Alien Nine has definitely got a handle on the strange atmosphere that only a few shows I’ve seen like Serial Experiments Lain have pulled off. There’s always a sense that something’s about to happen no matter how happy the scene is and so you’ve got a full sense of danger there right off the bat. That said, as a darker magical girl show, this one doesn’t quite reach the hype and levels of intrigue as Madoka. It ends up being rather twisted for the heroines but not always in a cool way.
The 4 part show introduces us to a world where alien invaders are common place. They crash on the school all the time and the local alien defense force takes them out. The defense force is made up of 3 girls from their respective classes. It’s a job that most of the girls don’t want but some don’t mind doing it. Basically each class holds a vote like for a student president and then they send their representative off to go and fight the alien monsters. This year the 3 girls selected are Otani, Kasumi, and Kuni. Otani is really not happy about this while Kasumi is thrilled and Kumi is more ambivalent. In order to fight off the aliens, the girls have to wear symbiotes which protect them as automatic defense weapons and shields. Now since these are symbiotes that at least hints that there is some give and take here. Is this really all above board and why do the aliens constantly attack this school?
I feel like the show drops the pretense of this being your classic magical girl adventure almost immediately. The symbiotes look creepy from the start and the OVA always has a lot of moody music and a dark color scheme. It’s all for that spooky atmosphere I mentioned earlier. Of course, it still does have its share of happy scenes, you’re just always waiting for the catch. Things continue to get more serious as we delve into the show and see more of what makes this school tick. As a short OVA, it does end on a big cliffhanger and doesn’t exactly cover the whole thing but that does make for a hype ending.
You could say the main plot is when the giant alien known as Yellow Knife appears. He claims to be Kasumi’s brother but this is likely mind games on his part. This was an easy way to get Kasumi on his side to fight against the other two. It’s a rather intense climax filled with dreams and inner visions that aren’t real as the teachers try to get control of the situation. You’ll want to stick around to the end as that’s when we get to some of the big cliffhangers. Lets just say that the body count is rising here, one character just can’t catch a break.
So lets talk about what didn’t work first and then get to the positives. Well, Otani is a really bad main character, there’s just no way around that. She is constantly crying and just doesn’t want to be an alien hunter. It is a dangerous job so that’s understandable but if she’s going to be forced to do this you’d like to see her really get tough. That said, she’s so young that it seems awfully mean of the parents to allow this to continue. We know the teachers will try to keep her in it as part of their nefarious schemes but unless the parents are in on the take, I’d like to see them try to help her get out of this a bit more. It’s really like Otani is being tortured by staying here. With one host getting eaten and another one murdered, you feel like Otani can only survive for so long.
With the main characters being so young, they’re effectively trapped in a lot of these decisions because they just aren’t old enough to get out of it. Having a character as reluctant as Otani is more tragic than funny the whole time. She really has to put up with a lot and will almost certainly be traumatized by the time she’s an adult at this rate. Otani has to see creatures get blown up right in front of her on multiple occasions after all.
The symbiotes themselves don’t really seem good or evil so much as they’re just there to help their owner. They’ll destroy any threats as they deem necessary although the teachers ask the heroines not to let that happen. Their having to lick the characters after the mission seems completely unnecessary though and just another creepy part of being an alien fighter in this world. It definitely gives Otani even more of a reason to want to quit right away. There are no noticeable upsides to being an alien fighter, especially when it seems like the group never actually makes any progress on this.
Kasumi is the only member of the 3 who actually enjoys the role and she is the most entertaining character as a result. All of the skills come naturally to her and she can even fight off opponents personally without having to rely on her symbiote. I like that at least someone came ready to fight here and so it’s a shame that she has to miss out on most of the climax.
She is rather obsessed with her brother who moved away though which starts to get to some almost disturbing territory with Yellow Knife manipulating her and some of the visuals that we get. It’s not cut and dry like Wixoss so you could make the case that it’s normal but it did feel like the OVA was getting there. Either way, the whole alien merging into her like a Chest Burster was one of those weird scenes that isn’t weird in a good way. The show even squeezes in a chest burster scene early on as the characters watch some kind of alien film.
The creatures get blown to smithereens during each of the fights. It’s monster blood so it isn’t quite as drastic as if they were normal creatures. It’s green and all although it can be a bit excessive, reminded me of Planet Hulk in a lot of ways. It’s less of an action context when Otani is going around slaughtering them all when she’s being mind controlled which may be why it feels more intense but it’s just another check on the list of reasons on why Otani would like to get away from this job as soon as possible. At least no real animals appear here which is always a good thing.
Now on the plus side, the main theme song here is catchy. It’s definitely got a more classic magical girl feel to it. From the theme song at least this appears to be your standard adventure. The rest of the themes within the show aren’t quite as memorable but it’s a decent soundtrack that works well enough in the moment. The animation’s definitely not as high budget but you do get some cool scenes like when the characters block attacks using the symbiote. Having an automatic defense which can also transform into anything is incredibly handy.
