After being killed by the doll-bomb in the original manga series, Alita is resurrected by Desty Nova. The Tipharean scientist reconstructs her brain—bringing forth fragments of her past—and gives her a new body that is able to fully utilize her incredible strength. As she awakens, Alita finds herself in a devastated Tiphares, where a battle between Tiphareans with brain-chips and those without is raging. At the same time, the automatic security system goes on a rampage, killing anything that moves. Last Order takes Alita's adventures into outer space, as she encounters old associates and meets new faces—both friend and foe—and begins to piece together memories of her past.
Gunnm: Last Order was published in English as Battle Angel Alita: Last Order by Viz Media from July 23, 2003 to October 11, 2011. Kodansha Comics USA published the volumes 16-19 from December 4, 2012 to September 9, 2014 due to a change of publishers on the Japanese edition (Shueisha to Kodansha). The series was entirely republished by Kodansha as a five-volume omnibus edition from March 26, 2013 to December 9, 2014.
NOTE BEFORE READING: This is a review of Gunnm: Last Order, thus it takes into account that you have already read the first series.
The highly anticipated sequel to the unbelievably fantastic original series of Gunnm. This sequel is fairly controversial due to it's change of pace and narrative to the original story, however, I still feel this is an outstanding addition to the universe.
The first thing you will notice is the art style change. Gally looks different than she did before. Yes, she has bigger lips and nose but her original design, while memorable and sexy, was more like a perfect doll than anything
else, I felt she looked more realistic in Last Order. Her body also becomes more muscular which shows a more significant change from her original slim self into a badass fighter.
The rest of the designs are great too... for the most part. There is less detail in the background and character faces but the eccentric designs are what make up for it. While the original series had a rustic, gritty feel to it. Things are a lot cleaner and smoother which goes along better with the new setting.
Some robot and creature designs are very odd though. I won't give anything away but there are some questionable choices that are difficult to take seriously.
The series starts off and the first thing you'll notice is that it completely nullifies the ending of the original. Starting off from where Gally was exploded by Nova's bomb.
Another thing you will notice is that Last Order is less on the subtle side of narratives like the original and more on the world building and philosophical side of narratives where there is more dialogue and explanations going around.
This by no means is bad, though it can be a bit jarring going from the originals style to Last Order's style. I understand why they chose this type of narrative. The scale of this series is far higher than that of the original series. They go into space and distant planets for crying out loud. Loads of new cultures are introduced, new worlds, new fighting styles. Things need to be explained in order for it to feel believable. It would be almost impossible to keep things as subtle and laid back as the original series. Never the less, it's still heavily dialogue driven so I can understand others not being able to get passed that.
The story is split between 2 sides, the action side of things which is mostly filled by Sechs who is on a journey to find what it means to be a warrior and the philosophical/sci-fi side which is mostly filled by Gally on her quest for enlightenment and self-discovery.
The series does a good job of explaining almost everything in the series, from how the scrapyard was formed to why Gally feels the way she does about fighting. Though, it doesn't explain EVERYTHING, mostly giving hints to certain parts that will likely be expanded upon in the sequel to this series, "Mars Chronicle". While the explaining can be a bit tiresome at times, all it does is add depth to the series and makes it more believable and that much more realistic.
There are a few things I didn't quite like about the story though. Some of the fighting styles were a bit too over the top and goofy to take seriously and while the fighting is still pretty badass, it often revolves around characters yelling out their attack names, which feels more fighting shounen-esque rather than seinen. With that said though, the fights still have loads of variety and excitement.
The ending is also not so conclusive, mostly because it's not so much an ending to the series so much as an ending to this arc. It works fine but it will leave you desiring more. Luckily there is a sequel being written.
The characters, like the original, are very well done. Every single important characters gets an interesting backdrop that helps you to sympathize with them more, even the supposed "bad guys". There are often times that a character is introduced as a horrible human being but is later revealed to have justifiable or at least plausible reasons for doing what they do. It helps make the conflicts feel less black and white and I was impressed with it.
I won't give too much away about Gally but there is a new angle to her in this part. It goes into her past more and we get to see why she is so drawn to fighting and why she likes to fight so much. We get to see her go through a lot of human emotions as well as question her own humanity as she goes on a journey of self-discovery of sorts but I won't go too far into it at risk of spoiling anything.
The rest of the characters in the story all serve their purposes fine and in many cases are properly fleshed out and developed. There are a lot of interesting side stories, whether it be Sechs' quest to find the true meaning of being a warrior or a post-apocalyptic vampire story which shows the cruelty of humanity. They never felt like they were interrupting the story to me though because they were always used to properly flesh out the characters and help build the world or further the plot in some way.
There are the occasional characters that, despite the excellent characterization the series tended to have, feel either a bit too silly or a bit too evil to be believable. They are very rare though and didn't take away from my enjoyment but I can understand others having a problem with them.
