seems a bit much. That said, I like that we are slowly giving the rest of the squad their own backstories and motivations, and presumably we’ll hear about Reiner and Bertholt at some future date.

In the meantime, everyone wants to find Krista, which is a problem, as she and Ymir are trying to figure out where the wall is broken and how Titans got in. (The wall isn’t broken, but let’s leave that aside for now.) We get a nice little character sketch of her and Ymir here: Ymir wants Krista safe, and if that means being a coward or acting like an obnoxious jerk, well, that’s what it takes. Krista, meanwhile, placed 10th in the trainee exams, and knows that Ymir should have been there – indeed, may have been higher – but slacked off so Krista could get the choice to go with the MPs. Krista, of course, didn’t. Krista suspects that Ymir is always next to her because of her family, but Ymir notes no, it’s for her own sake.

The two search squads, having not found a hole in the wall, and forced by Titans to hole up in an old abandoned castle. This includes Ymir, Christa, Bertholt, Connie, and Reiner. First, off, we have an amazingly over the top scene where Connie, who has seen the devastation of his village with no actual bodies, and also a Titan who looks a lot like his mother, starting to wonder if his village all became Titans, similar to Annie. Ymir promptly laughs and starts mocking Connie in an amazingly loud voice while sweating, changing the subject away from humans who can turn into Titans entirely. It’s hard not to see this as incredibly suspicious.

They go scrounging for food, and we now hit the scene that forced the yaoi and yuri fandoms to unite as one in one giant pile of squee. Reiner sees Ymir in a storeroom looking at cans, and she jokes about guys creeping into a girl’s room at night. Ymir says she didn’t think that Reiner was the sort to be interested in girls, to which he responds that he didn’t think Ymir was the sort to be interested in guys. Attack on Titan is, at heart, a military-themed sci-fi thriller, with romance really, really low on the list. So seeing two characters casually joking about being gay in a non-romantic setting is just amazing. And if we weren’t guessing that Ymir was always around Krista because she was in love with her, we certainly are now. Also, she can apparently read ancient writing that no one else can.

Sadly, a Titan assault interrupts this before we can find out more, and we finally get to a cliffhanger. What a volume. I’m not sure the pacing always works (admittedly Ymir has been in the background since the start, but her sudden rise to main character status is still a bit of a shock), and there are still the usual art issues. But this is an amazing page-turner, and I fully support any shoehorned-in characterization as long as it deepens and expands their relationships with each other. And it’s nice to see an expanded sexuality in the series as well. In the end, how much did I enjoy this volume? Well, I wrote a review that’s almost three times as long as my normal reviews. Get it.

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