Sins

Alita: Battle Angel: How the Movie Diverged from the Manga

WARNING: Spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel Ahead

 If you didn’t know by now, Alita: Battle Angel was based on a Japanese manga written by Yukito Kishiro. Besides the fact that the movie wasn’t based in Japan, there are many differences between the two versions of the story. For one, the manga is a lot darker and grimmer than the movie and the characters all have very different backstories. So, let’s take a dive into the fandom and see what changed during the film’s production.

Ido Doesn’t Have a Daughter or an Ex-Wife in the Manga

The Ido featured in the movie is significantly older than the one we see in the manga and therefore, he has more life experiences – including a daughter and a wife.

During the movie, we find out that Ido named Alita after his deceased daughter. However, Ido doesn’t have a daughter in the manga. In the books, Alita is named after Ido’s pet cat, who died a month before he found Alita’s head. The writers most likely changed this backstory to provide a more emotional connection between Alita and Ido and to develop the father-daughter relationship that we don’t get in the books.

Also, since Ido doesn’t have a daughter in the manga, he also doesn’t have a wife. The Zalem-obsessed doctor that works with Vector in the movie does not exist at all in the manga world.

Nova Doesn’t Exist Yet

Nova is the mysterious mastermind behind the comings and goings of Iron City. He ensures that the poor stay poor and that Iron City runs the way he wants it to run. Although he’s the big villain of the movie, he actually isn’t even revealed in the manga until Volume 4, long after the death of Hugo and everything else that happens in the movie.

In the first volume of the manga, Grewishka, going by the name Makaku, is the main villain. He doesn’t work with Vector and has no connection at all to Nova. Nova doesn’t have any hand in any of the events that take place.

At the end of the second volume, when Hugo is attempting to climb to Zalem, the rings that drop down the tubes are actually on an automatic timer. They drop automatically to catch any rats that are climbing the tubes. Therefore, based on the manga, Nova had no hand at all in his death or anything else that happened in the movie.

And Neither Does Motorball

In a touching moment, Hugo teaches Alita how to play motorball and she learns dedication and some serious butt-kicking skills. However, this moment doesn’t ever happen in the manga because Hugo dies before Alita ever hears about motorball. In the books, Hugo’s death is actually what drives Alita to start playing motorball. It was a way for her to cope with his passing and to find a place for herself in the cut-throat world.

The Role of Ido’s Assistant Was Severely Cut

Honestly, there was absolutely no reason for Ido to have an assistant in the film. She did absolutely nothing to advance the plot and didn’t seem to provide Ido with any skills he didn’t already have. However, the assistant in the manga had a lot more speaking roles and even saved Ido’s life.

In the manga, Ido’s assistant is a man. Therefore, it’s extremely interesting and progressive for the movie to change the role to a woman. However, it is still very disappointing that the gender change also came with a cut in the assistant’s role. In the manga, the male assistant comes to save Ido and Alita after their first encounter with Grewishka (called Makaku in the manga) and is the one that attaches Alita’s head to the Berserker body.

Alita and Ido’s Relationship

The movie transformed Alita and Ido’s relationship into that of a father and daughter dynamic. Therefore, Ido refuses to let Alita put her life in danger and become a bounty hunter. However, this is extremely different in the manga.

In the manga, Ido doesn’t really understand his relationship to Alita. He tells Alita that he doesn’t want her to become a bounty hunter because he wants her to be more “beautiful” than him and that hunting is an ugly job. However, he ends up training her and sticking by her when she does register as a bounty hunter.

Ido is the one that actually takes Alita to Kansas, not Hugo, so that they can find other bounty hunters to help them take down the manga’s version of Grewishka, Makaku. When they arrive, they’re both met with open arms but Alita eventually battles everyone because they refuse to help take down their enemy. Throughout most of the beginning of the manga, Ido and Alita actually work together as bounty hunters.

In fact, because of Alita and Ido’s relationship, Alita doesn’t actually care about figuring out her past in the manga rigth away because she loves Ido and simply wants to be “Ido’s Alita”.

