Jan 3, 2016
Alien 9 (Anime) add (All reviews)
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Man what the hell do I even say about this one?

This is an anime that works much more solidly on a thematic and symbolic level than it does on a basic plot level, with most of the actions and scenarios set up for meaning rather than for story. This isn't necessarily an inherently bad way to go about constructing a series, but it will absolutely put off any viewers that aren't prepared for this kind of narrative.

Personally, this is the kind of anime that I've been craving for a lot as of late since I've been looking for shows that break the mold of what the current industry has become, so I found Alien Nine to be quite thrilling, but in a much more unnerving and unsettling way, which is another style that I've been craving a lot lately. Perhaps the ending of Berserk has finally broken me, but that's neither here nor there.

This anime delves into a lot of themes relating to puberty and the general discomfort and fear of growing up, with some scenes being nice and subtle, and other quite literally bashing you over the head. While this might appear as having a sporadic and uneven tone to some, I think it actually fits the allegory for adolescence quite nicely.

It's also a horror anime in the sense of what I mean when I talk about true horror, in that there is something outside of your control bearing down on you, digging into your weak points and dragging you through some truly dreadful experiences. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me that Gen Urobuchi had seen this anime at some point and let some of its themes influence his work on Madoka Magica. This is purely a hypothetical conjecture obviously and I'm not in any way suggesting that Alien Nine had a direct influence on Madoka, but they do seem rather similar to me when it comes to the terrifying circumstances that both casts have to deal with.

However, I do have to knock off a few points for almost wrapping up the ending nicely, but then throwing in a scene at the very end that leaves a gaping hole in the conclusion that desperately needs more content that will never be animated due to lack of popularity.

Much like the story, the characters operate on a much more symbolic level than a logical one, and because there's a lot of implicit meaning behind their actions that isn't openly stated, a lot of what these characters do may come off as irrational and just plain stupid sometimes. I did find Yuri to be an excellent youth protagonist, though a tiny bit annoying sometimes, and watching her struggle with the aforementioned themes, and even just her daily school life, made the peak moments of terror all the more traumatic and unnerving.

The animation is handled by J.C. Staff, and while I'm not gonna pretend that the animation holds of really well (this is an OVA from the early 2000s after all), I am surprised by how much detail went into both the environments and the alien designs. There's also a fluidity of movement that you don't see very often outside of the experimental OVA field and I wish I could see more often in regular TV anime, though I believe it would be more accurate to say that I wish there were more TV anime with darker, more emotional themes and experimental storytelling methods that can push the boundaries of what a visual medium can do. The character designs are fairly simple and do their job in creating unique and memorable characters, but the consistency does leave a lot to be desired. There's also some pretty nasty CG that pops up constantly, which put a big damper on some of the more important scenes.

As for the soundtrack, I've noticed that a lot of the most striking soundtracks come from works that have less of a need to stick to a traditional classical or rock sound, and that is certainly the case with Kuniaki Haishima's work on this anime. There really isn't a selection of words or phrases that I could describe this soundtrack with other than bizarre, with a lot of different styles and sounds crashing together to create some extremely unsettling and agitating tunes, and I will definitely be coming back to this soundtrack in the near future.

Overall, if you're not one to stray from traditional storytelling and dialogue, then you will probably have a lot of difficulties watching this anime, but if you're like me and feel that you can get suckered into this strange world, only to have your heart slump down awkwardly in your chest as the fear and anxiety wash over you, then give this one a try.

I was a bit indecisive about what kind of rating I wanted to give this one, but then I remembered that I completely ignored my dinner just so that I could finish the series, so I guess I have my answer.