3 out of 5
With every step of story one of movement, and the wide swath of characters all seemingly relevant, in some way, to Attack on Titan’s various intrigues, Hajime Isayama must occasionally use some churn to keep his story moving. For better or worse, he set his pace running, but has a long-form tale to tell: that means we will extend single sequences over the course of entire tankobons, stretched out by flashbacks and pauses for intense conversations.
The steps in volume 12 are necessary – we need to bridge some gaps in exposition, grounding us in Bertolt’s, Reiner’s, Eren’s, and Ymir’s varying and various mindsets, as the latter two tag along with / are kidnapped by the former two for murky purposes; and Isayama has to figure out how to get to the next stage in the narrative, which will presumably allow our renegades to escape but bring Eren back home, to plot and figure the next line of attack.
In a story where we must constantly be on the move, that equates to a long chase of titans, and then – as usual, though never predictably enacted – an explosion of even more titans. The intricacies of this chase get a little visually cluttered, and maybe feel a bit silly, unfortunately: a side of effect of having to combine the different statures of giant titans and lil’ humans operating together. And not much can actually happen or is revealed, necessarily, as it’s all sputtered out between bits of action, with that action being part of the churn: we’ve been dealing with armored titan business for many chapters straight, and we’re still at it, only partially navigating pieces into place by the tankobon’s conclusion.
Again, this is all necessary churn – shortcutting the story does it no favors, but it’s a challenge for Isayama given the structure he’s chosen, and one we’ll deal with every now and then in order to blossom into the bigger and greater chapters. Thankfully, he knows to maintain a minimum of twists and character / plot favorings so no moment feels pointless, but it will also be good when we’ve gotten to the next arc.