Battle Angel Alita ended – sort of – on an interesting note. Due to health issues, the mangaka, Yukito Kishiro, somewhat rushed the manga’s conclusion, quickly moving the story into the floating city of Zalem, before blitzing through the city coping with the revelation that everyone in the city has computer brains – and Alita ultimately ending up in control of the city. The sequel, Last Order, starts there, before going into an oddly different direction.
The first chunk of the series starts out with Alita getting yet another cybernetic body upgrade as she gets her body rebuilt after the last one was (sort of) blown up by Desty Nova towards the end of the original series – before moving into Alita dealing with the aftermath of Nova having revealed the truth to the citizens of Zalem, and with Alita desperately trying to make her way through the city in order to find Lou – much as the original end of the manga.
Then things get weird, as the first half of the series wraps with Alita heading up to the orbital part of the space elevator, only to get caught in an extended tournament arc while trying to get to the computer core, and having an extended flashback as to how the Space Elevator system, the computer at its top, and Junk City came to be.
The problem is that these three plot threads start to stumble all over each other. Alita projects a definite sense of urgency when it comes to finding Lou. The story does do a decent job at presenting why Alita is taking part in this tournament – it lets her get close enough to the computer so she can retrieve Lou’s memory data.
However, pacing wise, the scope of the tournament and the size of the fights kind of drags. The fighting is not only not Alita’s goal, it’s barely a means to an end. Compare that to tournament arcs in anime and manga like My Hero Academia and Dragon Ball Z. There the protagonist has a reason to take part and gets something out of winning.
What makes this frustrating is that it’s not hard to find reasons for Alita to take part in a tournament, and to give her the intent to fight – just have one of the other group of participants be practitioners of Panzer Kunst, and have them recognize Alita by her old name, Yoko. You now have someone in the tournament who can provide Alita information she wants about her backstory. We do run into a character who has some of that information, and indeed fits most of that description. However, that character is not met in the tournament.
And then the first half of the manga wraps up with an about 1-2 volume long flashback arc. The arc comes out of nowhere, and features a character that we’ve never seen before. It was jarring enough that I found myself wondering if I was reading the wrong manga for a second. That’s not a good thing for any work of fiction to do.
I am going to keep going, but I definitely feel the manga has been stumbling more as it goes on.
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