Doc Ido, a doctor and mechanic who lives and works in the hellish, postapocalyptic "Scrapyard", finds the—miraculously preserved—remains of a female cyborg in a junk heap. After he revives and rebuilds her, the preternaturally strong, amnesiac "Gally" begins to forge a life for herself in a world where every day can bring a fight for life. Adapts the first two volumes of the "Battle Angel Alita" manga.
Every so often an anime is released that receives mixed reviews, not because it's good or bad, but simply because the context is ambiguous. Battle Angel Alita is one such example of this.
The series began as a manga by Kishiro Yukito in 1990, and after a short time the OVA was produced and released to Japanese and Western markets in 1993.
This is where the ambiguity comes in. To many who have read the manga, the story appears to be incomplete at first glance, especially given the numerous changes that have been made in the OVA. To those who haven't read the manga, there seems to be nothing too wrong with the plot, aside from the odd inconsistency that is. Where the ambiguity occurs is in the consideration of the plot - is it good or not? If you've read the manga then you can readily pick faults with the OVA, however there is one important point that is missed from this perspective. Likewise, if you have only seen the OVA, then you may be under the impression that the story doesn't really go anywhere.
I should mention before continuing that another source of ambiguity is the fact that the OVA has been released by both ADV and Viz Media (only in the UK, Europe and Australia though), and that both releases feature different nomenclature for certain characters and places.
Now here's the important bit. The Battle Angel Alita OVA was never intended to be a standalone tale. It's only purpose was to serve as an introduction to the manga, much like 3x3 Eyes or, more recently, Ga Rei: Zero. The OVA is simply a compressed (and altered), form of the first tow volumes of the manga after all, and when one considers that the whole thing was simply one big marketing tool, then the question becomes "Did it make me want to read the manga?" (which I'll answer in a bit).
The OVA is split into two episodes, the first being Rusty Angel, followed by Tears Sign. As stated, these episodes are nothing more than compressed and altered version of the first two volumes of the manga, however, I found that they worked rather well in their own right. The changes that were made actually served to hold the plot together, and whilst purists may argue that it should have stuck firmly to the manga, it's surprising how often playing fast and loose with the original can actually improve the new version. Battle Angel Alita is one of those titles that, whilst having it's own plot problems, is able to hold it's own against the manga.
The artwork for the OVA is very good indeed, especially as this is an early 90s anime. There is a penchant for pointy chins, however this can be overlooked given the atmospheric nature of the scrapyard city. Animation is also a big plus for the OVA. The action sequences are very smooth, and character movements are surprisingly well executed on the whole. The character designs tend to stay close to the manga, something which allowed the creators to concentrate on other areas of production.
The sound is also good for its time. The music is generally very good throughout the OVA, however there are moments when the action and the music don't mix too well, giving the scenes in question an incomplete feel. The sound effects are well used, but can be a little on the "clunky" side. The voice actors in both the Japanese and English dubs are pretty good on the whole, although I have to say that I prefer the Japanese version nowadays, although this is simply a matter of choice rather than any comment on the quality of the english dub.
The characters are well done on the whole, but are also another source of ambiguity. There are characters whose roles have been upscaled or downplayed, who have been removed altogether, combined into one, or who have been brought in as completely new. This is the main reason why I feel the OVA should not be judged on the basis of the manga. Rather, I prefer to view the OVA as an alternate beginning to the manga.
The main character, Alita, was originally called Gally in the manga. She is an amnesiac cyborg who whose head and upper torso was found in stasis on a scrap heap by her surrogate "father" Ido Daisuke. Because of her amnesia, her character appears innocent, almost angelic at times, one of the reasons for the title. The other "main" character in the OVA is Yugo, a local boy who is acquainted with Ido.
The most interesting aspect of the OVA, and one which was successfully transposed from the manga, was the development and deterioration of both Alita and Yugo respectively. The OVA is effectively a baptism of fire for Alita, however it is quite the opposite for Yugo. It's nice to see that the producers decided to keep the core of the story whole, something which helps to develop both Alita and Yugo during the course of the anime.
The other characters only really receive minimal development, however given that this is only a two part OVA, and is nothing more than an introduction to the manga, this can be excused.
I found that I enjoyed this immensely. The action was very good, and whilst some of the drama was clearly hammed up,the characters were rather refreshing, especially as I was unfamiliar with the manga when I first viewed the OVA.
This is a good effort on the whole. It does have its issues, however given that it is simply an advert for the manga (something which should be kept firmly in mind when judging this show), these are understandable. That said, the producers have made the effort to ensure that the OVA can stand on its own, and what they have produced is a rather charming, quirky, and somewhat violent piece of work. The dystopian future envisioned by Kishiro Yukito has transposed well to anime, and the fact that the producers have decided to be creative rather than staid has helped to produce something which is more than an advert.
My hope now is that this OVA, along with 3x3 Eyes, will go the way of Tetsuwan Birdy.
