Monday, November 7, 2011

Anime Review No. 13-Alien Nine

Hello, I’m the Eclectic Dude and I review it for the lolz. 

This week’s anime review is over Alien Nine. It’s an four episode OVA that’s nearly over a decade old. A production by JC Staff and licensing/distribution by US Manga Corps, it is one of my favorite anime titles. In fact, it is considered somewhat of a ‘cult classic’ in anime circles. I will look at why that is.

In the near future, grade schoolers in Japan use symbiotic aliens (Borgs) to fight out invading aliens. This short series focuses on one group of three 6th grade schoolers (all girls) and their adventures. At least partly, because it ends up being a bit more than a kid-friendly adventure.

Episode 1 serves as an introduction to the characters and the plot. First, there’s Yuri Otani. She’s a crybaby/wimp who gets picked for the Alien Squad (by popular vote no less) and doesn’t really want to do it. Second, there’s Kumi Kawamura, the self-designated leader of the trio who’s only doing the Alien Squad assignment as that’s the position most expected her to be in-a position of leadership. Lastly, there’s Kasumi Tomine, a cheery girl who’s doing it for fun. Rounding out the main cast is Megumi Hisakawa, the advisor for the Alien Squad (who seems more than what she lets on).

The plot is basically similar to Evangelion, humans using alien technology to battle aliens. Also, the focus seems to be not on the alien battles, but rather the intense character development and psychological effects of the events upon the leads. Of course, where Evangelion partly succeeded at this (due to the ‘be subtle like a hammer’ approach to getting this across), Alien Nine succeeds a bit more. Sure, Yuri is vastly unlikeable from moment one, but at least the audience can somewhat sympathize with her, partly because she tries (something Shinji didn’t do much in EVA). That, and the psychological elements are done more subtle here than in Evangelion.

The structure of the series goes a bit like a modified short novel. Episode 1 is the introduction, Episode 2 rises the action to a minor climax, then Episode 3 the action falls, then picks up then again and rises to a higher narrative climax in Episode 4. I won’t say more, just to say find this title and watch it. The ending, I have to, is something I haven’t seen a whole lot in anime.  

Now, why is Alien 9 one of my favorites? Well, despite what I’ve said prior, is that’s only half of the stuff in the OVA. This series is rather disjointed.  For one half, the plot and characters fit into a framework of mature science fiction with some surreal and psychological elements (some of them still freak me out). The other half is firmly in the present. The art/animation style is superflat and moe, akin to Pokemon and Digimon (contemporary series to this one). The music is also split, with an opening that’s an upbeat pop song over montage, while the soundtrack is rather dreamlike, otherworldly music. 

So, with such disjointed elements, one would think that this short series would be bad, as disjointed elements typically yield a mess. On the contrary, they are melded together so well its not surprising why this is considered a cult classic.

(The cult classic status is due to its combined rarity and cheap price online).

Now, let’s look at the extras. The reason I mention extras for this title and not previous reviews is, well the titles I’ve looked at had very little in terms of extras. But, this is a special occasion. The DVD I had with Alien Nine comes with two extras that I like. The first is a “Dubbing Diary”, a documentary showing the dubbing production process from start to finish. It is very interesting, as it shows that some effort is made to make anime dubs passable at least. Seeing this sneak peek into this area of anime production (English dubbing and production work) is rather rare nowadays. The other extra of note is an interview with Taro Maki, one of the Japanese producers for the OVA. His talk is rather insightful, and fans of animation/creative process should watch this. He ends his talk with the possibility of more episodes of Alien Nine, though considering it’s been nearly a decade since the interview and nothing has come out (probably due to it being in development hell no doubt), I can that’s a pipe dream.

Final Score is 9/10. It is superb, with start to finish. A memorable, but sadly forgotten OVA from the early 2000s, it stands out (to me at least) as an example of animation doing something not meant just for kids, but also something adults can enjoy as well. It’s sometimes I’m proud to own.   

So, next week, back to the 'crap' ^_^  jk lolz

Eclectic Dude

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