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Manga In Minutes: Attack on Titan, Vols. 2 + 3

Attack on Titan, Vol. 3Attack on Titan, Vols. 2 + 3
Created by Hajime Isayama
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (16 +)

Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan continues to bring it’s own unique blend of action and horror to the page in these two volumes. Human civilization teeters on the brink of extinction as the attack of the Titans which began in the first volume continues. Following the first volume’s shocking ending, Mikasa and Armin find themselves coping with with the loss of a friend as they attempt to slow the Titans rampage within the city, but when a mysterious new Titan appears and begins to attack the other Titans will this be the weapon they need to turn the tide, or is it simply an abnormal Titan who will turn on them as quickly as it did on the other Titans?

While I’m still enjoying the series I must admit that my enthusiasm was slightly dampened by these two volumes. There’s plenty of twists and turns story wise, more intriguing world building, and a nice flashback to a hugely influential moment in the lives of Mikasa and Eren, but the Titan’s attack on the city feels like it’s happening at a snails pace. In addition, despite spending quite a bit of time on exploring the relationship and friendship between Mikasa, Eren and Armin, none of the trio feel terribly compelling or interesting at this point. Right now they’re all one note characters, the sullen determined one, the smart cowardly one, the driven and brash one, etc. This lack of personality is simply compounded by the fact that everyone seems to speak in the same voice. At times I had the feeling that you could rearrange the dialogue so just about anyone said anything and it wouldn’t seem terribly shocking or out of character.

Visually the book continues to suffer when there aren’t fight scenes filling up the page. By the third volume it’s pretty clear that Hajime Isayama’s strong point is in conveying motion, intensity and impact when it comes to these action sequences. They’re easily the highlight of the series and there’s a fantastic sense of speed, momentum and even desperation as the various human defenders zip around on their grapple lines. Sadly, it’s also fairly clear that his weak point is in depicting the quieter moments, as those are often full of awkward poses, limbs at slightly odd angles and more. The character designs continue to suffer from the fact that nearly everyone is in their late teens, early twenties, wearing the exact same clothes and with similar hair cuts. It’s undoubtedly because most of the cast we’ve seen so far are in the military, but it from a readers perspective this uniformity of appearance works against attempts to differentiate the characters from one another. Bizarrely enough, some of Hajime Isayama’s weaknesses turn out to be virtues when it comes to the depiction of the Titans. Their disturbingly human faces are often off set by strangely proportioned limbs, oversized jaws, far more teeth than a human would have and more. It gives them a deeply unsettling feel, as do the looks of seemingly child like bliss that they often wear as they’re devouring their prey alive. In addition, the action scenes and facial expressions that the characters wear do a fantastic job at expressing the horror and trauma that these young kids are facing on the battlefield.

Despite the noticeable flaws, Attack on Titan is still a fairly enjoyable read that comes with some of the most intense and dynamic action sequences I’ve seen in a long time. The world building and the mysteries Isayama’s setting up are intriguing and interesting, but the characters lack of personality makes it difficult to care about them when the drama all unfolds. Hopefully with time this will change, but right now it occupies the same place as fun but forgettable movies. It entertains, but it probably won’t stick with you for the long run.

Attack on Titan, Vols. 2 + 3 are available from Kodansha Comics.

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