In the 21st century, aliens have arrived on Earth and live among humans. In sleepy Enohana, the dirt-poor student Chigasaki Mayuko finds herself living together with NieA, a low-caste ("Under Seven") alien. While Mayuko struggles diligently to make ends meet, NieA seems to be totally unconcerned with the consequences of her actions. As the odd couple throws off the expected sparks, the wrecked alien mothership looms in the background...
A diamond in the rough. For a series with such a lowly average on MAL, it's surprisingly good. It's reminiscent of Haibane Renmei because of its slow, dialogue heavy and relaxing style.
After watching the first volume, I wasn't too taken with it. It started off reasonably well, showing the struggles of a very believable young woman, Mayuko, as she tries to survive with little money and, at the same time, studies to get into college. But my interest levels dropped as soon as it was revealed that an alien, NieA, lived in Mayuko's closet, eating some of her food and causing her
trouble. My interest continued to decrease as more cartoony aliens got involved and the usual anime silliness ensued.
Why did this bother me, you ask? Because NieA 7 didn't need an alien living in a closet and attempting to build a UFO. The highly enjoyable and realistic slice of life elements were, from my perspective, getting damaged by the random slapstick comedy elements. I can see and fully understand one of the reasons for the involvement of carefree NieA - to show the contrast between stressed Mayuko, trying her best to survive, and NieA, an alien so carefree that she comes across as thoughtless - but I feel the main reason was to take the anime away from the realm of the real. The thinking probably was that most viewers want to use anime to escape, and that if the story was too realistic it would've taken away from the enjoyment. This sort of thing is viewed as a negative by me because I like to see some anime that contain believable stories.
The good news for people like me is that after the mixed opening volume the series started to focus more and more on realism and less on anime insanity. Rather than having a UFO blow a hole through the roof and the like for giggles, the second volume had an episode where an arcade gaming competition was used for laughs, involving the staff at the bathhouse where Mayuko lives and works playing against a small army of kids. I found it funny because it wasn't over the top; because it tried to be real. In my the eyes, the best kind of comedy is the kind I can imagine happening in the land of the real - not just on some nutty planet on the other side of the galaxy.
After the first volume, there were also a lot of episodes that focused on the serious sections of the story without resorting to slapstick humour in an attempt to brighten up the mood randomly. My favourite depressing episode is probably the one where Mayuko gets invited to a 'Go-Con' (basically random group dating) and eventually decides against going because she doesn't have any nice clothes to wear and can't afford to have her hair cut. Simple, I know, but the feelings and thoughts Mayuko had during that episode are the kind many people have over the course of their lives and it was effective on an emotional level because of that. Slice of life is at its best when it allows you to go into the shoes of the characters and feel how they feel, and Niea 7 achieves this on a number of occasions.
Really, the reason Niea 7 is so endearing is because the cast, aliens aside, come across as real people. Mayuko struggles to get by and lacks a goal to work towards; the owner of the bathhouse attempts to handle two jobs in order to keep the bathhouse running, despite it bringing her debt because of her ties to the people who work there; Genzo, the shy guy with a crush on Mayuko because of her helping him when they were kids, tries to help Mayuko by bringing her rice, yet struggles to express his feelings for her...etc, etc. It's very easy to get into the heads of the cast and see things from their points if view, and that's what makes NieA 7 a fantastic series to spend time watching.
The message of NieA 7 is to live life to the full, instead of worrying about everything constantly. Life flies by very quickly and there's little joy to be had if everything is always too difficult. That's why Mayuko is envious of NieA for being so carefree, like nothing can bother her. As Mayuko lives with NieA, she understands how it feels to be 'free', and I'm sure the objective of the series when it was created was to make the viewers feel the same way as Mayuko.
Watching the series is a relaxing, occasionally depressive and mostly fun ride - a journey worth the time of any bored anime fan looking to unearth a gem. Do I recommend the series? Providing you can handle lots of talking and little in the way of action, yes. It's a charming series that fans of Haibane Renmei and its ilk will lap up.
