All You Need is Kill is a sci-fi novel written by Sakurazaka Hiroshi with original illustrations by Abe Yoshitoshi. It was published in Japan in 2004. It was later translated to English by Alexander O. Smith and released in the U.S. in 2009, as the launch title of Haikasoru under Viz Media.
I first stumbled upon the manga of the same title around February this year, when I was randomly browsing the latest chapters of some manga. If it weren’t for the mangaka name “Obata Takeshi” in the manga information (see: Death Note, Hikaru no Go, Bakuman.), I wouldn’t have given a thought of checking out the manga. I am not into sci-fi but did not mind it since what really drew me into reading it was my interest in how much Obata’s art has changed after Bakuman. There really wasn’t that much a change, though.
The manga adaptation was serialized in Weekly Young Jump from January 9 to May 29, 2014 with 17 chapters (2 volumes). Although the drawings in the manga were done by Obata, it was Takeuchi Ryousuke who provided the storyboards. Obata modified the character and mecha/jacket designs for the manga. Takeuchi’s storyboards were really easy for the eyes to follow. The man knew full well of Obata’s prowess in drawing characters and poses in angles that best gave impact.
Before the actual content of the first chapter, there were pages in the magazine which showed a few screenshots from the Hollywood movie adaptation, as the manga was serialized as a movie promotion and also as homage to the source material. It had the same title for Japanese audience but was globally advertised as Edge of Tomorrow, with subtitle Live. Die. Repeat. (I’ve seen the movie and it’s really different from the novel and manga. There are a lot of differences that I can list off the top of my head, but this is not the place to discuss those so I’ll just leave it at that. Watch it with an open mind if you’ve read the source material. Well, the movie was based on the novel, so it’s expected that it would be really different.)
It’s worth noting that the designs in the novel and manga are different, unlike most adaptations where the artists try to retain the original character attributes. Abe’s original designs for the novel look rougher and gave the characters a rugged feel, like the story is set in an actual war-torn era. On the other hand, Obata’s designs were prettier in the sense that the work was easily geared towards a much younger audience. The jacket designs slightly resemble the usual anatomy of human-sized mecha in anime. But Obata’s character designs were not that far from the character descriptions in the novel. The unscarred teenager look of the Kiriya Keiji in the manga was just appropriate for his green status in the Japanese Corps. Obata’s rendition of Rita Vrataski showed her petite physique and beautiful face, despite her reputation as the Full Metal Bitch, making her character stand out. However, Rita was originally described in the novel as completely flat-chested war veteran. This original attribute is not really a big deal to be a bother for those who were expecting to see a flat-chested Rita in the manga. There is nothing much to complain about these art differences, since Abe’s art makes the novel effectively appealing towards a mature audience and Obata’s designs were an eye candy that would make the teenagers and young adults appreciate the story. Personally, I preferred to see more of Abe’s art for this kind of story.
The story can be summarized as how Kiriya Keiji, a green jacket jockey, escapes the unending loop of his first day of battle against the Mimics (the alien monsters that invaded Earth and killed and pushed humans to the brink of extinction) and somehow falls in love with the Valkyrie, Rita Vrataski, over the course of 100+ loops or attempts of breaking the cycle.
It had a strong start by immediately throwing the readers into the time loop the protagonist has caught himself into. Kiriya Keiji spent his first four loops in verifying the fact that he is, indeed, caught in a time loop where he always dies and resets his life at the day before. From loop five onwards, he vows to train and become stronger to face the Mimics to escape the loop, which was caused by one of them. Reading until this point, I expected the story to only focus on the protagonist and explore the different possibilities regarding the loop. Of course, it went that direction, but by reintroducing the love interest, which is, obviously, Rita Vrataski who is introduced at the opening scene.
The manga opens by showing the severely wounded Private Kiriya and the Full Metal Bitch beside him and tossing him an odd question, which would serve its purpose in the later loops. The novel, however, details the events that occur, leading to the demise of the protagonist. From the opening scene, the reader is more likely to develop sympathy and interest towards the protagonist with the novel than he is with the manga.
Needless to say, the manga did not include several details from the novel (e.g. the origin of Mimics, the back story of Rita’s fondness for coffee) and actually altered some events, intending to focus on the story of Kiriya Keiji and Rita Vrataski. Comparing the manga with the novel, it seems rushed but with a purpose: to entertain the reader with a tragic love story that is woven by a sci-fi setup. It can be said that the time loop and the jackets are the perfect excuse for creating a sad love story, which, unfortunately, did not appeal to me, considering that the sci-fi elements were much more interesting to read and ponder.
It would be unfair to say that I was not a bit entertained with the pairing. In fact, I shipped them throughout the story and cheered them on for a happy ending. But it was more apparent to me that the author may have been torn between the sci-fi premise and the romance. Did he intend to tell a love story from the start? Or was he really lost while writing the story? The immiscible elements (sci-fi and romance) in the story that felt beautiful for a moment gradually grew stale to me.
Rating: 7/10 for both manga and novel