Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Attack on Titan (manga, vols. 3-4) by Hajime Isayama, translated by Sheldon Drzka

I had a huge stack of Attack on Titan volumes available to me while I was on vacation...except for volume 3, which didn't come in until the last day. I had hoped to plow through a good chunk of the series, but two volumes were all I managed.

I'd still like to make it past the point covered by the anime. I'm curious to see where Isayama goes with this series, although some comments I've read indicate that he hasn't really revealed much yet, even in the current volumes. I hope he has a plan, and that it doesn't involve killing every fan-favorite character off.

A warning: I've included spoiler-y descriptions of each of these volumes. Also, I complain about Isayama's artwork in my reviews not once, but twice. Read on at your own risk.

Attack on Titan (manga, vol. 3) by Hajime Isayama, translated by Sheldon Drzka – This begins with a sidestory showing Levi and the Survey Corps heading back to the second Wall after it's breached. Then it jumps to the main story. Eren and Armin desperately try to convince scared soldiers that Eren is human. It doesn't help when Eren transforms into a Titan skeleton. They're saved in the nick of time by Commander Pixis, who decides to try Armin's idea, having Eren plug up the hole in the Wall while in Titan form. Unfortunately, things go wrong. Titan Eren seems unfocused, completely unaware of what he's supposed to do, and scarily like a normal Titan.

The art still isn't very good. I don't know that I'll ever be able to completely get past that. Isayama is best with full-page art, but anatomy is not his strong suit. At all. Small hands and oversized heads. Granted, he could be doing it on purpose, but the inconsistencies tell me that probably isn't the case. And I can't help but think that Isayama's scribbly linework is intended to hide further errors. Weirdly enough, though, I do tend to like his full-color artwork.

Now on to the story: I'm not really a fan of Eren, but I appreciated that he's well aware of Armin's strengths. He's as straightforward and direct in his faith in Armin's intelligence as he is in his desire to kill all Titans. That's kind of nice, especially since Armin was beset by doubts in this volume and needed someone to believe in him. Eren did that without even having to be prodded.

Eren provided an amazing bit of hope in the previous volume, so of course in this volume Isayama had to remind us that everyone is still stuck in a hellhole of a world. Rousing, crazy-eyed speeches about how everyone must fight and possibly die for the sake of their families, followed by the horrible moment when Eren can't perform as promised. The world of Attack on Titan would truly be a sucky place to live.

Attack on Titan (manga, vol. 4) by Hajime Isayama, translated by Sheldon Drzka – Armin gets Eren to respond and pick up the boulder. Eren plugs the hole, and then he, Mikasa, and Armin are saved by the sudden arrival of the Survey Corps. The story then flashes back to everyone's training days – Sasha the potato girl, Jean and Eren butting heads, Eren having difficulty with the 3D maneuver gear, and Annie speculating on the wrongness of the best trainees getting to be stationed in the interior, farthest away from Titans. Then the story switches back to the present, with corpse clean up duty and Eren in jail.

This volume was decent, but the switch to the training flashback went on a bit too long and was a little disappointing after the awesome “ humanity won its very first victory” moment. However, the sudden shift from smiling trainee Marco to dead Marco was jarring and brilliant. So horrible and sad. So many people died for that one small victory.

This is practically a given at this point, but I continue to dislike Isayama's artwork. His scribbly linework manages to make every single scene look dark, even the ones that are supposed to be funny. This was most noticeable during the training flashback, when everyone was relatively safe and occasionally able to laugh and joke.

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