Qt3 Movie Podcast: Alita: Battle Angel


When manga goes live action!

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2019/02/20/qt3-movie-podcast-alita-battle-angel/


I feel like this is a situation where watching trailers would have saved you some time. 30 seconds into the preview it was clear this is a tween movie. And Rodriguez and Cameron have sucked for years!

In case anyone decides to see Wrestling with My Family this week instead of some foreign movie (I actually really want to see Borders, shhh) I’m available to answer any questions a person might have about professional wrestling.

If you love Amelie so much, @ChristienMurawski, I’ll see you up here in May.



Seriously, that picture is absolutely horrifying. How can anyone stand to watch this thing?


In which QT3 audition for the roles of a gang of three churlish creaking out of date mech tech enemies of ALITA desperately in need of oiling and a few new parts who will be quickly dispatched with a few broad brush strokes within a title sequence. 😉


Everybody loves Rosa! “Expressive voice”, I think Kelly Wand puts it? That’s really it.
But I wouldn’t dare to picture her character as a waifu: that sort of consideration would make any character terrible, it’s like trying to think about what is happening in your mouth when you are chewing.

Kelly’s impression of the Maid was really astounding. I hope to hear more of her.

To clear one thing up (tentatively, because it’s a mess), “Gary” is the name of the dead pet cat of Ido (who is single and family less) in the manga and he decides to give that manly name to the little girl robot (“Alita”, in the movie) he finds, weirdly enough. Characters repeatedly joke about the masculine nature of her name in the comic.
The movie gives the doctor a wife and a dead daughter, named Alita — who is the name of Gary in the American translation of the manga, to make the whole thing more confusing.

Also, here is my e-mail to Christien; listening to past podcasts, after Christien shares bits of the listeners messages, I am often a tiny bit frustrated to not be able to refer to more of what others shared, and wished they posted it afterward in the podcast’s thread.

So here is the message I sent:

Oh my, hello Christien,

This is the first time (and maybe the last!) I am able to send an e-mail about the movie you guys are watching. Little tears of joy!

I have some comments about this week’s movie you are watching. The e-mail is probably full of spoilers, so please do not read it before you have seen it.

I already stated most of the following in the thread dedicated to the movie, but foremost I wasn’t put off by the big eyes but for a few seconds. It might have not bothered me at all because — I am a newbie when it comes to film making so pardon it if my assertion is wrong — the motion capture was miles ahead of anything I’ve seen in movies until now. Past her awakening, the main character never came across as a bunch of CGs to my eyes. I am guessing the performance of the actress has got a lot to do with it, as I found her terrific, especially given the sometimes very awkward lines she had to deliver.

I am very familiar with the original works, but it didn’t help service or disserve the movie: beyond the main character and some names and appearances, the movie shares pretty much nothing with the graphic novel, but…
There is a but, but allow me a lengthy exposé first. I’ll understand if you don’t want to read it, as I spoil a lot of the original comic’s aspects, and it will probably be a not very interesting read anyway.


The original comic takes place in one of the darkest, grimmest and most sadistic worlds. It is really a hopeless hellhole, and Alita/Gary is the ray of sunlight that shines upon all whom she touches. In that way, all the bad characters are all revoltingly evil at first, but are also all tragic, and even deeply touching at times because of their interaction with her and her violence (Grewishka, or whatever he is called, meets a diametrically opposite end in that way). On the other side, Ido’s dark side is exacerbated by her, him being a somewhat puny coward and showing traits of a Pygmalion.
It is a really strange story from a Western point of view (although not so much from a Japanese one — yin yang and all that crap!), and the Hollywood adaptation simply throws absolutely all of it to oblivion.


I am lengthly exposing all this not to blame the change of narrative (there is so much you can do in a couple of hours anyway — besides, I suspect James Cameron merely liked the main character from the manga, but not its other themes), but because of a couple of arguments about the movie.

First, seeing as the town they live in is basically Amelie Poulain with tin cans lying around, I didn’t get why everybody seems so intent to leave the place. To me, the absurdity reaches its paroxysm when the young cast goes to the “wasteland”, which turns out to be a lush jungle with beautiful fields on the way!

Another thing that quite stocked me: at some points, we get curious stroke for stroke portraying of the manga’s imagery.
One such instance is when we see Chiren (sp?) in a very alluring outfit. Ido’s wife doesn’t exist in the manga: the character is actually named Eli, and is Nova the mad scientist’s lover. She is one of few unredeemable characters and is always ultrasexualized. She displays on some occasions the provocative lingerie we can see her movie counterpart wearing in that very strange scene with Vector.
In the same way, her super-violent demise in the movie is something that happens to a few other characters in the comic. But for such an overall lighthearted movie, what a sudden and strange throwback to the original violent nature of the material. I don’t know how the movie is rated in the US, or here, but… being left as merely organs, unable to act but still kept in a conscious state? Brrr…

There are other touches from the comic that made it discreetly in the movie that I thought were great, like how Alita seems to be smiling and erupting with joy if you pay attention to her face in the fights, something that is pretty consistent with the manga (although her rejoicing in the fights is rationalized because it lets her escape the grim nature of the world she lives in and her own misery, while it makes little sense in the movie beyond the homage. Again, the benevolent Iron City is not casting that shadow over the movie).

