The Battle Angel Alita manga was first serialized in Shueisha’s Business Jump for the “Seinen” demographic. Created by Yukito Kishiro, the first two volumes were adapted into an OVA series which aired in 1993. Known as Gunnm in Japan, the title is a portmantaeu of “gun” and “dream.” The story is set in a dystopian world set sometime in the future.
Battle Angel Alita tells the story of Gally, a female cyborg who lost her memories. One day she is found in the local scrap heap by the Cyber medic and Hunter-Warrior Daisuke Ido. Although she doesn’t recall her past, she retains the legendary martial art “Panzer Kunst” which she uses to become a Hunter-Warrior herself. In the world of Battle Angel Alita, there is no law enforcement. Instead, the rulers of Zalem issue bounties to cyborg criminals who are then apprehended by Hunter-Warriors. Throughout the story, Gally struggles to uncover her mysterious past by fighting.
Zalem is an interesting story element that is largely left unexplored in the OVA. It is depicted as a giant floating city, a utopia of sorts whom most people aspire to be a part of. The futuristic setting begins in a town called Scrapyard, a literal scraphead left from the metal scraps raining down from Zalem. Ground dwellers, either exiled or restricted from Zalem, are forced to make a living in Scrapyard below. As a result, the line between human and cyborg becomes increasingly blurred. Many humans heavily modify their bodies with cybernetics as a way of coping with life in the wastelands.
Only a 2-shot OVA, the story in the anime barely scratches the surface of its manga counterpart. The story and setting of the manga is perhaps one of the most enthralling in the history of storytelling. The anime only adapts the first two volumes creating a sense of ambiguity in its context while leaving much to be desired. The franchise is in desperate need of a reboot. The animation is rather poor for its time, and the short length leaves much character development and plot exposition up in the air. Granted, those who are familiar with the manga will be able to fill in the holes, the rest of the viewership will find it hard to identify with the characters.
Final Thoughts: 9/10
It is a travesty that this short little OVA is all there is to show for the Battle Angel Alita franchise. After nearly two decades, no one has attempted to update the series with a reboot. A true shame given the story’s hidden potential. Rumors are that powerhouse director James Cameron wishes to one day direct a live action adaptation of Battle Angel Alita, though nothing is officially set. For those looking for an engrossing story set in a captivating world, check out the OVA but definitely pursue the manga.