Cyberpunk Review » Battle Angel

February 25, 2006

Battle Angel

Year: 1993

Directed by: Hiroshi Fukutomi

Written by: Yukito Kishiro (Manga), Akinori Endo

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Key Cast Members:

  • Gally (Alita): Miki Itô
  • Ido: Kariya Shunsuke
  • Yugo: Kappei Yamaguchi
  • Chiren: Mami Koyama
  • Vector: Shigeru Chiba
  • Rating: 9 out of 10



    Overview: Battle Angel is based off a very well done Manga series called Battle Angel Alita. The movie covers the first two volumes of the Manga: Rusty Angel, which documents Alita’s “rebirth” and Tears of an Angel, which portrays a tragic love story. This anime from 1993 is one of the best man-machine interface animes out. The story is solid, and the drawing for that time period is terrific. While you might hear some gripe that the Manga is better, I think Fukutomi did a terrific job in taking Kishiro’s story to anime. I can only hope that James Cameron does a similarly wonderful job with the upcoming live action version of this. Just a warning - this is not a kids story - it contains lots of blood, head removals and minor amounts of nudity.




    The Setting: Battle Angel takes place far into the future, after a societal collapse has occurred. Advanced human society has been relegated to a floating city called Zalem, that sits above a refuse heap called Scrap Iron City, which is inhabited by denizens living off the scraps and waste products Zalem expels. A corporation called the “Factory,” the primary employer for Scrap Iron City, sends products back up to Zalem through a series of huge metal tubes. Cyborg technology has become a way of life, with many “humans” having only their brain remaining from their original human body host. Scavenging and theft has become a way of life for many. Backbones are a particularly sought after commodity by thieves, who sometimes will violently take them from their living hosts. As social services no longer exist, the Factory posts “bounties” for the heads of the most egregious villians, which bounty hunters, called Hunter-Warriors pursue for money.




    Rusty Angel: Daisuke Ido, an cyborg doctor extraordinaire, former citizen of Zalem, scavenges through the refuse heap to find spare cyborg parts to repair the citizens of Scrap Iron City. One day he comes across a female cyborg head that has a still-living human brain in it. He sets out to repair this head and gives her a wonderful body off of parts he has collected. He names her Gally (she is called Alita in the Manga), and she seems totally restored, except for the loss of memory from her earlier life. Ido becomes attached to Gally and they quickly develop a father-daughter type relationship.




    Gally learns that Ido moonlights also a Hunter-Warrior both for moral reasons and to support his medical practice. Gally saves Ido from certain death, and thus, reveals that she, in her former life, was also a very talented warrior. Under protest from Ido, Gally asserts her individuality and desire to become a Hunter-Warrior like Ido, so that she too can have purpose to her life.




    Chiren, also a cyborg doctor and Ido’s former partner, has also been ousted from Zalem, and is consumed with finding a way to return. Deciding that she will do anything to make this happen, Chiren hooks up with Vector, a shady character who has connections with the “Factory,” who agrees to eventually take her to Zalem in return for sexual favors and for her assistance in building a supra-cyborg gladiator named Greweicia for the fighting ring. This cyborg warrior also has a penchant for eating brains, and ends up on the bounty list. Chiren, wanting to be seen as superior to Ido, gets Greweicia to fight Gally in the hopes of destroying her, and thus, destroying Ido.




    Tears of an Angel: Gally, in exploring the city has become infatuated with a hard working body named Yugo, who dreams of going to Zalem. Although it’s common knowledge that nobody born in Scrap Iron City can ever go to Zalem, Yogo is also consumed with finding a way, and has gotten an agreement from Vector, who promises Yugo if he can make 10,000,000 credits, than he will take Yugo to Zalem. Yugo has taken him up on his offer and has started stealing cyborg spinal cords as a way to augment his day job of fixing machinery. He is discovered, and is put on the Bounty list. Gally, who has fallen deeply in love with him, tries to rescue him from a rival bounty hunter. Unfortunately she is too late, but is able to save his head, and asks Ido to turn him into a cyborg. Even after becoming a cyborg, Yugo’s dreams of reaching Zalem cannot be abated, as he sees his life a struggle against the worthlessness that is the Scap Iron City.




    The Artwork: In Battle Angel, we see strong influences of Akira in most every aspect of the production. From the facial expressions to the darkly textured backgrounds to the fighting style approach, Battle Angel clearly has used Akira as a template for modern animation techniques. Like many OAVs of this time period, some of the backgrounds are bland while others are lavishly penned and inked with multi-layered designs. They “pick their battles” with the designs, but for the most part, the decisions are solid. The simple designs are in backgrounds such as the sky and in Ido’s house. The more complex ones are in the underground, Yugo’s hang out, and in the refuse heap scenes – this is where most of the action and plot take place.




