It's hard to review a movie, even a great one, if you've only seen the first hour. Could you imagine watching Jurassic Park and ending off just when the raptors escape? Or what if Star Wars ended with the death of Obi-Wan and the Millenium Falcon's escape from the Death Star, without the battle to get to the moon of Yavin or the climactic dogfight with Darth Vader? It would be a lot of fun getting there, but ultimately you'd feel like there's something more you've missed. As much as I liked certain things about Battle Angel, that's the feeling you get after watching the two OVAs that make up the series.
Battle Angel follows the exploits of Gally, a young girl/cyborg rescued from the scrap heap by Ido, a wizard at cybernetics who brings her to life with some major repairs. Gally has no memory of the past, but she still functions like a normal teenager. That is, of course, if your normal teenager could do martial arts moves that would stun a blackbelt and could harness the power of a locomotive! She and Ido team up as hunters in Scrap Iron City, a nightmare of a town where life (human and otherwise) is cheap. Murderers prowl the streets to steal brains, spines, and other grotesque human matter. Gally and Ido fight the bad guys, of course, and get their share of ransom for doing so. Everyone in Battle Angel seems to want to get to Zalem, a floating city that hovers above the wasteland and apparently gets what it needs from what's left of industry down below. Zalem may be everyone's Shangri-la, but it takes a lot of money to get there. Gally falls in love with a young man named Yugo, but his heart may be more interested in Zalem than her.
Unfortunately, we get just a little farther than this before the show ends. Although the manga of Gunnm was apparently quite popular in Japan (and did very well in the States), the OVA series never became popular, and so it ended after two episodes. It's a shame, in some ways, because certain things about Battle Angel are really good. The artwork is great, the animation pretty fluid for the style, and the fights well done...this show would have been very popular with the guys in my dorm at college a few years ago based on its "cool" factor and the large amounts of graphic violence. (This is really one to keep the kids away from--it does have some of the most graphic violence I've seen in recent memory for a show of its type.) The biggest problem is that main story points have no resolution. There are no major cliffhangers left dangling, thankfully--you could walk away and know what happens to everyone--but we also have little sense of resolution. What is Zalem, anyway? Are cyborgs even allowed in? Why did Ido ever leave Zalem in the first place? What is all this leading up to?
It seems that the answers to this questions will be found only in the manga. Thankfully, most (if not all) of it is available translated into English, so those interested will be able to pick up where the OVAs end. However, this doesn't settle well with a person like myself who grades anime based only on what appears on the screen. For all there is to like about Battle Angel, it is woefully incomplete. It's certainly entertaining for what it is, but it's just not enough.
Battle Angel -- extremely graphic violence, brief nudity, adult language -- B