What do you picture in your head when you hear the word, “outsider”? I immediately think of the film adaptation of The Outsiders with its cast of cool looking dudes, the very image of rebels. And on the other end of the spectrum, I also think of those that don’t well fit into society, who are perhaps a bit awkward or whose interests aren’t mainstream (otaku included)—so the exact opposite of that first image: the uncool.
I was never quite in either of those categories, but the idea of being an outsider still rings true to me, if not as a way of life, certainly in portions of my own journey. I was never part of some maligned group, not really, but I’ve certainly felt like no one understands me. I’ve felt like I don’t have a group of people around me who are true friends, who truly get how I feel and actively try to support me.
Alita feels this way, too—in fact, an entire chapter in volume four of Battle Angel Alita is entitled, “Outsider.”
Alita uses this status as motivation. I don’t belong—so what? I’ve never belonged, and that’s what makes me me! It’s not a bad strategy, the whole “me against the world” type of thing, especially for an elite fighter / athlete. But if you go too far down that road, you miss the point. Alita sometimes does travel that path, but she wises us to reality, which is this—Alita is most definitely an outsider, and in the most discouraging of ways.
Jashugan, her rival in Motorball, is similarly an outsider. Though popular and beloved, his strength far surpasses those he plays against. Physically, he’s also in a unique situation, traveling the lonely road both of champion and brain-enhanced being. Companionship also alludes him—the only people close to him are his sister and his mentor, and he realizes that the earlier can no longer accompany him, and after being instructed by his sensei to kill his sister, that he can no longer be a disciple of the latter.
Being an outsider is to be lonely, and with loneliness comes pain. But even outsiders can come together and form community, and in doing so, find a “place” in the world—though when that happens, are the members of such a group “outsiders” anymore? While society at large considers them so, they now have a place where they belong.
But what happens when community doesn’t exist for you, as is the case with Jashugan and Alita? Or what happens when it fails, as it has for me?
Well, Alita and Jashugan show what happens—the earlier, as strong-willed as she is, is discouraged and lost, and the latter becomes fearful and loses hope. We as humans are made for community, so when it doesn’t exist, or when its broken, we are unfulfilled, and in many cases are left feeling hopeless.
As Alita moves forward, though, there is a glimmer of hope. She is searching for something or someone out there to show her that she’s not alone. Because as it is with us all, being on the outside can only motivate you for so long—being on the inside, having authentic community—is what we need to thrive.
Join us next Friday as we jump into volume five of the Battle Angel Alita manga!
4 thoughts on “Battle Angel Alita, Vol. 4: Outsiders”
I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt lonely but I have felt alone before,unfortunately
I’m awfully sorry you’ve felt lonely throughout your life, TWWK, but I can certainly relate! I’ve spent much of my life feeling isolated due to circumstances beyond my control, such as having Asperger’s Syndrome and very few Christians in my family, and I’ve yet to find the group of special friends you talk about, though I pray for them all the time and will never give up looking for them. ^.^ To put a positive spin on things, I will say that my loneliness has blessed me with rather remarkable strength and optimism! 🙂 The Bible says that we ought to view our trials as “pure joy,” and I can attest to that, as being friendless for so long prompted me to lean on Jesus with everything I’ve got, and an online friend of mine who was raised in a large Christian family tells me that she doesn’t know anyone who has as much faith as I do, so I know nothing is a mistake!! ^.^ Especially when I consider that many of the great men of the Bible went through periods of isolation and anticipation, such as Joseph, the boy who was sold into slavery, and Job, who waited patiently for God to help him, and even Jesus Himself, who didn’t even begin His ministry until He was 30-years-old, and who also spent 40 days alone in the wilderness when Satan tempted Him. Clearly, isolation can be viewed as a blessing, too, as it’s a time in one’s life when it doesn’t need to be “me against the world” but rather “me and Jesus against the world,” as we can draw closer to Him in our solitude than perhaps we could ever do surrounded by other people, for as wonderful and important as friends are, they can distract us from hearing God’s voice loud and clear, and so there are times when God isolates us in order to have us all to Himself and allow us to hear His “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) in the quiet, just the two of you. That’s a bit of wisdom I’ve gained from being alone, anyway!! ^.^
For whatever it’s worth, I really appreciate that you have the courage to open up to everyone about the struggles you’ve faced! It truly is comforting to read about someone having similar experiences, so please do know that the things you have to say are more valuable than you realize! Being transparent with people is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life, and again, much of that has to do with circumstances I couldn’t control, but Jesus said to not hide one’s light under a basket but put it upon a lampstand to give light to the whole house, and so becoming more open was one of my New Year’s resolutions!! I’ll pray that God sends you some wonderful friends soon who will be just right for you, people who will share your passions and values, be fiercely loyal to you, and never take you for granted! And thank you for keeping your light on that stand right here and right now. ^.^
Were you talking to me in your comment or just Charles?
Thank you for the encouraging feedback, Tonie. I absolutely agree—we often see loneliness as a curse, but as God is wont to do, he turns hurt and pain into something beautiful. The amazing wonder of good friends or a strong support network can be equally matched by the multitude ways in which we can grow in our solitude. God is quite amazing that way!
And thank you for sharing—it seems to me that you’re well on your way to achieving your resolution. Take care and God bless!