Saturday, April 30, 2016

Attack on Titan, vol. 9 review

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Attack on Titan, vol. 9, Hajime Isayama. Grade: B
(Note that we finally get a name for Christa's bodyguard - Ymir. Same name that the one talking wild giant said back in volume 5. She also slips up and demonstrates that she can read some written language that Reiner can't identify. This implies that there's something special about both her and Christa.)

The tower house is under siege by wandering wild giants, so the older regiment members get ready to defend the building, ordering the recruits to prepare their horses to ride for an escape. Mike, the leader that relies heavily on his nose, reports that he scents 9 giants (although, there were more than that in volume 8, and there are only 8 shown on this page). The assumption is that a new hole has been kicked into Wall Rose. The group is to break up into 4 units, one going to the main city to ask for help, and the others circling to the south to locate the breach in the wall. Mike asks if anyone knows the lands to the south, and Sasha holds her hand up. Connie is too wrapped up in his own thoughts to respond, because his family's farm is directly on the route the giants took to get this far. Reiner and Bertolt decide to go with Connie to make sure the farm is ok. The approaching giants show a surprising burst of speed, so Mike acts as a diversion to let the others escape. He returns to the roof of the tower building, where he kills 4 giants. He spies a huge simian rogue giant, who locates his horse and throws it to knock Mike off the roof. A smaller surviving giant tries to eat Mike, and the simian tells it to stop. It doesn't, so the simian squeezes the smaller one until it pops, then it asks Mike about how humans are able to travel around so fast. The guy is terrified, and stunned that giants can talk, so he doesn't say anything. As he curls up in a ball, the simian spots his jetpack, and takes it from him. The simian turns to leave, saying that it's ok for the others to eat the human now. Mike screams out that he doesn't want to die, and the simian replies, "Oh, you CAN talk after all," and walks off.

(Did you know that horses can be used as projectile weapons? Mike learns this the hard way.)

One of the riders gets to Erumiha sector, where he bursts into Commander Pixis' office to report the wall breach. Elsewhere, Sasha and her group get to a village, beyond which, in the woods, is Sasha's home town. She flashes back to when she was a headstrong brat, fighting her father for food. He wanted to save some for the rest of the village, and she wanted it all because she was hungry. He'd lectured her on the principle of working for the welfare of the group, and she hasn't been back for the last 3 years after that. The flashback ends and Sasha, alone, reaches an isolated group of farm houses. There's a big footprint on the ground, and it looks like at least one giant had bypassed the tower building and headed straight for Erumiha. Inside one of the village buildings, a giant is trying to eat the leg of a crippled old woman, while her child sits crouched on the floor near a corner. Sasha grabs the child to drag her out of the building, and snatches up a nearby bow and arrows along the way. The giant chases them, and Sasha turns to stand her ground, yelling at the kid to run to safety. The kid does, eventually, and Sasha discovers that she's a really lousy shot with the bow. She resorts to going hand-to-hand, stabbing the giant in the eyes with the remaining arrows. She runs away at this point, and sees her father carrying the child on the horse with him. When he realizes that the "hero" the kid talked about is his daughter, he comments that she's finally grown up. Sasha replies, "I'm home."

(Sasha eats because this is the world she was born into.)

Elsewhere, a wagon carries Eren, Levi, Armin, Hange, Mikasa and Nick down from Stonehesse to Erumiha. Hange keeps playing with a hardened piece of crystal taken from the giant husk when Annie was captured. It's not dissipating, like giant bodies normally do after the giant dies, implying that something new is at work here. (And, maybe, this new stuff was used to build the Wall.) The rest of the group tries to convince Nick to talk and explain what's going on with the giants embedded in the wall, and he insists on staying silent. But, it's looking like the next part of the plan is to take Eren down to Wall Rose and have him turn into a rock to block up the new hole in the wall; something he's not keen on doing. They get to Erumiha, and Levi forces Nick to witness the crowds of refugees packing the streets, trying to escape the giants. Nick is shocked, but still refuses to break his vows of secrecy to help save anyone else. Instead, he confesses that there is one person they could talk to, although the readers don't get to see her name directly. By implication, we're left to guess that Nick says "Christa Lenz," and we're told that Christa's bodyguard is named "Ymir." The scene switches, and Ymir is trying to talk her leader into letting her and Christa change directions to avoid running into danger, and the leader says, "no." Christa is afraid that Ymir thinks she's too weak, and there's an argument over whether Ymir faked her test results to let Christa come in 10th during the 104th regiment recruitment, when Ymir came in 11th. Ymir claims that Christa scored better on her own merits, and Christa pretends to be relieved about that.

("Hi, Connie. Welcome home.")

Farther south, Connie's group gets to his farm, and all the buildings are destroyed. The farmers are missing, but their horses are in the stables. There's one giant trapped on its back in the ruins of one house, but because it's not a threat the group keeps riding and leaves it alone. Reiner thinks the situation is suspicious, and is afraid Connie is going to draw the wrong conclusions, so he wants the boy to be thinking about other things. Then the giant mutters a slurred version of "welcome home" and Connie starts asking if somehow his mother had turned into this giant (the creature's arms and legs are twigs compared to its body, so there's no way it could have walked here from the wall under its own power). Reiner tells the boy he's over-thinking things. They keep riding.

(The simian rogue watches the ruins of Utgard Castle from the top of the wall.)

Time passes and different groups fight different giants. Night falls, and Connie's group reaches the wall from the southeast, and follows the perimeter to the west, looking for the breach that the giants are entering through. They encounter Ymir's group coming from the southwest, and it turns out there's no breach. This adds to Connie's suspicion that the wild giants currently wandering around are villagers and farmers that got transformed somehow. Reiner still denies this is possible. The scouts spot the ruins of a castle nearby (ruins that they'd hadn't known about) and everyone retreats there to camp for the night. Later, Ymir scavenges through the crates in a storeroom, and finds a tin of pickled herring. Reiner asks what she's doing, and she hands the tin to him, which is a mistake because the writing on the label is in a language he doesn't recognize, implying that Ymir knows more about the castle than she's letting on. Before he can confront her over this, a sentry runs down from the roof yelling that more giants are approaching. This shouldn't be possible because giants supposedly draw energy from sunlight, and go comatose at night. They look like the same ones that had attacked them earlier at the tower building, and had killed Mike. The monster Simian is with them, but he keeps walking down to Wall Rose and then climbs the wall to get to the top to watch the battle from a distance. Simultaneously, Eren's group is riding horses to what Hange says is an old, abandoned castle named Utgard.

Summary: The number of rogue giants (or "titans") keeps growing, and they continue to exhibit strange powers, including conscious thought and speech. The real questions are "which rogues work together, for whom, and why?" We already know that Annie had infiltrated the 104th regiment, and had access to the jetpacks, but the simian rogue acted as if the harness he'd taken from Mike was something completely new to them. And the possibility of Connie's mother becoming a giant somehow could explain why there are so many wild giants (not all the victims of past battles had been devoured; some might have been turned ala what happens with vampires). But it doesn't tell us why the turned giants are usually mindless eating machines, and not rogues like Eren and Annie. This just leaves us with more Carnage.

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