Battle Angel Alita, known as Gunnm in Japan, is a two-episode OVA series based on the manga by Yukito Kishiro. The two episodes are titled, Rusty Angel and Tears Sign, and they correspond with the first two volumes of the manga. The OVA was directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi, and was produced by Madhouse. The two parts of the OVA were released in Japan between June 21 and August 21, 1993. As of this writing, ADV Films holds the North American license for the Battle Angel Alita OVA.
The main character of Battle Angel Alita is Gally, and she is an amnesiac cyborg. At the beginning of the OVA, her intact head and upper torso are found by Daisuke Ido when he’s out looking for useful scrap. Ido discovers that she is in a state of suspended animation. He revives Gally in his laboratory and discovers that she has lost her memory. Ido is the one who gives her the name Gally.
The story is set in a futuristic city called Scrap Iron City, which is built around a massive scrap heap that rains down from Zalem, a mysterious city floating in the sky above. The people who live in Scrap Iron City have no access to Zalem and must find a way to make a living in the violent world of a city that is more like a wasteland.
Gally discovers that Ido is working as a Hunter-Warrior, a mercenary who kills cyborg criminals and collects the bounties. One night, when Gally follows Ido, she sees that a cyborg is going to kill him. She becomes angry and discovers that she has fighting abilities that she had no idea that she possessed. Gally joins the Hunter-Warriors.
Ido has an encounter with his former partner, Chrien, who he used with work with in Zalem. Chiren is obsessed with returning to Chiren, but Ido has no interest in helping her achieve that goal. Feeling like a spurned lover, Chiren goes to man named Vector, who promises to help her get back to Zalem if she does favors for him, such as repairing cyborg gladiators that fight in the coliseum. When a former gladiator asks Chiren to repair him, and mentions Ido and Gally, she decides to upgrade this cyborg with her best tricks in order for him to take on Gally and get her revenge on Ido for spurning her.
Meanwhile, Gally becomes friends with an orphanied young man named Yugo, who has a dream of going to Zalem. He makes a living by doing odd jobs around Scrap Iron City. However, it turns out he’s doing something illegal on the side and catches Vector’s eye. Once again, Vector makes a promise to get Yugo to Zalem, if he saves up enough credits. And it should be mentioned that Gally develops feelings for Yugo, but his obsession of getting to Zalem blinds him to this.
The story is split into two parts. The first episode of the OVA establishes the characters, their world, and gets Gally to the point of becoming a Hunter-Warrior, as well as Chiren unable to succeed in her revenge plot. The second half focuses more on Yugo, and he ultimately has a tragic end to his storyline. A “happily ever after” ending would not have worked for a series like Battle Angel Alita, especially since the manga was still ongoing at the time the OVA was produced. While there is a self-contained story in this OVA, there’s also a sense of feeling as if there should be more to the story. The ending of the second OVA felt a little rushed to me as well. The OVA works for what it is, but it also felt like it could have been more than it was.
The animation is good for its era (the early 1990’s), although there is a bit of violence in the series. Between the violence, the dystopian setting and story, as well as the few shots of nudity that are involved, this is a gritty OVA for its era and not really meant for younger viewers.
Anime fans should at least find a way to watch the Battle Angel Alita OVA, because it’s considered a classic.