Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 20th 2013
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order
The ZOTT tournament has reached is apex, and action in the Finals is at full boil as the battles have firmed up into three one-on-one confrontations. In the Alita vs. Toji duel, Toji has gone into ultimate defense mode while Alita diligently bombards him with attacks in an effort to keep him trapped that way and locate a weak point. Outside interference just may end up playing a part in her transformation into yet another new form. Meanwhile, Rakan and Zazie perform their own spectacular give-and-take while Rakan reflects back on his past and Zekka and Sechs continue to go all-out in both their insult exchanges and one-upping each other with their battle moves and stunning reversals. All the while Mbadi watches and contemplates his options, while the inhabitants of Jupiter seek to reclaim what they lost that Alita took from them.
The finals of the ZOTT tournament is the culmination of most of this second manga series to date, so expecting it to be resolved in one – or even only two! – volumes is simply not reasonable, especially since there are no throwaway characters left. That being said, volume 16 does not accomplish much of anything. Although some interesting developments seem to be happening in a couple of the duels at the end of the volume, little real progress has been made towards resolving anything, making this pretty much a waste of the volume. Surely at least one of the three battles could have been resolved by now.
Of course, it isn't like nothing is happening here. Yukito Kishiro has no equal when it comes to staging lively, easy-to-follow sci fi action battles in manga, and he serves up yet another heaping load of absolutely ridiculous power uses and skill stunts while still somehow making all of it sound at least semi-plausible. Even the wackiest maneuvers that he portrays, and even the most bizarre stunts of his cyborg-based pseudo-martial arts, still usually have at least some fundamental basis in actual martial arts and/or science, and regular footnotes continue to keep readers up-to-date on the specifics. At this point, though, Kishiro has his readers so insensitized to such spectacles that these chapters have a same-ol', same-ol' feel, so feats like creating a plasma tornado as a defensive reaction simply do not impress as much as they sound like they should.
Kishiro also engages in some needless content here, which gives the rare (for him) feeling like he is just trying to fill up space. Honestly, does anyone really care what the background story is for the freakish Rakan, easily the most repulsive of all of the recurring characters over the last few volumes? And the revelation of how he ended up freakish is basic and stupid, too. Putting Alita through yet another existential crisis is just retreading old material as well, although mercifully this time it is kept brief. The same can also be said about yet another dose of “insight” from Nova X about Alita. On the upside, at least Alita's attitude is fully in play, both in the “I'm a bad-ass” sense and the more playfully childish sense. (“I'm sorry. For thinking you were an inferior copy and a parody robot and useless and lip service and a kids' meal and a dummy and a halfwit and a lamebrain, I apologize. The worst thing was keeping it to myself. I should have just said. . . I thought you were a wiener!”) The behavior of the Jovians is also a bit amusing.
Naturally, the visuals are as sharp as ever. One of the traits of Kishiro's work is how busy his panels are; only a handful throughout the six chapters included here have any significant percentage of dead space in them, as speed lines, explosion effects, and others visual gimmicks are almost always in play when detailed backgrounds are not required. Characters are all beautifully-drawn and richly-detailed and remain flawlessly on-model, too. Action scenes never lack for impressive energy depictions and easy-to-follow martial maneuvers, and Kishiro once again demonstrates an impressive sense of visual spectacle in revealing Alita's newest form.
As has been the norm for the series, the volume opens with a brief summary and character outline page. This is the first volume that has been released by Kodansha Comics rather than Viz Media, however, and that does result in some significant changes. The most readily noticeable ones are that the cover is no longer glossy and has a gray (rather than black) spine. Inside, though, is a bigger change: instead of the sound effects being translated – as has always been the case with the franchise – they are now mostly being retained with a tiny English translation somewhere nearby. This volume also lacks any NG Life Theater installments, though whether this is just for this volume or the sign of a new trend is unclear at this point.
While things may have changed about the production of the American release of the title, the storytelling remains constant. It is really just more of the same, which is both a Good Thing and a Bad Thing.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Art : A
+ Spectacular artistry and depiction of action scenes.
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