A handful of years ago, I watched the OVA series Alien Nine – a show about three girls, Yuri, Kumi and Kasumi, who were tasked with being their school’s alien fighters. In this world, aliens landed on earth 14 years ago and dealing with them is pretty much the norm. The aliens seem more like a nuisance than a threat, which is how school alien fighters became a thing. The girls are given Borgs, frog-like alien creatures with wings that establish symbiotic relationships with their hosts, to help them fight the aliens.
Alien fighters are only meant to capture any rogue aliens who are causing problems – killing is a last resort. Despite invading the aliens invading our planet, humans respect the lives of the aliens and do everything in their power to not kill them. Not every alien is as tame as the last, however.
I very much enjoyed the OVA. My only two real gripes about it were 1) It ended on a massive cliffhanger, making the entire series one of those shows where it basically requires you to read the manga to get a full story (I recently learned that they intended on completing the OVA, but they didn’t have the funding. The creators said they were in the process of getting the funding, but it’s assumed that the series fell into development hell and was quietly canceled) and 2) Yuri.
Yuri really damaged my ability to enjoy the OVA. She is one of the whiniest most useless anime characters I’ve ever seen. Like I mentioned in my original review, I give her some leeway because she’s just a 12 year old kid thrown into a dangerous and scary job that she didn’t want or ask for. It’s just treated like another chore at school, but it’s still risky and violent.
However, I only have so much slack in that department. Yuri does….nothing. She cries, she whines, she complains, and the only times she’s actually doing something against the aliens, it’s her Borg going into instant kill mode because Yuri’s so scared that she believes her life is in danger. She’s never not being rescued by someone else. If her Borg isn’t going rogue to protect her, Kumi or Kasumi is rushing in to save her.
Kumi does, rightfully, chew her out for this once. She, as the most responsible one in the group, is fed up with having to clean up other people’s messes, and Yuri is basically a human mess. At home, Kumi has had to fend for herself since she was four after her father died, and her mother is constantly working – she even has to help her mom with her work. Meanwhile, she frequently gets tasked with jobs at school and is usually made class president. While she does all of these jobs without complaining, she thought the one job where she wouldn’t have people so reliant on her with be an alien fighter job, and then she gets Yuri as a teammate.
I really wanted Yuri to get better by the end of the anime, even just a little, but she doesn’t. She leaves her friend in danger because she’s too scared to do anything and the only reason she even does a slight bit near the end is because Kumi came in, saved her ass again and literally held her hand through the ordeal.
Sorry to say, but she doesn’t get any better by the end of the manga either. In fact, she pretty much gets worse. Not only does she maintain her whiny crybaby nature throughout the rest of the manga (I swear she must dehydrate herself on a regular basis as a result of all the tears she has pour from her face), but she keeps making problems for the other girls while contributing nothing to help them.
She wanders into the Forest of Spaceships, a place loaded with aliens and noted by the school as being dangerous and off-limits, just because she was uncomfortable as a result of recent events affecting the team.
That’s really dumb.
She’s a massive crybaby and wimp, why would she do something like go into a dangerous restricted area loaded with aliens, the ones she’s terrified of, just because she’s ‘uncomfortable’? Ms. Hisakawa specifically states the reasoning and says she understands, but it makes no sense at all. Run away, fine, but it really felt like they had her go into the forest just because the plot said so.
Yuri is attacked by aliens and her Borg is separated from her. Realizing Yuri would very likely die, her Borg, being loyal to its partner and wishing to preserve her life in any way it can, stored Yuri’s memories before going into hiding. Yuri, having survived her ordeal, is left in an infantile state for a few chapters as a result.
Yes, Yuri the massive crybaby is a literal baby (mentally) for a while. I honestly can’t tell if that was worse or a bit of a reprieve because she, somehow, didn’t seem like she cried as much in that state.
The girls have to risk their lives and go into the Forest of Spaceships to save her Borg so they can retrieve her memories and bring her back to normal.
Then there’s Yuri causing all sorts of trouble because of her scaredy cat nature prompting her Borg to constantly freak out and kill, even innocent creatures (At one point, as Yuri’s walking away from a freakout incident, her Borg just randomly murders Kasumi and Kumi’s Borgs in cold blood). In addition, the freakouts once get so bad that it causes her Borg to rapidly grow. It couldn’t handle the stress of such a massive freakout and died.
