It’s time for another Attack on Titan novel! After that last one, I prepared myself for just about anything. This one splits into two very short stories which end up equaling a novel that is still 100 pages shorter than the last one. As such, it goes by fairly quick. On the other hand, it doesn’t stop the first story from severely holding the whole thing back for basically the same negatives as the last novel. Lets dive right in!
The first story is about Mikasa and how she first met Eren. It turns out that Eren was a lot meaner and more unlikable than we all remembered. Mikasa had been pretty bored at the time and only got to spend time with her parents on rainy days. One day, her doctor showed up and brought his kid along. Eren didn’t like to play with dolls and immediately started helping Mikasa break rules that she had never questioned. The two get to be friends, but Mikasa is always worried that one day Eren is going to go too far and anger the wrong people. This could end up being a fatal mistake.
At least Mikasa is a likable heroine here. She helped out around the house when her mother got sick and was always courteous to those around her. She stood up for Eren when he was getting bullied and didn’t give up even after he kept ditching her. Whether that was the right move or not if another story. Mikasa ultimately did grow up to be a very likable character as well as one of the best fighters in the series so she’s certainly never strayed from that path.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Eren. He could be a likable main character at times in the anime although he ultimately dropped off quite a lot in the manga. In this book Eren is not even close to being a good character. He starts off very quiet and reserved and comes across as just very aggressive and mean whenever he talks to Mikasa. He compares her to a Chicken multiple times and even predicts that she will one day be destroyed. He picks fights with just about everyone and gets beaten up multiple times. Even though Mikasa is the one who helps him out of these situations, he refuses to visit her and spends all day hanging out with his new friend Armin. The way that Eren handled the situation was terrible. Whenever he appeared, you knew that Mikasa was going to feel sad again since that’s what Eren does best.
This series continues to enjoy upping the grittyness factor as much as it can and this story is riddled with it. For starters, a grown up beats up Eren for many, many pages. Keep in mind that Eren is only 9 years at the time and the beat down is very brutal and descriptive. It just keeps going on and on and on. This isn’t even the only time that Eren is beaten as a group of kids also took him out. It’s a scene that we really didn’t need in the volume, but it’s meant to show how corrupt the world is. Nobody is going to stop these guys and by the time the heroes investigate, the criminals are already dead via car crash.
There’s also a random magician who tries to get Mikasa to murder him and succeeds, but the twist is that it was a trick knife. The point of it was to show that ultimately anyone can be corrupted and convinced to murder someone. Before that, a mob ended up beating up Mikasa a bit by mistake as she was shoved to the ground and hit a few times. I believe that one aspect of the series which continues to bring these situations up is the overall locale. The slums are shown to be in extremely poor condition with people doing their business in the streets and the place just being in shambles. It makes for a lot of unnecessary details that don’t help the book, but just remind you of what a tough world the place is. Eren and the others will never get too much peace because they are defying the system. A bunch of people will die to the Titans and the other humans. It makes for a very somber piece.
Mikasa’s story was basically just a tale of grit and how you can’t trust anyone with the actual plot being on the backburner. The other story was about Annie which took place the day before she attempted to kidnap Eren. She needed her roommate to explain that she could not make it the next day but in exchange Annie was told to try and locate a missing person. The case is 10 days old with nobody actually looking so Annie would have a tough challenge ahead of her. Luckily, she is fairly determined and does have some time to burn.
This story was a considerable improvement over the last one. I’m always up for a good mystery. Some lingering elements of the Titan writing style remain as the areas continue to be described as being excruciatingly bad and it seems like everyone is either a drunk or a criminal in this world. Nonetheless, there is less time for grit and less opportunity for it since Annie does have her Titan powers and regenerative capabilities so she is never in any real danger. It really is handy to have powers like that right?
The end of the case may not be the most satisfying, but there were a sufficient amount of twists along the way and it was an interesting one. I liked how the rich father of the missing girl was actually smart for a change and was good at telling if someone was lying or not. It may not have helped him much in this scenario, but at least he wasn’t just oblivious to the whole thing. I’m a little skeptical about Annie transforming into Titan mode to take out the villains though. It’s not a question of whether it was necessary or not, but I feel like someone would notice even if the place was fairly deserted. It’s hard to miss the explosion and the light blast that hits the Titan to start the transformation right? I definitely wouldn’t mind a novel adaption of the actual mission to get Eren from Annie’s point of view. She’s a fun main character and has always been an interesting villain. Learning more about her background could help solve some mysteries in the long run.
There is a bit of an epilogue where Mikasa and Annie meet each other. I’m guessing it relates to the actual TV special/OVA content. It’s always cool to see veiled threats being hurled at each other and then the novel ends with Mikasa striking Annie down. Those two were certainly good rivals and if Annie ever breaks out of the ice that she’s in, I wouldn’t be too surprised if she ended up joining the heroes. It would make sense in a way as she was never too committed to the villains and seems like someone who could make a turnaround.
Overall, This novel had two very contrasting stories. On one hand, the first story was pretty terrible and had just about everything that’s wrong with the franchise as a whole. The second half was good and is certainly one of the better attack on Titan products, but still doesn’t exactly fall into great territory. Respectively, the first story would probably score a 2 while the second would get a 6. If we go halfway, then that’s around a 4 although the halves aren’t necessarily weighed equally. It’s like how a negative review always seems to hurt more than a positive one helps an item. In this case that’s the score that the novel gets though. I’d just advise to skip the Mikasa story when you get the volume and just read the Annie one. It’s still worth a purchase even if the book is a little small in that case. Alternately, buy the first Before The Fall novel. That one’s a solid story and easily had the least amount of grit from the Titan novels. I’m finally reading the last two part adventure for now and then the Titan novel marathon will be over. It was a good run even if the scores started to fade out. At least it’s always interesting to read, whether for good or bad.