    Changes from the Manga: While I think Battle Angel is a terrific anime, there are some changes from the Manga that some find annoying. Most bizarre is the renaming of Alita to Gally, and the city Tiphares to Zalem. However, unlike some, I don’t find the changes in the plot to be that problematic. The anime wonderfully captures the essence of the Manga. Perhaps the biggest change is the rationale for Alita’s powers. In the anime, we really don’t get an explanation, but in the Manga, Alita is first given a normal body by Ido, and ends up destroying it in her first fight. Realizing that Alita is a warrior at heart, Ido gives her the body he has saved for a long time – that of a berserker warrior. The primary villain in Rusty Angel is also different – he is a being who has grown up in the sewers, and after losing his body in fighting Alita, he takes over the Gladiator’s body. And Chiren, a central character in the anime is not in the first to novels of the Manga. Again, for the most part, I have no problems with the changes, and actually love the dimension that Chiren adds.




    The Bottom Line: Battle Angel (Alita) just works for me as an anime. It is intelligent enough and well enough executed to get you to imagine a world where cyborgs are a reality. The world from the underground perspective is well done and Alita (I call her Alita, not Gally) as a character is terrific. Along with Armitage III and Ghost in the Shell (obviously), Alita is one of the best animes of this kind. Just a caution for those who have only seen the VHS, like most Japanese animes, Battle Angel comes off FAR FAR better with the Japanese dubbing cast than it does the English cast.


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Made for TV, Dystopic Future Movies, Man-machine Interface, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, 9 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 - 1999 by SFAM.


    February 28, 2006

    Neuromancer said:

    SFAM said:

    Cameron: 26th century, the story takes place 300 years after a societal collapse caused by a major war, but in that society, it’s a technological dark age following a pinnacle of achievement far, far beyond where we are right now. So in a sense it’s post-apocalyptic, but it’s post-apocalyptic from a very high level. So now, you’ve got cyborg technology as just a way of life. People are augmented a lot as workers and so on, so being a cyborg is not unusual. The main character is a cyborg. She has an organic human brain, and she looks like she’s about fourteen years old. She has a completely artificial body and she’s lost her memory- she’s found in this wreckage and she’s reconstituted by this guy who is a cyber-surgeon who becomes her kind of surrogate father. It’s a father-daughter relationship story that just has the most insane action that you can imagine. It will be PG-13 — lots of blood, but it’s all blue.”

    All the blood is blue! How cool :)

    March 1, 2006

    ETM said:

    Damn… that would be very cool… too bad that interview is over a year old. :(

    The latest news says that he has two teams shooting Alita and Avatar back to back ober three years, and still isn’t sure which one will be first in theatres… 2007. and 2009. are the dates.

    SFAM said:

    Well, here’s to hoping its earlier rather than later. That would suck if Cameron kills this.

    ETM said:

    I don’t think he’ll kill it… I just want to see it before I’m too old for this s**t. Or Cameron is, for that matter.

    August 1, 2006

    DannyV said:

    Battle Angel is based on what IMHO is the COOLEST cyberpunk manga ever. Anybody who’s read the manga(and it’s revisionist sequel, Last Order) can testify to how amazing it is, and the news that Cameron wants to make it is just awesome, if anybody can do it right, Cameron can.

    Talking a little about the manga, it actually deals with lots of interesting cyberpunk ideas and concept in very novel ways. For example, there are a few major characters in the manga who are bron human, but with ARTIFICIAL brains, and the question is posed on whether these characters are self-conscious machines, or they are as human as anyone else, regardless of what their brain si made off. The concept of the soul and destiny-free will is also explored extensively. There’s also a mad(or BRILLIANT, flip a coin) scientist who dedicates himself to exploration of post- and trans-humanism, and the search for immortailty, to the point that he has nanomachines all over his body which repair him from any injury he gets, effectively making him immortal. However, he is not satisfied: he seeks perfection of mind as well as body, and sees this immortality more as an intermediate step to true godhood instead of an end.

    Gally/Alita herself is a fascinating character, who constantly seeks to understand her nature and her place in the grand scheme of things. That she is the absolute most BADASS babe in cyberpunk anime history is also a point in her favor(as cool as Motoko Kusanagi is, I think Gally would slaughter her :p).

    And the manga is just full of “WHOA! THAT’S COOL!” moments. From the delightfully weird cyborg designs, to the dichotomy between Zalem/Tiphares and the Scrapyard, and MOTORBALL(think Rollerball on a two-mile-long track with death traps and being raced by skating cyborgs at 100+ mph), this series just oozes style and coolness.

    I just want to see the movie because Cameron said it’d be based on the first three chapters of the manga, so Motorball’s be in the movie, as well as EMPEROR JASHUGAN, the COOLEST character in a series completely loaded to the gills with them!

    Yes, I love this series inmensely, and the anime’s one of my all-time favorites. And Gally is just so cute and so ass-kicking at the same time. How can you not love those pouty lips?

