Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 28th 2013
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order
The ZOTT tournament's final between the Space Angels and the Space Karate Forces comes to a head as each of the individual face-offs is definitively resolved and Alita struggles to decide what her new outfit will look like. A surprise guest appearance shakes things up as two last, brief battles must be fought to decide the overall outcome, but that guest appearance so shakes Mbadi to his core that he orders the fateful use of the Sword of Damocles. For Alita and everyone else in the Onion, Tiphares, and the Scrap Yard, completing the ZOTT and claiming the promised prize becomes less a matter of winning and more a matter of survival. But the newcomer and Alita may have just a bit to say about that.
Volume 16 of Yukito Kishiro's epic sci fi action series suffered because it merely continued battles without resolving much, though in retrospect one of the face-offs constituting the ZOTT final was essentially decided there. That is definitely not the case with volume 17, which covers chapters 100-105. While plot lines that have been percolating since Alita and crew ascended to Ketheres back in volume 3 (and some considerations which run even older than that) are now, finally, coming to a climax, it also almost seems as if Kishiro is trying to make up for accomplishing so little in the previous couple of volumes, as more of great significance happens here than in probably any other single volume in the franchise.
Of course, the featured events are still the completion of all three main fights, and each one comes with further displays of ridiculous skill moves and creative manipulations of technology and physics. In that respect the battles are classic Kishiro execution, full of well-detailed explosions, smooth movement lines, inventive staging, and plenty of body parts getting sliced, diced, and/or exploded. As grand as all those outcomes are, they are matched by the battle between the newcomer (who has been mentioned in previous volumes, so his appearance is not a total surprise) and one of the survivors of the individual bouts, which is just another example of Kishiro's unrivaled ability to mix technology and martial arts and still give it some degree of credibility. And while it is tempting to say that Kishiro is going completely overboard with how the matter concerning the firing of the Sword of Damocles is handled and defended against, he does have his title heroine currently running around with a “wormhole core” that draws power from Jupiter in her, has recently had one character generate a plasma tornado, and has talked about karma-manipulating abilities before, so hey, what's so outlandish about a karate move that can generate a black hole or a character whose quantum state effectively renders him a ghost?
The ZOT tournament's resolution is not all that happens, either. Mbadi has essentially been the main villain ever since first appearing in volume 3, and his reckoning finally comes here, too; expect a couple of other guest appearances involved in that affair. The fallout of the Sword of Damocles incident also sets up a new challenge for Alita going forward, though it seems like more of a temporary crisis than a major upcoming plotline.
For all the serious stuff that transpires, the volume is not also without its light-hearted moments. Alita still goes into chibi form for a panel or two and/or fires off one-liners at irregular intervals, frets over her apparel at an inappropriate time, and resolves one of the bonus fights in a comically unexpected way that is nonetheless very much true-to-character for her. One long-standing problem of hers is also removed in an amusingly simple fashion. The NG Theater feature returns with a four-page installment focused on the stealth soldier grunts who always get beat up by Alita and others.
Production on the English release of this volume is again courtesy of Kodansha Comics, which seems to be refining its publishing approach. The colorful but still non-glossy cover and gray spine remain, but the experiment last volume with retaining original sound effects with tiny translations was apparently just a one-shot deal, as this volume returns to fully replacing the sound effects with English translations. In addition to NG Theater, the end notes also include a page of translation notes on issues that require more explanation than can be done in the margins and a two-page layout detailing the equipment used by the stealth soldiers seen at various points in the series.
With volume 17, The Last Order reaches a major turning point. Yes, the last chapter ends with one big task still awaiting Alita, but once that is resolved where will the series go next, now that the impetus which has been pushing it along for much of the series is gone? There are still a couple of loose threads out there to be dealt with (the mysterious Panzer Kurst user on Mars, for instance), so it should be interesting to see what Kishiro comes up with next.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Major plot lines get resolved in dramatic fashion; more cool, hyper-graphic action.
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