I found that the flashbacks were very awkwardly edited in the movie, and their CGs were so bad compared to the rest, it was the worst part for me. I think the movie could have gone without them, maybe giving some mystery to the character, but I am probably wrong. (Flashbacks aren’t present in the comic: Alita/Gary experiences mystical seizures of sort instead — maybe I should rejoice we were spared THAT ;)

I was glad the movie, going for a Cameronian basic plot of a love story didn’t venture into comedy. The manga is like jazz, riffing between horror, action, tragedy, mysticism and comedy sometimes on a single page. The movie dropped all of that but the action, but I think that’s a plus in that case.
There was a single exception that I can recall; the movie makes use of quite a few lines from the original comic. The “I give you my heart” bit is one such instance, that some producer thought needed disarming with some comical relief — “That was pretty intense, uh”. It was a cheap move, in my opinion, that the movie never pulls anywhere else if I recall: I was pleased with its overall genuineness toward its obvious silliness. Kind of the same way that I enjoyed John Wick. I am fearing repeated exposure to Marvel movies may have temporarily exhausted my tolerance for irony.

Also, why is the red chick on the movie poster, while she literally appears and dies in the movie in a matter of seconds? I don’t know who she is or if the actress is supposed to be famous, but she sure almost pulls a Steven Seagal there.

Sorry for the long e-mail, which probably is a lot of gibberish as I am not used to having to articulate thoughts in any sensible manner in English. But this won’t happen again before… maybe ever — tears rolling.

Cheers and kisses to all of you, if I may: you guys probably have no idea of the joys you bring to this dude in a time of grief.


Just curious: How did you know to send in that email? That they were going to watch this movie this week? Do you listen to the ends of all the movie podcasts to find out which movie they’ll be watching next week?


Tom also writes the name of the next movie on the current podcast’s page when it is decided, I think. Do not absolutely quote me on that: I was watching closely this month, because it was the first time I had watched a movie in synch with American theaters ;)




Minor nit, but the ‘Alita’'s name in the original is probably closer to being “Gally” vs “Gary”. The katakana in the Japanese original (ガリィ) is clearly different than the typical way Japanese spell “Gary” (ゲリー)


Funny, I wonder why the little “i” katakana there. I’ve so far only seen that in instances where they’re trying for a vowel sound that isn’t represented by the previous kana, but “ri” should do that pretty well…shouldn’t it?


This guy is right. The normal transliteration of Alita’s name is Gally. Which was the name of Doc Ido’s cat.


If it helps anybody here is my little write up on the background material: https://www.ianinthegame.com/post/battle-angel-alita-explained

And here is the full review I sent in this week:

My personal goal was to go into this movie with an open mind. I didn’t want to defend the movie just because I have been reading the comic for over 20 years (and still going). I didn’t want to judge it solely based on its ability to hit the same notes as the source material. I wanted to judge it on the films own merits.

Then, just a little way in, a big clomping robot demands that pedestrians clear the way and Alita’s automatic response is to make like she plans to kill it. She doesn’t know who she is or what it is, but she is ready to go. In that moment I felt like I was going to lose all objectivity. That scene wasn’t in the books but it is authentic to the character and I loved it. There were a mix of invented and adapted scenes in the movie that showed that everybody involved got Alita.

For example, Alita’s arrogance is on display during street Motorball. Her antagonist checks her roughly, but her response goes right to the line of being disproportionate. Or in the ambush, when Ido tells Alita to run and she does, but she runs right at the trouble not away. And finally when they explicitly compare her to a yappy little dog. This definitely is the Alita I know from the early stories.

All these character moments were held together by Rosa Salazar and the digital team. If Panzer Kunst belongs to Alita but Rosa Salazar is Robert Rodriguez’s secret weapon. Alita isn’t like Wolverine. She has to be tough enough to break her arm off in her enemies eye, but she also needs to be able to fall in love with the wrong guy. I think the actor nailed everything that was asked of her.

And for me the digital manipulation worked. Alita is not a replicant, she can’t pass for normal. The divide between her and the flesh and blood people is important to how she relates to others. The big eyes might not be cannon, but they were a bold way to make sure viewers never lost track of the contrast.

