26 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Mefloraine /

Secret Santa Review: Alien Nine

Hello there, I am mefloraine. I draw chibi Scamp for his video reviews every few weeks. Scamp was kind enough to let me post here for Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project because my blog was shamed by the vast number of Rio – Rainbow Gate posts I allowed to grace its pages and committed seppuku.

Anyway, participation in Secret Santa means you are tasked with writing a review of the series you were given to watch by some stranger. Last year I sat through one of the worst anime I have ever tried to enjoy, Munto. This year I was handed the Alien Nine OVA, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, and Mononoke. I watched the first two and will tackle the third after the holidays, but I’ll be reviewing Alien Nine now. Unfortunately, I am not as hilarious as Scamp.

Alien Nine is the story of a girl named Otani who, instead of being forced into the usual role of class officer by a vote from the class, becomes their alien defense force representative. She is terrified of aliens.

The other two defense force members are well-suited to the job: Kasumi loves capturing aliens and making cat noises, while Kumi plays it tough and doesn’t really care either way about things. She gets her job done, and she doesn’t like people.

The story seems like it would be a tale about Otani growing from a frightened girl to a brave woman or stepping up to her duties, but neither of these things happen.  I want to watch Otani grow up and become strong. I want to see her get over her fear of aliens and grow closer to her new friends. I want to see a change, but instead I get crying and angst for four episodes broken up by typical beach and festival tropes. Yawn.

At least there was implied yuri?

Also: plotholes. There were more questions left unanswered in this OVA series than they actually addressed. Why does everyone’s hair turn into alien killing drills? What are the teacher and principal secretly plotting? Why is it called Alien Nine? Does Otani do anything but cry?

In episode three (the beach/summer filler episode) alone Otani…

>cries because she is too scared to go far into the water at the beach

>cries because she swallowed seawater

>cries because someone else is scared

>cries when her name is called to go on the haunted walk

>cries because she is scared on the haunted walk

>does not cry while being chased by scary things on the haunted walk

While the story was disappointing, the OVA did bring up a few interesting points. The girls were not supposed to kill aliens, but catch them. “Even though it is an alien it is a life too,” their teacher spouted. I am not used to seeing aliens presented in a context other than a) moe girl is actually an alien or b) aliens are evil, and we must kill them all. The aliens were still more or less evil, but killing was the not the point, and in fact, when Otani did cause the death of aliens, she was punished by both teacher and peers.

Of course, I didn’t realize the show was actually about real aliens when I started watching it and was surprised to see that they were not metaphorically hunting them, so maybe my opinion on that is a little shaky. I also thought it was cool that the little alien hats they wore were actually aliens, weapons, shields, and friends. They could speak and look out for their their girls in exchange for licking dirt off of them every day.

You take that licking like a man, Otani.

Sometimes the show felt iyashikei (healing and soothing) and calm; other times it attempted to be fast-paced and full of (lazy) action. But there was mostly a lot of crying. From me. As episode three wound down it kind of felt like that was the (bad) end of the OVA series. Then suddenly another alien appeared and ate Kasumi. Episode four was the naked loli episode.

And Otani never really does grow. She saves her naked friend from the alien in episode four instead of killing her as she might have done in the past, but nothing changes in Otani’s personality. She is just as much as a crybaby as before. She still fears everything. She has no strength inside. And the OVA series ends that way. Otani and the previously strong Kumi both crying in the night, weakened beyond all measure.

Very inspiring.

(As a sidenote, Moribito was a treat. I recommend that one.)

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25 Comments

  1. Posted December 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I really wanted to like this one, too. There could have been a lot of interesting psych stuff, but the show felt hamstrung by its short length.

    • Posted December 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      It felt like the show really wanted to be longer and hinted at interesting things that could have been used if it *had* been longer, but it just…wasn’t. I wonder if it was planned to be this length or it was cut short.

  2. Gunslinger
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Nice start :) Hope you plan plan to continue …

    • Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Pfft, I doubt Scamp wants my up here ruining his blog on a regular basis. :3c

  3. Posted December 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Alien Nine is definitely an interesting but flawed OVA — as you write, the short length and abrupt (to put it kindly) ending really hurts the story. It comes off like an advertisement for the manga, but the way it ends is kind of unsettling; I feel like the creators chose to end in that spot to send some frightening sort of message.

    Personally, I read Alien Nine mostly as a story of being forced to mature before you’re ready. The two girls who dive headlong into the alien hunting don’t exactly end up in a great place by the end of the OVA; to me, crybaby as she is, Otani has the most logical reaction to the aliens. Those things are creepy as shit. And the episode where the boys happen upon the aliens and attack Yuri under their influence? Egads …

    So I guess looking at it that way, I didn’t expect traditional story growth from Yuri. She’s just a 12-year-old girl who isn’t ready to take on the role society hoists upon her.

    • Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Not that anime ever really considers people realistically, grown-wise. :3c Her reactions make the most sense from a normal point of view, but I guess when I go into an anime like this I tend to expect a bit of character resolution instead of normalcy. I think it works as something powerful if you can take it in without it feeling somehow *wrong* for anime, but when I watched it I was expecting something else.

