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.