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Thread: Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita

  1. Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita

    For those who have never read/heard of Battle Angel Alita (Gunnm is the Japanese title - roughly translates as Gun Dream):

    It's the story of a scientist that discovers the cyborg head of a girl in a trash heap and reactivates her. Alita (in the Japanese version that's actually the name of his cat, her name was Gally) finds that she can't remember anything about her past but subconciously has access to the Panzer Kunst - an ancient martial art designed by those who lived on Mars specifically to fight robots. She sets off on a quest to find out who she is and where she came from, which (of course) takes her further than she ever expected.

    As she tries to find herself she takes up Motorball (a deadly racing sport not unlike Rollerball but on extended Trackmania-esque layouts at incredibly high speeds), music, fighting, and searching for the secret to Salem, the mysterious city in the sky that divides the world by genetic class.

    Among what makes this series great is that even with its standard Japanese anime/manga setups it manages to avoid almost all of the tradtional pitfalls; the love stories that occur happen naturally and are not there for comedy, there's almost no SD goofiness or overexaggerated effects, and the science is *gasp* actually well done and thought out (I know, I know; unheard of for Japanese manga writers!). The characters are awesome, they don't pull punches, and the writing is great, weaving together story and explanations so that you're never left in the dark unless he means to but doesn't have an index in the back like Shirow. There's still some, "Haha! You can't beat my attack because it moves like such-and-such!" nonsense here and there but it's not DBZ level or anything.

    What few standard weaknesses occur include a little bit of SDism and the ever popular "Tournament time!" that plagues way too many Japanese stories, both of which pop up only during Last Order. On the bright side, the SD is just kinda wierd but never messes with the story (a character gets planted inside a tiny body and is generally totally out of the picture whenever she's not in control of a "real" body), and while the tournament seems way too long considering the pacing of the rest of the series it at least appears to building to an awesome ending.

    The progression of the books: Initially Yukito Kishiro made Gunnm from 1990-1995, a series of nine collections in Japan that made it to the states in eight graphic novels (the last two books were combined for the U.S. release). Because of personal and business complications which he has never made public he stopped wanting to make Gunnm about a year before he ended it, but he felt responsibility towards his fans and the story so he forced himself to continue and just kind of threw everything together. Later on he once again wanted to write Gunnm so he expanded the final parts of the story to reach closer to his original ideas and that ended up becoming the expanded story of the PS videogame Gunnm: Martian Memory. After that he once again wanted to truly finish the story so in 2000 he began work on Gunnm: Last Order, a work which was to replace the final book of the original series and give us the true ending. A work which has extended from the singular final book he finished in 1995 into an entire series of seven, of which number five was just released less than a week ago in the U.S. Unfortunately Viz owns the rights to releasing Battle Angel Alita overseas, which means we only get one book every six months and they don't even list the new books or their release dates on their own website. If it wasn't for Amazon I wouldn't even know what date to expect them in stores.

    One thing that's interesting to look at is the progression of the art style. In the beginning Alita looked very child-like and the characters often had distinctively stylized faces as is done in many manga, with a lot of the pages meticulously shaded and painted. As it went on it's obvious where time and effort began to take their toll as the art became more simple - still very detailed and beatifully planned out but a lot of the shading was being done less and less. With the break in time between the original series and Last Order it's obvious how far Kishiro has come in his art; all of the characters are drawn in a more cohesive fashion with less reliance on head shape to differentiate them, and the quality of the artwork has increased tremendously. I love the look of LO Alita so much that her original appearance looks wimpy and silly in comparision.

    Original Alita Last Order Alita

    As at least some of you have read by now, James Cameron is at work on a live-action Alita which will either be his next or after-his-next movie. He's brought up how he wants to focus her character a bit (he felt that her skills went back and forth in terms of strength early on) and also would like to make this a series (he wants Motorball to be in the second movie), so it remains to be seen how things will go. In other offshoots there's an anime of the beginning of the series which I remember being decent but haven't seen in years, and a book called Ashen Victor which focuses on pre-Alita Motorball (which IIRC isn't by Kishiro, but I don't own it and haven't read it).

    Obviously I feel this is a fantastic series, if anyone was ever to ask me to recommend a manga it would be hands-down the Alita series. There's nothing else in manga (or comics in general, really) that I think surpasses this, I adored it before and with Last Order it got even better.

  2. Yeah, I love this series. Not as much as you, but still quite a bit. I had scattered single issues from when it was first published, and I've collected the books since I noticed it being republished.(Just got 7 & 8 yesterday, actually)

    I like Alita's old look much more than the new one though. The new pages are obviously better technically(the art looks a lot cleaner), but I think it loses something there. I can't imagine a design like Figure Four's(was that his name?) showing up in it, for instance, but I liked how that sort of rough design was in Alita. Plus I think she looks better as her wimpy self compared to that Last Order image you chose, anyways. The old contrast of frail body + badass ability thing, I guess. But I've only flipped through the last order books, so my opinion might change once I get used to them.

  3. I've been a fan of Alita for quite some time now. It was actually the first anime I'd ever seen outside of the DBZ fare when I was a kid, and when I was in high school I discovered the greatness that was the manga. I finished volume 9 and thought that was the end of it.

