By Hajime Isayama. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
We’ve had a lot of revelations in the last few volumes of Attack on Titan, revelations that the group really haven’t had time to take in what with the kidnappings, fleeing and screaming at each other. And we get one more big one at the end of this volume, as we discover the reason why Eren is so important to the Titan cause (and no, it’s not his temper). Mostly what this volume does, though, is strengthen and reinforce the themes of the series in a ‘battle to the death’ context: friendship vs. duty, love vs. safety, and what it means to be a human.
Let’s start with Ymir, who gets the largest picture on the cover, even if it’s in her titan form. Ymir’s devotion to Historia has been apparent almost from her first appearance, and this volume pretty much spells out how much Historia means to her – she’s willing to side with the rest of the Survey Corps unless Reiner and Bertolt can meet her demands. (This does lead to two of the only pieces of humor in the entire volume – first, when Historia delightedly spots Ymir’s titan only to go ‘eh?’ as she’s promptly swallowed in her mouth; and 2nd, Ymir’s defense of titans, where ‘eating people’ gets a Some Like It Hot response – nobody’s perfect!) Once Ymir and Historia are reunited, they spend no time in trying to out self-sacrifice one another, and Historia shows that the obsession is not merely a we-way street. (I’ll be using Historia, by the way, in the future, as this is the name she now wants to use for herself – Krista is a pseudonym.) In the end, though, they simply CAN’T be together, not right now.
As for Reiner and Bertolt, they’re still guilt ridden over what they had to do, and Bertolt screams out how they don’t enjoy killing anyone and that no one would choose to do this. This doesn’t stop them from needing to take Eren and Historia to the Titans. Armin, who is getting craftier (and more morally grey) with each volume, starts needling them about their comrade Annie, who Armin says is currently being tortured by the scientists back home. I’m not entirely sure this is true – in fact, I highly suspect it is false – but that doesn’t matter. Armin can see how torn the two of them are by what they’re doing, and uses it to his best advantage. God help us all if that boy turns evil.
Mikasa mostly spends this volume screaming and beating the crap out of people, but her most telling moment comes when she’s too injured to protect Eren anymore, and a Titan is upon them… the same Titan that ate Eren’s mother so many years ago. Mikasa tends to show her softer side only to Eren, and even then only when she senses one of them is near death. Here she wants to show Eren the depths of the familial love (I refuse to ship them, shut up) that she has for him. Speaking of familial love, they are both promptly rescued by the sacrifice of Hannes, who was important at the very beginning of this manga but has since fallen out of focus. It makes thematic sense that, after losing Eren’s mother, we would now see a father figure fall to the same titan. This does not make it any less depressing, though.
And so the long battle is over, and arguably our heroes won. Eren and Historia are back with the Survey Corps. Erwin lost an arm, but is alive. Reiner, Bertolt and Ymir got away to an uncertain future (it’s hinted Ymir may be walking to her death, something that she’s surprisingly OK with – Historia’s ‘goddess’ habit is rubbing off). Where do we go from here? I’m not sure, but this volume certainly will give readers more of what they like to see in this series. Still recommended. (Needs more Sasha, dammit. Where is she, anyway?)