Review: ALIEN 9 Is Unique And Compelling Anime
Let's first make something very clear: despite its title and scenes showing aliens inside humans' abdominal cavities, Alien 9 bears absolutely no relation to the beloved Alien movie franchise. Instead, it is a short 4-episode anime series that tells the story of 3 young alien fighters who have been authorized to skip classes and fight aliens at their school.
No. 9 Elementary School is no ordinary school. Besides being a place where children go to gain knowledge, it is also a major landing site for aliens. For this reason, every year the school puts a small team of students in charge of capturing the aliens, and if necessary, terminating them by force. Yuri, the latest member to join the 'Alien Party,' is a timid and reluctant recruit. The other 2 members of the team, Kumi and Kasumi, on the other hand, are much more comfortable carrying weapons and fighting the space visitors. Through a series of exciting alien encounters, which are fluidly and imaginatively drawn in the anime, the all-girl trio starts to develop a strong bond between them.
Each of the alien fighters wears an alien (called a 'Borg') on her head like a hat, and the Borg can protect her in the dangerous battles against other aliens. In return, the Borgs get nourishment by licking the girls' backs. If that sounds strange, it is exactly what the show is like.
Despite the lighthearted opening theme song and cute character design, the show has a surprisingly somber and mysterious tone. Much of it focuses on the inner struggles of Yuri, who is particularly helpless being left to deal with situations that are beyond both her ability and confidence. She is clearly not ready to assume the responsibilities that are being thrust upon her, and many of her bad dreams highlight her deepest fears and sense of insecurity. Rather disturbingly, the school officials are completely indifferent towards the children's needs, and are much more focused on their own agendas. It seems that the author of the manga on which the anime is based has much to say about selfish and irresponsible adults who abuse and mistreat innocent children.
Besides human/alien symbiosis and the assumption of adult responsibilities by minors, many of Alien 9's other interesting plot points and ideas are not explored in full. In fact, the series raises many more questions than it answers. As a result, some parts are confusing and do not make complete sense. One certainly gets the impression that we are only getting glimpses of a universe that is much, much bigger than what has been shown. In the end, the series is not quite as satisfying and meaningful as it could have been, but still manages to be strangely compelling, and is unique enough to warrant a recommendation.
Alien 9 is released in Australia by Hanabee Entertainment, and is now available on DVD.