It’s no secret that the live-action adaptations of anime franchises have been… questionable at best. With such colossal flops as Ghost in the Shell and the Netflix adaptation of Death Note (how dare they stand where Light Yagami stood), it’s difficult to imagine that live action could ever be successful in portraying well loved anime series.

But you know what? Alita: Battle Angel was pretty dang good.

I know I warned you once already, but spoilers ahead. Like, the real big spoilery kind.

I went into it with pretty low expectations – I mean look at her freaky big eyes – but the sheer fact that they never addressed her oversized peepers made it somehow more acceptable to me. And that was just the first of many times I was pleasantly surprised.

Christoph Waltz was, as always, a genius and a treasure, and honestly, the plot was solid. There were a lot of pieces to wade through (motor ball, Alita’s past, Dr. Ido’s backstory, and introducing Nova to name a few) but I think it was paced well and presented the information in a cohesive, complete way.

I appreciate how the relationship between Ido and Alita was never twisted, the strong but subtle symbolism of Alita’s delicate, innocent, porcelain body being broken and exchanged for the true strength of her past, and I even appreciate that Motor ball was never explicitly explained but was fully understandable.

I think of all the things I could complain about, the most egregious offense is the token boyfriend. Of course, I understand that he serves a purpose, and I understand that he is necessary to take Alita from one motivation to the next. I just plain didn’t like him. Even in his death, his purpose was clear – only dying after he chose to be with her and I think that was a smart choice.

I’m certainly not trying to say it was a perfect movie, but I am saying that it was solid and enjoyable, which is more than most live-action anime adaptations can boast.

So what does this mean for future live-action adaptations of anime/manga? Only time will tell. But with a live-action Akira and Mobile Suit Gundam coming, let’s hope we’ve learned some things. And yeah, Death Note 2 is coming, but I would rather pretend that’s just not happening.

Here’s to 2019, and a possible future for actually decent live-action anime adaptations.

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