While it's true there are things in each segment that bugged me, whether it be the occasional silly design, the narration being a bit too dull or a character here or there being too unbelievable, I had a lot of fun with this series. I found it very interesting with likable characters, some fun action, some great artwork and took everything from the original series and upped it in some way even if it feels it didn't always work out.
I recommend this to fans of the original series, provided they can get passed the different kind of narrative it goes for.
Be sure to check out the sequel "Mars Chronicle" as well for more Battle Angel Alita goodness.
Sequels are a very tricky business in general. When following up an excellent work, it becomes very difficult to top, with a further instalment. Following up a master work like Battle Angel Alita, one of the greatest sci fi stories ever told, would require an insurmountable amount of talent. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, that level of talent was not present, in Last Order, the follow up.
Last Order retcons the ending of BAA, and renders the events of the last 130 pages, redundant. Many would argue that the original ending was weak, and we needed more closure. I am not one of them, but I digress.
story begins with Alita waking up in a lab, in the floating city of Tiphares. Much time had passed, since she had seemingly died. Events have changed, and Alita is once again trust into battles of survival, and the protection of others. Her main goal throughout the series, is to search for her missing friend, Lou. But while this forms the crux of the plot, events spiral out in all directions, and the story goes off on a heap of tangents.
While the original story kept things restrained, and featured a far more down to Earth setting(mostly literally), the sequel takes Alita on a trip deep into space, where a whole host of OTT craziness occurs. Events start off very compelling, and some interesting new characters are introduced, that Alita both befriends and makes enemies of. Often both. It’s clear early on, that there’s more of a focus on battles this time around, and exposition heavy ones at that. Battles have always played a big part in the series, but here, they take centre stage. This isn’t so problematic at first. The battles are entertaining, and the characters are more than enough to carry events for a while. After about the halfway point, however, events start to lose focus, and the tight pacing and compact storyline of the original, is pretty much abandoned.
It’s around this point that we are presented with a backstory involving one of the newly introduced characters. It’s a story involving vampires. While some supernatural elements did previously feature, the introduction of vampires is a very big stretch. The backstory does nevertheless manage to be quite compelling, and the protagonist of it is one of the best in the manga. It does however, break the momentum of the plot and feels out of place. The mangaka clearly wanted to take a break from the main story, but it would have been best if he released these chapters as a separate manga entirely.
After this the focus is shifted back to Alita once more. Except…. that’s not entirely true. Alita is in fact, relegated to a supporting character for most of the manga, while others steal the limelight. It does help that most of the characters are very engaging, including her male bodied clone. In fact I’d go as to say that there’s not a single wasted character in the story. They are multidimensional and complex. Little has changed here, since its predecessor. But this doesn’t excuse the very poor story structure and terrible pacing. It saves the manga, but it doesn’t excuse the problems.
Most of the entire second half, is devoted to a fighting tournament. The manga pretty much becomes a battle shounen, with drawn out fights and copious amounts of exposition. The excellent themes that the original explored, are occasionally still present, but mostly drowned out by battles, and long winded speeches about “sci fi karate” and more uninteresting philosophies.
Another problem is that there is more of an element of “magic” to the battles. I mean that in the sense that characters manage to get out of dire situation too easily and too frequently. They may return to life or produce really overpowered attacks, seemingly out of nowhere. There is some explanations given for this, but they are not particularly good ones, and it doesn’t change the fact that death is being cheapened. This was never a problem in Battle Angel Alita. Battles would always remain very tense, and Alita herself felt much more vulnerable. She’s very OP for a lot of Last Order. While Alita, remains one of my favourite characters in all manga and anime, she didn’t really grow through the events of Last Order at all. She suffers several identify crises. This was stuff was already explored in the original, and she had supposedly moved past it.
Things pick up again in the last few chapters, as events become more grounded again, and we are introduced to some old characters. There is no conclusive ending however, and the story continues in *another* follow up manga, called Mars Chronicle. The fact that all these chapters continue to be produced, because fans weren’t happy with the original ending, is quite amusing in a sense.
In spite of its problems, Last Order is still a solid manga and certainly not any worse than most battle shounen manga. But the original was so much more.
I was genuinely interested in BAA:LO after the....interesting read-through of its predecessor. This was mainly because I heard that LO was better in terms of story, character, art, action, etc. etc. However, does it /really/ live up to the hype I was fed? Read on to find out.
[Story - 3]
I should probably begin by touching on That Retcon: Yeah, this story basically edits out like the last chapter or so of the original story because it wouldn't exist otherwise. While I am still critical of how rushed the original ending was, I was glad that some of the concepts (Ketheres the Space City, Figure Four
looking for Alita) carried over into Last Order.
