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Why The Number 99 In Alita: Battle Angel Is More Important Than You Think

"Alita: Battle Angel," the manga/anime adaptation directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, became a cult hit when it premiered in 2019. The film may have had critics divided initially, but its $405 million global box office draw, as well as its hardcore fan-supported second run at movie theaters, proves that "Alita" was a success. Even the manga creator, Yukito Kishiro, loves the movie adaptation so much that he discovers new details upon rewatching it.

While the world continues to wait for official news of a possible sequel to "Alita," it's not a bad idea to take a page from Kishiro and view the film again. After all, one of the adaptation's greatest strengths is how many clever details and references it links to the original manga. For instance, the film revealed a bit about the number 99 and its relation to Alita's origins.

Throughout much of Alita's flashbacks in the movie, it's revealed that 99 was her name during her past life as a Panzer Kunst elite soldier. When the manga comes into the picture, 99 establishes another unique connection for the character.

99 links the movie and the manga

In "Alita: Battle Angel," you can spot the number 99 on Alita's arm while she plays motorball. While this may be a link to her past name in the movie, it's got an interesting relationship when pulling from the manga. Via Sinfully Cinematic, in the manga, Alita's real name is Yoko. However, she does still sport the number 99 on her arm during her motorball career, which she only starts after Hugo dies. 

Per Refinery 29, the ending for the film, which sees Alita become a superstar in motorball after Hugo's death, matches up closely to the manga. Alita aims to become champion, make her way to Sky City, and avenge Hugo's death. Because of the film's ending, when 99 shows up again on Alita's battle armor, its link to the manga becomes more significant.

Yukito Kishiro has never revealed why he initially chose to give Alita the number 99 in the manga. However, there is an Alita fan theory that links the character to Japanese folklore through a spirit called tsukumogami. Via Culture Colictiva, the tsukumogami are household objects that acquire a soul once it turns 100 years old. They are mostly harmless, except for the 99th year. If an owner tries to get rid of them during this time, the collection of tsukumogami brings misfortune to the owners.

Alita's link to this folklore theory wouldn't be too out of place for the manga series.