Volume 2 of Mars Chronicle jumps us out of flashback mode and right into the “present day” plotline. Yoko is no longer Yoko, but Alita, with everything that entails (but without an actual tail anymore). Now that we are back in the present, we are somewhat reintroduced to Alita as she is now as well as meeting Erika for the most substantial time in the current timeline. We also find that she is substantially more unhinged than we may have thought from our brief encounter with her during Last Order. We also learn several tidbits about the current state of the solar system. It has been three years since the end of Last Order. LADDER, the governing body of the solar system, was dissolved after the events of the ZOTT, leading to an apparent complete collapse of any larger laws and treaties. As such, weapons like the berserker cells that were previously restricted or banned are apparently seeing wider-spread use. Considering what else was on that list of banned weapons in Last Order, that bodes poorly for what other types of weapons we might see in the near future. Alita’s been doing some work apparently as the agent of Melchizedek and Jupitan on Venus, though she is a little sparse on the details aside from picking up an apparently sentient gun as a companion. Negotiations and discussions break down almost before they start, as Erika has no interest in talking much with Alita.
Neither combatant really seems to be giving it their all, but we get our first hints of what the current time plot will involve. Apparently, a good number of former Panzer Kunst soldiers as well as others are being turned into necrosoldiers. Someone has apparently created the technology to revive the dead (at least partially) with memories and skills intact, even if their brain is technically dead. They then can control or manipulate them at will. Prior to the fall of Trinidad and LADDER, they operated in secret, but have begun acting more openly since Trinidad’s death. They’ve been doing this on some level for nearly 200 years. Which is good for Erika, since we learn that Alita apparently killed her 200 years ago, only for her to be revived as a necrosoldier (which she was not aware of). After Erika is thrown off balance by the news that she’s been dead for 200 years, Alita gets in a few good hits. Right as Erika is about to start fighting more seriously, she is ordered to withdraw by her commander, Alita’s former teacher, Captain Gelgt.
After Alita is forced to choose between pursuing them and saving a kid, Alita is quickly surrounded by Mars Kingdom Parliament soldiers and beaten/arrested for the attempted assassination of Queen Limeira, which is decidedly not something she was doing during the hiatus between series. After we get a flashback to what happened (which does look bad for Alita), the Mars soldiers talk with her a bit more before they are visited both by the Priestern from the last volume and by Caerula, who we learn is also heavily involved in trying to put down the necrosoldiers and could vouch for Alita, if she cared enough to. They discuss the threat that at least some of the Mars Kingdom soldiers are necrosoldiers, as well as the potential worry that Queen Limeira was compromised during her recovery from the assassination attempt blamed on Alita. Alita is freed by Mui, but her relationship with Zazie is notably colder than in Last Order even as she leaves. Mui promises to take her to a doctor who might be able to help deal with the Necrosoldier problem and maybe even find a way to fully revive them.
And it’s Professor Nova. Because of course it is. Specifically, it’s the Super Nova version of him that departed for Mars about 2/3 of the way through Last Order. Alita asks him about whether it’s possible to not just interrupt signals and turn necrosoldiers back into dead bodies, but to fully revive them. She point out, not incorrectly, how many times Nova has revived himself or other (including Alita herself) from a few scattered bits of brain or a body or things like that. Nova admits it might be and Alita appears to agree to work with and rely on him. Which is a terrible, terrible idea that has never worked for Alita in the past.
