Yes I’ll be incorporating manga into these posts. This year’s given me a lot to say this medium in particular.
For those of you who’ve been paying attention to my posts here over the past year (and if you haven’t, fine, I haven’t been terribly active here for the past year anyway) you probably saw this list of mine that flaunts my favorite manga titles ever. Up high on it is Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita, something that managed to be a complex, yet a tight, entertaining storyline all it’s own. Sure some folks (including the author himself) weren’t happy with how the final chapters played out, but found the resolution to be an appropriately heartwarming send-off and left satisfied until deciding earlier this year to check out the sequel that retcons said ending. Reason why I did so was to see how Kishiro could develop this setting and cast even more over the course of 19 volumes. The results left me feeling rather crestfallen.
The problems start with the titular character here. The character arc Alita received in he 1st series was impeccable. She gave both an air of incredible badassery whilst retaining her more tender characteristics. She undergoes periods of innocence and insecurity for sure, but it didn’t feel unnatural at the time. In Last Order (especially in the earlier volumes), Alita’s confidence in herself and her cause is dealt blow after blow by random existential crises. The question of “why do I fight?” is fine for an action series to use a couple of times, but in Last Order it feels overblown and repetitive after a while.
There’s plenty of other major things that miffed me in Last Order, the worst aspects being some of the dialogue and the pacing in the middle of the story. Though the staging/art of the actual fight scenes themselves is A+ tier stuff, the emphasis on overexplaining every technique with high highfalutin scientific jargon causes them to drag significantly at points. No battle is complete without including a full wikipedia entry on whatever obscure scientific concept that allows one character to plow his fist through another’s skull at supersonic speeds.The exposition outside of battle is rather unwieldy too. Since most of the series takes place in the middle of one huge tournament (more on that in a bit), there isn’t much opportunities for good world building. Last Order sometime likes to get around this by occasionally dropping entire pages to explain the inter-planetary political climate instead of making and then leaps back into the story. The original Battle Angel Alita knew where it’s explanations and didn’t over-indulge in the minutiae nearly as much as this sequel does. Of course part of the reason why this might be the case was because the BAA vanilla didn’t have nearly as much to juggle. Even so, having a tightly constructed story and well paced storyline beats out expansive, convoluted and unevenly paced ones any day.
What I mean by all of this isn’t that Last Order is a bad series. It has it’s share of highlights. The back-story of the vampire lady in particularly, while unnecessarily long, was still a great story on its own. The series still has very memorable antagonists in both Desty Nova and Aga Mbadi. Also, while a lot of fights are long winded and/or pointless, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still damn well drawn and choreographed . Nothing here manage to outright kill my enjoyment of the manga as a whole, but here’s hoping that Mars Chronicles puts in a more consistent effort.
PS: If a TV version of this was to be made, I’d totally be OK with it just keeping the original ending. Maybe just tweak it a little so it feels less rushed or something.