The differences between the two top minds of the Survey Corps could not be made more clear in this month’s opening scene of Attack on Titan. Hanji’s panicked sense of urgency next to Erwin’s unflappable demeanor creates an almost comical dichotomy, but goes a long way to show just how collected and calculated the commander is.
What follows the opening scene is, unfortunately, a problem endemic to many monthly titles. To be sure, the information Hanji reveals is absolutely important. The fact that titans have the capacity to absorb the abilities of other titans, specifically those of other titan shifters, it seems, adds a dimension to the titans that has loads of potential. It also adds some sorely needed context to the other titan-shifters’ fixation with Eren. This kind of information is the most valuable, from a narrative standpoint as it sheds light not only on the past, but foreshadows coming chapters by addressing the current events. However, in a bleak, dark story like Attack on Titan, pacing is vital, and doubly so for monthly releases. Even when the knowledge gained is important and interesting, spending nearly a quarter of the chapter revealing it without any kind of break is exhausting to read.
Luckily, there is some payoff. Hanji taking over the Survey Corps as commander should be intriguing. Hanji has already proven to be an effective leader. While Erwin may still be superior strategically in the long term, Hanji’s ability to predict what effect all this new information will have on current strategy should prove useful to the Survey Corps moving forward.
Armin, Mikasa, Jean, and Connie’s discussion over the future of the Survey Corps highlights one important detail which has been building slowly: the real threats are other people. Between the unclear intentions of the government and the royal family, the secrets behind the oath-swearing wall cultists, and the easily manipulated Military Police, titans might be the least of their problems.
The appearance of this chapter’s namesake, Kenny the Ripper, proves this point rather quickly. Wielding an interesting pair of what appear to be gas-powered guns, Kenny’s dispatching of Levi’s three accomplices delivers a much needed dose of action into the chapter. The only downside to his confrontation with Levi is the fact that it has to come just as the chapter concludes. Levi’s unmatched strength in combat has felt too convenient at times. The introduction of a character who appears at least as lethally competent as Levi and who is in direct opposition to him is a welcome addition to the story. Their as of yet unspecified relationship is promising as well. At the very least, it somewhat makes up for the creeping pace of the start of the chapter and makes the wait for the next more worthwhile.
Final Flash: A slow beginning and middle plagues this month’s installment, but the chapter does deliver important and interesting information, while its ending picks up the pace with an intriguing confrontation between two deadly characters.