    DannyV said:

    Oh, and by the way, the changes in names were done by the American translators. Gally, Zalem and all those other names are the original ones, while Alita and Tiphares are American. Honestly, I don’t mind either way, the storyline itself is intact, and that’s all that matters ;)

    SFAM said:

    Hi DannyV, I’m still working my way through the Mangas. I do totally love them though. The ideas involved are terrific and original, and the stories themselves are wonderfully motivating. Also, I had no idea that she was originally called Gally!

    March 30, 2007

    David said:

    I heard a while back a cgi sequel is meant to be in production… I know theres a playstation and ps2 game already though…

    The artwork is really distinctive, and true to the origional manga, unlike alot of anime which just looks outrageously ridiculeous.

    This anime has everything- action, horror, romance, mechas, pollutions, tear jearker moments, etc. Definately one to watch.

    SFAM, ain’t the world in which Gally inhabits as downright dirty and depressing as the
    world in robocop 2? Zarem is the promised land in the sky, and is basically described as Disney Land in the anime, which makes the now polluted earth looks like the pits.

    SFAM said:

    Hi David, I don’t have an issue at all with dirty and depressing surroundings. Those can be terrific. My issue is with shlock movies.

    July 8, 2007

    Psiweapon said:

    Well, the OAVs are pretty damn good in their own right, but they can’t beat the complexity and much more developed storyline of the comics.

    And don’t forget about Den… Think El Che embodied in a giant robot body styled after a centaur clad in samurai armor. Also, psychopathical.


    September 14, 2007

    Cibernadie said:

    I have the manga, and i havent seen much of the movie, though, but i think it is a good version of the first moments in the story of Alita. I always wanted to see animated versions of the Barjack War, it was so wonferful that Moment when Den goes in a kamikaze attack just to die and left koyomi to tell their story in the future.
    Also Destynova, Kaos, The ouroboros Machine, The motorball contest and her fight with the champion jashugan. I just cant get enough of her!!. I have the PSX game, but it is in japanese, so havent been able to do much there.
    There it is also that shortfilm of the Motorball contest in the net, i havent found a download site, but there is always youtube for that if anyone finds a download site for the video, i honestly donate body organs for it!

    September 15, 2007

    Ak!mbo said:

    I think the motorball storyline went on for too long and became kind of Dragon Ball-esque near the end..
    I was very glad to see it die off to let the real story progress.

    September 19, 2007

    Newman said:

    My hobby is to collect good anime’s, but i haven’t found episodes of sci fi anime.
    old sci fi anime’s are there, but i am looking for newest of sci fi and horror anime’s.
    Anyway battle angel alita is the best sci fi anime.

    January 5, 2008


    hey I would just like to say that I am looking forward to seeing the movie……

    October 5, 2008

    Ashley Pugh said:

    Hey, i watched the Anime around 6-7 years ago when i was in school and thought it was amazing. It was only till yesterday i managed to watch it again as i forgot the name! It’s just as good as i remember, is the Manga just as good? The Anime was great, the storyline is perfect! I hear Cameron is making a film to it…i hope he doesnt destroy it. That would be awful. Should i be able to pick up the magazines in comic book stores etc? And what other manga or animes have a story line just like this? Cheers!

    October 13, 2008

    Ak!mbo said:

    The paper version is far more immense, it is deeper and broader and the story and artwork kick ass. The ninth volume of the original series is kind of neglected in the continuation of the story: Last Order, which takes te story and universe further after a slightly ungratifying and hurried end to the original series.
    A definite must-have, tell your friends!

    October 21, 2008

    virgil said:


    November 6, 2008

    MATT said:


    November 7, 2008

    kabukiman said:

    I saw the anime at the same time I saw Ghost in the shell about 10 years ago, and they were really great.

    anthony said:

    i just love battle angel it’s just awsome. the story the art work, everything.

    March 2, 2009

    Talvrae said:

    Just want to say that Alita is the character name only in the english version of the manga… In every other version of the manga, and more importantelly in the VO japenesse of the manga her name is Gally. I think they wanted to bring back her original name in the anime… just sad they didnt translated back the title to the original Gunnm too instand of this stupid title that is Battle Angel… hope James Cameron wont made that error and will bring back the good titlles, and use Gally true name

    March 20, 2009

    kobra said:

    yeah… “Alita” minds “Little Wing” in spanish you know…

    September 20, 2009

    TheDude5k said:

    Just watched it, thought it was pretty good. Only about an hour long though, kinda wish we’d get to actually see Zalem.

    December 23, 2010

    eber hart said:

    Even as it came to light just weeks ago that the UN WHO ‘accidentally’
    infected some 2 BILLION (!!!) worldwide with hyper contagious,
    incurable hepatitus B via Bill Gates-style ’stealth’ vaccines,
    NO sign of repentance, or even consciousness, from franchise slum, techno worshipping, ECO you-genocide ‘friendly’ James Cameron.

    MEANWHILE, as currency, borders, soveriegnty and pensions
    collpase ‘by design’, RED China moves in to takeover not only
    the Panama Canal but bases on both our coasts.


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