Yes, Yuri killed a Borg with her fear.
At this point, I might say she maybe has anxiety issues or depression, so she may deserve a little more leeway. However, not only is it hard to give such a diagnosis here (Being honest, I don’t really think she displays enough symptoms for a firm diagnosis of either) but the series never mentions or even implies this. I’d have to be forcing my own interpretations onto her character, and I’m not sure how fair that is.
She was at her happiest at summer vacation when her friends basically did everything they could to spend the entire vacation with her doing fun things, but even then she spent a majority of it sporting more of a grimace than an actual smile.
After that, she was a focal point in the Sunflower incident. Sunflower aliens, which are sworn enemies of the alien species most common at the school, the drill clan, of which the Borgs originate, capture Yuri and manipulate her into helping them take over the school. I can’t really pin that much on her in that regard, the Sunflower aliens just targeted her as a host for some reason, but she still acted like a brat during that time – including slicing up Kumi’s body (This will make sense in a bit) and murdering visions of her friends.
You could certainly pin some of her behavior on the Sunflowers, but they never make off like Yuri isn’t Yuri. She’s still conscious, she’s still making decisions on what she does and says, she’s just being influenced by the Sunflowers. In fact, the vision of Kasumi specifically tells Yuri they’re tricking her not controlling her. Their method of manipulating her was giving her encouragement and praise while viewing her friends as picking on her.
I kinda get this, but I also kinda don’t. She’s been given plenty of encouragement and kind words from everyone. They just start faltering on her in response to her stark negativity and, well, personality. It’s not like they’re ragging on her at every turn, they still give her comfort and encouragement all the time, it’s just that there’s only so much they can put up with. It’s difficult to keep giving positivity to someone who responds to most of it with whining and negative comments.
This is the one arc where she actually kinda does something useful of her own volition as she rebels against the Sunflowers’ influence for a minute in order to stop them from taking over Kasumi. She really just plucked the alien off of Kasumi’s head like it was a hat, but she still did something, so that’s good. (For contrast, though, immediately after this, Ms. Hisakawa stops herself from getting taken over by a Sunflower by ripping it apart with her teeth.)
Then, in the sequel Alien Nine Emulators Yuri’s kidnapped by aliens again, needs to be saved again, then she’s targeted AGAIN, and needs to be saved AGAIN.
I understand why she was targeted in the very end, because it was Kumi’s desire not really the aliens, but I don’t get why she’s such a prime target for aliens considering they need hearty hosts. Both the minds and bodies of their hosts need to be strong to properly withstand fusion. Yuri’s body can’t be that strong considering she never actually fights (though I guess she’d be more adapted to alien influence given her time as an alien fighter) and she’s CERTAINLY not mentally strong (Fun fact: One of the chapters has little blurbs from the OVA voice actors on how much they liked the characters they played and how much they enjoyed being on the show. Yuri’s voice actress, Hitomi Tachibana, made a note saying “By the way, I’m not as dumb as Yuri.” I laughed out loud.)
And that’s how the series ends. With Yuri having developed approximately 0%. She started the series as a whiny useless sack of diapers and she ended the series as a whiny useless sack of diapers.
Even her mother stated, out loud, with Yuri right next to her, that she’s always complaining and has never been good at anything. Then she ends the series not being good at anything or even putting forth effort into anything. She never tries to learn how to be an alien fighter, not even for the sake of being better able to protect herself or her friends, she never tries to bond with her Borg or make the best of her situation, she just puts up with it because she’s being forced to do so.
If you’re curious as to why no one will let her quit, I still have no clue. The point of the alien fighters is both to protect the school and train girls for the sake of finding suitable fusion candidates, but Yuri’s very obviously not a good fusion candidate and she’s a massive liability and hazard in battle.
This bothers me a lot because, if you want a character to be whiny, fine. If you want them to cry all the time, fine. Hell, you want them to be useless? Go for it. But 1) The character that is being given these traits should not be THE main character and 2) These traits should not make matters worse for everyone else.
Every time she was faced with even the slightest challenge, she’d just shrivel up like an old banana on a hot rooftop and wait for the Borg or her friends to save her. Even when she has to simply do menial chores, like feeding the captured aliens, she’s crying, whining and complaining.
