Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: Battle Angel Alita

BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: Action-packed yet so melodramatic

When cybermedic expert Daisuke Ido is walking in the local dump, he finds an intact head and chest of a female cyborg. He discovers that she has no memories of her past, so he gives her a name -- Alita -- and rebuilds her to create an ideal daughter for himself. But one day, Alita instinctively uses Panzer Kunst, a dangerous martial art for top cyborgs. Hoping to find her true self, she dives into the world of Bounty Hunting, where she hunts for criminal humans and cyborgs alike.

The art is the first thing that got my attention. It is gritty, and the setting seems to be a completely new character of its own. I really like how the artist immediately sets the cyberpunk tone of the post-apocalyptic world of Battle Angel -- very dark and very depressing indeed.

And of course, art is not the only thing that should carry a franchise, the story should be its primary carrier. And indeed, Battle Angel Alita doesn’t disappoint in this department too.

The story is told in nine volumes. These volumes, even though they differ in quality, are really well-written. They are composed of story arcs that last about one or two volumes, and these story arcs flow smoothly from one to the other. This smoothness is thanks to the plot points and plot elements that bind them together.

Another thing I like about the volumes is that they have different orientations. Some volumes are very plot-oriented, some character-oriented, and some are masterful combinations of plot and character orientation. This masterful storytelling is particularly obvious in Volumes Three and Four, the Motorball story arc. It is so action-packed because of the plot orientation, yet it is so emotional because of the character orientation.

The differing orientations and quality of the story arcs could be problematic for some readers though, primarily because of the inconsistency in execution. But personally, this is not a problem. I really enjoyed the execution and the direction Battle Angel Alita went through.

Another thing I like about the execution and direction is the fact that the story doesn’t reveal everything at once. It has secrets and revelations all throughout the volumes, and they affect the overall story. This kind of technique is very similar to the storytelling style of One Piece, only Battle Angel’s style doesn’t appear monotonous.

As for the characters, they are very well-moulded and well-designed, from the good-natured ones to the downright insane ones. What I really like about them is the fact that they have justifiable attitudes, actions, and reactions, and that makes them more solid and believable. Their archetypes, however, seem to be more suitable for a Shounen anime/manga, and not for Seinen -- but this not a problem at all. The important thing is having believable characters.

The best part of Battle Angel Alita is how it imposes philosophical and existential thoughts about humanity and science without appearing pretentious and preachy. These thoughts are beautifully interwoven with the plot and character development, which makes them feel natural and even cathartic at some points. All of these are portrayed in gorgeous art that is ridiculously detailed and has its own character. This is a recommendable read not only those for cyberpunk enthusiasts, but also to practically anyone who wants a story well told.


  1. I have not seen the Battle Angel OVA, and I have not read much manga yet, but Battle Angel Alita looks like it would be good, especially since I am a cyberpunk enthusiasts.


    1. I have heard that the adaptation wasn't really good, so it wouldn't be a priority for me. But this manga! This manga is brilliant. I also heard news that James Cameron bought the rights for a film adaptation, but current technology makes Battle Angel impossible to pull off. But after Avatar, technology might have caught up already, and we might even see Battle Angel on the big screen if Cameron is still interested in the project.

  2. This sounds interesting. I have not seen/read many cyberpunk anime/manga but I'm always willing to try any type of story. I will have to make a note to start this manga after I finish reading Infinite Stratos (the manga I'm currently reading). Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. It's an amazing series! Though maybe it's not your type... Also, it's somewhat hard to find online because it's old, so the fact that it's not very accessible may put you off. If you're interested enough though, there certainly are a few manga sites that feature it!