If James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis, and Robert Rodriguez understood Alita as a character it wasn’t always clear they understood her relation to the story and world. I didn’t mind that the narrative was a collage of moments and images from the comics weirdly rearranged, but I did mind that it seemed to miss the theme of those early stories: Alita is fierce and morally uncompromising, but lives in a fallen world where others don’t always meet her standards. In this movie all the characters are simpler robbing us of that contrast. Vector is more evil. Ido is easier going. Hugo is more forgivable. In the source material Zapan doesn’t have to frame him for anything, Hugo gets on the bounty list for his own misdeeds. Other characters in the movie seem have sudden changes of heart that seem unearned. It is like the creators didn’t trust the audience with nuance.

Ultimately, I couldn’t forget the source material when even little details seem needlessly changed for the worse. Grewishka’s comic analog is not protected by some repressive conspiracy. The tension between Alita and the other bounty hunters is that they think taking on the monster isn’t worth the risk whereas she can’t bear to stand idly by and ignore his cruel acts. Maybe I am being fanboy picky, but I think removing the repressive conspiracy from the scenario says a lot more about them vs her compared to what the film did.

And yet the action was great. It was kinetic yet I could follow it. Action scenes didn’t overstay their welcome. There were rocket hammers and chainsaw fingers and Motorball was better than seven movies worth of Quidditch. It was just plain fun to watch.

In the end I can’t deny there were wobbly scenes and too much half baked narrative. But Alita came alive for me, I wanted to cheer her on, and ultimately I had a great time.

Non Superfan Report: My friends who haven’t read the book liked the movie even more than I did. Better yet, my 12 year old daughter proclaimed it the best movie she has ever seen.


The little “i” basically means that the end of the “ri” sound should be shortened vs the normal length


Funky, thanks.


It’s actually the reverse: it lengthens the sound, as a standard い, イ or ー would in the case it followed a り or リ.

More ranting

Kishiro uses it probably as a preciosity, but also because I think he enjoys to make fun of word deformations, but not just for the sake of them.
In the context of the first series of Gunnm, it seems often justified by the loss of records or memories of the past (or more simply, the reliance on oral tradition). Later on, it seems more to be a commentary of silliness at large.
There are numerous examples, the most obvious being motorballers name are actually slight deformation of the conventional katakana transcription of foreign weapons’ names, or Jeru-Zalem. There are more minor examples as well, that really carry that sense of distortion.
The whole religious aspect of the manga and its “materialist buddhism” (which appears right from the start but is expanded in Last Order) is based on such wordplays. Whether that particular aspect is a simple gag, a social commentary or a more profound eschatological reflection from the author is probably in the reader’s eye.
I never could quite determine whether the approximative German used throughout the comic (the author uses verbs as names, basically) was voluntary or not. Probably not, as some of the recent Mars Chronicles examples seem to show.

I’ll stick to Gary being Gary, as the whole point is for her to have a male name, something that the hellokittian Gally betrays in my opinion.

I totally share your approach to the movie, especially that paragraph, as a reader of the comic. Thank you for sharing what Dingus was referring to.


It’s actually the reverse: it lengthens the sound, as a standard い, イ or ー would in the case it followed a り or リ

Don’t want to derail the thread further but this is technically incorrect - the small “ィ” changes the previous character’s pronunciation, not elongate it. Sort of like the difference between ウイスキー and ウィスキー, which is both used in Japanese confusing enough.


Too late, derailed!
You are right when the previous character isn’t tied to the “i”, like it is the case in your Whisky example. But if it is prolongating an -i syllab (following い、き、し、に、ち、ひ、み、り) then it simply elongates it — I think it is most often used graphically, as a mean to imply the sound elongates, but is going down as well.
The only real tricky part is when it comes in contact with て/テ, as it doesn’t lengthen the sound as a standard い or イ would, but turn it into a new pronounciation used to mimick foreign “ti”. All other instances being quite exceptional in their own right, they don’t cause that much confusion (although you need to know how to treat them respectively still).


Why would they not just use the “hyphen” grapheme to denote a lengthened vowel? It seems very well established, and I’ve never encountered the usage of the small kana to perform that function before. Is this an older usage? Japanese does seem to evolve at a quicker pace than English, although Alita is less than 30 years old…


Oh - interesting point. When I think about it in hiragana w/ the smaller characters you’re right that the sound elongates - primarily because it’s used more for graphical flair than an actual pronunciation guide (and I guess you won’t really see it outside of manga and online handles).

Conceptually the little characters basically means that the speaker is supposed to try to say both characters at the same time (technically has has nothing to do with shorter or longer pronunciations). I tried to find a some Japanese articles on this to prove one of us right but I saw examples pointing in both directions even in Japanese so i guess there’s some disagreement even in Japanese on this? Probably explains why certain combinations fell out of favor.