Last month’s chapter saw the election of Historia Reiss, a.k.a. Krista Lenz, as the true ruler of the walls. Given her birthright and her success in killing Rod Reiss’ titan form, she was accepted as queen easily. Two months later, and she remains the figurehead of the government, which is now run by the Survey Corps.
Historia spends the majority of her time looking after the underprivileged children, including those of the underground district, having allowed them to live above ground in orphanages she’d established. This made her very popular, making her name as the “Goddess of Cattlemen”. Meanwhile, Eren is undergoing hardening training so he is able to seal the gate in Shiganshina, retake the outer wall, and finally find whatever secrets are hidden in the basement. New recruits have been enlisted in the army, fresh-faced and full of optimism from the advancements humanity has made. Hanji has developed new methods of defeating Titans, without having to rely on 3D Maneuvre Gear, and Connie is planning on returning to his village to see if there’s any way of changing his mother back into a human.
While we didn’t see as much of Historia’s ruling style as I’d hoped, with a time-skip avoiding the immediate aftermath of her coronation, what we were shown makes a lot of sense. As a child neglected by her parents for the majority of her life, and girl who was very newly orphaned, making sure that the children of her kingdom do not feel abandoned like she did would definitely be a priority for her. The concept of making a better life for the next generation is a common theme across many different anime and manga; a key example being Naruto’s Will of Fire. In encouraging the younger generations and giving them hope, she is effectively securing future support and a better reputation, and god knows that hope for the future is needed within the walls. Historia’s character development over the last few months has been fantastic. From a false goddess to the Goddess of Cattlemen, she has overcome her past and doesn’t need to hide behind a façade anymore.
But she still has weaknesses.
Eren brings up Bertolt and Reiner, saying that if they ever come back he would kill them. Historia’s face falls, and you can tell that while she’s still upset about being betrayed by the Titan Shifters, she’s thinking of Ymir. While Eren isn’t likely to kill her too, she’s wondering when she will come back, if at all. It’s been approximately three months since they said goodbye, so definitely not long enough to let her first friend go. Now that everything is peaceful for the time being, the three of them coming back for Annie might shake things up a bit and give us a long awaited YumiKuri reunion.
However, there is still a chance for another member of the Survey Corps to become a Shifter, as the authorities have trusted them with Rod Reiss’ serum. Erwin leaves it in the care of Levi, citing the fact that losing his arm makes him ‘broken’ and not fit to be responsible for it. However, if Levi selects Erwin to be injected in the future, his arm may very well grow back like Eren’s did. Across the last few chapters, we’ve seen him physically adapt to his impairment and he may not need to get a replacement. It would be quite interesting if we saw him mentally adapting too, and accepting himself as whole. Also, there is the potential that Levi may end up injecting himself, and how the serum reacts with the Ackerman bloodline is unknown as their minds are unable to be controlled by the Will of the First King. The result could be a Titan Shifter with a much clearer mind and able to exercise more self-restraint. However, if Mikasa was the one to be injected, this could create an even stronger variant as she possesses both the Ackerman and Asian bloodlines.
Also, Eren’s titan form is becoming more powerful, with his hardening ability improving quickly. But his human body is wearing thin, as the constant training is taking its toll on him. Fatigue, dizziness, and coughing up blood are proof that both he and the Survey Corps are pushing his body to the limits, and Hanji advises that it’s not a good idea to carry on at their current rate because there’s no guarantee that he will regenerate forever. While his role as protagonist gives him some degree of security, it doesn’t mean that Isayama will keep him alive for the whole series, even if he didn’t kill him off a few months back like a lot of fans predicted. This is especially true as they do have the serum to create a replacement Titan Shifter if needed.
However, he is still vital to the plot, as he holds memories from the First King, the Reiss family and Grisha Jaeger, passed down through devouring their predecessor. Eren, in trying to uncover some of these memories, sees a familiar face. He decides to find Keith Shardis, believing that their old drill sergeant knows something about his father and the titans. Given that his backstory hasn’t been explored yet, it is logical that Isayama goes back to develop existing characters rather than introducing too many new ones.
However, quite a few new recruits were added this chapter. After so many died in the titan assault on Trost and the expedition beyond the wall, the Survey Corps needed new members. And now that they’re back in favour with the public after their victory against Rod, they have lots to choose from. These soldiers are as idealistic as Eren was in the beginning, fully believing that mankind will destroy the titans and retake the outer wall. And like the superior officers to Eren’s cohort, the original characters know that the situation is a lot more complicated. The new recruits notice that something isn’t right, asking: “the look in your eyes, what happened?” They can’t explain that the titans are human too, and they definitely can’t explain that they had to murder actual people in the process. Back in the beginning of the series, they may have been proud of killing so many titans, but now they know the truth, it’s not an achievement anymore. Like when Team Levi returned from beyond the wall and Eren was reminded of his own admiration for the Survey Corps, the new soldiers could serve as a reminder of the people they used to be; young, naive and yet to lose their innocence.
As experienced soldiers, they now have blood on their hands.
Although we do have these new characters, hopefully the focus will still be on the originals. Considering the amount of panels dedicated to Connie Springer this chapter, it looks like he will be getting a lot more development. There may be answers as to how the Lagaco village population lost their humanity, and in turn there may be a way to rescue those who have been turned into titans, like Connie’s mother. The further implications of this are huge, as instead of killing titans, they could be returned to their original state and eventually outnumber them, giving mankind a better chance of reclaiming the world, and being free to explore beyond the walls. But, there’s the age old question: what came first, the titan or the human? Are titans humans changed into monsters, or are the humans the real monsters?
A key to finding this out is Ymir. Because she lived as a titan for sixty years before taking on her human form, she has an understanding of the titan mind more than any other. As Eren recalls from talking to her, she told him that for the best part of a century she was“inside a never-ending nightmare”, living without her humanity. This causes Eren to hypothesise that all titans are just humans trapped inside a nightmare with no way to escape. This is where Eren’s character development shines, as he has gone from a genocidal child, hell-bent on revenge against all titankind, to almost an adult and empathising with them. His change in viewpoint is much-needed as it stops him from hating his very existence. While it may take him a while to overcome his suicidal tendencies and low self-esteem, seeing the titans as human will help him reclaim his own humanity and feel less guilty for not eradicating them.
However, he does still want to exact his revenge on the Colossal and Armored Titans, namely Bertolt and Reiner. This is understandable, as without them, the attack on Shiganshina would not have happened and he would still have a whole family. It would be unreasonable for Eren to completely drop the goal that has motivated him for the last five years, but at least his rage is centred on a target. Both Bertolt and Reiner are shown at the end of this chapter, and they’re not alone. With the reappearance of the Beast Titan, his human form is revealed as a brand new character, who says that Annie’s rescue is less important than acquiring Eren’s power to control titans, implying that their intentions are hostile and they want to gather an army. This new man seems like a formidable enemy, as he is stronger than the Colossal Titan and can defeat it easily. Plus, we already know that his titan form can verbalise orders for other titans and communicate with humans. Either by coming for Annie, or for Eren, it still means that they will try to breach Wall Rose. It’s not known whether Ymir is still with them as she wasn’t shown, but it’s very likely that she will join the expedition back to the inner walls if she is.
A storm is definitely brewing and Historia’s newly established peace won’t last long. At least there’s a month’s hiatus before everything goes wrong.