Reviewed by David Bingham:
The movie "Battle Angel Alita" is adapted from the Manga by Yukito Kishiro, known in America as Battle Angel Alita and in Japan as Gunnm and consists of two Episodes corresponding to the first two parts of the Manga. Episode One, "Rusty Angel," begins with a cyber-doctor named Ido gathering abandoned robot parts from a scrap heap. He finds a female head with a hybernating brain and decides to rebuild it, naming it "Gally" (Alita in the Manga.) Gally awakes with no memory of her past, but discovers that she does have an unexplained mastery of the "Panser Kunst": the most powerful of all cyborg martial arts.
The movie takes place in a two part world: Zalem (Tiphares in the Manga) is a floating city, miles above the scrapyard where Ido and Gally live. It is an unknown place that uses the scrapyard as a trash heap and factory, and all its goods are processed in the scrapyard and shuttled up through long transit tubes. We learn later that Ido was once a doctor in Zalem, but left for unexplained reasons.
Ido is also a hunter-warrior, basically a freelance mercenary that the Scrapyard uses instead of police. When Gally enters battle to save Ido's life from a monsterous brain eating cyborg, she is so exillerated that she chooses (over Ido's protests) to become a hunter-warrior as well. When the brain eating cyborg (Grewcica) reappears we discover that he has been rebuilt by another fallen Zalemite, Ido's ex-lover Chiren. Gally triumphs again, destroying Grewcica and Chiren's hopes for revenge.
Although the main concept and characters in this episode are similar to the Manga, the plot details are quite different.
Episode Two: Tears Sign
Episode two introduces us to Yugo (Hugo), an enterprising young man with an obsession for getting to Zalem, who is also Gally's love interest. Yugo has been told that if he can gather 10 million chips (a life-time's income by normal standards) that he can buy passage to Zalem, and has resorted to spine theft to gather the money. When his illegal trade is discovered by the authorities, a huge bounty is put on Yugo's head and Gally is forced to choose between the law and her love. When Yugo is caught by another hunter-warrior and decapitated, Alita is able to destroy the other hunter and keep Yugo's head alive long enough for Ido to attach it to a cyborg body. Ido explains that there is no way for a resident of the Factory to travel to Zalem, and that the deal is a hoax. Yugo overhears this, and runs away. In desperation he attempts to climb the transport tubes to Zalem, but falls and is killed right before Gally's eyes.
The character of Yugo is a facinating one. He has killed and crippled dozens of innocent cyborgs to save his 10 million credits, and is somehow a very likable person who seems like a victim of the deception of others.
It is worth noting that, other that the removal of some plot to shorten the story, Episode Two is almost identical to Part Two of the Manga.
Overall, Battle Angel Alita showcases some beautiful artwork and animation, and well as interesting and likable characters. I haven't seen the dubbed version, so I can't comment on the dubbing, but the music was very appropriate. The characters are quite convincing, and Gally and Ido are very endearing. This is one of the few Manga where I got attached to the characters enough to anxiously await news of how they turned out.
The vision of this future world is very harsh and dark, and the ending is quite sad, with both Gally and Ido losing someone they care about to the deception of the floating city. Zalem is beautiful and paradisical (we are led to assume) but like the Sirens of Greek myth, it leads men to their doom.
As a last note: the Manga series was recently concluded, but as yet I have not heard of any plans to animate the rest of the series.
Parent's Guide Rating:
red (recommended for mature audiences)
This is a strongly violent film, and should definately be reviewed before showing to children.
Violence: Plenty, and some of it is quite bloody. Still, much of the violence is cyborg against cyborg, and circuits fly more often that internal organs. There is still the occasional dismemberment, though.
Nudidty: Some full body nudity, and one short sex scene (10 seconds or so) involving Chiren.
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