The people and cyborgs of the Scrapyard live beneath the floating city of Tiphares, whose inhabitants dump their junk in the Scrapyard and rule above its inhabitants. One day Ido, a former Tipharean citizen and doctor specializing in cyborg repairs, finds the intact head of young cyborg-girl in a vast pile of scrap. He takes her in, gives her a body and the name Alita. Alita then discovers long forgotten fighting techniques hidden in her body and decides to become a hunter-warrior; a bounty collector employed by the factories of Tiphares.
Gunnm was first published in English as Battle Angel Alita by VIZ Media in comic book format, with 68 VIZ Select Comics issues split into 8 parts from July 1992 to March 1998. It was republished under the VIZ Graphic Novels imprint from July 6, 1995 to December 6, 1998, and again under the VIZ Action imprint from December 31, 2003 to March 1, 2005. Kodansha Comics took over the license and has been releasing the series digitally, and physically in hardcover deluxe editions since November 21, 2017. The series was also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Jbc from May 2003 to November 2014, as well as in a number of other languages, including French, German, Finnish, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Polish.
Oscar winning director James Cameron was introduced to Gunnm by fellow director Guillermo del Toro, and subsequently purchased the rights to a film adaptation in 2000. Production was halted numerous times due to Cameron's commitment to other projects, until October 2015, when Cameron handed over the director position to Robert Rodriguez.
What a great original story this was. The art is very detailed and clear in the sense that you can actually understand whats going on in the fight scenes. For some fighting manga's it was very difficult to imagine what went on during a fight scene but Alita didnt lose me. I got a sense of excitment following Alita's develpment from innocent cyborg to bounty hunter to elite sportwomen to warrior as there was not a single boring moment. It was a thrill to see what new weapons or body she would get and how she would defeat or catch her enemies.
Not only was the
main characters interesting in that each one of them was unique but it was interesting to see what the author thought about what the future world between cyborgs and humans would be like.
Plenty of blood, gore and fan service and a love story as well. Something to appeal to everyone i think. I found the story to be dark yet beautiful at the same time.
for fans of Ghost in a Shell, you should really give this one a go, a short manga story (about 6 books i think) and one that i will always remember with fondness
When most people think of futuristic sci-fi settings involving cyborgs in anime and manga, the first thing that’s likely to come to their heads is Ghost in the Shell. While the GitS IP is a very accomplished and influential one, it greatly overshadowed another similar but in my opinion superior work. Battle Angel Alita(which goes by the vastly inferior title Gunnm in Japan) was released in 1989 and despite being an excellent manga, it never became particularly successful and only a small portion of it managed to get adapted into an anime.
The story of Battle Angel Alita begins in a scrapyard where a
scientist named Ido discovers the remains of a cyborg girl. She has lost all her memory and has no identity. He names her Alita, gives her a cyborg body and a reason to live.
The setting is based around a floating city called Tiphares. Most of the action is set outside of the city and on what’s deemed ‘the surface’ where people live off the scraps of the city, but events do eventually lead to the city itself. The artwork starts off as merely serviceable but gradually improves and becomes excellent late. It really brings the world to life. The style invokes a Blade Runner esque feel and manages to be very immersive. The action scenes are also excellently drawn. You can always make out what’s going on clearly and the panels segue into each other in a satisfying way.
What really makes BAA shine however is not its setting or artwork but its characters, or more specifically its main character, Alita(or Gally in Japan). She is easily one of the greatest characters in the medium. She is deep and complex and her character arc is extremely well handled. We see her go from an innocent ‘child’, to an aggressive bounty hunter and racer, to a love struck and contemplative individual, to badass anti-hero, assassin and eventually outright hero. This is all believably handled and very well executed.
While Alita no doubt steals the show, there are plenty of other high quality characters too. Most note-worthy is probably Ido, the scientist who took in Alita as his own and made her what she is. His relationship with Alita is quite deep and complex. He mostly sees her as a daughter and wants her to himself, though there is likely sexual undertones to it as well. He looks after Alita as best he can but tries to keep her as close to him as he can, to the point where he will intervene with her actions if she strays.
The villains are also a very fascinating bunch. Very few of them are portrayed as being outright evil. Even some that initially seem to have no redeeming traits end up being somewhat likeable in the end. They all have their reasons for doing what they are doing and never feel like they are just shoved in to give the protagonist something to fight. A mad scientist does feature but even that trope is averted somewhat. The way they play off of Alita’s personality while she interacts and fights them is very compelling to witness.
The story encompasses a very wide range of themes. It’s based around technology, ethics and philosophy. It’s very contemplative without ever getting bogged down with long winded exposition. The pacing for the whole manga is in fact pitch perfect. Each volume is about something different to the last, both in terms of theme and events. While the old chestnut Amnesia is used to start the story, things change very rapidly to a journey of self discovery, the meaning of life and the follies of man. Rage, sadness, jealousy, compassion, love and hate are all emotions present.