The only reason Kumi and Kasumi stop getting irritated by her behavior is because, due to their connections to the Borgs, they suffer from empathy whenever one of them is experiencing intense emotions. Since there are obviously numerous times when Yuri is terrified beyond belief, they experience this terror and vow to protect her. Ya know, perpetuating the problem.
What’s even worse is that she never self-evaluates and criticizes herself for how she acts, which is the first step to actually bettering herself. She just blames the world, basically. Stupid classmates for making her an alien fighter. Stupid aliens for existing. Stupid Borgs for being gross, even though they’re literally creatures meant to protect her at all costs and make her happy. There are even some points where she seems to direct her irritation towards Kumi and Kasumi for either things that were completely beyond their control or for seemingly treating her poorly when they either weren’t or they were, but it was only because she was being ungodly irritating and unhelpful in life-threatening situations.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they decided to make Kumi and Yuri romantically interested in each other, I guess. Yes, Kumi, the girl who was sick to death of protecting this useless blob of jello, and Yuri, aforementioned useless blob of jello, get so close that they’re legit romantic interests by the end, even kissing twice. They don’t focus on the romantic angle much, but it is there in black and white.
I specifically don’t understand why Kumi’s feelings seem the strongest. Yuri is obviously dependent on Kumi to a pathetic degree, but there’s no question that Kumi’s feelings for Yuri are given more focus. In fact, it really seems like it’s a one-sided affair because I can’t think of any instance where they frame a scene or dialogue like Yuri sees Kumi as anything more than a big sister/parent/guardian/friend.
Again, she doesn’t develop at all over the course of the series. The same girl that Kumi screamed at for being useless to a point of endangerment is the same girl she’s developing a crush on. You can’t really control who you develop feelings for, I suppose, but this seems like a harmful co-dependent relationship.
Yuri has literally zero likable traits. Like most useless crybaby characters, you can say she’s nice but that’s about it, and, surprisingly, even that’s not all that strong. There are numerous times where she’s being grumpy or copping an attitude at someone or just being an overall downer on everything. Then there are the moments where she’s abandoning her friends in dangerous situations because she’s just too scared to do anything.
Kumi and Kasumi are more interesting as characters, and it’s really disappointing that they weren’t given the main focus. I think Kasumi in particular would have been a better focal main character because she was very interesting before the incident with the Yellow Knife and got even more interesting after the fact. I liked how, after the incident, you never truly knew if she was always acting in the best interests of her team. She nearly bounced back and forth between friend and foe.
Kumi wasn’t as interesting as Kasumi, but she would still be a better choice than Yuri, and she suffered from a very fascinating yet tragic plight after her murder…..No, I’m not kidding.
*sigh* But enough about Yuri – what of the rest of the story?
Sadly, that was also a little disappointing.
Again, they just left me wanting more, but in a different way from the cliffhanger of the OVA.
The pacing and structure of this series are out of whack. They will omit or skim through interesting parts of their universe. For example, what are the aliens, and what do they want? How has the government and society as a whole been dealing with this on a wider scale? Why are they training these kids in secret? I feel like doing such a thing is incredibly unethical and should be illegal. Why are those who are fused, such as Ms. Hisakawa, seemingly keeping their alien nature a secret from the students at the start but it just seems like something people know about and accept later on? Why is it important for humanity to give the Borg aliens what they want but also refuse other aliens the same thing?
Not only that but major events will go by way too quickly as well. It makes it difficult to really care about dark or tragic turns in the plot when they go by in a flash. I believe the OVA, while also having the same issue of not really explaining deeper details of the world much, which is really the fault of the manga, did the pacing and structure much better. Makes me all the more disappointed that the OVA series never got to continue.
You want a perfect example of how screwed up the pacing and structure are in the manga? The final two pages are literally the entire resolution to the final big conflict and then most of the main characters leaving for America and Yuri going ‘Thanks a lot.’ That’s just….it. It ends.
I figured the plot would really take off once I reached the point where the OVA left off, which was Kumi seemingly murdered and Kasumi looking like she was possessed by the Yellow Knife that attacked the school and tried to fuse with her.
It did take off, but it never really soared, ya know? There are consequences that are felt throughout the entirety of the manga, but it’s pretty much the same thing over and over. An alien attacks, wants to fuse with everyone, most likely targets Yuri in some way, save Yuri, defeat alien.
Some cool and interesting things happen, usually regarding Kumi, Kasumi or even Ms. Hisakawa, but it is the same formula over and over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you do enough with the formula, but I don’t think it really did.
