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Battle Angel

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese Original Video Animation (OVA) (1993). Original title Gunnm. Based on the Manga by Yukito Kishiro. Madhouse. Directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi. Written by Akinori Endō. Voice cast includes Shigeru Chiba, Miki Itō, Shunsuke Kariya, Mami Koyama and Kappei Yamaguchi. Two 30-minute episodes. Colour.

The aerial City of Zalem dumps its factory waste and other detritus onto the surface below, around which has grown Scrap Iron City. Many its inhabitants are heavily Cyborged, whilst others dream of living in Zalem. The exiled cyberdoctor (see Medicine) Daisuke Ido (Kariya) has no such ambition: instead he charitably repairs cyborgs. One day, scavenging spare parts from the scrap piles, he discovers the broken Android, Gally (Itō): he repairs her and she, in effect, becomes his ward. Lacking a police force, Scrap Iron City puts a price on criminal's heads so bounty hunters will dispatch them (see Crime and Punishment): Ido funds his practice in this way. When the brain-eating serial killer he is stalking proves too strong, Gally, who has followed him, attacks and slays them. Her fighting prowess is as much a surprise to her as to Ido.

Gally has fallen for Yugo (Yamaguchi), a young handyman. His fixation on moving to Zalem leads to his stealing spines for Vector (Chiba), who has told him he can get people into Zalem. But Vector wants Gally to become a gladiator and seeks to blackmail her by putting a bounty on Yugo's head. This backfires when Yugo is mortally wounded by a bounty hunter: Gally kills the hunter then takes Yugo's remains to Ido, who turns him into a cyborg. But Yugo, who lacks introspection, dies pitifully in a desperate attempt to reach Zalem. Ido discovers Vector's method of getting people into Zalem: having found Ido's former friend Chiren (Koyama) had lied to him to protect Gally and Yugo, Vector dissected her for body parts to sell in Zalem. Ido kills him.

The setting might be a metaphor for class or capitalism, with the lure of Zalem (encouraging evil deeds and the rejection of social bonds) shown as a corruptive influence: Scrap Iron City even has cyborg combat sports (see Games and Sports) to keep the population distracted. The Anime never actually shows us what life is really like in Zalem, and most of Scrap Iron City's inhabitants are similarly ignorant, though the likes of Yugo believe their life will only acquire value by reaching it. All the viewer knows is that Chiren and Ido once lived there; one wants to return and the other does not. This is a dark and lively Cyberpunk anime with much to enjoy – Scrap Iron City and its inhabitants being colourful and violent, though Gally's personality is a little flat. Based on the first two volumes of the manga, the two OVAs are best considered as a single film.

Gally was renamed Alita in the English language versions of the manga and anime: thus the title of the flawed but interesting live action film Alita: Battle Angel (2019), directed by Robert Rodriguez, produced and co-written by James Cameron. There has also been a Videogame. [SP]


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