a.k.a. Alien Nine
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 4 OVA
Dates: 6/25/2001 to 2/25/2002
Sixth-grader Otani Yuri has been chosen by her classmates to be part of the alien defense force, much to her dismay. Now that she is part of the team, she must become part of a give-and-take relationship with the alien, who in return for sustenance provides her protection. Together with her schoolmates Kumi and Kasumi, they must capture wayward aliens to keep their school safe. But can Yuri overcome her fears to get the job done?
summary by Madoka
Highs: Unique character design; amazing voice acting
Lows: Too short; little explained story or character-wise
Don’t be deceived by the bubbly opening song and cute character designs; Alien 9 is a disturbing show with complex themes and symbolism that hide beneath the surface. Even with the complexity, there are only four episodes, so very little is explained and the characters don’t receive enough attention. Because of this, the series leaves most viewers confused and almost fails to get its message across.
It seems like your typical shoujo anime setup: a cute young girl, who of course is the ubiquitous crybaby, is chosen to protect others against a certain menace. Past that, however, Alien 9 veers way off from the norm. This includes truly unique character designs that add to the misleading cuteness. This is the first anime I’ve ever seen where the characters’ ears are noticeably larger than their eyes and have no nose other than a small dot. The aliens themselves, called Borg (a nice nod to Star Trek), resemble pink and purple frogs.
But not far into the first episode, the voice work of Yuri, in particular, quickly imparts a sense of fear and violation that I did not expect. Unlike the standard tearful heroine of something like Sailor Moon, Yuri cries from real fear that is heard in her voice and shown often through the animation. Her seiyuu, Ibata Juri, is nothing short of amazing in the emotion that she conveys. So little of Yuri’s background or personality other than the fear is shown, however, and it seems she has changed very little, if at all, at the end. Having a chance to see her character grow would add so much more the story, but it just can’t be fit into four short episodes.
Underneath it all is a theme that many fans of FLCL will no doubt recognize: what it means to become an adult. This idea comes through especially in a song Yuri hears in one of her dreams. Unfortunately, just as character development is limited, so is story development. A shocking ending leaves more questions asked than answered, and I can’t help but wish more episodes of this series were made.
Highs: Completely original; beautiful animation and design
Lows: Ends prematurely; Yuri’s whining
Alien 9 uses the risky but attention-grabbing, no-introduction strategy, which does not let you in on the way everything works in this near-futuristic universe. Alien invasions requiring the use of three students with symbiotic aliens attached to their heads seem pretty normal to everyone but the main character. Little by little, we are introduced to the hows and whys of alien hunting using living head gear.
The characters are all fascinating, too. With the apparent dissimilarities in their background, it takes a while to realize what brings them together, though. Other characters have such blurry roles in the story that their inscrutability makes you crave more information about them. The only character I alienated was unfortunately the main one because of her unremitting crying. I would probably do the same in her position, though.
The drawing style shifts from sweet to sour at dangerous speeds. I am not talking about the quality of the art or the smoothness of the animation, which remain in top shape for all four episodes, but the contrast of such cute characters getting into the grossest situations possible. This might have been a detriment to the anime had those “gross situations” not blow my mind with their originality. Anything and everything alien-related here did not resemble anything I had ever seen before.
Alien 9 is an enthralling anime with a perfect pace that just did not have enough episodes. Central Park Media took the initiative to distribute this anime packaged with its three-volume manga, which takes us quite a bit further than the anime’s frustrating ending.
Alien 9 can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.