The most interesting arc was the Yellow Knife incident, which was covered in the OVA. The Yellow Knives have sonic powers that allow them to knock people out, communicate and even create hallucinations. That combined with Kasumi’s plight of being trapped within the Yellow Knife and really not wanting to leave made the story very compelling and interesting. Compared to the Sunflowers, which were kinda boring, and the Gladiuses, which were really just a different form of Borgs with the same drill-cable powers, it feels like they used their best card first.
I suppose that’s why the finale brings back the Yellow Knives in spades, but it almost entirely focuses on Kumi and Yuri with the Yellow Knives being more of a backdrop or tool.
Picking up from where the OVA left off, Kumi did legitimately die. Her stomach and some of her other organs were consumed by the alien that attacked her. However, she’s basically brought back to life because they have some sort of special cell gel that regenerates their bodies, which….I thought was a bit of a bad choice. Kumi’s ‘death’ was extremely shocking in the OVA and I was itching to find out how they’d deal with such a blow, but she’s barely ‘dead’ a full chapter before she’s brought back.
Introducing an item that has such incredible regenerative powers that it can bring people back to life easily (with a Borg’s help in restoring the memories anyway) and even restore limbs puts death nearly off the table and lowers the tension significantly. They don’t even care much when their Borgs die. They just grow new ones.
The most prominent conflict that arises is the topic of fusing with the aliens. Ms. Hisakawa, who herself is a fused being, is basically training the girls to become strong enough to fuse with the aliens for…I suppose the aliens’ sake for some reason. The aliens do need humans, but it’s never made clear why the humans care about what the aliens need. The only information we get is that humans ‘have no other choice’ but to do so. However, they never explain why we don’t have a choice.
Fusing is a big commitment, obviously. You’re literally sharing your body and mind with an alien being. If you’re not strong enough, mentally and physically, many problems will arise that may result in the death of the host.
You do get some benefits from the deal. You’re never lonely, you can send the alien out to do things for you, you’re always protected by it and you might even get some cool powers of your own. For example, those fused with Borgs get cool drill-cable hair and those fused with Yellow Knives get sonic waves.
Kumi is basically forced to fuse with a Borg after she ‘dies’ but her case is much, much worse than Ms. Hisakawa’s. While the only real alien part of Ms. Hisakawa is her hair, practically all of Kumi below her neck is a Borg, or, more to the point, it’s a series of drill-cables. When she’s restored with the cell gel, it’s really creating a skin-like structure around drill-cables that are making up her body. She struggles accepting the fact that she’s not only now fused with an alien but now has such a monstrous body.
While they didn’t handle this plot point poorly, I think they’ve could have approached it a lot better. She never breaks down or really has a full-on struggle with this even though anyone else would be devastated beyond belief if they lost pretty much their entire body and had it replaced with alien drill-cables and fake skin.
She lashes out about her eaten stomach once by kicking a garbage can full of aliens, and she sadly laments that she’ll never get a husband with a body like that now, but that’s about it.
This is the main reason why Kumi would have been such a great choice as a main character. The opportunity of exploring such a struggle is unique and incredibly interesting, but it’s pretty much wasted.
It can be argued that her psychological trauma involving her physical changes manifested itself in a much stronger desire to protect Yuri from the same fate, which is indeed brought up and would explain the sudden romantic feelings for Yuri. She’s not internalizing her pain or really vocalizing how terrible she feels about it – she’s channeling it into a drive to be overprotective towards the last full human in their group.
And because she’s now a fused being, she feels a strong desire to fuse, like all of the aliens do. I suppose her fixation on fusing with Yuri and only Yuri could be a result of her intense desire to protect her. It’s not just to sate the deep feelings of loneliness she gets as a fused being now (It should be noted that even though she’s fused, Kumi doesn’t have an alien to talk to, she’s more of an alien by herself.), but also to better protect Yuri and always keep an eye on her.
I’ll fully accept that explanation and eat some crow on some of my earlier related complaints, but I still think it would’ve been very beneficial to see her react more strongly to the state of her body. Also, the fact that she frickin’ died is something that you’d think would be something to see a therapist about, but I guess not.
