After years in development, Alita: Battle Angel, based on the Battle Angel Alita manga, reaches theaters on Valentine’s Day. It’s been a long process to get the film made—producer James Cameron has had fanboys excited for over a decade due to his attachment to it, but finally turned the property over to a different director (Robert Rodriguez, who brings in some major fanboy street cred of his own) to focus on the Avatar sequels. As we move closer to the premier, we’ll be discussing one volume of the original manga each Friday to prepare. Feel free to read along (the first volume of the series is available for Amazon Prime subscribers) as we ready ourselves for the movie release!
The opening chapters to the story introduce us to Alita, a cyborg found in a scrapheap by Ido, a doctor/engineer who restores her after the discovery. There are lots of the ways I imagined the story might evolve, but it goes a direction I wasn’t expecting—after Ido repairs Alita and discovers that she is a fighting machine, he tries to halt her progress toward that end, even though he himself hunts down criminal cyborgs. Ido doesn’t fall in love with Alita, but does love her, acting very much the role of her guardian and father. Ido wants to protect Alita, preferring her to wear pretty dresses and stay out of danger, but she wants to act like her “dad,” using her skills to their fullest. The danger to Alita is real, though—she almost dies in combat with a vengeful cyborg named Makaku, during which Ido is also gravely injured.
But Ido’s admonitions aren’t purely to keep Alita safe. There’s something else at work here, something stirring inside Ido—he is struggling with control.
All parents have to learn when to let their children fly, but for the child, that letting go presents challenges, too. With freedom comes responsibility and danger. For those of us not living in an apocalyptic, cyberpunk world, the danger in gaining such choice is that we may fail in careers, friendships, and the smaller, day-to-day challenges of life. We won’t get our brains splattered during a fight (at least I hope not), but we could make a mess out of a project at work. So that freedom we long for comes with a price—we take control from another and put it into our own hands, and that can be a scary thing.
As such, Alita is shaping up to be not just another sci-fi story—it also looks to be a tale of growing up, of a how a young lady (mysterious past included) learns to be an adult, complicated by stresses that strangely mirror our own adolescent worries (Who am I?) and burgeoning skills and talents, like we all discover as we try to find our place in the world, as well of how Ido will learn to lose control and in that become an ally for Alita, rather than one ultimately holding her back. I’m eager to see how Alita develops apart from him, and whether she finds control of her own life satisfying (and also whether she truly does have control at all).
Join us each Friday as we discuss a volume of Battle Angel Alita. Up next Friday: volume 2!