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Battle Angel Alita: Last Order October 21, 2013

Posted by ayasawada in Manga.
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Last Order cover

I recently started reading Last OrderYukito Kishiro‘s follow up/continuation of Battle Angel Alita (Gunmm), now conveniently available in big volume omnibus editions from Kodansha. Four volumes (or two omnibus editions) in and it’s a cracking read, though a bit different from the original.

In 2001, six years after illness forced an early finish for Alita, Kishiro returned to undo and reimagine Alita’s fate, promising answers to the many unanswered questions in that universe. I of course loved that original and haven’t got much more to say beyond that post. But what’s interesting to me is the way that the series has changed, from an epic, sprawling seinen manga to something a bit more shonen, albeit still with those philosophical, intellectual and emotional elements of seinen mixed in. Where the original felt something like a series of OAVs, every arc different and a step toward something new (or a new stage in Alita’s evolution), Last Order, at least thus far, feels like an ongoing series of fights, of characters on a series of quests. There was always something of that element to the original of course, but somehow the changes in terrain mixed it up a little more, adding to that sense of disorientation and ponderance as Alita wandered the lands.

The change isn’t necessarily bad – I’m only at the beginning of Last Order after all. And with 18 volumes and counting, Last Order has already doubled the length of its predecessor, necessitating perhaps the kind of long-running plots that keep manga like Naruto and Bleach selling big. Kishiro has no doubt changed a lot too, if only from recovering his health, and it’s interesting to speculate how this new outlook (if he has one) has changed how Alita’s world goes. There’s also the change in location to factor in – from the wastelands of Earth to the fabled city of Tiphares, then up to space. And of course there are those unanswered questions. We’re learning more and more about who Alita was those hundreds of years ago before the scrapyard, where Panzer Kunst comes from, who controls this new-age society and why it is the way it is. In many ways it’s both a typical and brilliantly imaginative view of a post-apocalyptic society (or not so apocalyptic for those in the elite – not to spoil it too much…).

One thing that hasn’t changed is Kishiro’s remarkable attention to detail, whether in his stunning artwork, footnotes or character background. His ideas and knowledge really add to your immersion in this world. This plus the compulsion to find out those answers, particularly Alita’s identity, as well as her reason to live, are what drives both the reader and Alita on. Let’s see where this goes, but for now this manga comes highly recommended.

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