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Attack on Titan Junior High Vol. #03 Manga Review

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Attack on Titan: Junior High Vol. #3
Attack on Titan: Junior High Vol. #3

School festivals and student council elections, the bread and butter of Japanese teen everything.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Saki Nakagawa
Based on the work by: Hajime Isayama
Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan

What They Say
ROCKIN’ TITANS
Eren and the gang start a band, in the hopes of taking the school festival by storm! But they face unexpected opposition in the school’s mysterious idols, a trio known as No Name, not to mention the musical Titans! Then, Mikasa gets herself caught up in a high-stakes culinary battle, and two familiar figures from Levi’s past return to haunt him. Another 300 pages of bizarre, irresistible Titanic nonsense!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Everyone used to joke about token hot spring episode in almost every anime series… then the joke became old and tired as the cliché remained. However in modern times with the heavy shift to school settings I feel the school festival is almost as common, and without the excuse of being a fan-service vehicle. I have to wonder if Japanese schools are so regimented countrywide that the culture festival is as common as it’s portrayed. Here we are, at Attack on Titan Junior High’s school festival, and because this is a parody it does take a slightly skewed view of the festivities. The main conflict is almost more School of Rock than anime inspired.

It’s also the only point in the entire double-wide volume where we get titans. Which brings up a strange qualm I have with this series. When given free reign for extreme absurdity that is combining school life with titans this series often takes the more benign route. It’s simply not hitting the highs of weirdness you’d expect, and the ratio of absurdity to stock humor clichés is low. Outside the first main arc and last in this volume the events feel like they could be placed in any Japanese middle school comedy series. (The last story in this volume is a wall cleaning competition, which uses the setting appropriately.)

Where the series does hit consistently is portraying the exaggerated egos of the main cast and sticking with it. Nowhere is this shown better than when we focus in on Levi and his obsession with cleaning. This is a gag which is present in the original manga, oddly enough, so it was a no brainer to bring it over. There are also careful callbacks to gags set up in previous volumes which carry through in character moments and traits.

New characters are also making their way over from the main series, and because of the nature of the changed art and the lack of context I have a hard time placing them sometimes. I didn’t have a hard time placing Levi’s former sidekicks though, and it’s neat to see the parody bring in some of the spinoff characters to interact with the main cast in some capacity. The story introduces a second junior high, and a rivalry to go with it, to explain where all these other characters are coming from. Convenient, perhaps too convenient.

I’m not sure what’s to be said when the biggest laugh the volume got out of me was a short gag comic between chapters. Brevity is the soul of wit, or something, and so many of these situations are turning into long, drawn out dirges. Once again, this is a series best enjoyed in small doses. Powering through each of these hefty volumes lessens the impact. I find myself wondering just how much of the comedy is being rewritten, because there are many points where the art doesn’t seem to be very imaginative, and I think the original dialog must have been a chore to process and localize.

In Summary
While the school festival takes up the majority of the ongoing plot in this volume of Attack on Titan Junior High, the student council election and wall cleaning competition make up the bulk of the rest. These long story arcs start to drag the series down, which is at it’s best when the kids are tossed in to weird little character moments. At this point this series is starting to feel like a joke that long since wore out it’s welcome. The punchy English dialog tries to spice up the stock situations it’s wacky premise has been shoehorned into with mixed results. Sometimes the jokes land, sometimes they’re just a torrent of pop culture references. While only a few of the jokes are extremely time sensitive (waffle breakfast taco anyone?) the rest just add to the strange cultural mishmash that is going on here. Remember, these characters are of Germanic origin shoved into a Japanese school setting then translated back into English. The possibilities were endless to play off of, and yet it never comes up. Clearly the absurdity on the Japanese side just isn’t absurd enough. A comedy manga playing it too safe and not being absurd? That is a crime against nature.

Content Grade: C +
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A –

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
MSRP: $16.99

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