Alien Nine is a stunning and evocative little series with tons to offer in each of its attempted facets. It commands the reader's attention with a starkly idiosyncratic approach to visuals, appeals to the emotions, makes you care for its characters and gives you plenty to think/cheer about.
One of the first things I noticed when I began reading was the nuances in visuals, namely, the juxtaposition of intentionally crude, cutsey character designs with frighteningly detailed, angular, gross images of alien's and their appendages. The effect this dichotomy creates remains consistent throughout the series, as the violence is never suppressed; Tomizawa pulls no punches in his
depiction of the endeavors of grade-school girls and their battles with aliens.
Speaking of school-age girls, the three central characters are quite different and, thankfully, have some substance that only grows as the series goes on. Each girl starts with their own personality and reason (or lack thereof) for joining "the Alien Party." As the series goes on, each girl sees some truly dramatic changes in character, some psychologically, some physically... and watching these changes, how they come to be and what events they inspire, is what makes Alien Nine a compelling page-turner.
I think the manga's greatest strength, though, when considered with its characters, is the events. This is "Things Actually Happen: the Manga." Character development and arcs, plot revelations, subtle/not-so-subtle explanations of occurrences, it has it all. In keeping with this technique of moving of the story inexorably forward, the theme of body horror becomes quite important and it isn't cheaply depicted at all. There's plenty of terrific spectacles in the manga; I found myself thinking/saying multiples times; "holy shit, that actually happened!," or, "did she really just say that?" You'll focus on the images, as that effect/dichotomy I mentioned earlier in the writing is consistent but it's really about what's happening. In other words, it looks damned cool but focus on what the characters are doing and saying and the effect is dramatically improved.
Alien Nine is a criminally under-read piece of work and a stunning narrative application of the "Superflat" art form. It's story is just as important as its art and visuals, and taken together they make a powerfully memorable, evocative team.
This is a great expressionist manga, using wild levels of creativity and story-design to build abstract themes in-direct to the main events going on. I took Alien Nine as almost a metaphor for more real experiences involving relationships and maybe being behind the curve as people you know get more invested in their own. The characters aren't very developed, neither is the story's setting itself, but it creates this visceral atmosphere where the emotions are almost what's leading the way. It's really a unique experience, maybe a bit similar to some things you'd see in the weirder parts of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Even-so though, I
thought the third act/volume got a bit confused and made things feel pretty convoluted at times. The finale ended up being a bit of a let-down as I was hoping it'd be a bit more complex than it was. But note that doesn't mean I could just explain the universe of Alien Nine.
In an interview present in my physical copy, the mangaka himself says he was going for the type of disconnected imaginative experience you'd get out of reading a book and creating your own vision of it. The mangaka wanted a manga that let you use your imagination still, noting it was directed at imaginative individuals. I personally thought that was brilliant and worked wonders in the manga for the most part. But even for the less imaginative folks out there, this mangaka puts a lot of effort in his work and the designs/scene-planning are just fantastic. I'm sure he would make a great director if he worked on anime. So in conclusion, read Alien Nine!
Curious and imaginative manga, falls a bit short due to inconclusive ending but it's short and intriguing read nonetheless that's easy to recommend to people looking for something more strange and unique in their fiction.
Alien 9's most remarkable point for me is the world Tomizawa manages to craft over mere 30 well paced chapters. Right off the bat it starts with a class choosing a new member for the alien party, a group of 6th graders tasked with taking care of regular alien threat besieging the school and it only gets weirder from there.
I can't say the plot is as intriguing as it doesn't
really go anywhere, near the end there's a reveal that contextualizes what was happening prior and could've taken manga in a whole new direction but the whole thing ends shortly after without wrapping things up in a way that would be satisfying. It's the "but the journey goes on" type of deal before they journey really got to unfold. As such I treat this mostly just as short glimpse into bizarre sci-fi world.
Characters are decent but too remarkable, main protagonist Yuri is a useless crybaby that remains such throughout the entire manga, she doesn't really change or learn anything, her main flaw remains until the end. Perhaps the only thing of note happening is her getting attached to her friend Kumi but it's mostly there to justify a plot point later on and has little effect on her character interactions or decisions she makes. Overall she's more of a blank slate plot device than a character.
Kumi and Kasumi are a bit more interesting cause roughly 2/3 of the way through they undergo some major changes revealing which would spoil too much but it adds another trait to each of them, changes the way they behave and overall is an interesting mechanic even if it's a pretty blatant and easy way to force character progression it works.
There are some themes of loneliness, abandonment, dependence, coexisting and puberty but all I can say is that they are kinda there, none of them are explored to any meaningful extent and are just thrown in there. You might get something out of them as like most things it's up for interpretation but there's nothing substantial in here to make any conclusion more than just guesswork or a stretch connected with vague symbolism.
While it's not quite refined or consistent with proportions and basics it's still quite imaginative. Character designs are cute and distinct despite some degree of same face going on. There's no shortage of detail when it would be needed aside from occasional backgrounds. One thing that I want to praise more than anything is how amazing alien designs are, they're unique, memorable and bizarre. There's a sense of mystery to each of them, you can't gather what they will be just from looking and it does feel like those things came from another planet even if some look like a twisted combination of animals you might know.
Overall it doesn't have that good of a narrative but everything else in there is worth taking a look at. It's a fun experience regardless.
This review will have spoilers, so be warned. If you want a quick opinion, this is a terrible mess of a series, so I wouldn't recommend it.
In Alien 9, three cute elementary school girls team up with cool frog aliens called Borgs to fight other aliens. Borgs can shoot drills out of their bodies, will do anything to protect their partner, and have cool, laid-back personalities. What could go wrong?
For reasons that were never adequately explained, elementary schools across Japan are training young girls to fight aliens, and it quickly becomes clear that there are almost no upsides to
being in the Alien Club.
Story: The story should be the one appealing aspect of a series like this, but it managed to be written poorly enough to take all of the enjoyment out of it. There are lots of twists and turns within the short three volumes that make up Alien 9, but almost none of them are deeply explored, which left me confused about what was going on until well after the fact. Looking back on it, it all seems obvious, but that's only because I'm finished the series and have put some thought into it while writing this review.
In a longer manga, having information withheld from the reader is fine and can add to the impact a series delivers, but in a shorter series which makes no attempt to properly explain things, it takes away all the tension and makes it boring to read. I shouldn't have to trudge through an entire series just to understand why someone's hair is shaped like a drill.
Despite everything I just said, the series does improve near the end, and wraps up in a way that makes it feel a bit more passable. The final arc was alright and improved my opinion of a lot of the characters.
Art: With detailed depictions of aliens, and nicely drawn fight scenes, the art is easily the highlight of the series, and fits the tone very well. In less serious scenes, the girls are drawn more cutely, but it's clearly not the author's specialty, and shows it's age a lot.
Characters: In the cast of characters, there's the three main girls, the Borgs, and the teacher that advises the Alien Club. The three main girls all greatly change and develop over time, while still maintaining their friendship with each other. It's admirable that so much development was crammed into a short manga like this, but it definitely could've been handled a lot better. The Borgs don't change all that much, but I loved them from the beginning and they really stole the spotlight.
The teacher is one of the most hate-able characters I've ever seen in a manga. If her motivations had been thoroughly explained she might have been better, but as it stands, I can't help but think that the author had her do the worst possible thing she could at every turn, just to improve her status and protect her own hide.
Overall/Enjoyment: There was a lot of promising stuff in this series, but it quickly fell apart, and I was hard pressed to enjoy it or even continue reading it.