Grewishka is Actually Called Makaku

In the film, Grewishka seems to kill for the fun of it. However, the version of Grewishka in the manga has a much more in-depth background and a very different method of killing.

In the manga, Grewishka’s name is Makaku. At the beginning of the book, he’s seen as cyborg that likes to eat brains for endorphins. He also has a brother that helps him obtain the brains; however, this brother dies when Ido vanquishes him and takes his bounty. Makaku also doesn’t work for Vector, or anyone else, and is instead a cyborg that has been wanted on the bounty list for years because no hunter was ever bold enough to take him down.

The first time Makaku meets Alita in the book is when she attempts to make him her first bounty kill. He’s alone, unlike in the movie, and cuts poor Alita in half. Ido shows up and saves her by cutting off Makuku’s arm, but the cyborg retaliates and stabs Ido in the chest with a blade located on the top of his head. Makaku slithers away while Ido and Alita wait in a telephone booth for Ido’s assistant to come and pick them up. This is the moment that Ido gives Alita the Berserker suit and prepares her for the life of a bounty hunter.

Ido takes Alita to Kansas and tries to rally more hunters to take on Makaku and when they refuse, Alita battles them all. In the meantime, Makaku steals a new body from a fighting champion cyborg named Kinuba, who has the long extending fingers of doom (the grind cutter) that Grewishka gets after Vector upgrades his body in the movie. After his upgrade, Makaku arrives at the bar, steals the bartender’s baby, and invites Alita to play a game with him in the sewers underneath Kansas.

During the battle, readers find out that Makaku is actually in love with Alita and was abandoned as a child. His mother flushed him down the toilet into the sewers and he almost died as people on the surface poked fun at him. Eventually, a doctor with a Zalem mark saved him and gave him the parts he needed to escape. However, he eventually stole cyborg body parts to survive and started to torture people so that he could feel their pain.

Zapan Doesn’t Play a Big Role in the Manga… Yet

Pretty boy Zapan was clearly changed for the movie. In the manga, he actually isn’t obsessed with his looks and doesn’t play that big of a role… yet. In the second volume of the manga, Zapan does become obsessed with seeking revenge on Alita for humiliating him, but he doesn’t go straight to murder. Instead, he makes an attempt to tell Hugo to stay away from Alita by revealing that she killed the last man to tell her he loved her.

When that doesn’t work, he finds out about Hugo’s spine-stealing business and catches him red-handed. When Tanji protects his friend, Zapan kills him like he does in the movie, and allows Hugo to escape. Zapan then puts Hugo on the bounty list and warns Alita about it. Eventually, he captures Ido to further convince Alita to kill Hugo after another bounty hunter fails.

Later on, you can expect to see a lot more from Zapan as he returns, but we’ll wait until the next Alita movie to prevent any spoilers.

The Manga Ido Kills for Fun

In the movie, we get an emotional story about why Ido became a bounty hunter. He tells Alita that a drugged-up cyborg came into his house and murdered his daughter. Therefore, he hunts criminals to make up for the blood that she shed. However, in the manga, Ido is a lot darker and grimmer. He says that he is a bounty hunter because he is a “self-centered man who kills for pleasure”.

Hugo is Actually Yugo and He Doesn’t Even Like Alita

In the manga, Hugo’s name is actually Yugo and he isn’t introduced until the second volume. This is after Alita signs up to be a bounty hunter and defeats Grewishka.

Yugo is also very different from Hugo. He isn’t as wimpy and weak as he is portrayed in the movie and doesn’t have to rely on Alita to fight as much as he does on the big screen. Yugo also has an older brother in the manga who raised him with his wife. This brother tried to build a hot air balloon to get to Zalem and his wife sold him out to a bounty hunter. The bounty hunter exploded his factory and Yugo ran away from home, becoming a scrapper. Along his way, he found someone trying to sell his brother’s hand and had it transplanted onto his own. This is also the moment where he meets Vector.

In the manga, Yugo also steals body parts to try and get to Zalem, but he specifically steals backbones. That is until Zapan puts a bounty out on Yugo. Then, the same bounty hunter that killed his brother, cuts of Yugo’s arm. Zapan interferes, forces Alita to take him out, and the rest of the plot is the same as the movie. 

