Writer and artist: Yukito Kishiro

Originally published in 1991. Finnish translation started in 2006.

Daisuke Ito is looking for usable parts in a junkyard when he comes across a female human head attached to a small amount of cyborg torso. The head is still alive and Ito takes it to his lab. There, he starts to build a new body to the ethereal female cyborg. She doesn’t remember anything about her life or even her name, so Ito names her Alita. Alita quickly grows to love Ito like a father. When she hears that someone is murdering female cyborgs, she thinks that Ito might be doing it to get parts for her. She doesn’t want that and shadows Ito. However, it turns out that in addition to being a cybernetics doctor, Ito is also a bounty hunter. He kills cyborgs, yes, but only those that have bounties on their head and he buys the parts with the money. He doesn’t want Alita to follow in his footsteps. But when Alita loses her new body in a fight, he gives her a powerful new body, built for battle. Which is good because a sadistic brain-eating cyborg Makaku is hunting them.

Alita has no memories of her past but in battle she uses deadly Panzer Kunst technique which is an ancient Marsian battle technique. She fights instinctively. Ido and Alita quickly from a father-daughter relationship, trying to protect each other.

I find it fascinating that the cyborgs are very distinctly gendered: Ido uses only female cyborg parts to rebuild Alita. Yet, you’d think that aside from slight aesthetics on the outside, the parts could very well be interchangeable. When he gives her the new battle body, it’s originally male but before attaching Alita’s head to it, he changes it to a female form.

The comic is very violent, focusing on one-on-one battles between cyborgs. The setting is a far future where people live on other planets. The people who Alita knows live in a city called Scrapyard and the people there are poor. They survive as best they can scrounging from the scraps and junk which rain down from the floating city above. The wealthier people live in that city.

Alita proudly claims that everyone makes their own life they want to, no matter their origins. She also wonders if she’s humans at all.

The original name for the comic is Gunnm and Alita’s name is Gally. The Finnish translation uses these names, unlike the English translation. In the Finnish translation the Junkyard is called Rautakaupunki (Iron City).

The first part in English seems to have the chapters 1 through 7. The comic ends with an introspective look at where the main villain come from and a possible explanation to his actions.

The Finnish edition (Gunnm 1: Ruostunut enkeli) has chapters 1-6 and ends in a cliffhanger with Alita and Makaku locked in battle underground.