*Please note that since writing this article a new series, Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicles, has been released and is currently still running. It continues the story of Alita as well as exploring her mysterious origins. Please check out the links below for reviews on those as they are released in English. Also, I have added my review of the Alita: Battle Angel film in the links*
... and so it ends. After 24 long, loooooong years Battle Angel Alita is finally over. So how does feel to finally reach the end of this epic series? Well let’s start from the beginning...
The first series is a masterful piece of work which is an essential sci-fi read. The story tells the dark tale of Alita, a young cyborg girl who is discovered broken but with her brain intact by Dr Daisuke Ido. Ido is delighted with his find and takes Alita to his home and repairs her. Over time there develops a father-daughter bond but Alita has amnesia and is unhappy as she wants to find out more about her mysterious past. Over time she learns that she knows the powerful 'Panzer Kurst' fighting technique and enters the Motorball Tournament, a Running Man/ Rollerball style gauntlet filled with cyborgs and other hideous mechanical marvels.
Over the course of the first 4 graphic novels Alita enters and becomes the champion of Motorball. The other 5 graphic novels see Alita try to live a ‘normal’ civilian life but life has other plans and there are plots to overthrow the floating city and bring equity to the Scrapyard… all pretty heady stuff! In my opinion, the original series peaks with the fifth graphic novel, Angel of Redemption, but the rest of the series is still very high quality. The finale, Angel's Ascension, is a stunning conclusion to Yukito Kishiro's gritty cyberpunk masterpiece. In the end Alita finally discovers the ghastly secret of Tiphares, saves the floating city and the Scrapyard from destruction and finds love.
When I first read the series I loved the ending and thought that Kishiro had tied up the series wonderfully.
Then it was announced that the series would continue as Kishiro felt that the story wasn't finished yet. In a redux Last Order continued from Volume 9 of Battle Angel Alita, but diverged from the original ending. It ignored the transformation of Ketheres into a nanotechnological space flower, Alita's subsequent transformation into a flesh-and-blood human girl and her reunion with Figure, her love. Instead it takes place after Alita is killed by a doll bomb in the final volume of Battle Angel Alita.
Battle Angel Alita: Last Order begins when Alita is resurrected by mad scientist Desty Nova's nanotechnology in the floating city of Tiphares. The city's dark secrets are brutally exposed, but it turns out to be a small part of a complex world. Going into space with new and old companions alike to look for her lost friend Lou Collins and to find out more about her forgotten past, Alita is caught up in an interplanetary struggle between the major powers of the colonized solar system. Along the way, she forms an alliance with three of the Alita Replicas who have now begun to think for themselves, an unsavory superhacker, and Nova himself when she enters the Zenith of Things Tournament (Z.O.T.T.), a fighting competition held every ten years. During the course of the story, more background about the setting of Battle Angel Alita that was not disclosed in the prior series is revealed, such as how the Earth emerged from a cataclysmic impact winter that wiped out most of the population.
In principle this all sounds great, more of the same and then some but the story was extremely slow moving and the fighting so excessive that it actually ground the plot to a complete halt several times and over multiple volumes of the graphic novels. Many of the volumes were a chore to wade through as we were introduced to new characters and then told overly long back stories that no-one was really interested in.
By the end of the 19 run series it seemed as though Last Order was a pale shadow of the original run. I started reading Battle Angel Alita in the early 90's and as it lurched to a close over 24 years later I kind of felt relieved. I wish Battle Angel Alita had ended with the original run as it would have remained one of the best and unique graphic novel series of all time. As it is, ignore Last Order but definitely read the first 9 graphic novels.