During volume six of Battle Angel Alita, Desty Nova tells Alita something that she has never considered, and which now makes her worry: though she desperately wants to see Ido, Ido may not want to see her. The point is one that’s tangled up with Nova’s experiments and a world in which brains and bodies can be altered, but the deeper point is one that might affect Alita more: over time, people change.
Volume seven of the manga runs with that theme with old characters return to the scene, and not quite the same as they once were. Koyomi was a young girl when last we saw her—she’s now a wild child, a “hustler with a heart of gold.” She relates stories of others Alita once knew from the junkyard, whose lives have moved forward or backward as the years have gone by. And joining Koyomi is the cybernetic dog Fury, who is a bit older and just a little worse for the wear.
But more than anyone, it’s Alita who’s changed. A couple more years removed from the last volume, Alita isn’t the nihilistic cyborg fighting with little hope as she was when she first met Figure Four. Now, having lived with him for some time, she’s become calmer and more focused. She’s aged and become wiser. And she seems to have a level of peace to her, and humor as well. Her crazy road (one that almost mentally destroys the new character, Kaos, when he “reads” her), which I previously referred to as verging on torture porn, has produced some unexpected fruit. Alita seems to be having fun.
She of course also continues to be fearsome, and in fact, is more focused than ever. Alita fights with purpose now, with meaning—she no longer battles as a slave to Zalem, but with the mindset of a partner with her operator, Lou. Together, they’re a team reaching for different purposes that verge at the end of the same road.
And with all this change, we wonder…what does Ido think? What will Ido do when he and Alita inevitably meet?
This manga loves its surprises, and I’m sure more are in store, but isn’t that like real life, too? We trudge through life, getting caught up in the nitty gritty of daily living, or in some grand life project (for Alita it’s her mission; for you it may be career), and months and years past between one meeting and next in a relationship. Though Facebook connects us, the details shared in posts are highly curated and don’t always reflect what a person has become, who they are now.
Some years back, I returned to my hometown on a business trip and had dinner with an old friend, an unusual guy with whom I’d had a complicated history. He hadn’t changed much, but other old acquaintances he invited to our meal had. We had wonderful conversations that evening as I realized that not only had they changed—so had I.
I think that’s one of the human pleasures of this life, the surprise that comes when reuniting with old friends. Though I think that somehow Alita’s reunion with Ido won’t be quite so chummy, that, too, is okay. None of us stand still. We’re all moving forward, backward, and sideways—especially sideways. And when our twisty paths meet, it all too often produces surprises great and small. Such is life, and all part of the fun.