ALIEN NINE (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)
July 28, 2008 by Dennis Amith
“A cute anime OAV series that will either make you cringe from all the crying or capture your attention and making you crave for more”.
DVD TITLE: ALIEN NINE
DURATION: 100 minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Dolby Digital Stereo, Region 1
CATALOG #: USMD 2241
COMPANY: US MANGA CORPS
RATING: 13 and up
ORIGINAL STORY: Tomizawa Hitoshi (Published in ‘Young Champion Comics’ by AKITASHOTEN)
DIRECTOR: Fujimoto Jiro
SUPERVISOR & SERIES PLANNER: Murai Sadayuki
CHARACTER DESIGN: Irie Yasuhiro
CREATURE DESIGN: Iwakura Kazunori
ART DIRECTOR: Hyunichi Higashi
SOUND DIRECTOR: Iwanami Yoshikazu
MUSIC COMPOSER Hajima Kuniaki
CREATED BY: GENCO, J.C. STAFF
PRODUCED BY: Bandai Visual, TV Tokyo Media Set, Nippon Columbia, Anime Theater X and GENCO
Otani Yuri – Kelly Ray/Ihata Juri
Kawamura Kumi – Angora Deb / Shimizu Kaori
Tomine Kasumi – Zoe Fries / Shitaya Noriko
Hisakwa Megumi – Veronica Taylor / Hisakawa Aya
Tamaki Miyu – Rachael Lillis / Nakayama Sara
Yuri’s Borg – Joshua Popenoe / Nakao Ryusei
Kumi’s Borg – Jimmy Zoppi / Nakao Ryusei
Kasumi’s Borg – Tristan Goddard / Nakao Ryusei
From the screenwriter of “Millenium Actress”, “Cowboy Bebop” and “Bubblegum Crisis” and the producer of “Tenchi Muyo”! Based on the best-selling manga by Hitoshi Tomizawa
DEFENSE FROM GRADE 6!
Yuri is totally bummed. She just started 6th grade and has been elected to capture and eliminate the aliens that are constantly invading the school…a difficult and dangerous job! Even worse, she has to wear a creepy symbiotic alient helmet to get the job done…GROSS!
This anime DVD has received rave reviews since its release back in 2003 and having heard so much about this anime and its manga series, I figured that I’ll give a try since you can literally pick this title up for around $5 online (or $15 for the Ultimate Collection which includes the three manga graphic novels).
The storyline focuses on three girls:
Otani Yuri – Yuri is a sixth grader and the eldest of the three and somewhat the main character of this OAV series. She was elected by her classmates to be the representative for the Alien Party (their duty is to capture aliens that land in their school yard). Yuri is a fearful girl, always scared, very shy and cries nearly about everything.
Kawamura Kumi – A sixth grader and is the tallest member of the group, member of the student council and independent. Since her father has passed away, she has lived life as a mature young girl, assisting her mother in work duties, chores and very disciplined.
Tomine Kasumi – A sixth grader that is multi-talented. She excels in everything she does and has trophies and awards for her accomplishments. She is the shortest member and when she talks, her vocabulary is like a young girl and answers with a neko-style “nya”.
These three sixth graders make up the Alien Party under the tutelage of Hisakawa Megumi, their advisor and councellor.
Being a member of the Alien Party may seem exciting. If there is an alien that has landed in school, you don’t have to attend classes and you are somewhat popular among your classmates for the work that you do. But for Yuri, she didn’t want to do this.
She hates the aliens, she hates conflict, she hates having to be an active person and she hates that she has to bond with a borg.
A borg is symbiotic life form that bonds with their host. They are worn on the heads of an Alien Party member and provide the offense and defense for them. In return for what they do for the Alien Party members, they request to feed off the waste (typically licking the backs of sweat or whatever on the girls).
The first four episodes are more about friendship and how these three young girls get along, especially since they are quite different from each other.
Episode 1 is more of an introduction to the children and their parents.
Episode 2 features Otani really trying to do her best but obviously she’s not cut out to be a member of Alien Party as she depends on the other two for everything. But something terribly goes wrong when the teacher allows Yuri to feed the aliens all by herself (the goal was trying to eliminate Otani’s fears but it seems to have backfired).
Episode 3 features the three girls and Otani’s friend Miyu (who becomes the moral support for Otani and befriends the other two) going on a vacation.
Episode 4 is the final OAV episode featuring teamwork against an whale-like looking alien known as Yellow Knife.
And I just want to mention that despite the characters being young and character designs quite cutesy, the series does feature quite a bit of violence and definitely not a series you want younger children to watch.
As for the staff behind-the-series, a good number of talent behind this series with director Fujimoto Jiro known for episode direction for series such as “Vampire Princess Miyu”, “Dai-Guard” and “Welcome to the NHK” and more. Character designs by Irie Yasuhiro known for key animation and animation works for heavy hitters such as “Escaflowne”, “Raxephon”, “Giant Robo” and “Fullmetal Alchemist”. And Iwakura Kazunori who provided the creature designs but known for character designs for series such as “Ai Yori Aoshi”, “Sky Girls”, “Slayers Great” and many more titles. And to round things off, music composed by Haijima Kuniaki, who has done the music for many titles such as “Gasaraki”, “My-Otome”, “Spriggan” and “Macross Zero” and sound direction by Iwanami Yoshikazu, a big name for tons of anime for sound production for series such as various “Transformers” series, “Maria-sama” and “Ah! My Goddess” the movie.
