Saturday, December 24, 2016

Attack on Titan, vol. 21 review

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Attack on Titan, vol. 21, Hajime Isayama. Grade: B
Eren flashes back to when he first met Armin (the smaller boy had been bullied by a couple of bigger kids, but he'd claimed that he'd won because he hadn't run away). Then, Jiiku comes up, riding the wagon giant to claim Bertolt. Eren threatens to kill Bertolt, so Jiiku leaves to grab Reiner instead. However, he comments that they are related. Then Mikasa, Levi, and some flunky dragging Erwin's crippled body along all arrive at Eren's location, and the next war starts. The problem is that both Armin and Erwin are still just barely holding on to life, and Levi has control over the one vial of titan serum. Eren and Mikasa want to save their friend, while Levi and the flunky want to save their leader. The flunky adds that there were NO survivors from the soldiers outside the wall that had been distracting the simian titan while Levi could get close to him. They NEED Erwin to have any chance of defeating the titans. Eren and Mikasa are dragged away, but when Levi tries to inject the serum into him, Erwin manages to bat the needle away. Levi interprets this as being Erwin's will, so he injects Armin after all. The boy turns into a regular titan. Bertolt regains consciousness just in time to be eaten, and he screams for help as the rest of his former teammates stand back and watch.

(Eren realizes that Armin is still alive, and yells at him to not give up.)

Armin sees the face of a titan in his dreams, then wakes up fully restored. He gets hysterical when told that Erwin died so that he could live, and he's having trouble coping with the pressure put on him to take Erwin's place as a strategist. There's a lot of whining and arguing until Sasha, who has been badly injured as well, hisses that the noise is bothering her. Armin settles down, and the survivors split up, with Jan, Connie and the flunky taking Sasha to safety at the top of one of the walls, and Levi, Eren, Mikasa and Hange going into the city ruins to look for Eren's father's house.

(Armin-titan eats Bertolt.)

The 4 explorers reach the smashed building, which still has a big boulder sitting on it. They move the boulder, and go into the basement, which is still in good condition after all these years. There's a locked door at the bottom of the stairs, but Eren's key doesn't fit the lock. Levi kicks the door down. Inside is what looks like the normal office of a medical doctor, with books, surgical tools and vials of medicine on all the shelves. Mikasa discovers a keyhole in the side of Grisha's old desk. Eren uses the key and unlocks a drawer that has a false bottom. Inside are three diaries that Grisha had kept while he was alive, to be passed on to Eren when the time was right. Eren and Mikasa read the first book. Inside the front cover is a photograph of Grisha as a young man, some woman the group has never seen before, and a small golden-haired boy on the woman's lap.

(Mikasa and Eren agree to read the first diary together.)

The scene changes to a late-1800's European style city, with zeppelins plying the skies. Grisha is a young boy, maybe 8-12 years old, and he has a younger sister named Fay. They live in a fenced-in prison inside a larger, technologically advanced city. Eventually, we learn that there had been two groups of people - the Eldians and the Maaru (I'm guessing at the spelling). About 1,700 years before, the king of the Eldians, Fritz, had been visited by the holy titan Ymir, and he then led an army of titans against the Maaru in a long war. More recently, the 145th king in the Fritz line decided he didn't want to fight anymore, and he took a small group of his followers to Parady island, where he had the bigger titans stand to form the core of the outer wall surrounding his new stronghold. All the remaining Eldians were rounded up by the Maaru and jammed into their current internment camp. They must wear a maple leaf-like star burst armband at all times, and they're not allowed out of the camp without papers. One day, Grisha and Fay see a zeppelin, and Grisha decides to rush past the guards at the gates so that Fay can get closer to the air ship. They're spotted by two Maarians, one of which tells Grisha to stay and look at the ship, while the other promises to take Fay back to the gate. When Grisha gets home later on, he learns that his sister is dead, and the two workers claim innocence. Grisha's father kowtows to the internment guards until they leave, and the boy explodes at him that they're lying. The older man gives him a history lesson to explain their current situation (either like the Jews in Europe at the beginning of WWII, or the Japanese in the internment camps in the U.S.). They live or die at the will of their captors.

(Grisha tells the rebels about the titans on Parady island, and that their current mission is to rise up against the Maaru and get their titans back.)

Time passes, and Grisha grows up and becomes a doctor. One of his patients has a cross scar on his arm, and when Grisha asks about it, he's invited to a secret meeting of Eldian rebels. One of the rebels had seen what had happened to Fay (the one worker had gathered up some friends, and they'd set dogs on the girl to maul her to death) and this prompts Grisha to carve a cross in his own chest as a mark of solidarity. Grisha becomes something of a historian researcher, uncovering texts talking about the old war (the Ymir of 1,700 years before looks a lot like the Ymir of today, and there are two other titans - an armored type, and the wall kicker, that resemble Reiner and Bertolt). The rebels are visited by a young woman who is a direct blood-line descendant of King Fritz, whose family had been left behind with the exodus to Parady island. She falls in love with Grisha and they get married and have a boy that they name Jiiku. A few years later, the Maaru government announces that they're going to attack the island, and they're going to recruit all the young male Eldian children to fill up the ranks of their army. Jiiku is one of the kids on the list. The rebels get a letter from their mysterious leader, Fukurou (Owl) saying that the Maarian objectives are the same as the rebels' - to tear down the Paradian walls and release the giants - so the rebels are to stay quiet and comply with the orders. Grisha thinks that having Jiiku in the Maarian army could work in their favor. Unfortunately, a little later, Jiiku betrays the rebels to the Maarians, and every single one of them gets rounded up.

Summary: Finally, some answers. There WAS something outside the walls beyond the desolation and rogue titans (no guarantee that it's still out there now). And, the reason Jiiku resembles Grisha is that they're father and son. The fact that Grisha was found wandering outside the Parady city walls is that he'd probably just recovered from eating a rogue titan and had lost his memories as a result. But, there are many more new questions now, such as why the younger titans look so much like their ancestors, why Jiiku is so desperate to wipe out the Eldians on the island, and what's going to happen if the titans sealed inside the outer wall get released. Anyway, Bertolt is dead, so that just leaves Ymir, Jiiku and Reiner on the enemy's side, and Armin is now capable of turning rogue along side Eren (we don't know what his rogue form is yet, but it might be another Wall Kicker). It's just a matter of time before Mikasa remembers Annie Leonhart (assuming they can find another vial of titan serum). Recommended if you like weird giants eating each other.

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