Battle Angel Alita fans may be having their best year ever. Not only is there a major motion picture on the way for their beloved series, but Kodansha Comics has released glorious oversized hardcovers reprinting the series. Series creator Yukito Kishiro is also delivering a new spin-off series set on Mars from when Alita was very young. The fourth volume of this series is out this week, but is it good?
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A LESSON IN EVIL Erica is now under the tutelage of Baron Muster, who has taken it upon himself to school her in the ways of villainy. Erica displays an uncanny knack for being bad, making her the perfect pupil, but her young mind and fresh perspectives also prove to be a boon in Muster’s search for a legendary Martian treasure. With Erica’s help, Muster and his team make it to a secret labyrinth that houses the famed treasure, but before Muster can finally get his long-awaited prize, an unexpected turn puts everything into jeopardy…
Why does this matter?
I’m going to be 100% honest and let you know I do not understand the flow of the story with this series. Volume 1 starts with a young Alita, but then Volume 2 cuts to her being much older. She’s young again in this fourth volume, but at this point I’m throwing up my hands and going with it. By doing that I found an interesting adventure tale about villains trying to find ancient Martian secrets. Radical.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Save for a brief scene when Alita is still a shambling child, this entire volume is really about Baron Muster’s desire to find a secret Martian tomb. Thankfully the Alita scene somewhat connects to the mysteries of Mars, giving this entire volume a sharp focus and an interesting plot. This is a story focused on terrible villains–the kind who enjoy murdering–and it’s fun to see them struggle as they go on their expedition. There’s a fulfilling end to their search as well as an enlightening scene at the end of the volume revealing Baron Muster as a younger man. He’s cartoon levels of evil in this work, but this flashback puts some bones on his character development.
The biggest surprise of this volume is the use of ciphers and stratagems to solve puzzles. There are several used which makes this read quite enlightening and educational. Kishiro is clearly a creator very much interested in history, with many of these ciphers originating from ancient times and different cultures. German language and culture continue to be seeded in the story as well, much like in the original Battle Angel Alita series. The ciphers end up pulling you into the story as well, making their eventual resolutions much more interesting and rewarding.
The art continues to be very detailed and expressive in its characters. They aren’t photorealistic necessarily, but the style uses double-page spreads quite well to show the scope. There’s also some interesting use of foreground and background to lift characters off the page.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I can’t say I understand who these characters are or where they are from. This is probably my own fault for not watching the shows and reading up on the characters, but as a blind reader diving in it can be somewhat perplexing since there are no character bios or other helpful information like most manga tend to have.
Is it good?
I loved the first volume but was so thrown off by the second I couldn’t read the third. Now I’m regretting that. This fourth volume is a well-written self-contained adventure. It educates you on puzzles and ciphers which is rewarding, and it ends on a cliffhanger that’ll make you come back for more.