(Young Champion Magazine/Central Park Media -1998)
Story & Art by Hitoshi Tomizawa
Summary: In a world where alien invasions is just a simple part of life, at Elementary School 9 Yuri and two other girls _ Kumi and Kasumi _ are tasked with fighting back against aliens who land near the school and attack the building. But this won’t be all fun and games as these girls are fighting for their lives and the changes they go through are permanent and life changing, and for the three girls nothing will ever be the same again.
Review: Alien Nine is an interesting experience. Garnered towards young adults, it features young girls as the main characters, and an innocence to its story that makes it welcoming and addicting, because the innocence of the characters is quite infectious. That being said, it’s also very dark in its subject matter as the aliens are quite unsettling to look at, as well as the deep psychological and physical changes these girls go through _ at least in the cases of Kumi and Kasumi.
At 30 chapters, Alien Nine is a pretty short series. The chapters themselves are really quick reads, almost like short chapters from a young adult novel, and there’s even a sequel titled Alien Nine: Emulators with 7 chapter of its own, bringing the grand total to 37 chapters. That’s still not a long read.
The art style is very simple, yet the aliens are quite detailed, which is both a blessing and a curse. The simple designs contrasted with the detailed aliens makes for an interesting reading experience, but the detailed alien scenes can then be rather muddled to look at, making scenes confusing at first.
The story follows mainly Yuri, Kumi, and Kasumi, three young 6th grade girls who’re their school’s only defense against alien threats. Yuri believes aliens to be disgusting and doesn’t want to deal with them, plus y’know she doesn’t want to die _ which is totally understandable _ this usually leads to her crying and causing her teammates to come to her rescue way more often than not. While it is a realistic depiction, it can also be frustrating to read. But I do respect Yuri, and I definitely don’t hate her character.
That being said, I wish she had gone through more of a change in the series, but alas she seems to stay pretty one-note, even in Emulators. Kumi and Kasumi are the two girls that seem to steal the show when it comes to character development and badass moments. Kumi, who is the leader of the team whether she wants to be or not, goes through the most drastic change of all. I won’t spoil what, but I felt bad for her all the way through to the end. She tends to take the reigns and offer moral support to her comrades, as well saving Yuri’s butt way too often.
Kasumi, on the other hand, is the most proactive of the three girls, a prodigy who excels at everything and loves fighting aliens so she usually ends up having tons of fun during missions. She puts her brain and brawn to the task before her, but hides a loneliness that very few get to see. This actually ends up becoming a major plot point.
While I do enjoy this series, finding it to be steadily paced, fun, realistic in its portrayals of three different girls who have three very different outlooks on the world, and the aliens to be uniquely grotesque, it is far from perfect. One such being the aforementioned Yuri complex, and there’s also a severe lack of world building and sometimes characters (other than Yuri) don’t really go through arcs like they should. By the end of everything _ including Emulators _ many of the characters remain exactly the same as they started even after they go through life-changing events.
On the subject of world building, while there are plenty of answers given to questions regarding many of the main characters, there’s very few answers given to questions that might pop in your head regarding the world around Elementary School 9 and the way the world works in accordance to everyday alien invasions and possible co-habitation.
Why does no one question the fact that these aliens only invade during school hours, and do they invade other parts of the world on a regular basis? None of this is actually touched upon, and in Emulators the notion is introduced that aliens don’t invade junior highs, just elementary schools… why has no one ever questioned this?? These questions, among others, make me want to know more about the world surrounding Elementary School 9, and how it all really works.
There’s also a completely dropped subplot introduced as the cliffhanger to volume 1 of the manga, but never seen again in any of the subsequent chapters that really ticked me off, so there’s that as well.
Alien Nine, overall is a good story about what it means to grow up and the horrors we can go through during that time between adolescence and maturity. In Alien Nine: Emulators, the girls are in junior high and things get even crazier in the 7 chapters from that short series. Emulators, however, does suffer from some major plot holes which makes it a far less enjoyable than the original. I won’t go into detail, but unless you insist on reading the entire thing, I’d suggest just reading the first series and not even worrying about Emulators. I’m a completist however, so I don’t get that luxury. Nor would I want it, but that’s just me, for some of you it can be different.
I really like Alien Nine though, it’s a hidden gem in my opinion because it does more right than it does wrong and in the end I found it to be highly enjoyable. It was a quick read that I finished in a day (reading all 37 chapters), and I think others can find enjoyment in it as well. There is an anime series that is more violent in how it depicts the fights between aliens, but the manga itself is violent as well. So you’re not missing anything either way. I suggest Alien Nine especially to sci-fi fans, it really is worth it.
Final Score: 3.5 Symbiotic Aliens out of 5
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net