If the first volume of the definitive edition was about Alita’s birth, the second volume is about Alita finding her identity. That suits her development since she’s kind of like a teenager in this volume. This collection is incredibly fast-paced and strikingly easy to drop into. This book opens with a tragedy that completely flips Alita’s purpose in life, which forces her into the life of Motorball. It’s a fast competition that’s even faster at getting you killed.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
After Alita’s first love ends in tragedy, she abandons Doc Ido and her life in The Scrapyard for the brutal world of Motorball. In this deadly sport that pits cyborg warriors against each other, Alita finds herself facing some stiff competition in the reining Motroball champion, Jasugun. The final showdown against Jasugun pits the champion’s Maschinekratz technique against Alita’s Panzerkunst, and despite all her efforts to escape her origins, she falls into a trance that brings a startling truth from her past to light.
Can I jump in easily?
You can surprisingly jump into this without reading the previous volume. Yes, reading the 400-page first volume is ideal, but this collection focuses exclusively on Alita’s time competing in Motorball and even has its own ending.
Reason 1: Super fast action with incredible detail.
Yukito Kishiro opens this volume with action as Alita runs after her lover as he desperately rushes to Zelem. It’s a suicide mission and it crushes her when she loses him. Enter Motorball, the fastest sport imaginable and one that only cyborgs can race in. This sport requires players to chase after a ball and basically reach the finish line with the ball first. Along the way they can kick, cut, and smash each other. Alita joins to forget her woes and she’s incredibly good at it. Kishiro has basically kept the speed of Alita on display but threw wheels on her feet so as to be even speedier. As the action takes place Kishiro uses ample speed lines and clear progression of action to keep everything understandable, but super fast. There’s also a handy map of the track in the finale that, shockingly, holds up and keeps the action clear. It’s so fast it deserves a track like this from Redline:
The detail continues to be excellent in the manga as well. The intricate designs of the cyborg bodies is impressive with logical mechanical parts. Scenes in streets are highly detailed as well and there’s a good attention to detail to each Motorball player so they all look unique but plausible. I found myself lingering on pages so as to understand the movement but also to ogle the intricate designs of Alita and other Cyborg bodies.
Reason 2: A wide mix of fighting styles.
Fighting styles are an important part of Motorball. Each character has a different fight style that helps carve out their identity, and Alita’s Panzerkunst is an important fight style all her own. While the action takes place characters scream out their moves which is a bit silly but also fun. Surprisingly the moves are from many origins (I know this thanks to the handy translation notes) be it Japanese, German, or Chinese. This makes the book more multicultural and more believable in a sci-fi future.
Reason 3: Alita develops as a character.
Alita’s rejection of Doc Ido is a surprise but also an interesting element as it forces her to grow. She’s on her own, even though she misses the man who pulled her from the junk yard, and that forces her to reflect on her actions. In a key scene, Alita lets her anger get the best of her and at this point in the story her anger is capable of destroying her. This pays off later in the manga when she learns a valuable lesson from Jasugun. Kishiro also uses her opponent in a way to force Alita to remember key details of her past. We don’t get much, but it’s enough to get your interest and make Alita that much more compelling. Kishiro is revealing her Martian past, which is being fleshed out in the brand new series Mars Chronicles.
The world around Alita gets some much needed development, too. The very existence of Motorball, it appears, is to keep the masses at bay. It’s a clever way for Kishiro to deliver social commentary–aren’t we all a little less aware due to the constant flow of news and entertainment–and it helps the reader understand how the rich Zalem people keep so many in poverty.
Cyborgs stretch too.
Reasons to be wary?
In the last third of the volume there are very fast turning plot points that seem to be forced in so as to get the story ready for the next volume. For instance, Ed, Alita’s coach, ends up getting last minute character work to make him somewhat of a villain so that Kishiro can dispose of him. Jasugun’s sister, who seems to serve no purpose other than to be nude in one scene and bend over here and there, gets some hasty life choices made for her. They aren’t deal-breaker elements by any means, but these plot developments come as a shock due to the usually slow and well thought-out plotting throughout much of the book.
A repeating comedic element in this volume never works. A racer named Tiegel, who looks like a giant turtle, ends up entering the story as a dimwit who never wins and also has a crush on Alita. His love for her ends up resolving a plot point or two, which is incredibly annoying. Add in that the humor has to do with how stupid his face looks and you’ll be gritting your teeth whenever he shows up.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
Running just over 400 pages, this book is an incredibly good value for action fanatics. It’s fast as hell with plenty of fight moves, twists, and turns. It’s also incredibly accessible without the need to read the previous volume to enjoy it.