Meet Snev, a hapless motorballer nicknamed the "Crash King." Ever since a traumatic accident on the racetrack, Snev has been running on the edge of sanity. Only his best friend, a beautiful prostitute, still believes in him. Then, when Snev discovers his employers' ulterior motives for keeping him on the motorball circuit, he must muster the courage to confront both them and his inner demons!
Haisha was published in English as Ashen Victor, or Motorball Diaries From The World Of Battle Angel Alita by VIZ Media, first as part of VIZ Select Comics for a total of four issues in 1997, then collected in tankoubon format on January 31, 1999.
Yukito Kishiro was forced to end Battle Angel Alita prematurely in 1994 due to personal issues. However, he returned to his manga universe a year later with Ashen Victor; a short piece chronicling the exploits of Snev, the so called 'Crash King' of Motorball, the series' deadly extreme sport.
The story - 134 pages in length - is sufficiently developed, but could have been constructed more efficiently. The plot relies on a lot of coincidences, and I feel there was more room to explore Snev's psyche, along with the Scrapyard setting and Snev's place within it. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable read and a lovely little detour
away from Alita's story, though the lack of detailed Motorball sequences is disappointing.
The characters, when compared to Kishiro's other work, are fairly simplistic. There are no interesting cyborgs or devious villains, and the Motorball players barely differ from one another. Snev - a deeply flawed character with extreme inner demons to conquer, who looks like an electrified version of Blame's Killy - is rightfully the most interesting. What is shown of his back-story is absorbing, but I wish the character had been offered a little more depth.
The artwork is fine for the most part, but a significant drop in quality compared to Battle Angel Alita. Certain character designs are very shallow and the most threatening villain is incredibly underplayed. The action sequences are short and rather uneventful, the backgrounds are at times non-existent and there are also scenes where certain characters are silhouetted for seemingly no reason. Kishiro is a talented artist, but Ashen Victor - bar four or five pages - seems like it wasn't given his best attention.
All in all, Ashen Victor is an enjoyable companion piece to Kishrio's flagship series, though with a couple of notable flaws. It's a nice look into the escapades of other characters living in the Scrapyard - whose lives are unaffected by Alita - which conveys a short-lived, but complete and satisfactory plot. The lapses in quality, however, leave a lot to be desired and I can't help but feel the manga - short as it is - could have been so much more.