Battle Angel Alita, called GUNNM (銃夢 lit. tsutsumu-, aka ガンム ganmu) in Japan and Europe, is a manga (or graphic novel) series created by Yukito Kishiro in 1991. It was originally published in Japan by Shueisha's Business Jump magazine until 1995. The original title GUNNM ("Gun Dream") was changed to Battle Angel Alita by Viz Communications (now VIZ Media), as it was adapted for North America. The nine-volume comics were adapted into two anime original video animations in 1993.
In 2000, Kishiro announced GUNNM: Last Order, called Battle Angel Alita: Last Order in North America, which skips the end of the last graphic novel and tells the story as he originally intended. Last Order is also being translated to English by Viz, with 7 volumes published as of June 2006, and 9 planned in total, with the English volume 8 out in December.
A 1993 anime was made, directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi, under the name Battle Angel in English-speaking countries. Personally I've seen this anime and I thought it was one of the worst animes I've ever seen - the manga is 1000 times better.
Battle Angel Alita tells the story of Alita ("Gally" in the original version), an amnesiac female cyborg. This cyborg's intact head and upper torso are found in a state of suspended animation by the cybermedic expert Daisuke Ido while he's out searching for useful scrap. Amazed by his discovery, Ido quickly returns home and works to revive her. Upon finding that the girl has lost her memory, Ido names her Alita, the name of his recently deceased cat.
The rebuilt Alita soon discovers that she possesses instinctive knowledge of the legendary Martian martial art Panzer Kunst, although she has no other memories of her previous life. Alita must learn to navigate, exist, and fight in the Scrapyard, whose inhabitants themselves live in the rubbish of the tantalizingly close floating city, Tiphares.
Ido builds Alita a new cyborg body, but she begins to suspect that the parts have been obtained from a series of murder victims. She follows him one night, hoping to discover the true nature of his midnight activities. She watches him lie in wait for what appears to be an approaching woman, and intervenes. The woman turns out to be a berserk mutant woman with a bounty on her head. She attacks Alita and Ido.
Alita fights the woman, and suddenly delivers a killing blow. Ido recognizes the technique as an ancient Martian martial art known as Panzer Kunst ("armored arts"). Ido reveals that he is a hunter-warrior, or bounty hunter, and Alita decides to become one as well. This begins Alita's quest to discover her true identity. Her journeys take her across the Scrapyard and surrounding areas, as she tries to recall more of her past.
Battle Angel Alita takes place in a highly futuristic dystopian world, reflected in its full Japanese title GUNNM: Hyper Future Vision. Besides renaming Gally to Alita, the North American version of the manga also changed the city of Salem to Tiphares. Since Kishiro also used the name Jeru for the city neighboring Salem, Jeru was renamed Ketheres in the translation. To further develop the Biblical theme in the original series, Salem's main computer was named Melchizedek, "the king of Salem" and "priest to the Most High God" ().
Triphares (Zalem or Salem) is a floating city, suspended from space on a pillar construct and anchored to the ground by huge cables, which also serve as supply tubes. These tubes are extremely durable, able to withstand even Den's sword.
The Scrapyard is a sprawling expanse of buildings and other structures centered around a massive scrap heap directly below Tiphares. The mountain of garbage was once the tower that connected to Tiphares. Now, the heap consists of garbage ejected from the floating city of Tiphares. The only law is Factory Law: rules contrived to protect Tipharean interests in food and basic resources that are supplied from the factories below. For example, air travel within close proximity to Tiphares (this includes both man made objects and animal life) is prohibited. Anything that breaches this particular law is shot down by the city's defense system. For this reason, there are no birds in the Scrapyard.
The Scrapyard reflects the cyberpunk ethos, as well as Kishiro's portrayal of a society without values. Many inhabitants became cyborgs working for the factories, some are victims of involuntary street surgery, while others use cybernetics to enhance their physical abilities. Firearms are outlawed; non-projectile weapons are permitted, and exist in great variety. Fights erupt spontaneously on the streets. Violent criminals lurk in shadowy alleyways and through the tremendous extent of the sewers. Public entertainment is of a violent nature; Motorball's fusion of racing gladiatorial combat is a prime example. These are condoned by the factory to pacify and distract the denizens of the Scrapyard.
Bounty hunters called "Hunter-warriors" are the enforcers of Factory Law in the Scrapyard, since there is no actual police force. These mercenaries respond to "wanted" notices posted by the Factory via netmen. Hunter-Warriors are required to register with the Factory, and are uniquely identified by a barcode burned into the glial tissues of their brain-this is necessary because natural cell patterns(fingerprints, retinal patterns, etc) can be easily stolen and/or counterfeited with existing technology, and many cyborgs no longer have any at all. Factory forces will sometimes assist Hunter-Warriors, although this only when a class A offense has been committed. Outside the Scrapyard is desert, with some oasis-like locations called Farm Factories for resource production.
The setting of the series appears to take place in the United States. In the map presented in the eighth volume, the locations and geological formations closely correlate to particular cities. According to this map, the site of the Scrapyard/Tiphares is at Kansas City, Missouri, and the Necropolis is Colorado Springs, Colorado. The surrounding Farm Factories that support Tiphares also correspond to real cities; Farm 21 and Farm 22 are Sweetwater, Texas and Garden City, Kansas respectively. Radio KAOS is at the site of Dallas/Fort Worth. Figure's coastal hometown, Alhambra, is a real place in Southern California, and Desty Nova's Granite Inn is said to have been built out of a military base--assumedly the NORAD main technical facility at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
The Viz volumes are ordered as follows for the Battle Angel Alita series: Battle Angel Alita, Tears of an Angel, Killing Angel, Angel of Victory, Angel of Redemption, Angel of Death, Angel of Chaos, Fallen Angel and Angel's Ascension.
There is a second Battle Angel manga series called Last Order which rewrites the ending that took place in the original series.
James Cameron, director and writer of films such as The Terminator and Aliens, has been in preproduction on a movie based on the Battle Angel manga. The script is being written by James Cameron. No cast has been announced. The film is slated for release sometime in 2009. Battle Angel will be Cameron's project following Avatar, which is scheduled for a 2008 release. It is conceived as being the first in a potential trilogy, although the story for the first film will stand on its own. This film will be shot completely in 3D and will make use of new virtual production and motion capture techniques developed by Cameron and Robert Legato.