I was recommended this title by a good friend of mine and decided to purchase this along with Voices of a Distant Star after trading in some anime DVDs I didn't want anymore, and am really, really glad to have seen Battle Angel. My only regret is that I didn't pick that title up in my early years of anime fandom since I clearly remember seeing a VHS display for this at the local Hollywood Video back in the day.
Battle Angel takes place in a hellhole known as Scrap Iron City. Above Scrap Iron City is a much fantasized floating paradise named Zalem. Scrap Iron City is seething with vile criminals, and the most vile ones attack people and take their organs to sell in the black market (particularly spines, which are the most valuable). Due to a lack of police, an organization simply known as “The Factory” hires SIC citizens as bounty hunters, who literally bring in the heads of criminals for cash. Cyber Doctor Ido rebuilds a broken female cyborg and names her Gally. Gally eventually finds a talent for hunting, and falls in love with a boy named Yugo, who on the outside looks like a mechanical repairman. However, things start to look dour when Ido's former partner, Dr. Chiren, tries to “outdo” Dr. Ido in cyborg combat and when crime boss Mr. Vector lures Yugo into a life of crime for the promise of getting to Zalem.
One of Battle Angel's best traits is its characters. The development of them is really well-thought out and they behave in complex, realistic fashions. Gally is a great character because of her intrigue due to the loss of her original memories. However, as the anime goes along, Gally gains awareness of her surroundings and becomes a fully fleshed out character. Yugo is also great because his actions blur the line between good and evil. This is so because Yugo, in desperation to fulfill his lifelong dream to earn enough credits to get to Zalem, resorts to spine-thieving, under Mr. Vector's orders, to earn credits quicker. Even though he resorts to these heinous actions, he's not necessarily a bad person because he's desperate to get a better life and escape from Scrap Iron City. Even some of the “bad” characters like Dr. Chiren are interesting because they don't act in such one-sided, cartoonish manners. We see Dr. Chiren as a villain at first, but as we see her more, she does the bad things she does under the promise for a better life (along with Yugo). On a humorous note, I think Mr. Vector looks like the anime version of jazz and film legend Scatman Crothers.
Aside from the great characters, Battle Angel gives the audience a setting that perfectly matches the mood it sets out to make. Scrap Iron City is a cyberpunk hellhole; seething with crime and an all around ugly appearance, which is appropriate since it is after all, built out of the garbage dumped from Zalem. Scrap Iron City itself is quite unique because unlike most Blade Runner-influenced cyberpunk anime where it often takes place in an overpopulated high-tech metropolis, Scrap Iron City looks like what would happen if a city was built in the wastelands from The Road Warrior (heck, even one of the cyborg criminals bears a small visual resemblance to Wez) with everyday life integrated with Blade Runner-like technology (computers and cyborgs, etc.). The fact that Battle Angel was a low budget production from 1993 also gives it sort of a grainy picture to it as well, enhancing the unnerving mood the unpleasant visuals present.
What I really like about the cyborgs in Battle Angel is that they don't look perfectly “human,” you can immediately tell that they're machines, and it shows the grittiness of Scrap Iron City since they don't have fancy parts to make the cyborgs look like sexual eye candy. Even Gally's body doesn't have the “perfect” look to it since only her head looks “human,” and everything else below looks entirely mechanical. There's even robots shown throughout Battle Angel that look like they were thrown together by random scrap, particularly the robots that work for “The Factory.”
Battle Angel also has several themes going for it, and all of them are incorporated very well into the anime. The most noticeable one is the love theme, which takes place between Gally and Yugo, and the romance itself is pretty sad. There's also themes of freedom, obsession, and following one's dreams all accentuated in Yugo's fixation on leaving Scrap Iron City and getting to Zalem. This is also pretty sad because Yugo is so fixated on his lifelong dream, that he's blind to the good things he already has in life.
Battle Angel has some great, bloody action scenes that add to the overall story and don't seem tacked on to grab the viewer's attention. For an anime with a limited budget, the fight scenes between Gally and several cyborg criminals are well done since I don't really recall much, if any cels being reused during these scenes. The most notable fight scene is between Gally and Grewcica (main cyborg criminal). Grewcica uses crazy things like extending fingers that can slash and destroy just about anything, while Gally relies only on her agility and strong body to fight the fiend. When Ido confronts Grewcica and one of his minions towards the beginning, it was pretty awesome to see him fight the mechanical monsters because it's not everyday that you see a guy in a black trench-coat use a rocket-powered hammer (with a sharp end, nonetheless) to destroy his foes.
This certainly isnt' an anime I'd let the kids see because while not a constant bloodbath, there's some moments that are pretty gruesome. The most notable example would be prior to the previously mentioned duel, the upgraded Grewcica uses his sharp, extending fingers to slice a helpless dog to death, with blood and entrails being shed in decent detail. There's fleeting nude and sex scenes involving Dr. Chiren and Mr. Vector, though it's only Chiren's body that's portrayed in the nude.