Created by several of the same minds that thought up & executed Serial Experiments Lain, NieA_7 kicks off its first episode with a distinctly familiar—yet at the same time, distinctly different—atmosphere and presentation. Perhaps most notably, it shares the distinguished character designs of Yoshitoshi ABe, but it lacks the air of explicit seriousness that hangs gloomily about Lain. It shares an urban setting full of cars, people, and wires, yet it also pits this against frequent and habitual presentations of countryside and open air. Needless to say, one should not go into this series expecting the complexities and psychological intrigue that Lain
But this isn’t really anything to discredit it for, since it never sets out to be anything like Serial Experiments Lain at all. It’s a slice of life show based on a doujinshi by ABe, and in somewhat typical ABe fashion, it includes the mundane (cram school homework, newspaper delivery) juxtaposed against the absurd (aliens, mother ships, psychic waves). To coincide with the eclectic nature of its content is the eclectic nature in which it is presented. It often paces itself with slowly-developed, mood-oriented ‘quiet’ shots interrupted by (usually) short instances of quick slapstick comedy routines before returning to its understated atmosphere. At times this juxtaposition is rather jarring, but at others, it serves to accentuate the more understated moments that the series is rooted in.
And although it heaps on noticeable amounts of social criticism that isn’t wholly necessary to the plot, this aspect doesn’t really disrupt overall enjoyment. Its more personal themes that revolve around the protagonist, Mayuko, are given far more attention and are developed with much more precision. This was made particularly vivid with exceptional scene composition and a steady hand in editing, offering a wonderful visual experience alongside a thoroughly developed central character.
The rest of the character development is rather puzzling, however. Many of the characters are introduced, presented with avenues for further development, but then seemingly dropped by the end of the series. While I believe this works within the slice-of-life framework that the series operates by, it will probably leave many viewers thirsty for a more concrete resolution. Despite this, NieA_7 offers an excellent cast of characters that, although playing by many of the familiar tropes, are still well written and well maneuvered within their context.
Overall, NieA_7 is a highly enjoyable experience for those interested in relaxed, tone-setting narratives based around the simple things in life.
Representing about a 60:40 ratio of contemplative slice-of-life to lighthearted comedy, all blended and dropped into a slightly sci-fi setting, my first thought about NieA Under 7 was this: It is one tough show to classify.
It's evident that, from an artistic standpoint, this is a pretty bare-bones production. Expect relatively flat backgrounds, lacking any real depth or detail. Movement is regularly stiff and unnatural looking. The character designs bear the obvious stamp of the esteemed Yoshitoshi ABe, and they're just as distinctive as anything else that he's made, but their quality fluctuates, sometimes becoming more blocky and rough-looking on a scene-to-scene basis. The closest,
most direct comparison I can make is to Haibane Renmei; if you've seen that, expect a similar or slightly lesser degree of visual quality from this. NieA's art is never offensively bad, just decidedly shaky and awkward at times. In its defense, I'll say that we're hardly dealing with an action-packed thriller or anything that would have truly benefited from eye candy. A little more consistency in the presentation would be nice, but I personally don't see the budget-afflicted art as a significant detriment to the series. Make of it what you will; I'll leave it at that.
The bulk of the music seems to be devoted to the quieter, more contemplative moments of the series. It's slow and meditative, often consisting of a few gentle notes played on a pair of stringed instruments, or even a lone acoustic guitar. That's not to say it doesn't have a little bit of range in it to meet the interjections of comedy; some tracks are more upbeat, and an intentionally lackluster “trumpet charge” effect that plays during some of those moments adds a nice bit of sarcasm to the score. Like much of the series, it's all a little minimal, but in some spots it's a surprisingly good soundtrack, and it always consistently matches the tone of what's happening onscreen.