In a lot of ways it should remind you of the symbiote from Marvel. These guys can do pretty much everything that Venom can and can also talk. They allow you to resist illusions and generally seem helpful. Now, like Venom it may be hard to trust them at times but since the girls have to put their lives in the symbiote’s hands every day I guess you have to hope for the best. If it’s a true symbiotic relationship where the creature needs them too then it should balance out and they’ll keep you alive.
The final girl from the trio is Kumi and she’s nice enough. She’s always been helping students who couldn’t keep up or just helping everyone at large as student president. It’s why she wanted to join the group so she wouldn’t have that burden anymore but it ended up not working out perfectly well for her. She’s too nice for her own good and still tries to help Otani out. It makes her a well balanced character and definitely the natural leader of the squad. She may not be as powerful as Kasumi, but Kumi is definitely the person you would want to have at your back.
Hisakawa is the main teacher here and she’s as corrupt as they come. As one of the people in charge of the whole alien situation to trap these kids, she is really the main villain if you think about it. The disturbing part is how nonchalant she is about the whole thing. She doesn’t really seem to care for the girls’ safety at all so when she appears you always know she’s about to make some more unreasonable demands. She even wanted Kasumi and Kumi to leave Otani alone. Fortunately they realized this wasn’t quite right and stayed to back her up.
Naturally the Principal is another big villain here since she’s one of the head honchos. You certainly can’t trust her and will want to keep your distance as much as possible. Interestingly, the adults seem to have the symbiotes perfectly merged within them. We see that their hair can turn into drills which is how the symbiotes fight. So either they mastered the control as part of the symbiote bonding or the symbiote just took control. Either way it doesn’t spell a great picture for the kids who have to wear these symbiotes every day.
So lets talk a little more about the setup here. What seems to be the case is that the teachers raise a bunch of aliens in their labs and also create the symbiotes out of some kind of water substance. They then pick a few kids every year to wear these symbiotes. Aliens are strategically let loose within the school to be summarily captured by the kids although they sometimes end up being slaughtered. Rinse and repeat so of course this begs the question of why the teachers are doing this. It has to be for an evil reason or they would just let the kids know that the aliens are being manufactured to test their skills or something.
I think we can read into it based on the adults who have merged with their symbiotes. Most likely what this means is that they are feeding the Symbiotes. So I think the best explanation here is that the symbiotes did take over the principal and by extension they also took control of all the teachers. My only question would be why they don’t take over the whole school. Just have every kid wear the symbiote. With Otani it’s mentioned that some kids have better fusion rates than others so perhaps most people don’t mesh well with the symbiote. I suppose that would work and either way they’ll continue to spread even if it’s slower.
The whole Yellow Knife appearance is what threw a wrinkle into everyone’s plans since this wasn’t something the teachers predicted. They respond incredibly slow to the new threat though so it doesn’t seem to concern them a whole lot. I thought at least the teacher would be super concerned since she already failed once and can’t afford to lose the kids but you never see much of a sense of urgency. Not like the teacher is all that tough though as she was still overwhelmed by the alien’s illusions. Only Kumi really seemed to be able to break through the illusions quickly thanks to her symbiote.
The OVA has a twist ending at the very end so make sure you stay all the way through. It should raise a lot of questions while also leading you into the next act if you ever check out the manga. As mentioned earlier, the body count rises as someone dies but the problem is there are too many suspects to really figure out on who did it. It could be anyone who is being mind controlled, any of the symbiotes, teachers, principals, aliens, etc. Part of the danger in this school is how anybody can be an enemy. You can’t trust anyone, Otani probably can’t even trust her parents since they could be aliens.
In a way it’s like the Secret Invasion in Marvel. If fully realized symbiotes like the teachers don’t even appear anymore and just merge into your hair (Similar to what Otani did during her rage mode) then there’s no way to track them at this point. Any person can be part alien and you would never know it. I think this would have a lot of potential if you wanted to turn this into a mystery thriller or something as a group of humans try to stop the alien invasion. Thing is, it’s probably already too late to stop them. The feats that the symbiotes perform would make it a simple matter to destroy dozens of opponents in an instant. They can block any attacks including bullets and wouldn’t break a sweat. Not that the symbiotes can probably sweat but the point is that there are no threats to them. Humans wouldn’t stand a chance.
Overall, Alien Nine is not an OVA you are likely to forget. It’s got a very spooky aura right from the get go and the fact that the main girls are so young means there aren’t a whole lot of ways to escape. In effect that’s part of why the show can be so unnerving because most Shonen Leads can punch their way out of this but the girls can’t realistically do much. By the same token, that’s what holds the OVA back. The characters can only passively follow along with what is happening. They’re effectively all victims of a much grander scheme. It’s like they’re strapped into a rollercoaster that they can’t get out of. It can all be rather tragic at times and it’s sinister enough where you won’t have a great time here. Almost every scene is someone crying or yelling because of all the trauma. I’d like to see a sequel to this with older main characters trying to fight back against the aliens. Time to uproot the society they’ve built here and turn this into a Shonen. This is the kind of show where there is always a lot to talk about and theorize though. Still, if you’re looking for a very creepy alien invasion story, it would be hard to beat this one. I’d say it’s even spookier than Lain in some ways.