Manga Review: Battle Angel Alita

Battle Angel Alita is a truly unique work of manga – on par with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in terms of being something that visually stands out from the rest of the medium. While it’s narrative it has some stuff in common with other works of SF, it’s also a manga that I haven’t seen much like.

When I finished the series, I really found myself rather surprised by the fact that this manga never really got a second anime adaptation after the conclusion of the ’90s OVA, and before the upcoming film – particularly since the saga of Alita continued after this manga, through Last Order and into the currently ongoing Mars Chronicle series.

The manga follows Alita (or Gally in the Japanese version), an amnesiac cyborg whose head and torso (with the brain intact) is found in a scrap heap by Daisuke Ido, a doctor and exile from the highly advanced city of Zalem, which hovers above the scrapyard and whose raised is reclaimed and recycled by the Scrapyard’s residents. However, Alita has some background as a highly advanced combat cyborg – as she and Ido learns after Alita dispatches a dangerous cyborg opponent using a cyborg martial art known as Panzer Kunst. Alita’s quest for identity, along with the enemies she makes along the way, ends up taking her out of the Scrapyard, into the wastelands beyond, and eventually to Zalem itself.

Writer and artist Yukito Kishiro has a very distinct art style, as mentioned above, through his mixture of the beautiful and the grotesque. It isn’t quite an ero-guro style, it still mixes very gorgeous visuals and an incredibly detailed and textured world with horrific violence. Alita herself fits with that description – she begins the series as something of an innocent, and who spends the series confronting this world’s very harsh realities, while also trying to hold on to her idealism. It makes her an incredibly engaging character.

That said, the level of violence in the work can get excessive, and can create a world that is a little too bleak. I’m interested in seeing how that tone is translated into the live-action film, particularly considering both the film’s PG-13 rating and the fact that the film is directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete, Planet Terror). I also wonder, depending on this film’s performance – if this will lead to a new Alita anime, the same way that the Legendary Pictures Godzilla lead not only to Shin Godzilla, but also the Netflix anime Godzilla trilogy.

Battle Angel Alita is available in a series of really well done omnibus volumes from Vertical Entertainment from Amazon (Print, Kindle – and as of this writing volume 1 is available through Kindle Unlimited), and RightStuf (Print). Buying anything through those links helps to support the site.

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