Attack on Titan, Vol. 23

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

It is not uncommon, particularly in shonen manga, to see what is generally referred to as a “time skip”, where events jump ahead a few years and we see the cast has grown and changed (see One Piece) or, for some strange reason, is almost exactly the same (see Fairy Tail – twice). It allows the author to jump ahead to the next part of the story they want to tell. It’s also not unheard of for a series to debut a new cast, meant to carry on from the original – you see this in some school series where time actually passes and therefore the regulars cant’ help but graduate. The new cast are usually introduced gradually, interacting with the popular regular characters till they have enough popularity of their own to take over. (K-On! tried this, but it didn’t really work well.) And then there’s Attack on Titan, which thinks nothing of trying to do both at the same time.

Reiner is still around, to be fair – in fact, he and Zeke (the Beast Titan) are the only ones, bar flashbacks. Instead, we’re introduced to a new group of child soldiers, who are here to take out enemy supply lines, blow shit up, and sic titans on people. The kids run the gamut from tortured and brooding young man who may be our lead going forward to the confident (some may say overconfident) girl who screams out “I am going to be killed or horribly maimed to teach an important lesson”, but so far seems to be riding on pure awesome and adrenaline. They’re fighting their own battles, but things aren’t going to well, and it turns out that having a giant pile of titans is not nearly as awesome as it could be, even without the special equipment Eren and company had. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the island and get back the powers of the founding titan.

I’m going to be very honest here, but I’m debating dropping the manga if this keeps up. I don’t really read Attack on Titan for the plot, which manages to be both “war is hell” and very right-wing militaristic at the same time. Likewise, the titans themselves have never interested me except as conduits to help the human characters grow and change. It’s no surprise that the moments I enjoyed most in this volume were the smaller, quieter ones – such as Reiner’s reverse psychology when he threatens Falco for not respecting the Titans enough, or his memories of everyone back on the island (in which we realize that Sasha eating the potato is once again the only thing ANYONE remembers about her). But I really hope that Eren, Mikasa and the others show up soon, because I’m just not as into this new cast.

Attack on Titan is still worth reading if you like cool battle scenes (that are beginning to actually be drawn… OK? Not horribly?), political discussions, and tortured angst. Just be aware that there’s a sea change here, and most of the beloved characters you liked have been left behind.

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