We’re still months away from Battel Angel Alita coming to American cinemas, but we’re nearing the end of the manga series’s excellent deluxe edition rerelease. Kodansha Comics has produced some of the finest hardcovers with these new releases in an extra-sized format that makes the action and violence all the more sweet.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Following her parting with Figure Four, Alita starts a new life as a TUNED agent with new powers. As she travels the desert, she’s reunited with Koyomi, meets the eccentric blind psychometrist, Kaos–and comes into contact at last with Den, terrifying leader of Barjack. What is Alita’s past, that Kaos claims to see? What is the purpose of the Barjack Rebellion, which spreads like wildfire?! As the cast expands, the “Barjack” arc reaches its most explosive point yet!
Why does this matter?
If you haven’t read my reviews of Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 you won’t know how original this series is volume to volume. From Alita learning how to fight, to becoming a Motorball champion, to turning into soldier, the story shifts and changes so you’ll never be bored. This latest volume begins to toll the war bells as an army plans to destroy Zalem forever.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This volume sets up new relationships between Alita and the random folks who wander the deserts while also putting to bed some relationships that the series was built on. It reads like Yukito Kishiro is preparing to close things out and reach an ending. That ending requires a climactic battle, of course, and it involves the rich upper class of Zalem. So far they’ve ruled over the Scrapyard folks with a sneer, but we have yet to see them for who they are. This volume doesn’t shed much light on them, but we do get to see a few more characters from that world and they’re total douchebags worth killing. One of the major relationships Alita fosters in this volume is with a Zalem citizen, which helps point out that they aren’t all so bad, and together they look out for each other.
The story continues to reveal cool futuristic tech via pop-out panels detailing what weapons do. It’s an element that was added in the last deluxe edition and it’s a welcome sight here. This volume also introduces a big sci-fi idea via a strange character named Kaos. He appears to play a large part in the narrative and serves as a conduit of sorts to the old world. By touching a CD, for instance, he can instantly recall the songs and play them himself. This also adds to the history of the series and seems to suggest this all takes place in the far future with the Scrapyard and Zalem built on top of the society of today.
The action continues to be a major element that Kishiro plays around with well. This time Alita goes head-on into battle fighting giant horse-legged villains, brandishing giant canons powered by lasers shot down from satellites, and she must even fight herself. The ultimate foil in so many stories always seems to be a mirror version of a hero and that trope is used quite well here. It also helps set up a danger in the next volume. The detail of these battles is excellent and Kishiro doesn’t skimp when choreographing a scene or showing off the scenery. There’s also a rather cool-looking one-wheeled motorcycle that is used quite a bit throughout the book.
This volume doesn’t explore Alita’s past like other volumes, but it does bring her narrative closer to the eventual conflict between Zalem and the Scrapyard. The last few pages delve into Alita’s willpower being an element nobody can replicate, and as the story progresses we learn her opinion of Zalem and what should be done with it. She’s still an outsider looking in and at this point, after all the fighting, she just wants some peace.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The series has always been a visual-first story, though it could use a little more character work to hold your interest in its main character. As it is Alita has pinballed around fighting new threats and overcoming all odds but she hasn’t changed much. Her assertiveness is a character trait that has kept her alive, but it’s also a flaw in the series since she never reflects and instead reacts to the other characters. It’s an action-adventure story though, so this is expected on some level.
Is it good?
This volume contains great visuals and a sci-fi sensibility that is unmistakable. Its action and adventure continue to surprise and titillate.
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