Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Battle Angel Alita

Known as 'Gunnm' (lit. 'Gun Dream') in Japan, Battle Angel Alita was Yukito Kirisho's first published project. It originally featured in Business Jump from 1990-1995.

Battle Angel Alita tells the story of a head and upper torso that are found in a state of suspended animation by cyber-medic genius (and all-round whack-job) Daisuke Ido while out searching for useful scrap. Ido revives her and, upon discovering that she has lost her memory, names her Alita, after his recently deceased cat.

The rebuilt Alita soon discovers that she possesses instinctive knowledge of the legendary Martian martial art Panzer Kunst. Alita must learn to navigate, exist, and fight in the Scrapyard, whose inhabitants live in the shadow of the floating city, Tiphares.

The mood of the stories is a curious mix of dystopian and hopeful. The pace is frenetic, and the content ultraviolent. Kishiro mixes and melds real and fanciful science and philosophy to construct an intriguing but often frustrating narrative.

There are two series, the 9-book 'Battle Angel Alita' and the 10-book 'Battle Angel Alita: Last Order' (of which the last book is still to be published in English). The style of the artwork is monochrome and intricate. And you have to get used to reading books from 'back-to-front', which when you're used to following graphic novels in the opposite direction can take a bit of getting used to.

James Cameron is a fan, and is on record saying that he plans to turn the Alita stories into a film.

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