      Though I think I would be irritated at a normal twelve-year-old girl crying like that realistically as well, lol.

  4. Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    The OVA is just a piece of a much longer anime series, hence the sudden ending.

    Personally I love Alien Nine, but when I watched it, I just had finished middle school, and had the problem of hitting puberty early in the fall of 4th grade. (Alien Nine is a metaphor for puberty and growing up before everyone else). Nothing else I saw or read illustrated how I felt. I felt alienated and alone, and all I wanted to do was cry. I didn’t grow up, but instead entered into a bad depression.

    I guess I appreciate Alien Nine for being blunt that not all of else grow up automatically when life demands we do.

  5. Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Simply on the surface, Alien Nine is about how not everyone has the make up to be a rugged action hero, or even middle school alien hunter. What would really happen when adults with complex agendas thrust heavy responsibilities onto children completely unprepared for them? Certainly, most anime story protagonists be heroic spirits, but that’s just one possibility. Many people, let alone kids, would crumble under the enormous pressure, and others would have their psyche broken. The Alien Nine OVA is an absolutely fascinating depiction of innocence lost much too early.

    • Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      I think, as I said to Shinmaru, if I hadn’t been expecting the usual anime tropes that part of it would have come across better to me. I do now realize that the message is that normal people would break, but at the time it just felt sour.

  6. Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh right, the Alien Nine OVA covers slightly less than half of its original manga storyline. It ends before the really weird stuff starts happening, but unfortunately also before the teacher’s conspiracy is revealed. I tentatively recommend reading it just to see what all the mysteries were about, but the manga is very rough and the anime does wonders for the portions of the story it does cover.

    I showed this to a bunch of friends back in high school, and they freaked out. I loved it, haha.

  7. Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I also take exception to the claim that a vast number of Rio posts brings shame to one’s blog! Pistols at dawn for such a libelous assertion!

    • Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      My one lament about my blog’s death is that the entire first two pages or so is nothing but low quality Rio. ;_;

  8. Posted December 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Remembered watching it back in middle school. All I remember was that it looked like Digimon and the scene with the naked girl.

  9. Ryan
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    From the review and comments, I don’t think Alien Nine is something I could invest time in, but it’s nice seeing that a middle-of-the-road adaptation can be analyzed for intent and merit. (Kudos to the Terribrigade for making every title count)

    Would have enjoyed a Moribito review. ^ ^ And seeing how that was a “treat,” I recommend taking a look at Kemono no Souja, which is adapted from novels by the same author who wrote Moribito.

    Merry Christmas.

    • Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Kemono no Souja is actually on my harddrive, but I probably won’t get to delve into it for a while. I started writing about Moribito and realized I was having trouble saying anything worthwhile, haha. One of those series I enjoy watching but can’t put into words why.

  10. Someone Else
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    I never read the manga but I liked Alien nine a lot due to its craziness, not awesome crazy like FLCL and P&S but creepy twisted crazy like Evangelion. At first I thought it was just some happy normal alien anime but it became really unusual later, and the fact that the protagonist never really liked the aliens is it’s best point. Aliens still has a ton of mysteries and her fear of them is greatly justified.

  11. Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    “Unfor­tu­nately, I am not as hil­ari­ous as Scamp.”

    Tss, stop lying! Great post, shame that you stopped blogging. I have to read some of your older posts sometime.

    Also, thanks for reminding me of this show! I remember being interested of it, but I forgot the name.

  12. DarkEnergy
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    1) This review does not accurately convey the message of how increasingly-nightmare-inducing this show is. I watched these four episodes in a club with about 15 other people. The shock value is very high.

    2) Otani is crying because THIS STUFF IS TERRIFYING and everybody is acting like it is normal. She has suffered enormous pain and trauma. Also, those alien hats are EVIL and I think the are sucking out spinal fluids or something; not just “licking their backs” though I could be wrong.

    3) Overall, I agree with most of what this review has to say, but I disagree fervently on a few key points. Maybe the show is just a lot more fun to watch in a group where you can see and hear everybody’s reactions to the crazy shit that goes on. Some of the events were just so unexpected that I found them hilarious. I gave Alien Nine a 7/10, mostly for it’s entertainment value.

    If you’d like to discuss this with me any further, send me a message at http://myanimelist.net/profile/DarkEnergy.

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      No, they said they eat the dirt off their backs. What doesn’t make sense to me about Otani’s fear is that she lives in a world full of aliens. Yes, they are frightening, but they are nothing new. It feels like she is more afraid than she really should be.

  13. Posted December 28, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    It’s the eerie mood that makes Alien Nine work. As it stands, there’s wiggle room for interpretation. For example, I’ve read arguments that the scene with the three alien boy antagonists in the alien barn is really a rape scene, and that the aliens are a symbol of adulthood. If you take away the ambiguity, you are left with nothing but a story about a crying elementary schooler.

    While I do agree that the OVA did stop short (the manga does go on to explain what the teacher is plotting), I wouldn’t say that most of your questions are plot holes. Rather, they’re left up to the audience to interpret.

    • Posted December 28, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      - Alien Nine fan

      • Posted December 28, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

        Clearly, w

        Those are not spots for interpretation. They are just elements unexplored.

        - Not Alien Nine fan

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