Yuri Ootani, a girl who has been afraid of aliens, has been chosen to be on the alien party with the class president Kumi Kawamura, whose only intention to join the alien party is to get out of presidential duties, as well as Kasumi Tomine who is perfect at everything she does, including fighting all the aliens that come in their way. But can they defeat a massive alien who has already abducted Kasumi?
Alien 9 is a bizarre and sadly very much underrated coming of age story. It is set in a school which suffers from constant daily alien attacks. Most of the aliens are best-like creatures both in mind and body. Our protagonists are three 12 year old school girls who were in one way or another recruited in the Alien control party.
The basic look and premise of the show do not appear to be special from the first glance, yet mere minutes are enough to see that you are into something much more than just another high-school, moe, action anime. There are a few things
that make Alien 9 very distinct and give a bizarre and unique feel to the show. First of all the directing. It is slow and methodical with each and every shot meaning something or adding to the underlying themes and overall surreal feel of the show. The smart directing is accompanied by an offbeat soundtrack that helps build the atmosphere. The moe style that the show uses makes the disturbing parts provide even more impact. The tactic that some future shows also used, like Madoka Magica.
The anime itself (at least in my understanding) is a scary allegory of growing up, blooming and being afraid to be left behind. What sets apart this coming of age story from many others is that it is made from the girl's point of view.
The characters I found to be very relatable and well written. The voice actors also did a terrific job.
A downside to otherwise amazing series is that it only adapts the half of the story from manga. The ending does not answer all questions and the story is ultimately left unfinished. While there were attempts to revive the show, it is still stuck in the developmental limbo and has been so for close to 15 years. It is unlikely that we will ever get the rest. Even without the ending. I do advise reading the manga as it is only 3 volumes long and the anime adapts the first 1.5 volumes.
As it stands the show is still very much a fantastic, emotional and thought provoking ride through and through. Sadly this anime is very much underrated and mostly unappreciated. I urge people to give it a try, especially if you are into psychological, thought provoking and disturbing anime.
Alien Nine can be seen in the same vein as other "deconstruction" series, such as Evangelion and Madoka Magica. The show advertises a false image of what it truly is, making the viewer surprised when they dive in to find a far different experience than they were expecting. These types of series are refreshing and it's understandable why Madoka Magica and Neon Genesis Evangelion became popular, carrying a very similar style to Alien Nine. The main factor in the equation holding Alien Nine back from ascending with its siblings is that it was never completed in animation form. This OVA series serves as a well-done
advertisement to the manga series, as it doesn't attempt to tell a full story before trying to persuade the viewer to move to the mangas for more. Alien Nine stops mid-story, and a huge amount of potential can be seen lost in the process. I won't be taking the manga series into account in this review as I haven't gotten to reading it yet. This review focuses solely on the animation side of the picture and what it has going for it.
The visuals of Alien Nine are spectacular, and almost at a level of quality I would consider to be worthy of a feature-film status. There's a great amount of attention to character proportions as the style this anime set out for is rarely ever carried out a notch below the ideal level. There's some inclusion of cgi elements as well, yet I would consider these additions as some of the best cgi inclusions I've ever seen in any anime. Quite surprising when taking into account that this OVA series was released in 2001. An odd amount of high budget went into this peculiar piece of work, as the cgi fits perfectly along with the spectacular two-dimensional art. The direction is also fantastic with interesting angles and visual styles.
While I doubt many would argue that the animation of Alien Nine is not too notable, the art style is another thing to consider. The art style is generally normal, with the characters being drawn with very curvy heads similar to more child-oriented shows, yet the ears of the characters are drawn with far more detail and scaled to a larger size. It's understandable that many people would be instantly turned off by this art style, but the more anime one sees along with many different art styles, the more one might become accepting to peculiar styles. This series would certainly require some acceptance of variety, some tolerance, and some will to see odd things since the story itself would also require such traits to be at all enjoyable.