It’s a little more understandable with Kasumi because she’s more mentally influenced by the Yellow Knife with which she’s fused. Plus, her personality beforehand was perfect for fusion. She was always jazzed about alien stuff and was their most enthusiastic fighter. I can totally see her being down with fusion. My problem with Kasumi in this regard is that she’s the first of the girls to fuse – somewhat drawn to the Yellow Knife due to her loneliness since her brother is studying overseas. She seemingly fuses willingly, if not happily, because she doesn’t want to be lonely anymore, but we never meet her brother or explore their relationship in the slightest. We don’t even know his name.
Loneliness is a big topic in this series. The aliens all need relationships in order to live and thrive. They get very affected by feelings of loneliness, to the point where they can die from it, and they strongly desire connections and fusions. Kasumi’s loneliness is the crux for her fusion, but it seems wasted to not really give proper due to the reasons behind her loneliness.
Even the grand finale of Emulators centers on loneliness. Kumi is essentially dying from loneliness because she refuses to fuse with Yuri and, I guess, she feels like she might be losing Yuri because she’s “growing up” and talked to a boy for five minutes. I’m going to assume that’s just the influence of the alien blood making her too possessive. However, Kasumi can’t take Kumi’s pain and suffering anymore so she tries to guilt Yuri into fusing with Kumi.
Kasumi has Kumi and Yuri both eaten by a Yellow Knife in order to forcibly fuse them together, but Kumi doesn’t want that and begs Monami (a new alien fighter at their junior high who has fused with her Borg. Strangely, she doesn’t have drill-cable hair, she has whip-like tentacle hair) to kill her to stop the fusion. They’re able to extract Yuri and save Kumi in the nick of time, but she’s in bad shape. And by ‘bad shape’ I mean she’s basically just a head being kept alive by a Borg.
Ms. Hisakawa and Kasumi head to California to help Kumi recover…..why she needs to go all the way California for that, I don’t know. They did mention that was where the first ‘Alien party’ was founded, but they never explain what that means. Yuri can barely eek out a ‘thank you’ to Kasumi and Kumi before they leave, which is nice for all the shit they went through for her.
I suppose this ending might be symbolic, like she’s letting them go and be away from her and vice versa in Kumi’s case so they won’t be so reliant on each other, but it’s not permanent, and it’s very possible Yuri will just rely on Monami from this point on, so….I dunno. It’s not clear.
Keep in mind, that was the ending of Emulators not the main manga. The main manga ended shortly after the Sunflower incident with an implication that Yuri was turning into a Borg since her hair was stubbornly turning into spirals, but Emulators never does anything with it. She just has a few curls in her hair as a result of the Sunflower incident or her Borg trying to fuse with her, I suppose.
There was another continuation called Alien Nine Next, but I debated talking about it because it’s very….weird in relation to the other manga. Not to mention that it seems like the manga was dropped after three chapters, possibly due to financial restraints since it had to be self-published, and left off on a massive cliffhanger. It’s possible there could be continuation some day but not only has there not been an update in nearly five years but the author also hasn’t published anything else in that time span either.
The story of Next takes place 11 years after the events of the original two manga. Yuri is, inexplicably, employed at an alien pest control company run by Monami. Wrap your head around that. The girl who hated every millisecond of her life as an alien fighter, completely sucked at it and wanted nothing more to do with aliens once school was over now has a career as a professional alien fighter. And she was hired by Monami, of all people. The girl who kept criticizing Yuri’s abilities as an alien fighter and her general scatterbrained lazy behavior hired her to be an alien fighter. Is it just because they’re friends and she took pity on her because she didn’t have the ability to do any other job?
By the way, the spiraling hair I mentioned a little bit ago? It’s completely gone in Next, so I have no clue what that was even supposed to be about. If she was an alien fighter all through school and is now a professional alien fighter, one would think she’s had so much exposure to Borgs that she’d be nearly if not entirely fused with one by now.
Kumi is being sent into space on the first ever joint mission between the Borgs and the Yellow Knives to do…..Pbbbbttttt something. It’s never really made clear what the mission is. There’s some seed on the ship that’s super important, but we’re never told what it is or what it does. Joining Kumi are Borgs containing the memories and personalities of Kasumi, Ms. Hisakawa and Yuri because….again, I really don’t know. I guess just for company? Or to always have her friends with her? Maybe for extra protection, but there’s really no need for them to have their personalities if that’s the reason.