The animation for this is pretty standard for a low budget anime from the early 90's, but I don't have any gripes with this whatsoever because the minor imperfections that exist within the animation give it a charm that anime today horribly lacks. The only real noticeable “cel recycle” is when towards the beginning, when a young woman runs from two cyborg criminals, you see her running and the background looks like its being repeated as she runs. However, I think they partially covered that up by designing that corridor with a semi-repeating structural pattern. The artwork for Battle Angel is quite good since the backgrounds are painted in great detail and accentuate the grittiness of Scrap Iron City. The character art is also well done and makes them very distinct. Another quality product from Japan's greatest animation studio, Madhouse!!
My only gripe with Battle Angel is that they could have made it a little longer since all together, this OVA only runs at about 50 minutes. However, what they achieved in that little time is certainly more impressive than most anime titles that have over ten times the running length but pad most of it out with pointless filler (I'm looking at you, Witchblade). If you want some gritty cyberpunk anime that's intelligent and touching, all while being short yet to the point, then Battle Angel will be a great addition to your anime collection. read more
This 2 episode anime OVA is not great. In fact, it could use a lot of work.
Why? Well let's start with the good.
Well, I do like the themes and the concept of the story. It's a post-apocalyptic world where the poor are literally forced to live in the garbage dumps of the rich. While the aristocrats live in a rich, floating city, the poor are forced to live in a brutal, criminal ridden underworld where murderers, assassins, and bounty hunters thrive.
The art and animation are definately great. The character designs seem to have heart and soul in them, unlike many of the newer animes today, in my opinion... There's just something about these earlier animes, where the imperfections and flaws don't really seem to detract from the style. Certain liberties that artists are given visibly contribute to an intimately crafted feel. For example, when Galley screams, the details in her face evoke a more rigid, less manufactured expression of emotion than many other animes.
However, what I don't like, is how rushed the story is, and how underdeveloped the world and characters are. Many scenes could be added to develop the characters. Characters are introduced, and then minutes later, you are supposed to care about them. Also, this 2 episode OVA is nowhere near long enough to tell the entire story from the manga. Like Berserk, this anime is unfinished.
The music sounds very 80's and is mostly ambient droning to add to the mood of the scenes, much like Vampire Hunter D (1985). So the effectiveness of the music will most likely be a matter of opinion. Personally, I kinda like it.
The best thing about this anime is the concept. The sci-fi world that the anime is set in is so unique, original and amazing that it could have had so much more potential. While the anime is ultimately a dissapointment, it's still a decently entertaining action movie.
You can watch my video review of Battle Angel HERE on Youtube.read more
Battle Angel is an action anime with sci-fi elements that manages to be a lot more than a bloody spectacle. It examines many themes: love, hope, freedom, obsession, and the thin line between good and evil. The anime succeeds in meshing all of these together with a coherent storyline, character development, and action without making anything seem artificial. What makes it so impressive is that it's pulled off in a mere two episodes with a 25 minute run time each; while you have many anime with 12 times the episodes completely incapable of doing this. Despite everything it does right though, there is so much room left for improvement.
Beginning with its setting; the world this story takes place in is very interesting. Scrap Iron City is a cesspool of a community. It's filthy, dangerous, and depressing, in other words it's hell. Floating above it is the city called Zalem. Not much information is given on this supposed heaven, but one thing for sure is that some people are desperate to get there in hopes of living the good life. They're so driven by ambition they become consumed by it, and they're willing to do anything to make the dream a reality.
The characters are very well used in pushing this segment of the story. Their personalities reflect the misery in the city. When viewing things from their perspective it's easy to relate to their plight. Especially, one character whom apparently tasted the life on Zalem at one point. I feel this was a good call on the writers part. Simply because this allows the viewer to understand that life on Zalem isn't exactly a pipe dream. Therefore, story development is definitely a strong point. Gally is by far the most interesting of the characters though, due to her carefree personality and mean streak when called for.
Battle Angel seems to be more aimed at the thinking person to me, but action fans will get something out of it as well. The battles are very good, and even very brutal at times with some imaginative and well planned out scenes. The animation definitely brings out the best in the fights. They're very fluid without the slightest bit of jumpiness. For a 1993 OVA, the visuals are impressive. The artwork ranges from average to great. Special attention was paid to Gally when displaying all of her emotions. Many times her face told her story without the use of dialogue.
The soundtrack is decent with the right music for the right moods. I will mention that the ending theme Cyborg Mermaid performed by Kaori Akima has a very nice melody with some nice vocals. As far as the sub and dubs are concerned. I don't have a problem with neither.
The anime isn't without its flaws. The biggest problem with the series is the length. Although some things are wrapped up, questions are still left hanging and the viewer will be left wanting more. This is one of those titles that deserved better treatment but never got it. This is definitely a title that should be remade.
Overall, Battle Angel is a very good watch. It has characters that bring out the story and nice action scenes. There's a bit of nudity and sexual content yet nothing too graphic despite knowing something went on or is going on. I only recommend this title to the most die hard anime fans.
Highs: Very good action scenes, nice animation and artwork, well developed story
The Doomsday Clock - a metaphor designed to represent how close humanity is to destruction - is at 3 minutes to midnight. To help you prepare for our rapidly approaching destruction, we've got you covered with some top-notch post-apocalyptic anime.