The connections between recent Tom Cruise action vehicle Edge of Tomorrow and its manga source material All You Need is Kill could probably be listed on a single hand.
Which goes to show you: always read the source material; it’s interesting to note the differences and it just might shed extra light on the version you just watched:
All You Need is Kill Volume One vs. Edge of Tomorrow
I recently saw Edge of Tomorrow and I’d give the flick a C. It was clever, but not quite clever enough despite its Groundhog Day-esque premise. It did have its moments, albeit with very lacking science fiction details, but it gets your pulse pounding in its brainless action movie way. A quick Google search reveals the manga had a much more robust explanation for the aliens, and a much more awesome title to go with it. Comparisons include humans wearing light mech suits, a girl and guy protagonist and the need for our hero to learn how to fight by dying over and over and over. Beyond that there’s a lot different and a lot more to like in the manga.
Originally written as a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, this manga was adapted by Ryōsuke Takeuchi with art by Takeshi Obata of Death Note fame. The story starts in a fever dream as a war torn-soldier is blown apart. Humans are fighting aliens called ‘Mimics’ who are taking over the globe with ease. He sees a beautiful woman, Mimic hero Rita Vrataski, then wakes up. He thinks it’s a dream, but quickly realizes he knows what’s going to happen in the day as if he’s already lived it. Much like Death Note and Future Diary, this manga is all about rules. The first half of the book is devoted to Keiji figuring out that every time he dies he comes back to life the same day. Each loop lasts a little over a day and he quickly starts planning things out to train and take back his deaths as a victory.
Opening of the manga.
This first volume is similar to the first hour of the film in that it focuses on Keiji’s training and growth as a soldier. Time is running out though, and by the end he realizes he needs to team up with Rita Vrataski to enact real change for the future. The manga is fast paced, filled with horrific gore and is an all around good time in a gum chewing sort of way. There aren’t any heavy morality moments or character dynamics at play. The hero discovers his power and spends most of this manga trying to take control of his own future, one death at a time.
So what is similar between this manga and the film? First off, the general premise is exactly the same—a hero who barely knows how to fight in his suit must learn how to be the biggest badass the army has ever seen. Rita is very similar to her film counterpart (played by Emily Blunt) as well. They are both young, American, and extremely good at what they do. That’s about all the similarities I can find in this first volume.
Differences: The Alien Look
The aliens are far different looking. In the manga they are balls of flying mouths with big chomping teeth.
In the movie however, they look like this:
They are squid-like creatures that crawl on the ground like fast-moving insects.
Differences: The Suits
The suits in the film are a little clunky with the human much more visible. In a sense they are much easier to believe since some of the tech you see on the screen is available today. It’s basically a harness that makes the human stronger, but doesn’t necessarily protect them, especially since their chest and portions of their arms and legs are open to attack. They also have a lot more weapons, but this is due to bullets and rockets hurting the Mimics in the film, which isn’t the case in the manga.
In the manga the suits are all encompassing, sleeker and very cool. They’re a little more organic looking and give off an Evangelion vibe.
The protagonist is far different as well. Keiji isn’t a marketing guru like Tom Cruise is in the film. Keiji is an average soldier, albeit almost as inept when it comes to fighting as the film’s hero. The opening plot of the film, featuring a man who is a high enough rank to not fight who markets the very suits that are “winning the war” gets thrust into the front line due to a mishap with a general, is gone from the manga entirely. This plot device sets the stage for a very green soldier, but doesn’t add up to much in this first volume.
Differences: Violence and Gore
Another major difference is the level of violence. In the manga there is horrific shots of Keiji losing limbs, getting stabbed in the eye and other terrible calamities a body should never go through.
Should we expect anything even close to similar from a PG-13 rated movie? In a sense this difference doesn’t make that much of a difference when it comes to the narrative, and truth be told there are some scary shots of Tom Cruise screaming in agony, and I’d wager the gore in the manga is actually gratuitous and unnecessary.
Differences: Cast of Characters
There’s a much larger cast of characters in All You Need is Kill as well. There’s not only a very supportive general, but a female cook and Rita’s mechanic as well.
The general in the manga agrees to train Keiji everyday, whereas the general in the film, played by Bill Paxton, hates Tom Cruise’s guts.
The cook ends up being a bit of a throwaway character in the manga, who is really only around to play up a love triangle of sorts for Keiji. Her absence from the film is not a big loss.
The mechanic is probably the most interesting of characters missing from the film. The mechanic is Rita’s personal weapon developer. She ends up helping Keiji build his own battle ax to wield in battle, something else missing from the film. In the film Tom Cruise never uses a non-gun weapon once. In fact, in the film, bullets actually hurt Mimics, whereas in the manga bullets are useless.
Differences: The Writing on the Wall
Probably the coolest thing from the manga absent in the film is Keiji’s habit of writing on the back of his hand how many deaths he’s on. This is a visual for the reader to keep tabs on how many times he’s died and when it rises into the hundreds it gives the story perspective on how much pain he’s gone through to become such a great fighter.
The film replaces this with some clever ways of showing Tom Cruise knowing things even though we haven’t seen him live through the moment just yet. This forces the viewer to quickly figure out he’s already lived that moment even if it’s the first time for the viewer. While not as cool as the number on the hand it’s a visual trick that works well for the film medium.
Dare I say Rita is hotter than Emily Blunt?
So Which is Better?
In a lot of ways All You Need is Kill is superior to the film, particularly in its action sequences. The action is a lot more interesting and the stakes are always obvoius based on Keiji’s handwritten death number on the back of his hand. Volume one is focused on the training more than anything, which makes it sort of like a long preparation montage. Volume two is already available, but something tells me as a whole All You Need is Kill trumps Edge of Tomorrow in enough ways to call it the clear winner.
It does remain to be seen how complicated the plot gets with the Mimics as the manga hasn’t gotten that far yet, nor has it explored the relationship between Keiji and Rita.
You can purchase All You Need is Kill digitally from Viz Media here.