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.
The first thing I noticed about Last Order was the change in art style. What used to be heavily stylized character designs became very boring and unoriginal. I really want to stress this because the first Battle Angel, despite some mediocre art in the beginning of the series, still managed to look freakin' awesome! The art style is kind of retained for the first volume, but it changes fast and unexpectedly. Suddenly Alita looks like she has a horse face and frog lips, and so does pretty much everyone else who looks human. They offset this by having significantly more robots and cyborgs that don't
look like people at all, except these designs are messed up too. Somewhere along the line they must have ran out of ideas for robots because some of the new designs are absolutely hideous. In the roller ball arc of the original Battle Angel Alita, there is ONE character who looks stupid, and he happens to be a joke character.
Let me lay out some the new designs:
1. A huge monkey bot that shots lasers out of its even bigger penis
2. A shrimp bot (like the shellfish)
3. The Thing rip-off
4. A bot inside a bot inside a bot inside a bot
And this is only a taste of the ridiculous designs. So the only thing that really keeps the art score up is that it at least looks good, but that's about it.
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order starts by throwing the crappy ending of the original right out the window. This is a very good thing, as the original ending was rushed and didn't make any sense at all. The sequel picks up a couple chapters before the original ending. However, Last Order quickly falls prey to the "gotta explain everything" disease. Battle Angel Alita was great because it put all its focus into the characters and the action. Last Order is like reading a Wikipedia entry about the history of the Battle Angel universe. Okay, yes, there is action and poor attempts at philosophy stuff in Last Order, but it is all ruined by interruptions from boring flashbacks of people we don't care about. All the mystery to the setting was ruined as soon as they started trying to explain everything.
Then at least the characters ACT the same right? Wrong. You see, for some reason Alita forgot how much of a complete bad ass she used to be. Remember when she loved battle because it made her feel alive? That girl is dead now. So now she asks stupid cliche questions to herself like "Why am I fighting?" Umm, hello!!! Its because you LOVE to fight.
And then Alita grows a tail.
Arghhh, I feel so let down by Last Order. Battle Angel Alita was brilliant at conveying drama with little talking and little inner monologue, but Last Order is exactly the opposite: WORDS WORDS WORDS. Everyone also has a "special" attack now which they shout out like in every shonen ever (the penis monkey's is the libido cannon by the way). So what ever happened to just punching the brains out of people? I dunno, because that never happens anymore. A punch will happen, then the punched guy will take a page to talk about how this has changed him as a person. SERIOUSLY?
Fans of Battle Angel Alita, read it, because I guess its worth what little feel of the original it kept. Just don't be disappointed when Last Order turns out to be vastly inferior to the original.
Many anime and manga follow old formulae and often wonder a predictable path, but Battle Angel refuses to fall fowl of cliches and does its best to plough its own furrow. The Last Order series of novels typifies this trend by taking the reader not just out of this world, but into the very essence of existence itself. It even turns the playing field into a character in its own right while still giving the audience a semblance of normality in the form of a useful supporting cast and overwhelming monsters to fight in a straight forward struggle of good versus evil.
What we have
been left with is an ongoing story that works on a multitude of levels. The series will appeal from those into action adventures to ones intrigued by spirituallity and the human mind. This is a series that, along with the preceeding series of Battle Angel Alita novels must take pride and place in all manga collections thanks to its unique twist and portrayal of the heros journey as well as for daring to be different.