Alien Nine Anime and Manga

February 3rd, 2008

Still cleaning out the backlog of anime reviews. Today’s review was written by long-time “friend of Yuri” Eric P.!(And many thanks to Adam for his assist on this.) Yuricon 2003 was the American Premiere of the Alien 9 anime, which was very cool, so thanks again to CPM for that. :-) The reason I never reviewed this series is probably self-evident…I didn’t much care for it. lol Extra thanks to Eric and to Adam, and to you for reading!

Here’s my attempt in covering the basics of the Alien Nine saga, a title from back in 2003, including the anime, the three-volume manga, and the one-shot manga sequel Emulators, created by Hitoshi Tomizawa.

In the not-too-distant future, alien invasions are an everyday occurrence. The story of Alien Nine takes place in a school where three 6th-grade girls are elected as the school’s protectors, and have to defend the campus from these occasional intrusions.

One of the three is a girl named Yuri (kinda obvious name, isn’t it?), elected very much against her will. She is teamed with two other Alien Fighters, Kumi and Kasumi. Their fighting gear includes helmets that are in fact living, symbiotic aliens, which can unfurl wings and extend tentacles shaped like screws. The Alien Fighters’ uniforms and weapons make them look like rollerblading lacrosse-players. They face off against creatures of all shapes and sizes; it is amazing what Hitoshi Tomizawa’s imagination came up with at times.

During the course of the story, Kumi and Kasumi experience encounters which cause them to slowly become half-aliens, and in the end they try to protect the still-human Yuri so as to retain what’s left of their humanity.

The artwork of Alien Nine is decidedly paradoxical. If you were to judge this title based upon its cover (DVD or manga), you would be surprised and stunned if you actually looked inside. While the characters designs are cutesy, their situations and the monstrous aliens they face are anything but; some of the imagery can get downright brutal and grotesque. In my opinion it isn’t overdone, but it may not appeal to anyone who’s particularly squeamish or who doesn’t appreciate a little shock.

And now to the differences between the anime and the manga: While the animation is great, I personally hate the anime. As a standalone story from the manga version, Yuri, the appointed protagonist, remains whiny and pitiful from start to finish without any kind of development. She is far worse than Shinji from Evangelion, if you can believe that. She ends up making the viewers, like myself, depressed for having followed a heroine who never accomplishes anything. Also, the anime picks *the* most *awkward* spot in the manga as its conclusion. The very last shot, right before it blacks out to the closing credits, is a scene where Yuri just looks at the camera and then breaks down in tears. Honestly, I felt scarred and empty after having watched it.

At first I thought it was very unfortunate that I watched the anime before reading the manga version. On second thought, however, it turned out to be rather fortunate – because of it, I was better able to appreciate the superiority of the manga version, which continues the story where the anime left off. Although still pitiful, the Yuri of the manga is just slightly less annoying. At least in the manga’s conclusion (before Emulators) she makes choices which affect the outcome of the story. Whether or not you’d consider her heroic, it’s still a vast improvement in my book.

Now down to the Yuri itself. It is much clearer in the anime version, especially in Episode 3, where Kumi expresses her fondness toward Yuri. Yuri seems uncertain, but then later shows hints of being interested in Kumi as well. Then something weird happens in the fourth and final episode: they’re alone, wearing their helmets to block out some alien emanation that’s causing headaches. Then Kumi takes a look at Yuri, dons a wicked smile, and Yuri starts to panic. The camera cuts to the ceiling, we hear some whining, and Yuri’s clothes fly up. You tell me what happened there…

The Yuri is still there in the manga version, at least on Kumi’s part. Yuri (the character) is not remotely aware of Kumi’s feelings, even though it was said feelings which helped bring about the manga’s conclusion.

When the story continues in Emulators, a whole new alien invasion takes place. Of course. Kasumi, being far less human this time around, tries to set up everything for Kumi to be alone with Yuri, but in the end Kumi’s feelings turn out to be unreciprocated. You might well wonder why Kumi would be attracted to Yuri to begin with. Maybe Kumi’s attracted to the really vulnerable types, in contrast to her own independent nature? Anyway, the ending of Emulators is bittersweet, but everyone turns out more or less okay.

I should also mention that there’s a bonus chapter about a boy who had a crush on Kumi, but he becomes an alien villain targeting Yuri upon discovering the true object of Kumi’s affections.

Aside from the Yuri, Alien Nine is made up of very imaginative science-fiction. One of my favorite elements is from Emulators, where a new half-alien girl, Monami, is introduced, and her long strands of hair seem to have a mind of their own. The storytelling style of Alien Nine is vague; it doesn’t delve into the background to explain everything or everyone. Instead things mostly
just happen, and readers are simply along for the ride. Some people may differ, but I tend to find that sort of style appealing. It entails a lot of shocking revelations – certainly enough to make you want to know what happens next. You’re better off skipping the anime version, but if you feel like checking out something that is very weird and unique, but with a humorous tinge, definitely consider the Alien Nine and Alien Nine: Emulators manga.

Ratings:

Art – 8 (fluctuates between cute and grotesque)
Story – Anime, 4; Manga, 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – Anime, 6; Manga, 5
Service – Anime, 7; Manga, 5 (a couple of bath scenes, involving the alien helmets’ tentacle-like tongues)

Overall – Anime, 3; Manga,  7

Eric, you completely captured my feelings about the anime. ^_^ Thanks again for this review!

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I never got the impression that Yuri is unaware of Kumi’s feelings, quite the contrary, in fact.
    The sequel, on the other hand, unexpectedly botches the pairing. But unsatisfactory sequels are made to be ignored and I’m quite happy with the original conclusion.

    Yuri/Kumi forever!
    Now if only the anime didn’t end so abruptly…

  2. Eric P. says:

    Since it’s actually been a while since I submitted this review, I just want to correct something I wrote.
    When I first watched the scene where Kumi tore off Yuri’s clothes on DVD, I did have the initial faint impression that Kumi was violating Yuri to some degree (Yuri crying in the next shot seemed to confirm it), which didn’t make any sense to me. At some point I watched the ‘You Are Not Alone’ AMV on Yuri studios, where they showed the same scene but with different subtitles from the CPM DVD; apparently a fansub. What Yuri was saying was that with the helmet on she couldn’t change her clothes. So what really happened was that Kumi was just forcibly changing her clothes; still a fanservice scene but not what I thought it was. So I’m guessing the subtitles on the DVD are actually dubtitles.
    Other than that, I stand by what I wrote

  3. myu says:

    You made me interested of Alien Nine. ^^ Thank you!

  4. JazzCat says:

    The very last shot, right before it blacks out to the closing credits, is a scene where Yuri just looks at the camera and then breaks down in tears

    She obviously sensed that something awful had happened to Kumi. But it’s indeed a weird spot to end the anime, since it’s clearly an opening to another story arc.

    What struck me most was the contrast between the “puny plush” design of the characters and the grim nature of the action. It’s also weird why the heck they would let Yuri fight aliens when she’s obviously so scared of them. Then again, most anime doesn’t make a lot of sense ;)

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