I got a notification from MangaPanda that the Attack on Titan spin-off, Before the Fall, had updated. It looks like an entire tankōban worth went up, but it starts here, at chapter 11.
I’m not sure why I continue to keep up with Attack on Titan and its various spin-offs (except Attack on Titan: Junior High, which I own the first volume of, but bounced out hard somewhere in the very first chapter.)
I’m burned out. Reiner’s beheading pretty much did me in, but I was disappointed long before that. Moreover, I’ve kind of given up on ever finding out really important plot bits like what’s in Eren’s basement or what the Shifters want (or even how the f*ck they got in the wall).
At this point, I’m hanging on to the train wreck for the scenery, as it were.
Kind of literally.
For instance, while reading Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, I found myself pondering a question that has always intrigued me, which is: where/when the heck does this story even take place?
I mean, it looks likes Europe, right? But, is it just some alternate fantasy Europe, or is it one of those stories where it’s the past of our future, if you will–where the fall of our civilization is their ancient past and their pastoral society is actually built up over the ruins of some future natural/economic/plague disaster of ours. I’ll admit I’d been rooting for the latter.
So, I got kind excited that we might be getting hints of that option in the latest chapters of Before the Fall. Our heroes, Kulko (“The Titan Child”) and Cardina Baumeister (random yaoi extra–seriously look at the guy) are taken by “The Living Legend” Jorge Pikale to “Industrial City” which looks like this:
And, I thought, oh, okay, THIS IS INTERESTING.
This is well beyond the technology level we’ve seen so far. It looks, in point of fact, fairly modern. It’s supposed to be a metal refinery–in charge of smelting and refining something called “iron bamboo”–the material that the 3-D maneuver gear and blades used by the Survey Corps is made of.
And I thought, okay, “iron bamboo” sign me up, this sounds like science fiction. This sounds like a kind of metallurgy of the future–where you get some cool new alloy that’s somehow got the qualities of both bamboo and iron.
Then we see the workshop that belongs to the Foreman and there’s stuff that looks like automatons and other robotic stuff, right?
I’m starting to think, oh, okay, maybe this is supposed to be some alternate steam age Europe and that’s fine. I’m a little disappointed, but still liking all these gears and gewgaws, because the plot is really a whole lot of nothing new.
In fact, part of my mind is searching panels for clues as to other anachronisms, while the other part is trying not to roll its eyes over that fact that I can’t even believe HOW MANY TIMES we have to sit through the ‘oh, crap, Titans are immortal except for that one weak point’ “discoveries.”
I mean, I get it. This isn’t official property so the mangaka can’t really show us anything NEW new. We just get re-tread of the old familiar ground with new characters. But, I was still hoping that maybe we’d gets some subtle world-building with this industrial town thing, when we finally get to this:
Turns out, iron bamboo is not metaphorical. It’s a thing. Bamboo made of iron, with some kind of Bad Science ™ explanation that involves the bamboo sucking iron ore up from the ground.
I kind of almost quit right there. But, then I decided I’d hold out hope that our heroes are actually on some terraformed version of Titan (yeah, no, I know its an icy moon. I KNOW they should see Saturn in the sky. Just give me this, okay? I HAVE SO LITTLE ELSE).
But, so yeah, I read all the way through. What can I tell you about the plot? It’s, um, it’s a pretty decent shoujo story, I guess. Sharle and Kuklo’s romance is fairly adorable and clearly the main plot. We’ve even got a villain, Xavi Inocenio, who is plotting to tear his sister from the arms of her erstwhile lover. That’s really the tension in the story.
I mean, there’s some other bits about the inventor of the 3-D maneuver gear, who looks so much like a grown-up Armin…
…to the point that I suspect we will somehow learn that Armin comes from a long line of geniuses, and that Angel (pictured above) is his forefather. (Which is also boring, by the way. I hate this whole hereditary thing they’ve got going in this universe. No one gets to be anything on their own, they all have to have some kind of fated heredity/royal blood/specialness.) But, other than that, the only other potentially interesting thing for SnK fans is that there may be some milage in the riding-crop wielding head of the Military Police (will someone PLEASE explain why their logo involves a unicorn??!), in that we may get a little history of why that particular division is so corrupt (though so far that just seems to be a given more than anything else).
So, I don’t know. I mean, I read it. I read the whole thing. But I kind of don’t know why I did.