    But Last Order is just so damned amazing. Kishiro hasn't lost his edge. It has, in fact, gotten far better since his earlier volumes. I must have read volume 4 (the cover of which is on your avatar) at least 8 times now. The fights are just amazing (especially Zazie versus that Kotengu guy) and the continuity and scope are well refined. I do not hesitate to call it the greatest contemporary manga on print right now.

    I really hope that Desty Nova comes back at some point, and I also really wonder if we'll ever see Figure Four again. I heartily recommend this to anyone, and if anyone needs the 9 volumes of the first series, there's a certain .zip file I can share with you..

  4. Quote Originally Posted by rezo
    The old contrast of frail body + badass ability thing, I guess.
    She's still small which I like, but her body seems more developed and he's created more of integration of cybernetics with a human shape. In the old style she was a cyborg that wore clothes and now it's almost as though her armor is just in place of muscle definition (like in my included attachment), which I think is a really cool style. I also think her face is cuter now and I prefer her hair straight instead of the 80's frizz it used to have going on.
    Quote Originally Posted by TrialSword
    The fights are just amazing
    As much as I don't like tournaments, LO4 and 5 have been freaking awesome in the fight department. The last few pages of 5 was just DAMN.
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  5. Quote Originally Posted by MechDeus
    As much as I don't like tournaments, LO4 and 5 have been freaking awesome in the fight department. The last few pages of 5 was just DAMN.
    Five is out now? Hot damn, I need to get this. I was at Kinokuniya in Manhattan a few months ago --they had up to Last Order volume 6 already, and they're bigger and hardcover to boot! Lucky japs get everything...

    The cover of volume 6 has Alita/Gally squatting on top of this big purple mass in outer space, with two arm-blades coming from her forearms a la LO volume 4. It's pretty bad-ass. Oh yeah, a calendar pic from Kishiro's site:

    EDIT: Kinda funny how they give Figure Four such a prominent spot, and he's been in all of one volume. I mean shit, Kaos has had more impact on her life than Figure has.
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    Last edited by George; 17 Apr 2005 at 10:47 PM.

  6. Oh hell yes, BAA is the shit! When I started buying manga in 2003, I picked up Last Order Volume 1 on a whim, and I don't ever regret. I started buying the original series to fill the lull between Last Order volumes. The amount of creativity and research that more than likely goes into the series is what has me hooked. I think I've read Last Order volume 5 6 times by now. Interesting that Viz is only releasing 2 volumes a year; I just assumed that LO wasn't done in Japan yet, and that new volumes were released over here as soon as they were done there.
    www.classic-games.net updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

  7. i need to catch up with LO. i've got the first one when that came out, but lack of funds have kept me from getting the rest (and a whole lotta other series, too). i'm also thinking about collecting the rereleases (even though i've already got the original releases), but is there anything in them that make them worth plunking down for (besides the extra info stuff)? and if you want more motorball goodness, then check out Ashen Victor.

    great thread Mech.

  8. Quote Originally Posted by TrialSword
    Five is out now?
    Came out on the 12th. Was also the only time I've ever rushed to a bookstore to hope they had something on release day.
    The cover of volume 6 has Alita/Gally squatting on top of this big purple mass in outer space, with two arm-blades coming from her forearms a la LO volume 4.
    LO6 LO7
    EDIT: Kinda funny how they give Figure Four such a prominent spot, and he's been in all of one volume. I mean shit, Kaos has had more impact on her life than Figure has.
    Well, he was her only love after the Salem-obsessed kid and he's one of the few interested in Alita's humanity. That's gotta count for something. You also reminded me, I keep wondering when/if Kaos is going to pop back up after his show in LO. I figured there was going to be more with him but they seem to be getting really far away physically so if he does get seen again it probably won't be until the very end.

    Also, I need that calender.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lordmrw
    Interesting that Viz is only releasing 2 volumes a year; I just assumed that LO wasn't done in Japan yet, and that new volumes were released over here as soon as they were done there.
    I saw that LO had been getting translated into other languages a year or two before we started getting it (Italian, IIRC) and I thought it had already been wrapped up by now. Seems like I'm wrong since Japan just got LO7 on 03/18/2005 so there could still be more coming.

    If only I knew Japanese and could just import them.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ashen Victor
    but is there anything in them that make them worth plunking down for (besides the extra info stuff)?
    Not that I know of. I never owned the originals (I borrowed a friend's collection) so I'll be buying the rereleases at some point, which will line up nicely in size with LO's volumes. It'll also be easy to finally keep track of which volume is which, I could never remember what order they were in by the names alone.

  9. It'll also be easy to finally keep track of which volume is which, I could never remember what order they were in by the names alone.
    I hated that. I actually avoided buying the graphic novels when they first came out because of that.

  10. it actually tells you what volume a particular book is when you open up and read the publishing notes. it was the only way i knew how to buy them, but i didn't start doing that after realizing i skipped the entire motorball arc (going from 1 and 2, to 5 and 6).

    oh, and Trial, next time you're in the city and happen to stop by Forbidden Planet, they've got a 3/$24 manga deal happening on their upper level (relegated to anything $10; which should be most of them). noticed it today after hitting up a street fair further up on 17th and Broadway.
    Last edited by Ashen Victor; 18 Apr 2005 at 03:04 AM.

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