By a mere moment, Yuri misses bidding farewell to Kumi on this mission that might take decades or centuries to complete and might yield death before she even starts it (Kumi no longer ages, by the way. Looking back, that might be the reason why Kumi was so concerned when she noted Yuri was ‘growing up’ but I don’t believe so. That would imply that she realizes Yuri’s mortal in an aging sense while Kumi’s not and would one day die and leave her alone. The dialogue didn’t imply anything nearly that heavy, so I’m going to stick with the idea that she was “growing up” in a manner of becoming an adult, finding someone else to love and leaving her one day. The fact that that line was coupled with the very brief shot of Yuri befriending a guy supports that idea.) Kumi stews in the ship saying this is the one thing Yuri could have made proper effort to do right, and yeah…she’s got a point.
Granted, the reason she didn’t get there in time was because she was prepping the Borg with her memories, but considering they had to have known Kumi was planning to do this for probably months if not years, she had plenty of time to get that done beforehand. Ms. Hisakawa and Kasumi prepped their Borgs and got them in well ahead of time with no problem.
Just as a cherry on top, later, Yuri is shown being angry with Kumi because she sent her an email about her leaving instead of coming to talk with her personally. Monami argues that talking with her in person is pointless and when asked why she says ‘Occam’s Razor.’ Which….I guess she’s arguing that talking to Yuri in person wasn’t necessary because it’s adding needless complication and jibber jabber to a situation Yuri is too simple to really grasp anyway? I really don’t get how Occam’s Razor applies here otherwise. I would say it would be adding needless emotional complication, but this is the same girl who barely said ‘Thanks a lot’ before Kumi left the country for god knows how long in the original manga, so I don’t think that’s an issue.
Am I just being dumb or something? What does she mean?
Meanwhile, Kasumi is now queen of the Yellow Knives. Why? I have no goddamn clue. Yellow Knives are now littering the city just sitting on buildings willy-nilly (Keep in mind, they’re massive. About the size of a house) Kasumi is helping out with Kumi’s mission back on earth, using the Yellow Knives’ power to help communicate with her and keep tabs on what’s going on.
Something that always bothered me about this overall concept, even though I really like it, is that it feels like there should be way more people involved with this stuff, but it’s always these young girls (though they’re women in Next) and one adult. The aliens obviously pose a threat to public safety – why is there no special military, task force or scientists etc. helping with alien activity, especially in regards to fusing and sending people into space acting as ambassadors to other alien species?
Kumi lands on the Borg homeworld and, because science, Yuri’s Borg, and only Yuri’s Borg, births a body, allowing Yuri herself, a clone of her anyway, to be present with Kumi, which Kumi doesn’t appreciate. She freaks out because now she has to worry about protecting Yuri in addition to doing her mission. As she looks for supplies for Yuri, I get deja vu because Kumi complains that the first thing she has to do is take care of Yuri, as usual.
Before I continue, let me give credit where credit is due. Even though Yuri still has that Charlie Brown-esque grumpy expression plastered on her face all the time, even though she still complains and whines, even though she still needs protection at all times, she does more and shows more growth in this three chapter sequel than she ever did in the entirety the original manga.
In the first chapter, she shows a bit of determination to persevere when she’s trying to reach Kumi’s ship in time and gets knocked down by a bolt of electricity. In the second chapter, her clone recovers and protects the seed, though, admittedly, she complains while she does it and states that she’s only doing it so Kumi won’t yell at her. In the third chapter, she (her clone anyway) FINALLY actively does something of her own accord and sets off to save Kumi, but because the manga ends here we don’t get to see her actually do anything.
Their ship is attacked by Borgs and they capture Kumi. Clone!Yuri avoids capture by being in some weird very deep tank in order to retrieve the seed and protect it. By the time she surfaces, Kumi’s gone. Kasumi’s Borg merges with Yuri’s Borg to send a transmission to Kasumi about their current situation, which causes their old school’s principal, another fused being, to lose her mind, babbling about the original Borgs. She murders Kasumi on site, but that’s okay because the Yellow Knives just birth a whole slue of new Kasumis. They really don’t want death to matter in this series, do they?
The last we see of our heroes, Kumi was being held captive by the original Borgs, a newborn Kasumi clone is excited about meeting the original Borgs, clone!Yuri is floating in the expanse of space not knowing what to do and Yuri and Monami are approached by some creepy guy saying he has a job for them.
