Alien 9 (Anime) Review
Written by ononoki
Alien 9 is, unfortunately, an anime that will stay off the radar for most anime fans. This short, four episode OVA (based on a manga) managed to package as much quality into it as a regular length series, and left me wanting much more. Produced by J.C. Staff, this series managed to show off their experience in animation and storytelling. A very similar show would be the acclaimed FLCL (a favourite of mine), which had similar production quality packed into a small series, but also had similar meanings associated with it.
Plot of Alien 9
Alien 9 centers around three twelve-year-old school girls, who join the school’s “Alien Party”. Their goal as members of the party, is to capture or kill aliens who appear on their schools campus. In battle, the girls are equipped with nets, roller blades, knee pads, tranquilizers and a “Borg”, a symbiotic and seemingly alien lifeform that they wear their heads. Immediately this raise questions, “why on earth are school girls being chosen to fight aliens?” and “what is the meaning of their strange equipment?” This is the first of many mysteries that remain unsolved due to the short length of the series, but is probably explained in the manga.
The series, like FLCL, centers on the issues associated with young people growing up. Identity issues, personal relationships, body problems, loneliness, and dealing with success and failure are some of the ideas focused on, and are most likely expanded on in the manga. It was interesting to see such complex themes being presented, and it’s very unfortunate that the series was too short to go into them in depth, or provide resolutions to the issues raised
Plot Rating : 7/10
Characters of Alien 9
We have three heroines in Alien 9, all of whom have an interesting part to play in the story.
Yuri Otani is our main character, whose only reason for joining the Alien Party is because her class voted her for the role. She is a shy, easily scared girl, who is very reluctant to join the party and fuse with her Borg, and much of the OVA consisted of her struggling in the party’s battles. She relies heavily on the other girls and her Borg, but eventually tries to grow and be more confident, learning about herself in the process.
Kumi Kawamura is the leader of the three girls. She is cool, calm and smart for her age, and is often pushed into leadership roles because of this. In fact, she joins the Alien Party to get away from this, but finds herself needing to take charge even more than usual when Yuri joins. However, her natural skills are put to the test near the end of the OVA, and her insecurities become apparent. Unfortunately, her growth is only lightly touched on, but as the wisest of the group, her growth is probably less critical anyway.
Kasume Tomine is the powerhouse of the group, and seems like an anti-Yuri. An obsession with perfection, along with bravery and confidence in her abilities has allowed her to become an almost unstoppable fighting force. However, the reasons for her fixation on perfection are kind of dark and creepy, which contrasts with her cheery and energetic nature. Her personal struggle is focused on a lot towards the end of the OVA, and made for a very interesting end to the story.
Characters Rating : 7/10
Animation and Artwork of Alien 9
Alien 9 had some interesting artwork for its time. In 2001, the year it came out, the moe artstyle we see throughout the show was only just starting to take over from the either realistic or very cartoonish style of earlier shows. It was especially strange to see it used in a show that is actually quite dark, violent and creepy, which would call for a more serious art style to suit it. But, that doesn’t lower the quality of the art in my opinion, because for its time, it was quite imaginative. We see a similar style being employed in the more recent success “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, which also featured a dark, violent story line with cutesy, moe characters. Perhaps this is a recipe for success that JC Staff should revisit.
Creature design was also very good in my opinion, I find it hard to think of other shows I could liken it to. I often hear the aliens in the series being compared to Pokémon, which was making waves worldwide at the time of Alien 9’s release. Personally I didn’t see the resemblance, since Alien 9’s creatures are much creepier, and more detailed, than any Pokémon I can think of.
The animation itself is of high quality. Every episode I saw clear, fluid movements, and plenty of it. The battle scenes were especially good, and the value of having good animation in these high movement scenes really shows itself. Episode two in particular had me stopping and replaying at certain points, so that I could really take in the animation quality. However, the use of CGI for the Borg’s weapons disappointed me. Personally, I don’t like to see CGI used in shows that have otherwise very good quality art and animation, simply because it sticks out too much. I almost would have rather had a drop in quality in some of the less important parts of the show, as long as there was no CGI being used.
Animation Rating : 8/10
Sounds and Music of Alien 9
The music in this show was quite lacking in my opinion. Although the music was never really bad, it was never really good either. It can only be called average. The OP was fairly boring and not very catchy, although it’s calm and happy tone fits in with the moe art style of the show (not with the dark aspects of the show of course). Unfortunately, I’m unfamiliar with Kuniaki Haishima, the man in charge of music for the series, so I can’t really compare this to his other works.
The sound effects weren’t too bad though, I thought they did well in the battle scenes. Also, the voices actors performed their roles well, especially in the cases of Noriko Shitaya (Kasume’s VA) and Juri Ihata (Yuri’s A) who I believe were both relatively new to voice acting.
Sound and Music Rating : 5/10
Alien 9 had enough potential to make it as a full length series. The source material is there, the production was good, and J.C. Staff was doing quite well for themselves during that time period. In fact, work was being done to make this OVA into a full series, but unfortunately that effort was lost in development hell. Hopefully, the success of similar styled shows (FLCL, Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and J.C. Staff’s many recent successes (too many to list) will convince them to go back and revisit this story. But until then, we’ll have to settle for either the manga, or this short but high quality OVA.
Overall Rating : 7/10