Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why Aqua Knight is better than Battle Angel

I see Joe is thinking about Battle Angel again - which reminds me that he once promised to explain just why he erroneously believes it to be the superior brand of Kishiro madness.
I remember a friend running out excitedly to buy the first issue of Aqua Knight - back in the days before real bookstores - and having no idea whatsoever how to deal with the issue largely consisting of a small feral child waving his wang around.
Kishiro's career has pretty much always veered wildly between the sublime and the what-the-hell-was-he-thinking, and the latter can be particularly distracting if you are at all inclined to wonder just how much time went into digitally pasting screentone onto to the child's Johnson.
But in my book, the one wrong thing Aqua Knight ever did was not be named Aqua Knights. I keep getting it wrong and have to look it up.
There is a simple reason why.
Steampunk kicks the shit out of cyberpunk.
Cyberpunk is inherently pessimistic: all that crazy shit that comes pouring past Kishiro's dementia filters is ultimately going to lead to depressing, miserable events. The only good thing that ever happens in Gunnm is that Gally fails to die. But in Aqua Knight, no matter how sinister or twisted something initially appears to be, it ultimately ends up redeemed and sympathetic, or at least comically unsuccessful. The wandering genius begins as a sadistic, arrogant, deluded man messing in what he cannot hope to understand, and ends up exactly that but largely justified, fairly sympathetic, and capable of learning from his mistakes. The king with a magic sword that turns him into a giant crab monster ends up with his back against the wall begging his minions to stop pushing.
And we don't really get a lot of pulp manga. We don't really get a lot of stories this flamboyantly creative at all. I mean, the world of Aqua Knight is covered in water, broken only by tiny scattered islands - which means knights wear giant contraptions, half diving suit, half suit of armor, and ride on killer whales. One of these, a beautiful female knight, washes up on the shore of an island populated only by the penar flashing child, Ashika, and his crazy father, who believes himself to be married to the magic ball of light in the lighthouse. No sooner has the knight made Ashika her squire than a super genius inventor arrives to steal the light and kidnap the boy. While he rides off into the sun set singing his own theme song, Death arrives to claim the father and give the knight a magic sword. And that is only the beginning of the awesomeness!
One assumes. In fact, the three volumes basically wrap up act one in style and then the whole shebang got put on hold for Last Order. Aqua Knight was conceived as an epic saga on a grand scale - the first volume contains a lengthy promo piece he did for the series, which contains at least three character designs that never show up. Or only show up in crowd scenes, if you look carefully. While he has promised to come back when Last Order is finished...Last Order has turned out to be rather long.
Since Kishiro's manga seem to be entirely whatever amuses him this year, there is every chance his whim will not bring him to dust this off. This would be a tragedy. I can only do so little to ensure it is not forgotten.


  1. I actually agree with you that Aqua Knight is better than Battle Angel Alita, but it ain't because steampunk > cyberpunk.

    I love the pessimism of cyberpunk, I love the hell out of "depressing, miserable events," so I'm probably pre-disposed to liking the other more, but Aqua Knights has a brevity and focus that Alita lacks so much. Plus it really is incredibly funny.

    I don't think that it quite reaches the same heights as parts of Battle Angel Alita, but it's a damn sight more consistent and effective - since it's supposed to be weird and silly it doesn't suffer from any of the atmosphere-destroying, out-of-place elements that pop up in Battle Angel Alita, and plague so many other anime, actually.

  2. Battle Angel is better because it has Desty Nova. Selah.