Events change from Bounty hunting, to rollerball, martial arts combat, wartime battlefields and more. Despite the change in tone, everything feels cohesive and well planned out. There is barely a single panel of filler throughout. There are also very few plot holes or inconsistencies throughout. There are a few revelatory plot twists that get introduced. They manage to both shocking yet in no way undermine the narrative that preceded it, like can often be the case with stories that rely on shock value.
Very few manga or stories in general manage to be so well paced and entertaining, while also being deep and contemplative, but BAA succeeds spectacularly. There are only a minor few gripes I had with the story. While I had no problem with the open ended nature of the ending, the build up to the ending did feel a tad rushed. Some events happened a little too quickly and weren’t explained in as much detail I would have liked. There is a follow up to the manga entitled The Last Order which does explain some of these things but that takes it a step too far and just ends up but a bloated mess, which is probably best avoided.
The only other flaw of any genuine worth I recall involves Alita’s relationship with a character called figure 4, who appears later. This character is not very likable yet Alita falls somewhat in love with him rather quickly. I didn’t find this particularly believable.Considering the type of character she was and the fact that he was somewhat of an idiot sapped credibility from the proceedings somewhat. This is fortunately only a small part of the story and doesn’t impede much on events overall.
Battle Angel Alita is perhaps the best sci fi manga I’ve read and one of the greatest sci fi stories in general that I’ve experienced. Despite its lack of popularity, its influence can be seen in works to this day such as the films Elysium and TV show Dark Angel. Regardless of that, the story is simply an excellent tale in its own right and deserves much more recognition than it has.
Nowadays, I seem to find that stories revolving around the nature of heroism, especially within anime, are rather stale. Stories about heroes, or what makes a hero a hero, are filled with protagonists who seem to be invincible, or rather, superficial in the sense that they contain no actual realism towards what makes them a hero. If you take your time to look closely and observe, you’ll find that conflicts within a majority of modern day stories are resolved with simple words of wisdom, or “power-ups” to defeat an obstacle blocking the hero from victory. This causes the heroes that
we’re supposed to praise and care for to become uninteresting, cardboard characters that we can’t sympathize with, no matter how hard we try. However, if you look into the past, specifically within anime and manga, you will find that a plethora of stories centered on heroism are not only gripping, but they also contain heroes that are believable, flawed, and most of all, unique. One such story is that of Battle Angel Alita, a manga that perfectly grasps the nature of what heroism is, as well as the cost that comes with being a hero.
Within the category of sci-fi action stories, Battle Angel Alita is one of the very best. Written and illustrated by Yukito Kishiro, the story’s setting is the rundown and harsh, desert-like city known as The Scrapyard. This cesspool of a city contains the worst criminals that humanity has to offer, along with cybernetic freaks terrorizing citizens. The protagonist Alita is introduced to us by a caring doctor/engineer named Ido, who finds her body in a local dump within The Scrapyard. After getting her cybernetic body put back together by Ido, Alita almost immediately experiences the horrors of The Scrapyard’s criminal activity and decides to make it her mission to become a Hunter Warrior, a bounty hunter of sorts that acts as a police force within The Scrapyard. As Alita begins her journey to help the innocent people of The Scrapyard, she soon starts to realize that the job of a hero is filled with both tragedy and self-revelation.
What makes this manga have such an exceptionally well-written story is Alita herself. I don’t mean to exaggerate when I say that she is honestly one of the greatest fictional characters ever created within anime and manga. What makes her character so great is the fact that Yukito Kushiro wrote her to be a sort of “symbol” or representation of what it means to be human and the experiences that human beings go through in life (which is a bit ironic considering the fact that Alita herself is not fully human). Throughout the story, we follow Alita through many locales of an apocalypse filled with despair and fear for survival. And although she witnesses many horrifying events and experiences pain, both physically and emotionally, Alita keeps her image as a messiah among those who are weak and need salvation. Alita contains a sort of charm or spirit of a hero that rises up against evil.
Something that also makes Alita such a great character in the story is the element of her backstory and how she suffers from amnesia. Although Alita is constantly viewed as a girl with an immense amount of courage and willpower, she still contains one major weakness throughout the story, which is her past, which is a puzzle that she constantly tries to solve. Because of this obstacle of hers, many moments of the manga brilliantly portray Alita as a damaged and ultimately flawed individual. Her flawed behavior and individuality causes many undesirable outcomes to befall on the other characters of the story. When these events happen, we witness some of the manga’s very best writing, as it shows that Alita must learn from her mistakes and flaws in order to keep the ones that she loves close to her heart.
Not only is Alita a great character, but so are the many people that she comes across throughout the story, especially the villains she encounters. What makes these supporting characters so great is the fact, like Alita, they all contain some sort of aspect or characteristic that makes them feel human. Almost all of the characters within the story have regrets about their pasts, existential feelings of nihilism, love, and thoughts about their own meaning for existence. This allows the reader to not only connect with Alita, but the many others that she meets throughout her adventures, both good and bad. Sadly, there are some characters that are often forgetful throughout the story and stereotypical. However, that is only a minor flaw considering how many other great characters like Alita there are in the story.