However, I'm not sure if I feel good about such elements carrying over into a story like this. To be more specific, I don't know if this should have been a Battle Angel Alita story because it just.....does not read like it. Between the painfully-stereotypical shonen tropes seeping in (tournament arc, Powah Of Friendship, hyperfocus on martial arts) and extremely poor pacing (the tournament arc literally makes up 2/3 of the 124 chapters), I'm curious as to why the story shifted into this tone. Whether it was done to attract new readers or the mangaka genuinely thought this was good is unknown, but I sure as hell don't like it. I know I was a bit prude regarding the original's story, but compared to this, it's the freaking Iliad.
I don't really remember any Actual Themes being a thing besides stuff about 'destiny' and 'space karate', so that's not even worth commenting on. There are way too many characters as well, to the point that I genuinely enjoyed a side character's backstory arc way more than the main story. The focus shifts around a lot as a result; While I don't necessarily mind huge casts, I DO mind huge casts being present without proper handling.
[Art - 7]
The art's pretty solid, thankfully. For one, it's a lot cleaner and fluid than its predecessor. Even in large-scale action pieces (which are abundant this time around), you can tell exactly how so-and-so is striking so-and-so with a charged-up limb and whatnot. This is especially helpful when the team battles start up, since there are so many people involved naturally.
Another aspect worth commenting on is character design. While I'm miffed about how many characters there are, and how poorly they're written, at least they all have distinctive designs. Whether it's the various robot combatants in the tournament, their 'pit crew', the space council, or whoever else, you can tell exactly who is who. This pairs up nicely with the art being cleaner than before, since you get to truly appreciate their looks.
But of course, not everything is perfect (perhaps even less so). The background/setting art isn't abysmal in its quality, but it's not exactly up to the task in terms of being interesting to look at + giving proper context. I don’t mind ‘sketchy’ artstyles, but the way it’s used here doesn’t help: there are a few scenes where it works and gives a more ‘cerebral’ feeling to the manga (namely the ‘cyberspace’ region a select few can access). However, it’s mostly just really confusing to look at, ESPECIALLY during action.
[Character - 6]
Since the plotting and pacing are messy at best, I was hoping that the characterization would pick up some of the slack left by those two. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite the case - there are a few stand-out characters + arcs, but it’s mostly just the mangaka trying to inject character into what amounts to rejects for Ultraman action figure rejects.
However, I feel like it says a lot about the writing when I like the side characters more than the actual main cast. Caerula Sanguis isn’t even in ⅓ of the actual story, but the few chapters dedicated to her backstory + her interactions with Alita were far more captivating than the brutally drawn-out tournament arc. There is a genuine anguish and melancholy to it, unlike the rather bland But-Muh-Karate antics from most of the other characters. Aga Mbadi/Trinidad is a compelling antagonist, and follows a (debatable) rule of solid writing: ‘a good villain believes that they’re the hero.’ His heart is truly one borne from the purity of his upstanding morality of the past, but it is ultimately aimed in the wrong direction because Plot. Jim Roscoe is a minor antagonist at best, but god DAMN was he a tragic villain.
This amount of gushing cannot be said for the main cast, as hinted at before. Alita has certainly grown a bit since the preceding manga, but she’s mostly the same bratty ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ character for no legitimate reason. Her counterparts aren’t any better: Sechs is at the forefront of most of the good action, but his personality is just too ‘tsundere’ for his own good. The twins aren’t even worth discussing, so let’s move on to the rest; Nova never changes in his characterization, so the whole ‘mad scientist’ schtick gets old after a while if it hasn’t already, Zazie’s a stereotypical Good Soldier, Toji is a karate-chopping waste of panel space because of how much of a broken record he sounds like, and Zekka is trying way too hard to be cool but just looks like a complete prick. I could go on, but it would be a waste of our time.
[Enjoyment/Overall - 5]
I’m frankly a bit disappointed with LO, but this isn’t the absolute worst thing I’ve read. There are worse titles out there for sure, and it’s not like the bad completely outweighs the good. It just hurts to see something with a lot of potential get squandered like this. I would recommend this if you liked the action and artwork in BAA, but not if you either liked or disliked the characterization, plot, and pacing; It just drops off from here, and will hopefully be beaten out by BAA: Mars Chronicle.
Hopefully you've read the original series before you read my review!
As far as a sequel goes, this wasn't my favorite. It's good, but I enjoyed Gunnm a lot only to be somewhat let down by this. A lot of those characters that you enjoyed in Gunnm are really no where to be found, replaced by characters that just didn't grab me as much. The story kind of drags in my opinion and that's probably why my enjoyment isn't as high with Last Order. Alita doesn't occupy as much as the spotlight, instead we have volumes dedicated to the past and other supporting character which just
isn't as interesting to me.
Also, Kodansha if you read this, please publish this as a Hardcover with all the volumes included! The original series looked great in Hardcover, it was disappointing going from that to the omnibus paperback format.