Late last year – after almost two decades worth of anticipation – James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’s live action adaptation of Yukito Kishiro classic sci-fi manga is officially on its way to cinemas. Naturally, now is the perfect time to revisit Alita whilst discovering her origins at the same time.
Beginning its first run in 1990, Battle Angel Alita was one of the first manga series to make a major splash with western fans. Alongside Ghost in the Shell and Akira, it not only popularised the sci-fi manga genre but it was one of the key titles that lead to the growth and popularity of manga with English speaking comic fans. The success of the original series led to Kishiro creating a follow up (Last Order) which ran up till 2014 and is now being brought to a close with Mars Chronicle. As well as bringing Alita’s story to a close, it also acts a prequel – revealing several undisclosed details of her past including her early childhood with her now enemy/then friend Erica.
Readers new to the series may want to check out the new hardcover editions Kodansha Comics have recently released before jumping into this new chapter as while there is a large amount of prequel material, the main purpose of Mars Chronicle is to expand and continue on what has come before. That being said, there is still plenty to enjoy if you are coming in blind, particularly learning what moulded the tentative Alita (Yoko at the time) into the fierce and determined martial artist she later grows into, and the harsh Mars environment she came from. It is easy to see why this series appealed to James Cameron as Kishiro has created a sci-fi world on an epic scale that still manages to have many layers of subtlety that are present throughout the entire run. Alita in particular is a surprisingly deep character who goes through many changes throughout the series and Mars Chronicle features some of the best key formative moments in her character arc.
When talking about all-time great sci-fi manga artists, Kishiro’s name is right up there with the likes of Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) and Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell). The entire series has some of the most creative and cool cyborg designs in all manga and it was very ahead of its time in the action department. But the world building and the general epic scale that everything has is where it succeeds the most and Mars Chronicle is no exception. It really helps amp up the dangerous atmosphere and the rather hopeless situation young Alita and Erica find themselves in.
Battle Angel Alita is rightfully considered an all-time great in the manga canon and Mars Chronicle further cements its place. With the movie on the horizon, now is the ideal time to discover, rediscover or continue reading this sci-fi manga classic.
Battle Angel Alita Mars Chronicle 1 is published by Kodansha on 23rd January 2017 (£9.99, Paperback, 9781632366153)