The trap is sprung, and now the Survey Corps must fight for their lives as they attempt to retake Wall Maria.
The Survey Corps have rode forth to Shiganshina to seal the hole in Wall Maria created five years ago when the titans first broke through. Eren attempts to seal the hole in the wall when a trap set up the Titans is partially foiled by Armin’s quick thinking, but after Levi narrowly misses killing Reiner the Armored Titan finally makes its appearance to fight Eren. A desperate battle begins as the Beast Titan and his minions appear on the horizon, and Eren finally squares off against Reiner again face to face as Erwin tries to desperately to keep them all alive.
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How Was It?
After a slower volume which functioned as the calm before the storm, the action arrives in this volume as the battle between the Survey Corps and the titans begins in earnest. Anyone reading this series purely for its fight scenes will find plenty to like here because we are treated to several major action sequences as this confrontation between. I really enjoyed the wall that Isayama-sensei minimized the amount of text during these sequences in order to focus purely on the movements of these combatants, and during the fight between Eren and Reiner we get a number of great spreads showing the scale of these two titans fighting. Much like in previous fight scenes, heavy linework is used notably to emphasize the sheer strength of the combatants, and we definitely see the impact of the punches, kicks, and throws as the two duke it out. This series hasn’t had a good, old-fashioned brawl in quite a number of volumes, and I think that the head-to-head combat here really emphasized the personal nature of this fight now that we more fully know the motivations of the opposing side.
I really enjoyed the sense of grand scale the beginning of this battle took on because of the lengthy set-up in terms of exploring the emotions of these characters on its eve in the preceding chapters. We see characters such as Connie and Sasha recoiling at the thought of killing their former comrades, and what I thought made the overall battle work well was the way it drew upon the emotional baggage this series has developed over the last couple arcs. Similarly, Erwin’s thought process was highlighted during the battle by scenes showing him mentally grappling with his guilt over the orders being given out, and this gave an extra bit of dramatic depth to the events going on as members of the Corps are killed. A notable scene shows Erwin standing on a hill of dead bodies to represent his guilt, and while this isn’t exactly the most original bit of symbolism I thought this was a rare instance where it actually worked because of the sheer number of times in this series that Erwin has given orders directly leading to on-screen deaths of his soldiers. I think this scene did a good job showing the tension between his feeling of guilt and his insatiable fascination with knowing the truth about the titans, and this built strongly upon the questions raised in previous volumes about his leadership.
While the emotional stakes of our protagonists are incorporated quite well into this chapter, this volume also presents a flashback chapter from the perspective of Reiner and Bertolt which flashes back to their time in the military. This was interesting because it brought explored an incident that hadn’t been highlighted in the series for quite a while in order to help shed some light on their perspective. I’m not sure that this hit the mark all that well because Reiner’s thought process during the chapter seemed to vary wildly, making it difficult to see what we were supposed to take away from this chapter. It was a little unclear if this chapter was included to make us either hate or feel more sympathetic for Reiner and Bertolt as antagonists, and hopefully this will be explored more as the series proceeds. However, this chapter was well-placed in terms of showing to some degree their though process during the overall fight.
The final leg of this volume returns to the present as Bertolt arrives on the scene, and this leads to another cool action sequence as he takes on the Survey Corps by himself. The overarching battle itself her took a particularly interesting turn because this was the first time we’ve been able to really see two battle plans, one by Erwin, the other by the Beast Titan, competing against each other in a tangible way, and it was neat to see the consequences of the various moves being made. This was made more powerful by cuts to the individuals actually participating in the battles, and I liked the way this balanced the larger-scale macro view of the battle with the more personal perspectives of these characters.
Attack on Titan Vol. 19 is an action packed beginning to what promises to be a bombastic and emotionally fraught battle. The battle between Eren and Reiner was especially cool to watch as it unfolded because of the emotional stakes involved, and I think what this volume did really well as play into the personal side of the battle between these characters. While this volume does land all the emotional beats as cleanly as it could have, on the whole it should definitely please anyone who has been hankering for the action to begin again in earnest between the titans and humans.
Attack on Titan Vol. 19 was translated by Ko Ransom and published by Kodansha Comics USA on August 2nd, 2016. Authored by Hajime Isayama, the series is currently ongoing in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine with 20 volumes currently released in Japan. The series also received a two-cour anime adaption in 2013 by WIT Studio with a second season on the way in late 2016. Volume 20 will be published in English on December 5th, 2016 in a regular edition and special edition.
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