By Hajime Isayama. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Sometimes you want lots of characters and plot development, with surprise revelations out the wazoo, aadn sometimes you just want to watch big guys beating the snot out of each other. We actually get both here, but it’s the latter that gets most of the attention, as the cover art will attest. As if to announce that his artistic skills have at last improved to ‘passable’, Isayama gives us a chapter almost entirely devoted to Titan-Eren being a seething ball of rage and trying to punch all his problems. Amusingly, it almost works this time.
The majority of this volume is devoted to the Armored and Colossal Titan trying to escape with Eren and Ymir, and Eren attempting to prevent that happening. This means the above-mentioned battle royale, and it’s actually a lot of fun. The use of the flashback is well-placed here, reminding us that Annie and Reiner may seem like obvious suspicious people now, but they were once our heroes’ trusted comrades. The interaction between Annie and Mikasa in particular is quite amusing, though as always I could do without Mikasa’s jealousy. Chapter 44 is named after a slogan in Mixed Martial Arts, and even as a Titan, Eren puts his moves to good use.
It’s all for naught, though, as the villains get away with what they came for. This does give us a chance to see a more vulnerable Mikasa, who has spent far too much time being either a supersoldier of a jealous would-be lover. Here we see a bit of the child that she was never allowed to be, and it’s very appropriate that Hannes be the one to show up and give her and Armin a pep talk. For all that Mikasa’s obsession with Eren is disturbing, at heart it’s the obsession of a girl who just wants to be near the one she loves most.
The second half of the volume teases us about revealing more information regarding Beast Titan and company, but in the end is far more interested in fleshing out its characterization. Reiner in particular is having difficulty coming to terms with his actions, and Ymir notes that he went so deep undercover that he actually seems to have separated the part of him that’s a soldier from the part of him that’s a Titan, and can’t really get them back together. (Bertolt doesn’t seem to have this issue, though it’s possible we’ll get to see more of his emotional issues next time.) As for Eren, possibly the funniest part of this volume is when he realizes that in order to get anywhere with Reiner, he has to control his emotions. This lasts about 3 pages before ending in screaming, as you would expect.
As for Ymir, it’s become clear she does *not* in fact know everything, but she can certainly make some educated guesses, and is just about to when Reiner threatens her obvious weak spot, and Ymir decides to clam up. (It’s played seriously, but I couldn’t help but imagine Reiner and Bertolt as the Vercotti Brothers from Monty Python – “Nice Krista you’ve got here, Ymir. Be a shame if something… happened.” “Yeah, fings break, don’t they, Ymir?”)
There’s even more that I could discuss (Hange is absolutely terrific in this volume), but I think you get the gist. Attack on Titan remains riveting reading. And we have at last ‘caught up’, so be prepared to wait till April to see what happens next. (Or just go to Crunchyroll and read up to the current chapter.)