Attack on Titan: Junior High, Vol. 5

By Saki Nakagawa, based on the manga by Hajime Isayama. Released in Japan in three separate volumes by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by William Flanagan and Taka Tanaka. Adapted by Ben Applegate.

Regular readers of my blog may have noticed that my Attack on Titan reviews were getting less and less enthusiastic as the volumes went on, until they finally petered to a stop about 3 volumes ago. Was it the timeskip? Was it the death of [spoiler]? Was it [spoiler] being turned into a baby factory? All those and more, but mostly it’s the fact that I can’t stop turning a blind eye to the fascist tendencies this series has honestly had since the start. For a while it looked like it was going to subvert them – I mean, it does overthrow a corrupt fascist government – but yeah, that’s not happening. So goodbye, Attack on Titan. What will I remember from you? Killing my favorite girl? Throwing another dead lesbian on the pile of dead lesbians? No, I will remember that you had, at one time, excellent characters that we could not only identify with but also parody. And I’m here today, finally, to talk about that parody.

Attack on Titan Junior High ends as it began: by being absolutely ridiculous. Eren is still hating titans (and constantly being called out for racism, which made me smile). Mikasa is still perfect (and has never farted. It’s in this manga, so is therefore canon and 100% fact). Sasha eats, and eats, and literally turns into a villain in order to get more food. (And, let’s face it, probably farts enough for both her and Mikasa). Armin is a crybaby shut-in. Ymir and Krista (who does not get the Historia upgrade in this series) are still joined at the hip. Everyone who’s been dead in the main series for ages gets a chance to shine, especially Levi’s old squad. Heck, we even get chapters devoted to the spinoff characters, who are also not dead. (technically Before the Fall has not killed its entire cast yet, but come on, we know it’s a matter of time.) Junior High wants to put a smile on your face, and it does.

I should say a word about the translation. Or, more accurately, the adaptation. I haven’t seen a series this loosely adapted since Excel Saga. Also, like Excel Saga, I think it’s all the better for it. Purists may carp at references to Sacha Baron Cohen (and boy, did that joke get outdated fast), but it gives the whole series a rambunctious , anything can happen feeling that fits it very well. You want to keep things fast and furious in a gag series, especially one like this that is a three-volume omnibus, which is the worst possible thing for a broad comedy to be. Special attention must also be paid to the fact that this volume was delayed for almost two years. It became comical to see it almost get released… then suddenly have a new release date six months down the road. The translators are very aware of this fact, and mention it in the text several times. I like a series that can mock itself. And again, that’s not something you’d see with a more “literal” translation.

So, as I say farewell to Attack on Titan, this is how I want to remember it. With a bunch of fun, goofy characters doing dumb things. And everyone living happily ever after. That may be the opposite of the point that the original author wanted to make, but that’s fine by me.

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