Hugo’s death is very similar to the one shown on the big screen. However, he doesn’t run away because he’s hiding from the law. In the manga, once Hugo finds out that Vector has no way of sending him to Zalem, he runs away and throws all of the chips that he raised to the citizens of Iron City. He then heads up to Zalem and gets chopped by a “rat catcher defensive ring” that serves as an automatic defense system against rats climbing the tubes.

 The relationship between Hugo and Alita is also very different in the manga – it’s a little more one-sided. The manga makes Alita seem like a little school girl chasing Hugo and hoping that he returns her feelings. It isn’t until Hugo is about to die that he realizes that he does care for Alita in the manga.

Alita’s Creation

In the movie, Ido already had a body in storage for Alita to use when he found her head in the scrapyard. However, since the Ido in the manga doesn’t have a daughter, he also didn’t have a body ready for Alita when he brought her home. Therefore, he carried Alita’s head around in a makeshift backpack and worked as her legs until he raised the money to buy her parts.

Alita also accuses Ido of being a serial killer in the manga, but she believes he’s murdering cyborg women and using their parts to create her own body. In both the movie and the manga, this turns out to be untrue. In the manga, Ido is using the money from his bounties to pay for Alita’s limbs.

Ido’s Relationship to Zalem

Around the middle of the movie, Ido reveals to Alita that he once lived in Zalem and that he removed the mark on his head to blend into society and forget his past. However, the Ido in the manga still has the Zalem mark. He doesn’t try to hide it and instead, you can see the mark from the very beginning of the book.

In the manga, Ido also doesn’t actually know about Alita’s past. He found the Berserker body several years before he found Alita. According to him, he found it in the wreckage of a spacecraft at the bottom of the “western ravine” and saw that it was just laying there “living and breathing without a brain.” So, he took the body and studied it. However, the more he researched it, the more he realized it was a weapon that served no other purpose than to turn a human being into a killing machine. Therefore, he locked it away and didn’t take it out of his basement until Alita was defeated by Makaku (the manga’s version of Grewishka).

This is very different from the story Ido gives to Alita in the movie. In the film, Alita goes on a random adventure into an alien ship submerged in water and the Berserker suit ultimately finds her. When she returns to Ido, he reveals that he knew everything about the suit and her past all along. The movie Ido seems to know all, while the manga Ido never knew much about Alita’s former life.

Vector Survives in the Manga

At the end of the film, Alita takes revenge on Nova through Vector’s body and destroys him so that Nova doesn’t have a puppet to do his bidding. However, in the manga, she lets Vector survive.

At the end of the book, Vector admits to Yugo (Hugo in the manga) that Zalem asks for a “single body’s worth of biological samples each month” and that he doesn’t know what the city does with it, but that it’s the only way he could send anyone to Zalem.

This actually explains the end of the story better than the film does.

Makaku’s Talking Boar Belt Tells Alita About her Powers

In the film, Ido tells Alita about the Berserker body’s powers and all about the plasma that shoots out of it. However, you may have noticed that it was very awkward and a very quick debrief. That’s because he isn’t the one that tells Alita in the manga.

In the books, Makaku, the written version of Grewishka, has a boar on his belt that talks and tells him all about his enemy’s powers and vulnerabilities. This talking pig is actually how Alita learns about her plasma powers and all of her abilities in the manga.

The Dog Also Lives in the Manga

In a very odd and sad twist, Grewishka comes into Kansas and takes out Alita’s loyal dog. Alita then dips her fingers in his blood and paints her war paint. However, this was completely created just for the film. In the manga, the dog actually survives and helps Alita save the bartender’s baby from Makaku.

Truthfully, the murder of the dog in the film seemed very unnecessary and out of character from the rest of the movie.

 

 

 

One comment

  1. really nice comparison, however if you add the OVA, some things get more accurate in defense of the movie.
    like Chiren’s character, which appeared in the anime, or the dog’s death at the Kansas bar and Alita painting the war paint with its blood is exactly from the animated version 😉

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