Saturday, February 3, 2018

Attack on Titan, vol. 24 review (repost)

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Attack on Titan, vol. 24, Hajime Isayama. Grade: B
Vol. 24's been on the shelves for a couple weeks. I'm not a big fan of the series, largely because of the artstyle, and partly because of Eren's "woe is me, woe is me" outlook on life. So, I wasn't in a hurry to pick up a copy. But, I needed something to read on the streetcar, and I bought this volume to kill the time. Again, this is a commercially translated manga, so there's no point in describing what's going on in any great detail.

Things start out with Reiner and Gabby going through the checkpoint from the Eldian concentration camp to the Marle training grounds. The girl is concerned about something Reiner's mother had said during dinner, that Reiner seems to have come back from Paradis island a changed person, and she'd like to know what he's keeping secret from everyone else. Reiner brushes the question off as being the result of leaving the mainland at age 12 and returning as an adult. Gabby accepts this answer for the moment, and then continues her battle against Falco to determine who will inherit the Armored Titan blood from Reiner. From here, we get plotting and scheming, as the Eldian military counsel tries to figure out how to reconcile their plans for getting King Fritz's titan powers from Paradis for themselves, with their present existence as canon fodder for the Marle in the Marle empire's push to conquer the other countries on the mainland. It looks like revolution may be aproaching. But, the would-be revolutionaries need the support of the Tiber clan, the most powerful Eldian family in Marle, and that requires that Teo Magot, the highest ranking Eldian military leader, somehow find a way to be introduced to Villy Tiber, the 20- or 30-something head of the clan (Villy (Willy in the western translations) controls the Warhammer Titan, but refuses to fight on the battlefield. The Tiber clan apparently keeps the respect of the Marle by using their power to maintain the peace within the Eldian ghetto.)

We get a flashback, with Reiner, Bertolt, Annie and Marcel training as young kids to hone their titan powers, under the guidance of Jeek (the simian titan), Porco (Jaw titan) and Peek (the trained cargo-carrying titan). The army selects Reiner, Annie, Marcel and Bertolt to infiltrate Paradis island, locate King Fritz, and try to bring the king's titan powers back to Marle. Porco is upset that a talent-less schmuck like Reiner was picked over him, but that's the way things go sometimes. The kids are paraded through the camp as heroes, and Reiner's mother is seen crying for joy that her son is going to improve their family status. This gets Reiner to visit his estranged father to tell him the good news and try to get his parents back together again, but the man hates the Marle, and the fact that his wife has chosen to get in their good graces. Reiner is kicked out of his father's hovel.

After a while, the kids are taken to the island, dropped behind the wall, and left to their own devices. Pretty quickly, the Ymir titan finds them, and Marcel protects Reiner by pushing the other boy out of the way, only to be eaten by Ymir instead. The remaining three kids run off in a blind panic. When they recover, Bertolt and Annie decide they're going to give up and return to Marle, claiming they couldn't find Fritz. Reiner is more concerned about disappointing his mother, and tries to talk the other two into changing their minds. Annie proceeds to kick him into a pulp, calling him names. When she exhausts herself, Reiner gets up and puts her into a surprise sleeper hold. When it looks like he may be close to killing her, Bertolt starts yelling that they'll stay and keep to the plan.

A few days later, they're being chased by the Eldians the Marle had turned into titans, and they still haven't reached Fritz's city. Bertolt and Reiner are riding on the Female-Form titan, and she's running out of energy. Reiner turns into Armored, and catches sight of Wall Maria. He brings Bertolt and Annie to the wall, and Bertolt switches to Colossus and kicks a hole in the wall they can escape into, while being seen by Eren and Arwin for the first time, and accidentally killing Eren's mother with a boulder from the wall. After this, the three Eldian kids are mistaken for refugees from the Wall Maria encampment, and eventually get permission to work on a field as farmhands. Reiner is forced to become the "strong leader" of the three, since Annie keeps talking about giving up and leaving. His plan is to have them join the military, find some way to infiltrate King Fritz's castle town in the center of Paradis, and kill him before taking his blood back to Marle. They get into the military, become friendly with Eren and the others, and things proceed from there. Annie gets caught spying near the castle by Kenny Ackerman. She makes a claim that she's his long-lost daughter, looking for her father. They tussle before she manages to escape, terrified, into the sewers. Kenny jokes that he's not going down there after a daughter who treats him like that, and he continues on his own way. The flashback ends with Eren still failing to pass the tests with the harness system, and Reiner telling him to just keep trying to do what he thinks is right.

Back in the present, Reiner is depressed at the idea of having to return to the island for the upcoming invasion, and he's close to blowing his brains out with a rifle. He's interrupted when Falco, unable to best Gabby in any of the training exercises, smashes his fist into the outer wall of the house. Reiner puts the rifle away, while Falco discovers a sanatorium filled with injured Eldian soldiers and civilians. The boy notices one young man sitting on a bench, missing the lower part of his left leg and his left eye. Falco confesses his frustration at not being able to prevent Gabby from getting killed as Reiner's titan successor (once you get the titan blood, you only live for another 10 years; Reiner, Porco, Peek and Jeek are nearing the end of their expected lifespans). The invalid, Kruger, tells him to not give up. Pretty soon, Falco succeeds at beating Gabby in a footrace, which makes him happy, but makes the girl even more determined to not let anyone get in the way of her goals.

Magot's men manage to secure a meeting between him and Villy, and Magot goes to the massive estate the following evening. Villy takes the leader out to a balcony where he admires a statue of a Marle soldier defeating a named Titan, from the battle with Fritz 100 years ago. The soldier doesn't have a scratch on him. Villy sees this as emblematic of the future he foresees coming - the Marle unite the continent using the Eldian titans as fodder, and when the fighting is over, there will be no need for the titans anymore. Villy is willing to help Magot with whatever the Eldian military needs, but he won't get involved directly with Warhammer. A few days later, Villy hosts a massive party for the leaders of the countries the Marle have defeated already. A tone deaf Marle politician tries to make a joke about "yesterday's enemy is also tomorrow's enemy", and the crowd doesn't laugh. Villy takes the microphone from him, and gives a speech about the displaced Eldians from other countries needing to come together to stop the pain. It seems to actually be a veiled hint at a future uprising. (Note, Gabby, Falco and two of the other kids training to become titan successors, are the waiters at the party. Many of the party guests hate the Eldians and refuse to eat food touched by one of the "unclean." The second boy accidentally spills wine on one of the female guest's dress, and he expects to receive extreme punishment because of it. But, the woman covers for him, saying that she spilled the wine on herself. The boy wants to know why she's doing this, and she just whispers at him to keep quiet (it's implied that she's a member of a leading Eldian family from one of the conquered countries.)

During this, Falco has been getting closer to Kruger, who had asked him to mail a letter for him. The next day, the Tiber clan hosts a colony-wide festival, and the kids eat themselves sick on foods they've never seen before. Falco approaches Reiner and tells him that one of the invalids from the sanatorium wants to meet him. They go into the hallways and basements beneath the camp and Reiner recognizes Eren immediately. Eren/Kruger says, "It's nice to be back home, isn't it."

Summary: Like I say, I'm not a big fan of the manga, but it is a fairly quick read, and there is a lot of action in between all the talking. Things are heating up, with the approaching invasion of Paradis, and the question of who takes over from Reiner when he dies (which might be earlier than planned at this rate). I've been expecting the series to end soon, but now it could go another 20-30 books if Isayama decides to chronicle the entire war between Paradis and Marle. We'll see. Recommended if you already like the series.

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