Last chapter saw the Survey Corps make their long awaited return to Shiganshina. This month, they launched the mission to reseal the hole and retake Wall Maria for humanity. With two thirds of the Titan Trio and the unknown shifter lying in wait for them, the expedition won’t end as soon as the wall is fixed…
Upon arrival, Eren sets out immediately to reclaim the district, using his newly developed hardening power to close the broken gate and keep the titans out. With some effort, he manages it, marking a success for the Corps. But realising that it wouldn’t be permanent unless they find Bertolt and Reiner; the rest of the soldiers form search parties to hunt them down. Erwin puts Armin in charge, who orders the others to search inside the walls. They find Reiner, and Levi makes his move, only to find that he wasn’t able to kill him. Reiner shifts into the Armoured Titan, and Eren looks on, seething with rage. After his transformation, the other titans appear, including the ape-like form of the mystery shifter. The Beast Titan destroys the exit to Wall Rose, trapping the Survey Corps in, intending to massacre them. It’s time for a fight to the death.
With any manga that is released monthly instead of once a week, sometimes it can be difficult for the audience to feel like the story flows well enough. Because weekly releases have fewer pages more regularly, the information is distributed more evenly across chapters and is easier to keep track of. Occasionally, with monthly releases, it can overload the reader with new content, and it’s harder to process it all and notice all the details. It’s easy to either go too fast or too slow. Even though Shingeki no Kyojin has felt a bit drawn out recently, the last couple of chapters have quickened the pace considerably.
Almost too quickly.
It was unexpected that the Survey Corps would reach Shiganshina in one chapter. It was unexpected that less than 7 pages into the next chapter, Eren would be able to seal the hole in Wall Maria. Maybe it’s because his hardening power was developed behind the scenes, or maybe it’s because the drama wasn’t built up enough, leaving it feeling kind of anti-climactic. I had an expectation that the wall would be sealed at the end of chapter 74, after Eren had overcome some complications, but it almost seemed like it was too easy.
But as I had predicted, it was way too fast for Reiner to die. As one of the main antagonists, it wouldn’t do his character justice to kill him in a sneak attack, let alone by a character who’s had minimal contact with him. He either deserves a proper send off or a well-executed redemption arc. Given that this is SnK, the former is more likely. So when the time comes, I believe that it’d be up to Eren to do it. Eren knows that Reiner is the Armored Titan. He knows that it was his fault that Shiganshina was invaded over five years ago. He knows that he is the reason he no longer has a mother. Eren has been seeking revenge for half a decade, wanting to kill the Titans who stole his life from him. And his arc will not be complete unless he is put in a position where he can do that. He saw the Armored Titan this chapter, back in Shiganshina where it all began.
If there’s any time to kill Reiner, it’d be over the next few chapters, but whether Isayama would allow Eren to have closure, or say that murder wouldn’t be the right way to achieve it, is yet to be seen. Eren has changed the way he sees Titans multiple times over the series, but would sparing the Armored Titan’s life be too far of a stretch?
Something that has surprised me over the last few chapters, is just how invested I’ve become in Erwin Smith’s character arc. As someone who has been largely indifferent towards the commander for the majority of the series, it’s definitely great to see a different side to him. It’s been so much easier to feel emotions towards him now that he doesn’t come across as perfect and infallible. In the past, Shingeki no Kyojin has seen Eren discovering that his heroes aren’t what he’d imagined, particularly in the case of Levi. But Erwin has been the voice of reason in the Survey Corps, handling everything thrown at him best he could.
But perfection is boring, and it’s hard to feel empathy for someone who doesn’t seem to do much wrong, because it’s not relatable. So seeing him adjust (or not) to losing his arm, makes him feel so much more human. He has his weaknesses, and one of those is his belief in himself. Erwin has lost confidence, seeing himself more as Titan food than a valuable asset to the Corps. Even at Levi’s insistence that he’d break his legs rather than let him go on a suicide mission, it’s clear that he still has doubts.
Thankfully, he’s taken a step back this chapter. Rather than risking his life unnecessarily, he’s put Armin in the commander seat. Erwin sees his potential, and his strategic genius has been emphasised multiple times across the series. It is one of his greatest strengths, along with his loyalty and idealism. A chance for him to fully use this potential has been a long time coming, but in true Armin style, he doesn’t take this for granted. He isn’t used to having a position of authority. He’s been an underdog his entire life. Even in the Shiganshina Trio, he is often overshadowed by Eren and Mikasa, leading to many people underestimating his talent. So once he finally gets that power, he is extremely humble about it – so much so, that Erwin has to remind the Survey Corps that Armin is the acting commander and to respect that. I have no doubt that Armin will become more assertive with practice but the question is whether he’ll forget where he came from.
The developing relationship between the two was extremely enjoyable, particularly when Erwin was defending Armin and proving that he believed in his ability to lead. But this enjoyment was short lived after the realisation that the sudden promotion was possibly Erwin training his replacement for when he dies. He doesn’t believe that he has long left to live, with the combination of his inability to properly use the 3D Maneuver Gear, and the high risk environment of his line of work. To have someone compentent enough, ready to take over if the worst does happen is the safety blanket that he needs to reassure him.
Overall, the pacing of the chapter could have been slower, with more time to build up the sealing of the wall, but there was still time for some excellent character development, giving Armin a chance to shine. How Eren will react in the chapters to come will be interesting, and if he does end up killing Reiner, it’d tie up his revenge arc in quite a poetic way – coming to end exactly where it started.
Just this morning, an interview with Isayama about his inspiration and confidence across the series was posted on the BBC News website. Click on the image below to check it out.