Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Category: graphic novels

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order Omnibus 3-5 (75 Books – XLV-XLVII)

I was a fan of Kishiro Yukito’s original Battle Angel Alita, which I finished at about the time the omnibus edition of the sequel, Battle Angel Alita: Last Order began, but I fell behind on the Last Order release for a long time. However, I figured there’s no better time to knock out a few graphic novels in a row than when you’re supposed to read seventy-five books in a year and it’s September and you’ve only got forty-three.

Anyway, as much as I liked the original, I’m not a big fan of this one, and during the fourth omnibus volume, which is entirely taken up by extremely long backstory material, considered dropping it. It’s not a bad comic, really. The art is still solid, the action is still very enjoyable, and I like most of the characters. However, Kishiro is very self-indulgent now. So, he’ll do things like switching to a cartoony, almost chibi art style in the middle of an otherwise serious scene, give Alita a cat’s tail for no reason that I can discern, and though the original had plenty of over-the-top character designs and some silly moments, he really takes these up to eleven in these volumes. These things can be enjoyable in small doses, but it can give a reader whiplash as we move from one mood to another, often in between panels, and as a result the whole thing is much less coherent than the original. It seems like he needed his editor to rein in some of these ideas to make a more consistent product.

There are a few other problems, but they’re difficult to discuss without giving away too many spoilers. Two major characters are killed off-screen, for example, but only one of the other characters ever mentions this and no one seems particularly bothered by it. One of the most notable features of the world of Alita is the violence and casual cruelty, but in the first comic there was some gravity attached at least to deaths of main characters that Alita interacted with, so the violence actually had some effect on the audience. Here, it’s just something that happens, like the two were just inconvenient to the story so Kishiro just wrote them out.

In any case, I’d highly recommend the original Alita to anyone interested in graphic novels, assuming one has a high tolerance for violence. Last Order is probably worth reading if you’re a big Alita fan, but otherwise, unless it improves significantly in the second half, you’re probably going to be safe skipping this and just sticking to the original.…

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ToraDora vol. 7 (75 Books – XLIII)

I wrote about the first two volumes of Zekkyo’s comic adaptation of ToraDora way back in July 2011, and volume three a few months later. Since then, each volume has continued to follow the anime fairly closely (I haven’t read the original novels, so I can’t make a comparison there), and my opinion of it has remained consistent from volume to volume. The character art is good, the jokes generally work, the drama is, perhaps, a bit melodramatic at times, but that’s just part of the style. It does have a high school setting, which I almost always dislike, but I’ll give it a pass since I’ve been following the story for so long.

The things I’ve complained about previously are still around; background art is rather plain, it’s a bit wordy, and there are a few annoying localisation choices. Too much saying “like” and “totally,” and using kaicho instead of “class president,” which is especially distracting because one moment you have a character talking like a stereotypical valley girl, then they’ll throw in the obviously Japanese kaicho. Again, though, it’s not too bad, and the translation does a decent job overall at giving each character a distinct voice.

So overall, it is a solid enough adaptation. The fact that I’m seven volumes in, four years after starting the series, is proof enough that Zekkyo’s doing something right. The strength of the original story shines through, so while it’s not a must-read by any means, if you’re a fan of the anime and want more of this story, by all means check it out.…

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Seraphim 266613336 Wings (75 Books – XLII)

There are three notable things about Seraphim 266613336 Wings. One is that it has the most unwieldy three-word title I’ve ever encountered. The second is that it’s another Kon Satoshi comic, but one he did with Oshii Mamoru (of Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor fame). The third is that, like the other Kon comic I’ve read this year, it’s unfinished.

Now, the story is an interesting one – the premise is that the world is plagued by a disease called “seraphim,” which causes its victims to hallucinate and to gradually grow wings out of their back. Much of the world is already dead (and Japan was apparently wiped out entirely), so the WHO sends out two men and a dog called the Magi to escort a girl, Sera, who seems to be immune to the disease and possibly the key to finding a cure, back to her homeland in central Asia. It’s fairly wordy, which is something that Oshii is known for, but everything does move at a quick pace with some action thrown in.

The main problem, of course, is that the comic just stops halfway through. In Opus, we at least have some idea of how the story was going to end, since it was almost done. Here, I have no idea, and that’s why I’m not going into a lot of depth here – I could only really recommend Seraphim to people who are big fans of the authors. Otherwise, you’re in for the frustrating experience of half of a story. A very good story, admittedly, but it’s not a satisfying experience.

Dark Horse’s edition does include two essays at the end of the book. One is just a page by Watanabe Takashi, editor at Animage when that magazine originally serialised Seraphim in 1994 and 1995, which gives some background on how the comic was originally conceived and why it was discontinued. The other is by Carl Gustav Horn, editor of the English edition, which is just under thirty pages and gives a lot of background on the creators, the publisher, the setting, and so on. It’s well-written and certainly interesting to anyone who’d like to know about the manga publishing industry, Oshii and Kon, or some points about the work itself, but it feels like overkill for a half-finished graphic novel.

In any case, if you’re a Kon or Oshii completist or just don’t mind never finishing a story, Seraphim is worth checking out. Otherwise, you’re perfectly safe sticking to their better-known, finished works.…

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Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons (75 Books – XXXVII)

OConnor PhDAs a Southerner, Catholic, and fan of literature, one can easily guess that I’m a fan of Flannery O’Connor. If you haven’t read Wise Blood or her short stories, do yourself a favour and check them out. Her excellent collection of essays, Mystery and Manners, is also some of the best work I’ve read about literature.

When I heard about Fantagraphics Books releasing a collection of her cartoons, though, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Skill in one medium certainly doesn’t necessarily transfer to another, and most of these were originally published for her college’s student newspaper. Besides, there’s probably a reason she ultimately focused on writing rather than cartooning.

Ultimately, The Cartoons is pretty good for what it is. They’re certainly better than anything I saw in my university’s paper, at the very least. A lot of her subjects are topical to something from the particular issue a cartoon was published in, like a special art exhibit at the school or student government elections, but they’re mostly things that anyone who’s been to college can identify with. They’re not laugh-out-loud funny, but are enjoyable to read throughout.

O’Connor’s cartoons are almost all linoleum cuts, which makes the book unusual and interesting in itself, though the angular caricatures are a style you’ll probably either love or hate; I like it, personally.…

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