Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1

By Yukito Kishiro. Released originally in Japan as “Gunnm: Last Order” by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Ultra Jump; currently owned by Kodansha and serialized in the magazine Evening. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

In the beginning, there was Gunnm, which ran in Shueisha’s Business Jump from 1990-1995, and told the story of Gally, a cyborg creation who was revived and had lots of awesome Rollerball-type adventures, killed bad guys, and battled the evil Desty Nova. Then in 1995 the series was wrapped up fast as the author was ill. Like “get your affairs in order” ill. Luckily, he got better, and 5 years later revived the series for new magazine Ultra Jump, retconning most of the last volume and restarting with Gally’s adventures in the sky. Viz Media licensed both series, renamed Gally to Alita, and released the first series as Battle Angela Alita and the second with the Last Order tag.

Then a few years ago, Shueisha was going to re-release the original Alita manga, but decided to remove the word “crazy” from the manga as it might upset the mentally ill. Kishiro was quite upset, and after a long, protracted battle, pulled his manga and moved to Kodansha, where it is currently running in Evening. Over here, the manga likewise leaped from Viz to Kodansha, who have started to put it out from where Viz left off (Vol. 16), but are also going back and re-releasing Last Order as large omnibuses, based off Kodansha’s bunko releases. The fate of the original series remains up in the air, but I suspect a re-release is unlikely.


Which is a shame, as I think the omnibus would read much better if people could refresh their memories of the original. Kodansha Comics puts a 2-page “what has gone before” at the start, but despite trying to make Last Order as newbie-friendly as possible, every time Alita starts wondering about Figure Four, or obsessing over Lou, the reader is left thinking that they missed the first 20 minutes of this movie. Admittedly, if they did re-release the original people might be reminded that some characters who originally got happy endings now are suffering much more gruesome fates. Speaking of Lou.

With all that said, this is a really entertaining read once you get past starting in the middle. Alita’s a cute, sullen heroine who the author makes sure not to take seriously at times. Desty Nova reappears as a crazy awesome mad scientist, still amoral but no longer bwa-ha-ha evil, and now apparently mentoring her. We meet a few of her cyborg duplicates, like Sechs, who is obsessed with “defeating the original”, and Elf and Swolf, who I think are just there to be cute and snarky. And there are new characters, all of whom are dealing with a world that really, really seems to hate everyone. It’s a good thing that there’s elements of humor sprinkled throughout, as otherwise this would be the most depressing thing ever written.

There are also a lot of action sequences, which are equally excellent. James Cameron wants to turn this into a movie, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only does the artist draw a lot of fights, but you can actually tell how the characters are moving in those fights – a rarity with manga writers. Alita is amazing, of course, but still manages to get her ass kicked several times – which, given she’s a cyborg, usually involves her getting ripped in half. Indeed, she spends a good chunk of this book as only a top half. In amongst this action, there’s a whole lot of worldbuilding (I admit I skipped the textual diagrams, and don’t think I missed much), and hammering home the basic theme of the entire series, which is “what does it mean to be human” and “what makes humans different from others?” Having dreams, having goals, believing in yourself – there’s shiny shonen manga ideals buried under all this dystopia.

The omnibus is huge – 670 pages – and padded out even more by two early short stories Kishiro wrote about a year before starting Gunnm. The first is the better of the two, about a man trying to build his own plane meeting an Angel-like creature who has wings but hasn’t really had the gumption to use them. The other story, about a giant tank the size of a mountain that destroys towns and tends to mind control those who try to stop it, is less good. That said, both do continue the basic themes here – strive to survive, maintain your humanity, even if you’re a cyborg, an Angel, or a demon, and don’t let others dictate your goals.

There’s a lot going on in this volume. I didn’t even mention the Martian Queen (who appears to be Orihime Inoue’s descendant), or the obviously evil Venusian guy offering everyone roast babies just to be a dick; or my desire to see this cross over with A Certain Magical Index. But the basics of the series are laid out here, and there are a number of directions the series could go. Lots of politics, lots of action. Unless the author somehow gets distracted by writing 100+ chapters of a fighting tournament or something, I think he can’t possibly lose here.

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  1. I got this yesterday and read the first chapter. So far based solely on that, the translation is good. However, I noticed that the outlane isn’t written very Englishly (so many commas and sentences like these: “It was there that Ido found the head of a cyborg several hundred years old in a pile of rubble.”. In addition, the contents page is aligned messily.

    I like that Kodansha included extra stories! Thanks for them! But, I was also looking forward to seeing a few color pages. There were sadly was none. Not even the volume covers. Actually, the volume covers are not included at all. Hopefully, we have those as an extra in full color in Omnibus 2 or 3. Though, Amazon doesn’t currently list any bonus content in Omnibus 2…

    By the way, nice joke about the fighting tournament!


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