Attack on Titan vol. 11 – Hajime Isayama

4 out of 5

While I avoided the initial rush of fandom on Attack on Titan for various dumb reasons, when I finally came around to it, what I think was most satisfying – and this has definitely proven very true in the long run – is how all of the twists and turns are supportive of firstly, the overall mystery of What Are The Titans? and Where Do They Come From?, but also how the story is more majorly carried on the backs of its characters. I’m catching up on the manga as we’re heading into the final swing of the anime, and it’s cool seeing how this worked on page, as well, not to mention that my foreknowledge of how some things connect doesn’t ruin their reveals in the book – absolutely a sign of a great story.

Volume 11 ended with a killer twist, right on top of another recent killer twist (which was on top of another killer twist), and Hajime lets it play out as an extended battle for about half of the tankobon, flashing back and forth to present and past conversations to give it further story and emotional context. While I’ve gotten very used to the way Isayama depicts large scale action by this point, as well as the artist’s skills sharpening along the way, the need for some up-close choreography rather escapes him a bit here, and to a minorly distracting level: I had to stare at some panels for a long time, trying to figure out what the heck was going on, and I’m still not sure I’d know without the dialogue to point the way.

Storywise, the structure is almost moderately repetitive: the decompressed battle and its immediate fallout are something we went through not too long ago with Annie. The second half of the tankobon absolutely recovers on that, using a downbeat to tantalizingly fill in some blanks, but then to also twist the knife further, the latter bit once again only really working because of how we’ve gotten to know these characters.

The thing is, despite this criticism on structure, given a few key things Hajime needed to accomplish, I’m not sure I know what another path would’ve been, except maybe to have combined a couple beats. But that’s maybe easier to say when I’m reading these volumes back to back, instead of spread out over months. Given how insanely the tension is maintained between chapters, that would’ve been… difficult.