AKA: Gunnm, Gun Dream, Hyper Future Vision: Gunnm, Ganmu, Battle Angel (OVA), Battle Angel (1993), Battle Angel Alita, Battle Angel Gally
Genre: Cyberpunk/Action/Crime Drama
Year Released: 1993
Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally available from ADV Films)
Running Time: OVA, 2 episodes, 27 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: Alita: Battle Angel
For Fans Of: Ghost in the Shell, Armored Trooper Votoms, Texhnolyze, Psycho-Pass, The Terminator, Key the Metal Idol, Now and Then Here and There, Green Legend Ran, Blade Runner, Elysium, Looper
-The English dub was used for this review.
-Characters and locales will be based on the anime names. For example, the main character’s name is Gally in the anime (both English and Japanese versions) instead of Alita like in the original manga or the recent live-action remake movie.
-Battle Angel is based on a manga called Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro and it’s still going to this day via sequel series. It was first published in 1990. Kishiro also made his manga debut at only seventeen years old with Space Oddity.
-This was directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi who also worked on Suzuka, Whistle!, and Flint the Time Detective of all things.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: In ADV’s dub, Gally (Alita) and Yugo are played by Amanda Winn-Lee and Spike Spencer respectively. That’s right, it’s as if Rei and Shinji from Evangelion have an actual relationship trying itself out for this anime.
-Yes, Hollywood fans. That James Cameron movie you recently saw in theaters is based on this manga and anime series which would mean Alita: Battle Angel was remade twenty-six years after this anime was released.
-Battle Angel was scored by Kaoru Wada who also made music for Inu-Yasha, Tekkaman Blade/Teknoman, and Samurai 7.
Can you believe that Yukito Kishiro’s most famous manga got an American adaptation of all things? I wasn’t even all that familiar with that property, and I’m still shocked to this day that James freaking Cameron…the man you know from the first two Terminator movies, Avatar, True Lies, and Titanic got to work on a Hollywood movie based on a 90s Japanese cyberpunk story. To be fair to Mr. Cameron, at least he actually bought the rights to it and gave credit to the original Japanese creator unlike other certain movies getting the remake treatment (I’m looking at you, The Lion King!). Because I don’t deal with Hollywood stuff, I won’t be reviewing Alita: Battle Angel, but if you want someone else’s thoughts, then I would strongly recommend Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews’ critique on that live-action remake. Besides that, I had heard of this anime a long time ago when I saw trailers of it on some of ADV’s DVDs and I remember seeing a certain scene used in one of the AMV Hell videos alongside an acapella cover of “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden. I will not provide context to that because it involves a major spoiler.
Enough rambling, let’s check out the first time Kishiro’s manga became animated.
Battle Angel takes place in the distant future where there are two major cities. There’s Zalem which is this metallic station that rests high in the sky. On the other side is Scrap Iron City. Much like as the name implies, it’s grimy, trashy, and there are dumped cybernetic bodies daily from the refuse of Zalem. A cybernetic scientist by the name of Daisuke Ido discovers the body of a cyborg girl named Gally whom he fixes up and revives while treating her as if it was his own daughter. She has no memories of her past or how she ended up in Scrap Iron City, to begin with. Gally lives life at first until she meets Yugo, a boy who works on the roof of Ido’s house who wants to visit Zalem and escape the crime-ridden city. Things take a turn for the worse as various people get their spines and organs harvested by rogue cyborgs. There are people such as hunter-warriors who act as bounty hunters and policemen to take down criminals. That life happens to awaken in Gally as she deals with the dangers of living in Scrap Iron City.
This was certainly an introduction to the dystopian cyberpunk world regardless of the hype from the American version. Scrap Iron City does work in its world-building as a dangerous place where anyone can kill you and harvest your organs for the right price. The dark and grimy colors really excel in showing this place as a cybernetic hellhole. The night gives light to several lights emerging from speakeasies, brothels, and screens showing gladiator cyborg prize fighters beating the tar out of each other. It ranks close to Lux from Texhnolyze in terms of scary urban areas that you don’t want to be in the wrong part of the city. Gally was a mysterious character that became a likable lead. She has this sense of naivete, but she is more than capable of slaughtering anyone who dares to hurt her or her loved ones which was great. Gally could’ve been a Mary Sue, but she has flaws such as going into dangerous situations over her head and giving into emotions while being amnesiac to what her past was like. Ido was a good father figure who wants to fix cyborgs regardless if they have the funds or not, but he can be played off as too nice. Don’t let his nice attitude fool you though, he’s more than capable of killing criminal robots. Okay, it was kind of weird seeing him because he shares a name with a certain character from ID-0 and he does look like an older version of Vash from Trigun, but he was a good supporting character. Yugo was certainly a dreamer character, but he’s more than what he seems when he tries to come up with schemes to see Zalem. His reasons were surprisingly supportable, yet his methods to get that extra coin are quite tragic.
Battle Angel does fall at times though. Madhouse may have animated this anime, but it’s far from their best work. Most of the fight scenes were decent enough although the animation has certainly aged for the worse not just because of the visual quality, but also because it resorts to some 90s anime cliches of speed lines and that thrice-repeating still shot during an attack. There are major plot holes since the anime only covered the first two volumes of the original manga. Considering the fact that Battle Angel went on long with a multitude of sequels and side-stories in the manga, it is a shame there wasn’t a complete story. Zalem is barely developed as a city which was a shame given Yugo’s goals of getting there. Going back to aged elements, I just laughed when I saw Yugo talking on a payphone which really shows how dated it is. Maybe not as anachronistic as Chibbed which came out over twenty years later, but it sticks out like a sore thumb especially since this is supposed to be a futuristic anime.
This OVA take on Battle Angel did have legit potential, yet not everything was fully realized. It’s a shame because I could see this as a TV series or at the very least a longer OVA series that could’ve covered more of the storylines. Battle Angel does have likable protagonists and the depiction of this brutal crime-ridden world certainly did succeed. However, the story wasn’t all there and Madhouse did slip in their animation quality as some of their other works which came out the same decade look more impressive than this. That’s not to say Battle Angel is a bad series. I just wished it could’ve been better. Maybe in addition to Alita: Battle Angel, Madhouse can try to do another animated go at this series. At least there’s the manga that tells the whole story though.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a fan of cyberpunk anime.
Add 1 point if you like retro Madhouse productions.
Subtract 1-3 points if you need for there to be a complete story in your anime.
-Good main characters
-The Gally/Yugo dynamic (and the tragedy of it)
-Great world-building with Scrap Iron City
-Dated animation and other aspects
-Plot holes and incomplete storylines
-Underdeveloped supporting characters and some villains
Final Score: 6/10 points
Content Warning: Battle Angel is certainly brutal enough to get a 17+ rating on the original DVD. The violence gets graphic and very bloody. People lose limbs and heads a lot. One death scene involves a cyborg killing a dog and one can see its entrails spilling around. There’s nudity, a couple of sex scenes, language, drinking, and smoking going on in this anime. Definitely not for younger viewers.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Battle Angel is property of Madhouse. The DVD box set picture is from Amazon and is property of ADV Films.