This is a much stronger reintroduction to the series than Volume 1 was. It really is helped by the fact that we are now picking up with characters we have known before, who have actually lived through and grown from all of the previous volumes. This is the Alita we know, and while it was interesting to see how she was as Yoko (and will hopefully be interesting when we inevitably flash back to that to discover more of her past), this is the character we’ve been following for the entire run of the series. This volume and Alita’s memory of killing Erika also highlight something interesting about this point in the story and Alita’s life. At this point, she seems to fully have her memories of being Yoko back. This is interesting, since in previous volumes, her memories have always been bits and pieces at a time. Now, she remembers the massacre of Volume 1 well enough to know that’s where she’d find Erika, remembers her apparent murder of Erika before leaving for the mission where she lost her memory, and knows all of the resurrected Kunstlers by face, name, and title. Nonetheless, she still remains Alita at heart and has not reverted to how she acted as Yoko. It’s a good piece of character growth that will have interesting implications going forward. On a similar note, I was quite happy to see the Guntroll team in general and Caelrula back in the story in a big way. I quite liked Caerula’s flashback arc from Last Order for how much it told us about the world as well as her place in that world. While it appeared she got blown up this volume, even the one who did it acknowledges that it’s unlikely to keep her down for any significant amount of time.
The Necrosoldiers are an interesting new threat. Dead soldiers brought back and manipulated by someone hiding far in the background for unknown purposes could go a variety of ways. It’s quite interesting to me that they still have personalities and minds, and makes me wonder how subtle the control can be. We’ve seen from the soldier in Last Order retroactively revealed to be a Necrosoldier that the control can be quite overt at times. However, we also see from Erika that it’s not always that bad. If it was that strong at all times, she wouldn’t have freaked out and lost focus during the fight. It’s interesting to me to think that it could be much more subtle tweaks to the point that the soldiers themselves don’t even notice that their minds or emotions are changing. I’m also curious about those like Alita and Nova who have bio-chips instead of biological brains at this point. Are they immune to this sort of control, since they don’t have an actual brain to be impacted by the chemicals? We may have to wait and find out.
The art continues to be quite good. We get more of what we are familiar with from previous volumes in Alita’s fight with Erika. We also see some old favorites come back. Aside from Alita, most of them don’t get a significant makeover or outfit change (which, since most of them are wearing uniforms of one sort or another, makes some sense), but it’s good to see them again. The art does well in the more serious, violent moments as well as taking the time for some more super-deformed comedy moments. I am very fond of the balance the art and the story take with injecting a little levity into such an otherwise serious story.
Most of what I found fault with were just nitpicks. It stuck out like a sore thumb to me that this series has apparently transitioned back to calling Tipharies (as it was called in the original English language run of Battle Angel Alita and Last Order) Zalem (as was the original name in the Japanese version. It struck me as an odd choice. However, the end of the digital volume also had advertisements for other Kodansha titles, including Alita. In the blurb about the original series, when it mentioned the hanging city, it also called it Zalem. Thus, this appears to be a series-wide correction/decision to revert back to the original name. Still stuck out as somewhat odd to me. Similarly, Erika mentions that “autonomy” was Alita’s signature move, but we haven’t seen her use a lot of that in previous series. Sure, she is prone to letting herself lose limbs, and potentially using them as improvised weapons, but nothing that showed her take control of the severed parts. It’s certainly nothing on the level of being a “signature move.” In my mind, the signature move we’ve seen from Alita previously is plasma generation and/or controlling the waves that would dictate how that sort of energy would flow. The part of that I did like was pointing out that since Alita was a full-conversion cyborg ever since she was a very young child, she has absolutely no fear of losing or cutting off her own limbs. This then grants her greater tactical options, since she literally doesn’t think like other people about taking damage like that.
This volume was much more a return to form for the series than the first. I’m glad we’re back in the modern era and, even if we end up going back to the childhood timeframe (which the cover for Volume 3 indicates we probably will), we now have more context for what is at stake and a direction for the past timeline to go in.
Battle Angel Alita - Mars Chronicle (Volume 2)
- A return to form for the series.
- Interesting new developments for Alita
- Necrosoldiers are a pretty insidious threat in general, since anyone could be one without knowing.
- Good mix of seriousness and levity
- The plot for the Necrosoldiers could go bad in a few different ways.
- A few elements and changes seem to come out of nowhere.