Saturday, September 2, 2017

Attack on Titan, vol. 23 review

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Attack on Titan, vol. 23, Hajime Isayama. Grade: B
Ok, with the new volume we get another time jump, a scene shift and all new characters. It's confusing to keep everything straight, so I won't bother. Essentially, it's 4 years since Zeke and Reiner returned in disgrace from Paradis island. The Maaru army is attacking some other enemy fort on the mainland (the soldiers are dressed in a middle eastern style), and the Eldians are being used as shock troops. The chapter starts out with Falco, a young Eldian soldier recovering from a near-hit blast on the battle field, seeing a hawk in the sky and warning it to leave the area. He's brought back to the trenches for treatment, while Galliard (a tall, thin Eldian in his early 20's) argues with Sergeant Magot over whether to attack the enemy with the Agito titan (agito = jaw; this one has a big front-end loader-style face, and is agile and strong).

(Falco tells the bird to go away.)

Meanwhile, the most aggressive young female Eldian soldier, Gabi, works on tying up a bunch of grenades. When the enemy sends out armored tanks on a railroad track, Gabi strips down to her underwear, approaches a pillbox, and stands vulnerable until the tanks get closer. Then she drops, throws the grenades and runs back to the trenches. The grenades go off, derailing the tanks, and Galliard turns into Jaws to protect her from enemy gun fire. At about this time, Zeke and Reiner approache in a troop carrier airplane, filled with people that look doped up. These guys are shoved out of the back of the plane, and as they fall Zeke uses his power over titans to turn everyone into low-level colossi that slam into the fort and eat anyone they find. Reiner and Zeke clean out the ships in the port and wall-mounted turrets, and Reiner ends up taking a full-on blast while protecting Zeke that leaves him unconscious for a few hours. End of battle.

(Jaws and the Eldian troops attack the fort.)

From this point, we get character development and a little plot set-up. The Eldians still living under the thumb of the Maaru are angry with the original King Fritz and his followers for leaving them behind when they went to Paradis island. The adult Eldians keep telling their children that the Pardisis are evil, and when they're destroyed, the Eldians can go back to living as a free people again. To this end, the Eldians fight for the Maaru, using the titan blood at their disposal. Which, for right now, consists of Zeke and the Simian titan; Reiner and Armor; and Galliard with Jaws. A number of the other Eldians are angry with Reiner for failing at his recon of the island and costing them Big Titan and Female Form, but no one is directly punishing him for it. On the other hand, being a titan means that you have a shortened life span, so that Zeke is believed to only have 1 year left, and Reiner has 2-3 years, so the younger soldiers are being prepped to inherit the titan powers from them.

(Hunger from above.)

The prospects include Gabi, who wants to become the next Armor titan; and Falco, the weak-willed one that hates fighting and resents the fact that Reiner is letting Gabi turn into a titan. Then there's Colt, a slightly older leader that may take over from Zeke, but who likes to drink too much. Colt and Falco are from the same family, and Gabi and Reiner are also related. After the battle, the troops return to their ghetto town of Reberio and reunite with the rest of their families, which also serves to reinforce the idea that the Eldians hate the Paradisi and want them destroyed. However, Reiner is having flashbacks, and is seeing similarities between the Eldian kids and the ones from the Paradisi Survey team.

(Young Reiner and Bertoldt at right, training, and Eren at left.)

After a big dinner with his mother and some other relatives, Reiner lies in bed, thinking. His mother is repeating the same things to Gabi that she'd had when Reiner was very young, and he'd wanted to grow up to help the family as a result. One of the family's secrets is that his father was a Maaru, so he's a bastard half-breed. But, if he were accepted into the military, the family's status would improve. So, he entered training along with Bertoldt, Annie, and Marsel Galliard, but while the others all had specific useful skills (Galliard was a good foot soldier; Bertoldt was a rifle marksman; and Annie was good at martial arts), Reiner was otherwise weak and incompetent. Therefore, when the army announced that he had been accepted to the elite group of candidates to become titans, it's implied that he'd either just squeaked through, or had done well enough on the paper tests. The chapter ends with Reiner as a kid in the training program becoming friends with Bertoldt, and dreaming of destroying Paradis island, while Eren is back at home wondering why nothing ever happens.

Summary: Attack on Titan has this problem with broken continuity in the storytelling, so sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on right away. I think I have a handle on it now, and that the above summary is more-or-less accurate. But, with the current focus on Reiner and the Eldians, it may take at least another two books for the war between the Eldians and the Paradisi to go full bore. Recommended if you like the series.

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