Battle Angel Alita is back in this prequel series focusing on our favorite kickass cyborg. It’s well timed with the new movie on the way, but it also finally reveals how Alita ended up in the scrap yard where cyber-doctor Daisuke Ido rescued her. Prepare for war and revelations in this new manga set on Mars.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
For centuries, war has raged on the dusty, red surface of Mars. This apocalyptic crucible will produce the solar system’s most fearsome warrior, Alita. But for now that warrior is just a little girl named Yoko. The future and past of the battle angel fan out across the reaches of space in the final chapter of one of the greatest sci-fi epics of all time!
Why does this matter?
Aside from the main character ending up in a big Hollywood movie this manga also has an important message about war. It also explores the Battle Angel universe in a new way by focusing on Mars.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Though it may be dubbed a sequel this is actually a prequel focusing on Alita when she was just a small child on Mars. The original creator of Battle Angel Alita Yukito Kishiro is writing and drawing this one which means two things. The first is that we’re getting his greatest work to date due to all that he’s learned to create Battle Angel Alita. The second is that this story builds off what we already know of Alita and where she goes from here. By the end of the volume you get a sense of how Alita was formed into the warrior she ends up becoming due to the close encounters with death and fast thinking required to keep herself alive.
Somewhat surprisingly this volume is less about Alita (who is dubbed Yoko here) in part because she’s so young. She speaks very little and tags along more than takes center stage. She does do a heroic act or two, but it’s her friend Erica who takes charge as a sort of big sister. We quickly meet both and learn how war has ravaged Mars in a variety of ways. Soldiers are absent, the only men in town are old due to soldiers running off, and resources are scarce. It’s no place for children. Soon we meet a group of children, one of which dubs herself a queen and is a bit of a bully. Kishiro shows how in times of great peril and stress even children enact efforts to control and dominate others. As the story progresses we see Erica defend Yoko and Yoko do her best to be easy going and happy.
It’s quite clear however that Kishiro wants to focus much more on the terror of war particularly in how children can be affected by it. About midway through the manga Yoko, Erica, and a group of girls hang out in a secret hiding place. Soon an army comes down upon the city and one after the other Kishiro shows how war has no care for children as they are torn up in violent ways. The manga can be quite graphic, fair warning, but it’s a strong message that’ll stick with you. If you read this manga and think war is necessary you may need to take a hard look at yourself.
Kishiro is at the top of his game when it comes to the art in this manga. The detail is extraordinary and the emotional beats are hard felt and deeply moving. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to the gore and graphic violence, which is particularly unnerving when it involves a child. Outside of the violence, you get a great sense of how Mars is different from Earth from the environments to the vehicles.
Mars is different.
It can’t be perfect can it?
My only gripe is how slow the manga starts. The first 30 pages introduce all the characters and set up the bullying yet doesn’t really gets to the meat of the story for quite some time. Upon reaching the midway point it’s clear why so much time was spent on the girls who bully, but it still stifles the opening and may have been handled in a smoother way. There’s also a cast of bounty hunters who are introduced who end up serving as comedic relief more than anything. I’m not sure their inclusion is all that important so early on given how unimportant they are to the narrative, but then again it’s always so welcome to have seeds planted early so they pay off later.
Is It Good?
This is an excellent manga about the terrors of war wrapped in a science fiction world worth exploring. I’m curious to see how fans of Battle Angel Alita enjoy this because, at least with this first volume, it feels like an entirely different series.