The setting of Alien Nine is questionable as to what it's comparing itself to, if anything at all. As Evangelion is easily comparable to mecha series and Madoka Magica is easily comparable to magical girl series, Alien Nine seems to sit in its own element. There wasn't any key element I noticed that directly made me feel that Alien Nine was deconstructing a certain genre or series type, but the opposing styles of it along with its developing, unorthodoxed weirdness made it still feel as though it was. The story would be more similar in presentation to Madoka Magica, as young girls are place in positions where they practically gain superpowers to fight off danger. However, soon the elements of Alien Nine morph into the extreme that would correlate better with that of Neon Genesis Evangelion. There are even some paralleling moments in both Alien Nine and Evangelion that those who seek out to view both will likely notice.
Alien Nine begins as a school, superpower anime about school girls protecting their campus with gifted, super abilities. The main character is extremely shy and fragile, but is placed in a position where she will have to go into danger to fight off aliens from her school's campus. That's the introduction for the beginning, closely relating to the OVA's opening which likely intentionally gives the series a more innocent atmosphere to start out with. Even during these more conventional moments in the anime, the music and some visual cues foreshadow a coming change.
The music in Alien Nine is unique and, although it may sound dry or lacking in budget at times, an intentional style slowly emerges that makes the whole audio experience memorable. The music will play in a way that is almost fitting to the starting presentation of what the anime is, yet there will always be an odd pitch and tone to it, almost like a record in a record player slowly shaking off-center. Alien Nine did extraordinarily well in its audio aspects for the style it carried out.
Alien Nine is more of an experience than a story, and it should be noted that the experience is incomplete. This OVA series also serves more as an advertisement to the mangas by its chosen end-point as it's completely unsatisfying and in many ways not even able to be considered an ending at all. However, from the quality and intrigue found in Alien Nine, the series is one of the top that needs to either be remade or have a sequel made. For those who like mangas, they will likely deliver some of the experience, but the audio and the quality will be sorely missed when moving on. The characters and art style are claimed as annoying in many places I've visited, but if one remembers this is an experience, things may start to feel more fitting in due time. The characters are shallow for the most part, but stylistically so. The whole criticism to that would fall very close with those of the character Shinji in Evangelion. Depending on how people felt towards that character and story, those people will likely feel the same to what Alien Nine has to offer. Overall, Alien Nine is a memorable and entertaining OVA series even in its incomplete state.
A decade before Madoka Magica subverted tropes of the magical girl genre and spawned a new wave of “darker” magical girl shows, Alien 9 did something a similar vein. Starting off as a quirky sci-fi slice-of-life featuring cute girls fighting aliens, this 4 episode OVA lulls you into thinking it’s a fun little sci-fi adventure romp with its unassuming first episode, and then proceeds to shatter those expectations throughout it’s the rest relatively short run-time. It’s a bizarrely off-kilter yet compelling mixture of quaintness and horror that puts a uniquely sadistic twist on common anime tropes, even by today’s standards. Unfortunately, we’re ultimately provided with
only a small taste of the OVA’s potential, as its short episode count prevents it from becoming something truly substantial.
The OVA follows three elementary school students who have been selected to be their school’s alien hunting squad. There’s Kumi, a girl much more mature and responsible than most kids her age, and a big sister-like figure to her friends and classmates. Kasumi, an accomplished child-prodigy, who volunteered herself to be part of the school’s alien hunting squad. And then there’s Yuri, a timid cry-baby who was selected by her classmates to be part of the alien hunting squad because she didn’t participate in any other school clubs or activities, and the show’s main focal point. The girls aided by aliens called Borgs, which perch themselves on the girls’ heads like hats, and supervised by the cheerful Ms. Hisakawa, who seems too enthusiastic to push the girls to hunt aliens.
Now, if this situation off to you, it’s because it is. It does pit little girls against aliens, after all. Though it may not appear so strange at first, partly because this kind of thing is commonplace in anime, but also because the show introduces the premise as nonchalant and matter-of-fact. Nobody ever questions the ethics of sending little girls to catch dangerous aliens, Ms. Hisakawa seems to be more pre-occupied with monitoring and taking the girls than the safety of the girls. Early on, the show itself treats some of the alien encounters with a certain lack of seriousness and urgency, often showing them in fun little montages, as if to intentionally downplay the severity of the situation. Even Yuri’s scaredy-cat tendencies are played for some laughs. The show takes advantage of the tropes of the medium to fool the audience into thinking it’s a fun little show, and not questioning the bizarre and unethical nature of what is demanded of the girls.
