Battle Angel Alita was originally translated into English in the 1990s, but with James Cameron’s live-action adaptation scheduled for release later this year, Kodansha Comics is releasing new, deluxe editions.
So volume 1 of the new edition is actually volumes 1 and 2 of the original manga. It includes color pages, extensive notes on word meanings, an introduction from comic book writer Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl), and is packaged as a large hardcover. While the original series was called Ganmu and the main character was Gally, the first English editions changed these names to Battle Angel Alita and Alita, respectively. The Translation Notes report on how manga translations have grown more accurate over the years (the changes of Ganmu and Gally were because it was believed Americans at the time would respond more to the changed names than the Japanese ones). Times have changed since then. However, the new edition is sticking with Battle Angel Alita because of name recognition in the United States. Other than that, the new translation seems very conscientious about giving the most accurate rendering of the Japanese.
The series starts with Daisuke Ido finding the partial remains of a female cyborg and bringing her back to life. When she can’t remember her real name, he names her “Alita.” For a while she’s concerned he might be a serial killer, but soon learns he’s a bounty hunter instead (or “hunter-warrior”). Alita wants to be a hunter-warrior then, even though Ido frets over her safety like a father. Alita also grows closer to Ido, deciding it’s okay if she never remembers her past life or name. Some visions of her as a small child do hint at her background.
Despite not remembering her past, she still remembers the martial arts she must have learned back then. Eventually Ido hooks her up to a berserker body, perfect for a warrior. Alita decides to take on a violent cyborg named Makaku, making him the prime villain of this book. But there’s also some background into Makaku’s early life as a human and the abuse and degradation he suffered, giving some moral ambiguity and complexity. Later Alita finds herself having a crush on a human boy, though he’s not as he first seems.
Battle Angel Alita is a very popular and influential science fiction manga, full of action, twists and turns. Odds are the movie will bring more interest in this title, and Kodansha’s deluxe edition is great for collectors and people who want to check out this series for the first time.
Story & Art: Yukito Kishiro
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Danica Davidson, along with Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya, is the author of Manga Art for Intermediates. In addition to showing how to draw manga character types in detail, the book describes how professional Japanese manga creators work, including common techniques and what drawing utensils they use.