Friday, December 28, 2012

EnTitled Angel


Earlier this year when there was some controversy over an editorial mandate to change the wording of the usage of "psycho" in one of his past volumes of his classic Battle Angel series, Yukito Kishiro suspended his lesser follow-up, Last Order, which was supposed to be the continuation of his planned story of exploring Alita into outer space.  At the time, he hastily wrote together a conclusion that somehow managed to tie several overarcing threads together into a satisfying finale, his results at trying to expand his universe past that vantage point has been less than satisfactory.  There's been less emphasis on character interaction and natural world-building by letting events reveal themselves and exposition that slowed the story to a crawl.  New characters are rapidly introduced, then just as quickly forgotten if they don't fit the overall narrative.  It stopped becoming philosophical and more analytical.

Yukito Kishiro seemed to be floundering over various subjects trying vainly to fit his constantly switching interests from one subject to another like a skipping stone over water until the inertia threatened to plunge the story into a watery mess.  The chapters are also kept to a more rigid 30 page count, which limits the amount of creativity and freedom of the early Alita books.  Violence was always a large part of Alita's world, but it was never the primary focus.  It's never a good sign when a once high-reputed series starts relying on a tournament as a crutch.  Only after he changed publishers and came back from his hiatus did his focus improve somewhat, but it still falls short of his original mark.

I was worried that the jump to Kodansha would affect the quality of the series, since I heard reviews of some of Kodansha's other Mangas that lacked the ease of flow of the dialogue.  I needn't have worried - Fred Burke who'd been there from the start was still available for the job.  Though there's a new typesetter, and the Japanese sound effects aren't replaced by English ones, which isn't really much of a loss.  The informative footnotes are still there, but they've changed in size to a taller format, which is somewhat distracting and hard to read.

What I was most concerned about was that the new publication wouldn't have a variation of "Angel" in its volume, since all the previous books had one, starting from Rusty Angel to Last Angel Standing.  Even though there's not one included on the cover, one of the chapters is titled Space Angel.  At least there's some consolation there.

In the back of the 16th volume, it was advertised that the previous volumes of Battle Angel Alita would be released in omnibus collections, including various side stories that were never collected.  This would include a prequel featuring Dr. Ido, Alita VS. a ball-bearing opponent, a brief interlude in the life of a broken-down Deckman and Koyomi's handling the dissolution of Barjack after Den's death.  This is also good news, since the individual volumes had strong stories on their own right, but was slightly hindered by Viz's faithful release of the Japanese model where the story finished in the next volume for the first two books.  In fact, the nine books of Battle Angel Alita are so divergent from each other that when I first read books 4, 2 and 6 (in that order), I thought I was reading three different cybernetic post-apocalyptic dystopian futures staring cute fighting robot girls.  I figured the genre was popular enough to allow variations of that theme, and was surprised to find out they were all part of the same universe.  Other than that early hiccup, the remaining books all had a natural stopping point.  But there's still a few chapters that I'm hoping they'll fix this time around.  Maybe we'd get the footnotes for what a Soliton is in the Kodansha version.  (Strangely enough, the French version has the missing footnotes)

When Battle Angel Alita was first being published, it was around the time that Manga in America was delivered in 32-page comic books instead of fat volumes.  As a result, some titles were either added, combined or excluded when collected into the Viz volumes.

Missing titles are bolded out below. A comprehensive list can be found here, though there's a few I'd like to point out:

RUSTY ANGEL

BERSERKERS REBORN part 1
Battle 4: Resurgence
BERSERKERS REBORN part 2
Battle 5: Initiation

HELL TRAP part 1
Battle 6: Responsibility
HELL TRAP part 2
Battle 7: Survival Mode

TEARS OF AN ANGEL

IRON MAIDEN
Struggle 2: Awakening Heart
IRON MAIDEN part 2 
Struggle 3: (the second subtitle is missing  If anyone has the comic, let me know what it was)

RAINY DAYS
Struggle 4: Fugitive of Dreams
RAINY DAYS part 2
Struggle 5: Ride The Lightning

KILLING ANGEL

THE SKULL CHALLENGE
Race 3: Work to Rule
THE SKULL CHALLENGE part 2
Race 4: To Kill or To Win

The Skull Challenge is the one title I have the biggest issue with.  The actual match only last one chapter, but is shown to "continue" into the next, even though it concluded earlier.  When compared with the title for the next chapter, ONLY ONE HEART Race 5: Risking All, it fits the cover and chapter's theme much better.

THE ROAD OF THE CHALLENGER
Race 6: Second Stage

ANGEL OF VICTORY

The Motorball arc had one of the longest uninterrupted individual issues, and had to be split into several issues in order to fit all the excitement.  The two subtitles were included, which makes me wonder why this wasn't the case for other chapters as well.

HEADBANGER'S BALL
Race 7: Face of Evil
HEADBANGER'S BALL part 2
Race 8: Touch of Cruelty

RED SANDS
Race 12: The Long Way Home

ANGEL OF REDEMPTION

DEMON DOG
Cycle 5: Scapegoat

The only problem I have with this one is that the so-called "Demon Dog" actually showed up briefly in the previous chapter, but save for an alternative use of a monster, I'd be hard-pressed to think of a worthy alternative suitable for replacement.

ANGEL OF DEATH

WILD WEST HEROES
Journey 3: Comrades

ANGEL OF CHAOS

RADIO K.A.O.S.
Mission 2: Gambler's Luck

PIRATE RADIO
Mission 4: Undercurrents

FALLEN ANGEL

THE THOUSAND FACES OF MADNESS
Fight 4: Insanity
THE THOUSAND FACES OF MADNESS part 2
Fight 5: Revolution

This was one chapter subtitle that I preferred one over the other, which
since

HEIGHTS AND LIMITS
Fight 8: True Strength

ANGEL'S ASCENSION

HYPER FUTURE VISION
Challenge 3: Alternatives
MASTER OF STEEL
Challenge 4: Anger

Just for clarification and to refresh anybody's memories, chapter 3 refers to Alita, while chapter 4 refers to Den.

MELCHIZEDEK
Challenge 8: Mother's Love
TREE OF LIFE
Challenge 9: Regeneration

Strange that the epilogue would be absent of a title, but that's editorial choices for you.  It's something of a long shot, but I'm hoping these little mistakes will be pointed out and corrected the next time around.

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