Of course, it the show doesn’t stay this way for too long, as the danger the girls are in become very apparent and the show’s content becomes progressively more disturbing. After some events that would traumatize any elementary school student, the show stops treating Yuri’s crying fits as comical and more as the harsh and horrifying truth of the situation. Yuri, for all her crying, is right to be scared; serving as the anxious fear-ridden heart of the show. She’s a shy, timid girl forced against her own will to fight aliens and continuously pressured to do so despite her objections. She even starts having nightmares about her ordeals, which are colorful and even child-like depictions of her rational fears. The contrast between the cartoony visual direction and the darker thematic content of the show make the experience even more bizarre and unsettling. Even when the show is at its most surreal and violent, the art retains a certain cutesiness which makes it all the more sinister.
Yuri isn’t the only one that suffers psychologically as the show progresses, however. Mature and confident Kumi, whom Yuri heavily relies on, and even the enthusiastic Kasumi have their own mental and emotional scars. Their familial issues and struggles with responsibility and loneliness are just as relatable as Yuri’s fear, if not even more so. Unfortunately, the OVA’s short episode count only allows a very light examination of their psyches. This inconclusiveness envelops the OVA as a whole; the plot largely goes unexplained and left with a lot of loose ends, including a cryptic final shot which is frustrating on multiple levels. Regrettably, this severely undercuts the show’s impact. For its ambitions, Alien 9 suffers from a curious lack of purpose. It succeeds in subverting commonly used tropes and weaving a grim tale from a cutesy aesthetic, but the hanging plot and rushed catharsis leaves a certain lack of fulfillment as the OVA ends. Sadly, this ultimately devalues what the show accomplishes to an extent, making it a half-fulfilled promise of what it could have been.
The show was produced in the early 2000s, a time when anime was transitioning from hand-drawn cells to digital cells, and it’s pretty easy to tell just by looking at the show. The digital coloring and animation was not the most refined, certainly not as refined as the anime series of the mid-2000s onward. It’s colorful and animated well, but the show doesn’t really pop visually outside of a few creepy surreal moments. The character designs are very purposely made cutesy, with emphasis on the characters round and expressive faces. The alien designs look more weird than threatening; they look appropriately otherworldly, but also oddly unmemorable. The Borgs in particular are peculiar looking, being frog-like creatures with wings that double as hats. The music, like everything else in the show, is deceptively light and bouncy. Mostly composed of xylophone, bells, flutes, and electronic beats, it’s an energetic soundtrack that progressively gets stranger as the show delves into darker material.
Alien 9 is a nifty little oddity that has unfortunately become obsolete as time has passed. Its deceptive façade of cute characters and wacky hijinks with more sinister intentions it hides makes the OVA quite a novelty. Unfortunately, it never actually develops or expands on its themes, characters, or plot. This really diminishes the show’s value to little more than an interesting idea. This lack of development compounded with the upsurge of darker magical girl series pretty much ensure that Alien 9 is doomed to be an obscure novelty from the early 2000s, and nothing more.
At first glance, Alien 9 appears to be a cute little anime about chasing aliens on roller blades. Thinking this was the case, I bought it. I thought that they must have been exaggerating or in complete error when I saw the 13+ rating. Not. Despite its cheery and cutesy character design, this is a very dark and disturbing anime.
I should have known something was up when I kept getting bad feelings for no reason. Things happened in the anime that made zero sense, and yet I felt completely horrible while and after watching it. When I finished the series (4 30-minute episodes), I couldn't
watch anime for the rest of the week. I felt dirty, like I had done something very wrong. Although the anime was violent and disturbing, it didn't seem enough to affect me for days. Then, I discovered that Alien 9 is riddled with symbolism - and some of it not so hidden. To call it dark would be an understatement. There are blatant sexual instances represented, expressions of deep and black pain, and perverted thought processes. I would never recommend this to anyone. I have a feeling that someone who has experienced firsthand some of the horrible things the symbolism depicts would pick up on the innuendoes instantly.
Last, but not least, there is some very light yuri (girl's love) tone in the anime - and it's more obvious in the manga.
All in all, Alien 9 is, in short, to be avoided like the plague.