Attack on Titan vol. 9 – Hajime Isayama

3 out of 5

In the wake of Annie’s capture, some members of the Survey Corps are sequestered in the city’s outskirts, when a cluster of Titans are spotted. Volume 9 essentially tracks the various splinters of this group as they separate to both investigate where it’s suspected Titans may have broken through the wall, and to also go warn the nearest outposts. The rating is a bit misleading: there’s a lot of killer storytelling here, with Isayama doubling down on crazy mysteries on top of the recent discoveries regarding the wall’s construction, and some interesting – if a bit clunky – background on Sasha. This sits alongside several tense and exciting action pieces, with the mangaka’s artistry at a peak of clarity and effective storytelling.

However, the aforementioned clunkiness – popping up in Sasha’s story when trying to transition her character from brash yokel to a well-spoken survey member leans a little too heavily on stereotyping the former to contrast the latter – carries over to some of the structural elements, which has Isayama confusingly jumping around in the timeline (“X hours after the Titans were discovered” is how he steps through the story, but it’s not linearly used) for indiscernible reasons. And I have to believe I can’t be the only one that’s never been satisfied with how the geography of the human settlement has been lain out in the series – like, I get it, but I’ve never been able to cleanly visualize it – and as a big part of this volume’s chapters concern relegating people to distinct areas, that dissatisfaction lingers.

Hajime has almost fully “fixed” the way he bounces between characters, though – personalities feel distinct; dialogue naturalistic – and so I suspect these other storytelling aspects will sharpen up as well.