Considering the end slate for the third chapter has ‘To be continued’ written on it like the other chapters, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that the speculation is correct and this series was probably just shelved because of financial issues.
But what confused me about that is, unlike the other two manga which were very simple in their art and were published in black and white, this one is not only fully colored and more detailed, but it also has quite a bit of 3D CGI. If you were self-published and struggling financially with your publication, why would choose one of the most expensive and time-consuming methods of doing your art?
In the end, if you read Next then you’re pretty much going to be left off with the same unfulfilled feeling that the OVA leaves you with. Maybe a little less so because you have much more of the story under your belt, but still.
It’s a shame, too, because Alien Nine, in its entirety, has a lot of really cool ideas that I’d love to see explored more thoroughly. The main concept alone really drew me in. Who wouldn’t want a job at their school where you get a cool, cute and kickass Borg pal that sits on your head and fight aliens while you’re patrolling the school in rollerblades and using a lacrosse stick as a weapon? That’s AWESOME!
While I had a lot to complain about here, I still enjoyed the series for what it was worth, even if we ultimately looped back around to Cliffhanger Town in Next. If you choose to ignore Next, then the series ended in a fairly decent spot. Emulators has a better end than the first manga, but that’s only because the continuation is so seamless that I feel like Emulators isn’t even a different manga.
However, even Next, despite its drastically different feel and setting, introduced some interesting ideas and concepts that I would have liked to explore. And I am definitely into the idea of seeing Yuri be more proactive and brave. I don’t need to see her going action hero on me, but just knowing she was at least starting to head in the right direction in Next was enough to spur my interest. Then again, if it took Yuri 11 frickin’ years just to get to this point, they’d probably need to write 50 more volumes to make her enjoyable to watch.
I’m still interested to know how the world they live in works side-by-side with the aliens, the intricacies of fusion, what other types of aliens are in their world and what kinds of powers they have. There are endless possibilities and opportunities here, but I feel like it really is a case of great ideas with problematic execution.
The final aspect I’ll go over before I close out is the art. This series is praised for its cutesy shoujo style being coupled with an otherwise dark manga. The characters all have very large and round faces with giant eyes, as I mentioned in the OVA review. At least you can see the noses in the manga much better than you could in the anime. The OVA did a very good job emulating the art style otherwise. I love the designs of the Borgs. I really want a Borg hat with all my heart and soul.
The art as a whole, as I mentioned earlier, is still very simplistic and hardly ever detailed very much. It’s not much of a problem, in my opinion. I have more issues with the structure of the scenes, the pacing and flow of the story than I do with the way the art presents the scenes.
In Next, it seems Tomizawa realized his eye problem and toned it down a tad, but I can’t shake the feeling that the characters feel more artificial in Next than they do in the original manga. I don’t know if it has something to do with the CGI aspect or he changed other parts of the art besides coloring it, but it feels off. The characters tend to feel more like dolls than real people.
Bottomline: Alien Nine, OVA and manga, are far from perfect but they are very enjoyable, present many intriguing ideas and create unique worlds that are just itching to be explored. I was engaged in the story the whole way through, even if there was some repetition and a lack of truly deep impacts. The main problems lie in the messy structure, the fact that tension is greatly reduced by nearly nullifying injuries and death entirely, outside of killing aliens, the lack of thorough world-building and, of course, focusing so much on such an irritating character as the main lead.
At the very least, Yuri should have had SOME degree of character development over the course of the manga, but she really doesn’t. Not even slightly. It takes her 11 years before she even shows signs of trying not to be such a massive crybaby, and of course that’s the entry that gets shelved….
The OVA did a fantastic job adapting what they could, especially considering they fix certain issues I had with the manga. I am bummed that they never got to continue. Since we’re living in reboot city, maybe the possibility of continuing on in anime is more plausible than finishing the manga.
If you caught onto the manga after feeling a yearn for resolution from the OVA, you’ll find your closure here, at least if you don’t read Next. In my opinion, you really need to read Emulators to get proper closure as the original just kinda stops, but you will find closure. I think you should still read Next, if you ever have the opportunity, because it’s also interesting in its own right and even improves the pacing and structure issues I had with the original manga.
I do hope that the manga series continues on in the future. I’m not holding my breath, especially considering the author hasn’t written anything since the cancellation of Next, but it seems like such a waste to leave it where it is.
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