When a skilled cyberneticist stumbles upon the remnants of a female cyborg he decides to save her and manages to restore everything but her memories. As she regains consciousness it’s made clear that her robotic body hasn’t reduced her humanity to something entirely artificial and she is still capable of understanding and developing feelings of love, loyalty and devotion.
Such is the premise of Battle Angel Alita, set in a post-apocalyptic world where people without access to Zalem, a floating city of presumed luxuries, are forced to live in a society filled with garbage that’s dumped from above. The story spends most of its time following the titular heroine as she sets out to find her own reason for being whilst encountering loads of robotic criminals, organ thieves but also benevolent beings she grows to love. Because of its length, this OVA merely touches the surface of what the manga depicts but even so the pacing and execution is somewhat impressive. Events rarely feel rushed and there’s enough development within the cast and storyline to downright surprise viewers who expected a work so short to come without impact. Furthermore, the conflict at the core of it all grows increasingly interesting as the main character, Gally, struggles to find her raison d'être despite the obstacles in her way. By no means excellent, but most certainly good, the story came as a pleasant surprise.
Battle Angel Alita is the combined effort of MADHOUSE and a less famous studio which means expectations ought to be high. Whilst not particularly mind-blowing in any sense of the word, the animation definitely lived up to the standard of an early 90’s production with simple yet appealing character designs and backgrounds that despite a certain lack of detail manage to enhance the gloomy atmosphere.
I also found the action scenes to be better than expected since they skipped the bad habit of depicting each and every move using obnoxious still frames and instead animated the punches fully whilst using the right angles and various techniques to hold back expenses. All in all I fear I might have been a bit too generous with the animation score but nobody can deny that it’s very satisfactory for its age.
Most of the voice actors did a good job with their respective characters but the soundtrack itself left lots of things to be desired. The music was never particularly inappropriate but nor was it very good with simplistic tunes used over and over again. Furthermore, a lot of scenes went on without any background music at all, which can work just fine in some cases, but didn’t for this particular production.
This is usually the hardest category to succeed in when it comes to short OVA’s but they did an admirable job developing the characters. Don’t get me wrong, their motives and ambitions are as simplistic as can be, but they still change over time as the result of interaction with other characters for better or for worse.
Gally and her relationship with Yugo, a young boy dreaming of a life in Zalem, was by far the most interesting aspect of the characterization. Their mutual affection for each other but fundamentally different dreams for the future raised plenty of interesting discussion.
It’s hard to define why exactly this is OVA turned out so well. There are certain moments of excessive violence and the short runtime prohibits any attempt to venture into deeper territories. However, with a most admirable sense of simple but effective characterization, the writers manage to make the characters come off as likeable which makes their struggles and goals much more interesting to watch. Furthermore, the story itself reaches a somewhat proper conclusion which is extremely rare for most short OVA’s that do little more than promote the manga. In the end I’d recommend this, not only to fans of Cyberpunk, but to anyone looking for an enjoyable watch in general.