The aforementioned humor isn't terribly high-brow. Goofy slapstick is par for the course, and when the humor is verbal or situational, some of it isn't particularly clever. Gags centering around Niea's massive appetite or Mayuko's status as a broke student are common, and none of these represent a breakthrough in comedy. But the characters are endearing and defined well enough that it's easy to laugh along with jokes that might otherwise be labeled as disastrously typical. And, truth be told, there is a certain uncanny, understated bit of wit present in some of the goings-on; for example, an obnoxious alien's antenna accidentally picking up a radio signal from a Chinese restaurant, or Niea trying to fly away in a UFO using a cord to an electrical outlet as the power source. The best jokes in the show aren't complicated, they're just simple, well-timed, effective plays on the setting and underlying concept of the show, often laced with a bit of gentle sarcasm that some will appreciate greatly. There are plenty of hits and plenty of misses, but on average I found myself liking the lighthearted, chuckle-inducing aspects of the show. They balance nicely against its weightier side, seldom feeling out of character.
For all of its general weirdness, ultimately the elements of NieA that work the best are its down-to-earth characters (pun, please believe me, not intended). In particular, the lead, Mayuko, is a surprisingly complicated individual, likable and relatable in the first degree. She's a top student who balances multiple jobs against crushing amounts of schoolwork, yet it isn't through any ambition of her own. She lacks real direction, and her own desires elude her. Constantly on the cusp of being penniless, she has no idea what she wants from life, so instead she does what she needs to do to survive. Her shy and humble nature hides fierce independence; it hurts to watch her take a handout of food from a friend, knowing that she's trading her innate pride for pragmatism. In short, she feels like a real human being, internally confused but trying hard to gather herself. I must admit that I had no idea what to expect from NieA Under 7, and this instance of high-caliber character writing was a wholly welcome surprise.
Niea herself doesn't receive quite the same treatment, but as a point of comparison for Mayuko, she's also a valuable character. She's simple-minded and childish, without a worry in the world beyond what her next meal will be, seemingly lacking any ambitions or grand desires. And therein lies some cleverness; part of what makes Mayuko and Niea so interesting is that they're two sides of the same coin. Both are adrift, without goals, surviving rather than flourishing, but Niea grins and clearly enjoys every minute of it with an air of freedom while Mayuko always looks like a bird in a cage. As time wears on, the series twists and plays with this relationship in increasingly strange ways; Niea, haunted by the alien mothership that floats near the town, slowly becomes more despondent and begins to act differently, further amplifying the intrigue. It'd be easy to mistake the pair as the archetypal “normal girl and weird friend,” but the saving grace of the show is that there's much more to them than that. It's always great to see something complex hiding within something that seems simple at first glance.
I can't ignore a key fault, though; specifically, the series is haunted by incompleteness in several aspects. Some key elements of the setting go largely unexplained. It's an interesting world, but one that's not put to full use. The ending feels anticlimactic and overly explanatory, but paradoxically, it resolves very little. NieA takes frequent jabs at social problems such as discrimination and class warfare, but it feels like it's scraping the surface of these themes rather than delving into them at any real level of significance. Perhaps worst of all, the series periodically hints at an additional point of comparison that could make both of the lead characters shine even more—actually a pretty elegant and potent metaphor—but it takes a step back at the last second and pulls its punch, which is a real bummer. I derived plenty of enjoyment from the series, but I also can't shake the feeling that it's essentially two-thirds of a show. It's missing some things that could have elevated it substantially.
And yet I recommend it. I don't quite know who to recommend it to, because it's in a strange no-man's-land of genres, but I'll recommend it anyway. Occasional moments of less-than-great comedy and some degree of incompleteness hurt my impression of NieA Under 7, but the show is just so darn charming and, at times, so surprisingly clever that it's impossible for me to actively discourage anyone from watching it.
Crazy to me that this show is rated under a 7 with 6000 views. This is a simple show with simple humor, art, and characters. It's like eating tasty food with a goofy old friend from grade school. Every episode leaves you feeling relaxed and happy to carry on your own normal life.
Watched this because I loved Serial Experiments Lain, and while in some ways this show is the absolute opposite, both shows aesthetically deliver in their own way through relate-able looks and feels. Recommended for adults who like slice of life plots displayed through subtle and relaxed art styles.