Attack on Titan, Vol. 13

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

For a while there Attack on Titan was able to keep its readership breathless, with a chase sequence and rescue that went over multiple volumes, following a long extended siege that revealed stunning information about half of our cast. There’s been no time to catch your breath and think about what’s really going on. And that’s this volume’s job, to try to take a step back and work out what everyone is fighting for and why. And the answer is not really one that anyone is going to find pleasant. Levi notes it himself while discussing things with the team – this has been a horrible, twisted world for 100 years now, and there’s no sense that even stopping the Titans will really fix anything. Do we really want the good guys to win if the leadership in place is so rotten?


The whole Survey Corps team, minus the four obvious ones, are now back together again and part of Levi’s new squad. Sasha has returned relatively unharmed from her trip to the north, and attempts to bring a certain levity with her – her interactions with Jean about food are meant to be reminiscent of the first few volumes. Even here, though, we cut from the comedic scenes to Levi staring into space, overlaying his old squad – now all dead – with the new team he’s in charge of. Levi is not the most personable guy in the world – between him and Hange, who’s wildly mood swinging through this entire volume, we might almost have a functioning human – but I think he’s good at knowing how to get what he needs, and right now that means he has to be mean to Eren, as being driven into a corner seems to be the only thing that allows Eren to control his Titan abilities.

Then there’s Historia, whose past comes into play here. She explains her childhood to the squad, and it is, needless to say, horrible. Living her life as best she can, and only realizing once she starts reading books and other stories how truly terrible it is. Abused by the other children, and her own mother despises her. Then she’s almost killed, only saved at the last minute by her father denying her own existence. What makes it worse is that there are also bits she can’t recall, as a mysterious young woman, the only person who ever shows her any love and affection (besides Ymir, and trust me she’s cut up about that as well), erases her memory every time they met as kids. This is actually the most plot specific part of the volume, as Eren is also dreaming about that young woman, who may be related to both of them? Who knows.

Meanwhile, back in the city, Pastor Nick has been tortured and killed by the military police, once again showing us how it’s the Survey Corps versus the world here. Erwin is doing his best to try to get on top of things, and in the end makes the decision that the royal government has proven itself unfit to lead, and needs to be overthrown. Which is all very well and good, but he says that at the same time as we cut to Levi and Hange, about to torture the same MP who tortured Pastor Nick. Replacing one group who advocates torture to get results with another one does not fill me with glee, though I may have to save that subject for the next volume.

This has never exactly been a fun series to read, but this volume in particular is grim and grimy, helped along by Isayama’s art, which has improved to “OK” but that’s still a step below most manga artists, including the ones who draw his spinoff stories. I also disliked everything about the subplot with Armin being threatened with rape by a member of Reeves Company, particularly as, seeing some of the cast laughing about it later, I think we’re supposed to see it as a funny interlude rather than disgustingly awful. Attack on Titan is still one of the most compelling series out there, and you’ll want to see what happens next. But when the fighting slows and you start to deal with the city, its citizens, and our heroes, you can’t help but feel weary.

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