Attack on Titan vol. 5 – Hajime Isayama

4 out of 5

Exciting improvement, in both story and art. While Isayama still struggles with more complex tableaus – struggling to figure out a good layout for a scene where a character’s imprisoned; odd word bubble placement in some dialogue sequences – his gray tones to balance foreground / background and general confidence in linework are massively improving. Action is readable, characters are becoming defined – identifiable at a glance – and the sketchiness is feeling much more like a fitting style and not just an artist still figuring themselves out. Storywise, dealing with the aftermath of Eren’s transformation, we’re slowed down a bit, which is actually beneficial: with a lot of the main characters introduced, Isayama can talk us through the research efforts being done on titans, and settle in to the Levi / Erwin dynamics that help to ground a lot of the previous soap opera bleating; Attack on Titan has always felt “serious,” but it’s at this point that it starts to feel equally serious, human, and mature. And while I read some other manga in parallel, I can appreciate how this series presents its plot twists / additions rather organically – whether it’s the case or not, it comes across as planned out, which is definitely preferred. As with the layout hiccups, juggling more complex parts of this narrative still elude Hajime, fitfully employing flashbacks, but again, it’s done so much more smoothly than before.