Eren has learned the horrifying truth behind how he acquired his Titan powers. Escaping the caverns with their lives thanks to his intervention, the Survey Corps race to save Orvud District.

Barely saving the Survey Corps thanks to his split-second decision to harden his Titan body, Eren has finally learned the truth about his powers. With Historia in tow, the Survey Corps chases frantically after Rod Reiss, who has turned into a massive crawling Titan on a collision course with Orvud District. Regouping with Commander Erwin on top of Wall Sina, the Survey Corps leverage their remaining strength to prepare a last-ditch plan for defending the city. Meanwhile, Kenny Ackerman lies wounded after his battle in the caverns, reliving his family’s history before receiving a visitor.

Although there weren’t major revelations of the level that we’ve seen in the past couple of volumes, this volume was an effective and thoroughly enjoyable finale to this story arc. The first half of the volume follows the Survey Corps as they chase Rod Reiss’ Titan form down and attempt to stop him from breaching Wall Sina. The Survey Corps put another ingenious plan into action that was exciting to watch, and lent to some excellently drawn scenes. At this point in the series Isayama has mastered making the Survey Corps feel like an underdog in each fight, and this created an excitingly desperate tone that I continued to enjoy.

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A significant part of the story is also dedicated to finally exploring Kenny Ackerman’s backstory as he lays dying, revealing the nature of his connections both with Levi and the Reiss family. I enjoyed this extended look because of the interesting context it provided for the actions of Kenny’s squad a few volumes ago, and I thought that this segment did a great job painting an interesting picture of a deeply unsympathetic character. This wrapped up his role in the plot effectively and gave us a few more tantalizing bits about Levi’s past which were interesting to see.

Perhaps my favourite part of this volume was the characterization that it provided for Krista/Historia. I’ve never really been attached to Krista’s story-arc, but the events of this volume were the first to really sell me on her as a compelling character. This was thanks to the distinct sense of growth demonstrated as she took up arms with her comrades against Rod Reiss, and this was contextualized nicely by showing her inner conflict in several key moments. I enjoyed how clearly the conflict between her perceived responsibility to her family and her loyalty to her friends illustrated her struggle to decide what type of person she wanted to be. This brought her character arc full-circle, punctuating her growth from a weak to a more self-assured person while also having a visible effect on Eren as he witnessed this change and reflected on their similarities. The culmination of this struggle was exciting and felt wholly earned because of how done this part of Krista’s character-arc was, providing an exciting finale to the Survey Corps’ struggle.

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Although Krista gets the most significant character development in this volume, towards its end the volume takes a wonderful moment to cement how far the rest of the cast has come over the course of the series. While awaiting their next orders, Eren and the rest of the Survey Corps take time to recuperate but slowly each realize how much their fight with the Titans has changed them. This is illustrated poignantly in a scene where the gang eat a meal with peppy new recruits who are excited at the prospect of humanity finally making progress against the Titans. This was reminiscent of the enthusiasm that Eren and the others once showed earlier in the series, and their sombre expressions in the present are a vivid reminder of how far removed they are from that state of mind.

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This point is driven home when a new recruit notices the dead looks in their eyes and wonders loudly what happened to them before thinking better of the question. I thought that this scene in particular was masterfully done, providing an excellent moment of reflection for how much these characters have grown and changed as they move forward and brought the story full-circle in quite an emotionally affective way. This change is also reflected in the way these characters are drawn, as each of them are drawn with significantly more shadow, making their rapid aging even more apparent. The story ends on a more hopeful note as it finally appears that a decisive move against the Titans is incoming. After all of the in-fighting that has taken place over these past volumes, I’m excited at the prospect of the plot moving solidly again and can’t wait to see the outcome.

Attack on Titan Vol 17 is a compelling and fitting conclusion to the Survey Corps struggle against the Reiss family as well as the broader political struggle for control of the throne. While not quite as action packed as some of the previous volumes, the highlight was the excellent character development for both Krista as well as the rest of the cast. In both looking to the past as well as looking to the future, this volume is a very satisfying read that will be sure to please those following the series.

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What do our scores mean?

Note on the Special Edition:

Kodansha Comics USA released this volume in both a regular edition as well as a special edition package which is the same as the content in the Japanese special edition released for this volume. The main draw of this package is an exclusive episode of the Attack on Titan anime series called “Ilse’s Notebook”.

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This episode takes place just before Wall Rose is breached while Eren, Mikasa and Armin are cadets, and follows the Survey Corps as they venture outside the wall. Hange Zoe is determined to capture a Titan alive on this expedition despite having her requests repeatedly denied by Erwin. After an encounter with a Titan, Hange finds a notebook left behind from a previous expedition. The episode was thoroughly enjoyable, and fans of the series (especially Hange fans!) will definitely find a lot of value here because of the interesting questions it raises about the origins of the Titans. The animation is of the same superb quality of the home video releases of the Attack on Titan anime series, so fans who enjoyed the anime should definitely check this out.

Here is a shot of what comes in the box:

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Attack on Titan Vol. 17 was translated by Ko Ransom and published by Kodansha Comics USA on December 15th, 2015. Authored by Hajime Isayama, the series is currently ongoing in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine with 18 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 18 will be published in English on April 4th, 2016 in a regular edition and special edition.

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