Attack on Titan vol. 8 – Hajime Isayama

5 out of 5

The hunt for the female titan.

I remember my first big “twist” when watching the Attack on Titan anime, and how impressed I was at this unexpected direction for the story. That the show managed to succeed that beat with others of similar impact, while deepening the overall lore and its philosophical underpinnings, earned my absolute appreciation, and fandom.

Reading the source manga has been interesting. Initially, I was crediting the show with improving on the material, but as I’ve continued with it, and have seen how writer / artist Hajime Isayama began to improve in leaps and bounds from volume to volume, I can recognize that the show had the ability to incorporate these lessons-learned in to the first few arcs. So yes, the anime improved upon the manga, but perhaps only because the manga improved upon itself first.

And volume 8 finds Isayama in masterful form, offering up the same level of intensity and surprise, even though I now know what plot elements are forthcoming. Characters are fully represented here, dipping in to some fascinating commentaries on life and values, leagues beyond the more one-dimensional bleating found early on, and Hajime has a way of adding mystery and depth to the Titan history without it seeming like Lost-like baiting; by proving that some earlier murkier elements were seeded in for payoff, it gives a reader more faith in letting newly added stuff linger.

The pacing – cutting between flashbacks and action and political intrigue – is tightened up perfectly, and every setting feels like it take place within a realized space. I was content being obsessed with the anime and considering the manga lesser-than, but now… I’m afaid (i.e. overjoyed) that I’ll be getting obsessed with the manga as well.