Danger Gal Friday: Rita Vrataski

Rita Vrataski

This week’s Danger Gal post profiles Rita Vrataski a.k.a. the Full Metal Bitch in Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s ALL YOU NEED IS KILL.

Aliens called Gitai have invaded Earth and are intent on terraforming it for themselves even if that means turning it into a wasteland for its current occupants. Humans have outfitted themselves with “Jackets,” mecha suits equipped with numerous weapons, none of which have much impact on the aliens.

Only one soldier has stood up to the aliens and they call her the Full Metal Bitch.

Illustration by Yoshitoshi Abe from the Japanese version of the novel. See more here.

Nicknamed “Mimics” because the Gitai mimic the appearance of the first creature they came in contact with—starfish. About four feet tall, Mimics possess multiple limbs, a hard exoskeleton, and shoot razor-sharp “javelins” from their bodies in battle. Only one soldier has made a difference against the Mimics, taking out about half of all the Mimic kills humans had made overall. They called her the Angel of Death, Valkyrie Incarnate, Mad Wargarita. She looked like Anne of Green Gables.

If there’s any doubt at this point, let me spell it out: I bought this book because of Rita Vrataski. Sure, there are other aspects of this story that definitely appealed to me: the mecha “Jackets,” the repeating timeline, the non-white main character of Keiji Kiriya, and an opportunity to read speculative fiction translated from another language.

The back cover excerpt describing the Full Metal Bitch piqued my interest:

A war junkie always chasing the action no matter where it led her. Her voice filled my suit, clear as crystal. A high-pitched tone, at odds with the two-meter axe and carnage I’d just seen. “I read that the green tea they serve in Japan at the end of a meal comes free. THAT TRUE?”

Nine pages in the scene where a dying Keiji first sees Vrataski in her crimson mecha suit clinched the purchase:

The Mimic’s coming for me.
I can hear Death breathing in my ear.
His figure looms large in my heads-up display.
Now I see him; his body is stained a bloody red. His scythe, a two-meter-long behemoth, is the same vivid shade. It’s actually more of a battle axe than a scythe. In a world where friend and foe war the same dust-colored camouflage, he casts a gunmetal red glow in all directions.

WargaritaIllustration by Yoshitoshi Abe from the Japanese version of the novel. See more here.

The Anne of Green Gables description is an accurate one in that Rita is quite petite and possesses hair “the color of rusted steel, faded to a dull red.” She’s very young, having joined up at sixteen after a couple Mimics destroyed her town and her killed her whole family.

I like that the mecha Jackets have equalized gender on the battlefield, even if with the exception of Rita, the genders are separated into their own units.

Without spoiling the whole plot for those who have yet to read this story, I should warn you that it does have a bittersweet ending. However, the nature of the time repetition leaves the ending open for interpretation, I think. Separately, Rita and Keiji discover just how the Mimics have been winning the war and turn that against the invaders. Despite the apocalyptic nature of this story, Keiji’s attitude is upbeat and pushes the story along at a fast pace. The English translation by Alexander O. Smith comes across smooth and this 200-page story feels like a full-length novel. The plot-driven nature of the time repetition acts as a framework for both characters to open up rather than shutting them down.

Warner Bros. is slated to release this story as a movie in 2012 directed by Doug Liman and based on the screen adaptation by Dante Harper. I’ve heard rumblings that Ryan Gosling may be cast in the lead role (named Billy Cage) and the story will be moved from Kotoiushi Island to the U.S. Nothing against Gosling, but I think someone like Daniel Henney would have been great in the role of Keiji, but I guess that’s Hollywood. I agree with Nix, though, in the review of the novel over at SciFiCool:

Casting the right person for the Keiji role is important, but casting the right actress for Rita is downright make-or-break.

I bet Olivia Wilde from Tron: Legacy could pull it off even if she is a little tall for the character as described in the book.

Other links

Collider: Warner Bros. Believes That ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, and They Are So Very, Very Right
Temple Library Review: All You Need Is Kill

Viz Blog: All You Need Is Kill