Attack on Titan vol. 6 – Hajime Isayama

5 out of 5

Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan is, despite its sense of constant danger, a manga of decompression. Battles with titans tend to take place over entire tankobons, moments stretched out by flashbacks, and the downbeats – conversations between storms – follow a similar pace. As things have progressed, not only has Isayama’s general artistic composition and confidence gotten stronger – sketchy lines a stylistic choice and not just a shaky hand – but the writing has also improved, with characters becoming recognizable outside of just different hair styles. Volume 6 is the best yet on both these fronts – action is followable, and intense, and well-paced; the dialogue has actual information and merit – but also adds another layer of competence regarding the flashbacks. Whereas before, a lot of this just seemed kind of like backstory, with Isayama locked in to the flashback structure for delivery, here it feels like the right choice: scenes stack up on one another very satisfyingly, the past directly impacting the present, and the stretches between the befores and afters are smartly measured to maintain a page-flipping sense of momentum.

And in terms of decompression: this is essentially 200 pages of chasing / being chased by the abnormal female titan. But it’s gripping for all of those 200 pages, each thudding footfall and grisly bit of violence hitting with full impact.