The original OAV series was released back in 2001 but for an anime that old, the colors are vibrant and the fact that the series is featured in a variety of settings in school, at home, at the beach, etc. Animation was quite nice to watch in the style of Irie Yasuhiro’s character designs complimenting the original style of Tomizawa Hitoshi.
Audio is primarily dialogue-based than action-based. Both are in Dolby Digital Stereo and watched the series both in Japanese and English.
In Japanese, the voice acting is well-done, especially showing Otani’s fear and all in all, a job well done on voice acting.
As for English, it’s a bit of a pet peeve when adults are used to provide voices for children and the children don’t sound like children at all. This is the case of “Alien Nine”, the children sound like seniors in high school. The acting and delivery of the lines are well done, that is, if you don’t mind the children sounding like older teenagers.
There are a good number of special features on this DVD.
Included is an art gallery, sketch gallery, behind-the-scenes video, “Alien Nine” Japanese promos (and there are a lot of them), Producer Taro Maki commenting on “Alien Nine”, a manga preview, “Alien Nine” trailers and previews for Central Park Media.
I really did enjoy the interview with Maki-san in terms of the difference for producing an anime working at Pioneer versus doing it now through his company GENCO (which produces “Alien Nine”).
Also, going into certain areas of the anime series and having to end it at episode 4 despite the manga series still was ongoing in Japan.
But all in all, it was great to see this DVD jam-packed with many special features.
I actually enjoyed the series but I admit that my patience was wearing thin in regards to the character of Otani Yuri.
For me, I do no like characters that continually cry and whine (a side note: It’s one of the reasons why in the past, I have not finished “Neon Genesis Evangelion” because of the whining of character Shinji) and I have found the character of Otani Yuri to be just that.
It’s one thing if they become a whiny underdog and then proves everyone wrong as the character matures but for Otani, it was becoming a drag to hear her cry so much throughout this OAV series at almost everything that happens to her. But if there was one positive of the OAV series being only four episodes long, that is the viewer is not subject to whining and crying for a long period of time.
Each time she’s scared or yelled at, she cries. And these are not few or small segments, she does it too much! Yes, I’m sure that is how her character is and how it was probably show in the manga but there is only so much crying that can be done and since her character is a primary character in this OAV series, you would hope that she grows from it.
I kept asking myself, what if she was put in the situation where she needs to save someones life. Would she cower in fear or save their life and in episode 4, she is put into that predicament.
So, the over abundance of crying scenes by Otani’s character was starting to wear thin for me but I’m sure other viewers took it in stride and have more patience than I do.
Episode 4 is a bit more darker and definitely opened things up for something exciting to happen between the members of the Alien Party in future episodes and that is where another problem that I had with the series begins.
There are no future episodes. There are no plans for a TV series or OAV series since the release of the four episode OAV back in 2001.
For an anime and manga series that was well-liked in Japan, you can only hope that an animated version would continue.
But similar to a series like “Submarine 707-R”, I dislike watching a series that you really get into and enjoy but knowing that there are no further episodes left to watch, that kind of sucks!
There is a one volume manga series titled “Alien Nine Emulators” released by Central Park Media which follows the three Alien Party members as they enter Junior High and having to adjust to puberty and emotions. Also, “emulators” is supposed to be much darker and more violent and there are other manga that have been released in Japan but that is if you are willing to import it.
But as for the DVD and OAV series, “ALIEN NINE” was a series that I did enjoy. Yes, it’s a cutesy anime but it is quite unique in its own way. The anime features way too much crying that nearly wanted to make me yank my hair out but all in all, it got very interesting as the storyline progressed and I actually wanted to see more.
Now, there is an ultimate version of this DVD release available that comes with the manga graphic novels. I’ve been told by many that the manga and anime versions are quite different and where the anime focuses on friendships, there is more than friendship going on in the manga series.
Needless to say, after watching this regular edition, I now regret not picking up the ultimate edition because at least maybe there would be some areas that would fill in some plot holes and at least show me this other side in the manga series not explored in the animated OAV series.
But all in all, both DVD versions can be found quite cheap online (and that’s new not used). Plus it’s full of special features, so for its current price online, it’s an OAV series definitely worth checking out.
+ Can be found for nearly $5 online for a new copy! Or $15 for the Ultimate edition that comes with the manga graphic novels
+ The anime series is well acted in the Japanese version. And Ihata Juri does a great job capturing the emotions of the crybaby character, Otani Yuri.
+ A lot of special features included on this DVD
– Too much crying that it may want to yank your hair out if you don’t have the patience for it.
– The OAV ends with an episode that makes you want more but unfortunately seven years later since its original release, it doesn’t look we will see anything in animated form for now.
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