Sunday, June 14, 2009

Looks like it's time to gripe about another fallen creator

Kishiro, Kishiro, what are we going to do with you? In volume 10 of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, you gave us hope that the plot was lurching forward at long, long last, but apparently that was too exciting and you decided we needed an entire volume of downtime to recover, as the alleged main character sits out an entire volume, AGAIN. There's at least a better reason for it than usual, but the main problem is that you don't seem capable of taking anything seriously anymore. Sure, we get our usual dose of macho existential transcendental martial arts philosophizin', but it's in the middle of two chapters of dick jokes. Which I suppose itself may be a metacomment on said philosophy.

The problem with sequels is that, ideally, you've already said everything you wanted to the first time around, so your choices are either to go with your second-best idea, or just kill time vamping. And Kishiro definitely seems to have gone the second route. He claimed that the ending of the original Battle Angel was not his first choice, hence this extended do-over, but either he's fibbing, or it was a happy accident that it ended as well as it did (I'm recalling the other story about how his editors completely changed his original concept for the series and "somehow it all worked out OK"). He definitely wouldn't be the first creator to accidentally ruin a story by overthinking it.

The reason BAA was so impressive was that the story MOVED. Nine volumes was more than enough to show massive growth in Alita as a character, and that really stood out from both the American and Japanese books I was reading at the time. Last Order almost in its entirety is the Motorball arc writ large-- something Kishiro was wise enough to limit to two volumes the first time around. Now it's just another tournament fighting series, and frankly about as boring as all the rest.

I suspect Kishiro is as bored with this as I am. I dunno whether his editors are forcing him to continue this, but his interest now seems purely on the art side. And if you just want to draw wacky shit but can't be bothered to put in the work to actually write things, a fighting tournament is the perfect lazy answer. The rise of generic cocky badass Sechs is no accident-- (s)he has no personality, so (s)he's much easier to slot into random fights.

So Last Order, at its best, is just a glimmer of what I liked about the original BAA. Perhaps the original story isn't as good as I recall it, or maybe this stuff just isn't as original the second time around, but I'm in for the long haul, anyway. Kishiro may just be hacking out the story, but it's at least pretty to look at. I just miss the days when it was also interesting to read.


  1. You know as well as I do Last Order is only any good when Gally isn't fucking in it. Sechs and the Libido Monster were fucking great.
    Have I read the original more recently than you, though? Because it doesn't move at all. Gally does not fucking grow as a person. She just gets replaced with someone else every time he gets bored and changes the god damn genre. Which probably explains why she has absolutely no personality now - she was never anything more than a character design that served as a conduit for his current obsessions, which no longer appear to include anyone who looks like her.
    It pretty much comes down to whether you find the hilarious fighting of Sechs more interesting than pretty much anything that happened after the motorball bit in the original.

  2. I went back through the first volume or two when Viz started Last Order, but that was what, six or seven years ago, now? I'm open to the possibility that this may be nostalgia talking, but I don't recall Kishiro constantly taking the piss back in the day. There was always weird shit aplenty, but I don't recall him putting the entire story on hold for six chapters to extemporize about shit that happened hundreds of years earlier, or to follow up a cliffhanger with two peripheral characters literally getting kung-fu dickslapped.

  3. I'll agree he didn't constantly take the piss. Instead he was just frequently BAD and boring for ages and ages.

  4. So I went and read volume 13, since I had it sitting around, and it was just genuinely completely terrible.
    Except for the very ending, when Zekka boldly announces, "The word 'happiness' was invented by women. Men could never understand it. Just like they never understand what we mean by 'romance.'"
    And then karate chops a giant fucking monster so hard it turns into a cherry tree.

  5. Holy shit, Zekka is Reverse Cyborg George Washington! Those aren't dreads, it's a mecha-powdered wig!

  6. Yeah, for the most part, if you're reading Last Order, it's probably just for fun. With how great the art looks now, it's sort of sad that it going to waste in terms of where the story is going.

    It'd be nice if he did another side project that was something more Ashen Victory and less Last Ordery

  7. The original BAA moves in a tremendous way -- I'm surprised at the comments to the contrary. She starts out as a dewy-eyed innocent; has a terrible loss of innocence (Hugo); loses faith in almost everything (twice); finally grows up and has a mature understanding of relationships; realizes she has to get her shit in order; makes peace with life and sacrifices herself to have a happy ending.

    I translated this several years ago when it first came out in Japan, and it's where I gave up on the series. There's some bright spots that come in a couple chapters after this one, but nothing holds a candle to the original.

  8. I don't disagree that it moves, I just would classify that movement as a random lurch rather than a graceful leap.

  9. Hopefully this incredibly over-extended story is a clear indication of Kishiro's dedication to the work, as well as it's predicted longevity. I mean, there's still a lot to be done before the series is complete, right? The Tower of Tiphares has to be completed, Lou has to hook up with Alita, Alita has to hook up with Figure... we are a ways away from the ending yet, boys and girls. Maybe there's still time to recover the breakneck pace and gripping story of the first nine volumes...

  10. Considering that this "redone conclusion" is already longer than the series it's meant to be wrapping up, I doubt it. But we live in hope, eh?