Aside from the excellent writing, Battle Angel Alita also has some of the very best artwork that you can find in manga. Kushiro does a brilliant job of conveying the action that we see in the panels as very gritty, dirty, and emotionally resonate with the characters that are fighting one another. The artwork also allows for you to witness the action on an “epic” scale because of the sheer amount of destruction and chaos from environments that are illustrated. What I also found great about the artwork are the breathtaking illustrations of Alita and other characters’ facial expressions and movements, making you think as though the characters were truly real. Everything from technology, body language and postures, expressions, and action are drawn with superb technique from Kushiro.
Battle Angel Alita is a manga that deserves to be read by science fiction, action and drama fans alike. This manga contains some of the best character writing that you will ever find in a manga or any story for that matter. The artwork is outstanding and Yukito Kushiro does an awesome job at portraying the humanity of Alita and other characters. Alita herself is also the perfect representation of how a hero should be written in an action story. Reading this manga will make you feel as though you’ve seen one of the most exciting and explosive action films of all time, only that this is a manga. Battle Angel Alita is a must read for anyone looking for an exceptionally atmospheric action manga, with a protagonist that is not only badass, but is also realistically relatable.
Battle Angel Alita (or Gunnm) was intriguing in the sense that it somewhat defied expectations. I knew virtually nothing about this franchise besides when I watched the OVA + saw the trailer for that weird live-action adaptation, so I'm coming into this like a baby. Ultimately, it's not as great as some people have claimed, but it has redemptive factors that are hopefully expanded upon in the sequel 'Last Order'.
[Story - 6]
Our story follows the adventures of a cyborg named Alita (or Gally) in the post-apocalyptic United States; Specifically, we follow her 'coming of age' as she goes from a cloudcuckoolander amnesiac to a hardened
wasteland warrior. Along the way, we see her as a bounty hunter, athlete, and a mercenary for the 'elite' citizens of the U.S. (or rather, an atmospheric colony hovering above the industrial sector + scrapyard where the story starts).
While I have issues with the characterization, this story alone is pretty intriguing. It certainly helps that the world-building is exquisite, with details both minute and major being part of the current arc or the much-speculated-about backstories of various events + characters. The characters (well, really Alita and Ido) receive a lot of monologuing; Regardless of my opinions of them, they are well-timed and definitely reflect their growth.
The pacing is pretty solid; 9 volumes might seem a bit short for a story of this magnitude, but it manages to give each arc enough breathing room for adequate plot AND character development. However, the ending is rather infamous for how rushed it is: between a huge infodump, sudden twists primarily for shock value, very little introspective dialogue, and a pointless time-skip of an epilogue, it's no wonder that the mangaka had to retcon it for Last Order to happen. This is what dragged the score for 'Story' down from an '8', unfortunately.
[Art - 7]
The artwork's an interesting aspect. While the settings/backgrounds are grimly realized, with details of destruction and decay rampant all around, some of the character design leans more towards a 'cartoony' aesthetic. The humans/cyborgs are typically a bit 'fluffier' than if they would be rendered more realistically; in other words, they look like Castle in the Sky rejects. Alita, in particular, is noteworthy in that she resembles a doll; This was obviously done for symbolism, but it adds an unsettling factor when you see her in action (especially in the back half of the manga). Even some of the non-human characters (i.e. the various factory bots) look rather goofy, with somewhat-exaggerated facial features.
However, other characters have designs much more suited for the cyberpunk dystopia (for better or worse) - most of the antagonists (Jashugan, Zapan, etc.) have bulky bodies, both natural and modified, with stony expressions and great displays of power. The robots look a bit more menacing than these characters, but they mostly have a stereotypical feel to them. Desty Nova's probably my favourite character in terms of design; While he's definitely human, his design just SCREAMS 'total creep' (which he lives up to rather spectacularly).
The action is pretty well-rendered; Especially during the Motorball arc, it was very clear as to what was happening, along with being visually engaging thanks to the gritty style of the setting. I'm not particularly keen on some of the designs (if that wasn't obvious enough), but the action setpieces and backgrounds saved this aspect.
[Character - 5]
This is where the title failed me, surprisingly. There is definitely substantial development, but it feels WAY too drawn out (like, characters having Big Life Lessons several chapters past when they should have realized (coughDAISUKEIDOANDHISPOSSESSIVENESScough) ); Certain character actions and choices feel really stupid (Den is notorious for this), and not just because of genuine character flaws; Other characters are just way too campy/goofy for their own good sometimes (Desty Nova is the epitome of a mad scientist); And of course, some people are just simply underdeveloped despite an expectation for us to care about them (Makaku, Hugo, Zapan, for example). This is as short as I'll keep it, because otherwise I'll just be whining about how much I loathed Alita up until the very last volume due to her sustained immaturity in the form of brattiness and arrogance.
[Enjoyment/Overall - 6]
To sum it up; it's not as amazing as some people have made it out to be, but it has enough positives that I can see why people feel that way. I'm interested to see how Last Order builds upon this title, both in continuing and changing various elements. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a cyberpunk title with substantial action and intriguing worldbuilding, despite a lack of appealing AND well-rounded characters.