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Tears of an Angel. By Yukito Kishiro. Translated by Fred Burke, Sterling Bell, and Matt Thorn. San Francisco, CA: Viz Comics, 1994. 1v. (unpaged). $15.95. ISBN 1-56931-049-1.

Science fiction (cyberpunk)

Adults, teens; violence, gore

Tears, the second book in the Battle Angel Alita series, opens with the cyborg bounty hunter Alita flat on her back, staring up at the sky through a ragged opening in the ceiling overhead. A young man is laughing gently at her. When he tries to help her up, she proves to be extremely heavy, and he ends up joining her on the grass. He is Hugo, and he dreams of going to the sky-city Tiphares. Alita finds herself attracted to him immediately, especially after he kills a drug-created werewolf that Alita had been battling and had thought was dead. Hugo surprises Alita by prying the spinal cords out of the werewolf's henchmen, whom Alita had killed earlier; spinal cords are impossible to make, so they are a very hot commodity on the spare parts market. After they part, we see Hugo obtaining a spinal cord a lot less legally--by posing as an itinerant oil-and-lube man and incapacitating his cyborg victim, then prying it out. He is consciencious enough to call for aid for the man, however.

Hugo's legitimate job is fixing windmills on Scrapyard houses, and Alita, obviously in love, sits with him as he works on her friend Daisuke's windmill. (Daisuke, ironically, is caring for the cyborg whose spinal cord was removed.) As Hugo leaves, however, a crazy-looking cyborg named Zapan (whom we recognize as one of the bounty hunters from the bar fight in Battle Angel Alita) warns him to stay away from her. Meanwhile, Alita frets that her super-strong body makes it impossible to be tender with Hugo. Missing him, she goes to the area of the Scrapyard where Hugo lives and waits all day for him. The elders there hint that Hugo is involved in bad things and advise Alita to "wake him up from this foolish dream of his," for everyone knows that no one from the Scrapyard has ever been to Tiphares. Finally Hugo arrives, drunk, in the company of a man known as Vector, who is the most important of the Scrapyard's black market brokers. Vector, impressed by Hugo's persistence and success in his spinal cord harvesting, has offered him a share of a "tube route," where he can steal and sell supplies bound for Tiphares. But Hugo isn't interested; he wants to go to Tiphares.

Unfortunately, Zapan has figured out Hugo's sideline in work and ambushes him by pretending to be Hugo's next victim. Zapan makes short work of Hugo's companions, but Hugo manages to escape. However, Hugo is now on the bounty hunters' list. Zapan gleefully informs Alita and Daisuke of Hugo's crimes, and after Alita goes off to try to find Hugo, Zapan kidnaps Daisuke to use as bait. Alita finds Hugo in the place where they originally met. Of course, she is unable to kill him, and he realizes that he is attracted to her as well. After they kiss, Hugo explains why he is so fixated on Tiphares and why he is saving up money in the belief that he can pay his way to the city: Vector claims to be able to send him there for ten million chips. Hugo is short $500,000, but Alita hands him the money. All seems glorious, until Hugo is confronted by a bounty hunter--the same bounty hunter who killed his brother many years ago. Alita defeats the bounty hunter, but not before he rips Hugo's arm off. As Hugo lays dying, Alita must find some way to save him, and also to make it appear that he is dead so that the bounty will be removed.... but she still has Zapan to deal with, and how will Hugo react when it turns out that Vector has been lying to him all these years?

I enjoyed this title even more than Battle Angel Alita for three reasons:

  • there were fewer fight scenes (and less gore) and hence greater opportunity for character development, particularly Alita's and Hugo's;
  • more was done with the Scrapyard and Tiphares, especially the gulf between them; and
  • the new characters were very good. Hugo is extremely likeable despite his sideline in spines. Vector is a sleazy man but three-dimensional, socially powerful but human and fallible; he genuinely likes Hugo and never expected the boy to gather the "ridiculous" sum that he wanted in return for a trip to Tiphares.

Also, we get to see a few more backgrounds. The two-page spread where Alita broods on top of a tall tower is quite nice. Of course, Kishiro's strength is people, so those images still dominate.

The book stands alone, though of course it's best to get the first book in the series along with it. Highly recommended.

Buy it directly from Viz Comics

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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