NieA_7

June 22, 2006 at 7:11 am (Anime)

ABe needs to make another series, dammit. Lots of people seem to know Serial Experiments Lain and Haibane Renmei, but fewer (that I’ve met) are familiar with NieA under 7, which was produced in between the other two shows, and is another ABe piece. Amusingly, the DVDs are printed with “WARNING: From the creators of Serial Experiments Lain.” Yes, I guess that is cause for warning, though both NieA and Haibane are quite divorced from Lain in genre. Lain was heavily surrealistic cyberpunk; Haibane and NieA are mildly surrealistic slice-of-life.


Chiaki is only interested in aliens, time-travellers, and espers

Actually, I hadn’t heard of it either until somebody brought the DVDs into AnSoc a few years back and we watched the first episode. Then last year one of my flat-mates who happened to be an ABe fanboy purchased the DVDs and eventually I decided to start watching them. Well I got side-tracked for a while, but I borrowed the discs again and finished watching the show tonight. Pretty good stuff, if you like slice-of-life stories.

Slice-of-life. I guess that’s a reasonable enough super-genre, though I think in gradeschool we called it “realistic fiction”. Well, I guess SoL anime is more specific in that it implies a sort of poignancy and has actual genre conventions.

So, NieA_7.

SoL story
Mayuko is a poor cram school student who lives in a bathhouse with a squatter alien NieA. The story focuses on Mayuko and her growth, trying to figure out what to do with her life, and discovering what things are important to her.

SF elements in setting
There are, well, aliens. Apparently they showed up a few years back, and now they’re more or less integrated into society. Their giant mothership is visible from the bath-house, though nobody ever gets too close to it. The ship has this weird tendency to change its visiblity randomly, and a generally sort of surreal feeling to its existance. Much like in Haibane Renmei, we don’t ever get a deep explanation or info-dump on how all this sci-fi stuff works or wtf is going on, because it’s not really necessary to tell the story. I think ABe likes doing that, leaving lots of implicit story untold, and just using it as an sf’d up palette for telling whatever the main story is.

Class system commentary
The aliens have their own rigid class system, that ranks aliens from over5 to under5 (under7s aren’t officially acknowledged). So there’s some fun subtext there, and NieA says some really Marxist stuff at times. She basically lives on hand-outs, and uses her spare time to construct functional “UFO”s from junk she has collected. More than once, various characters remark on how they envy NieA’s “freedom”. Compare Mayuko who is devoted, in a stereotypically Japanese way, to her work: she has two jobs in addition to helping maintain the bath-house, and spends most of the rest of her time studying. So there’s definitely a message there.

Hilarious Racist Comedy
Chada is an alien who has an enormous head, wears a turban, and behaves in a very caricaturized Indian fashion (he even runs a convenience store). He is more alien than the other aliens, and claims innocence via ignorance when Mayuko accuses him of sexual harassment. Chada is fucking hilarious in ways too strange for me to easily relate here. In addition, Chada leads us to have a post-credit omake much like Yakitate Monojishiki, but far more random: Dalgit’s Tidbit of India Information, in which Dalgit, this Indian dude, recites in forced Japanese (sounds like from cue cards), tidbits of “trivia” about India. For example, “In India the left hand is the impure hand. If you eat with your left hand, people will be shocked. It can even start a crisis. We call this the rule of ‘My boyfriend is a left-hander.” Or my personal favorite, “The colors on India’s flag symbolize bravery, purity and religious devotion. I heard that the Japanese flag symbolizes a bento lunchbox. Is that true? I understand why, because Japanese people like eating rice with pickled plums.” I guess there’s some racism inherent in all the India jokes, but they do point out that Chada knows nothing about actual Indians, and people often think he is some kind of weird cosplayer, so maybe it’s all innocent. *shrug*

Genrally speaking
I like it.

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7 Comments

  1. Anga said,

    I liked both Haibane Renmei and SRL, but NieA_7 only created instant boredom for me. I didn’t find any characters appealing and whole alien seemed bit too off to actually fit in, only watched the first episode.

  2. kwok said,

    NieA 7 was great. Especially the Indian alien guy who made curry during alien society meetings.

  3. Shiroi Hane said,

    NieA_7 has never been released in the UK.. yet another of those older series that I keep meaning to import some day but never get around to.

  4. sethjohnson said,

    @Anga, for some reason I didn’t think very much of it the first time I saw the first ep, but I liked it a lot when I randomly decided to give it another shot. Maybe it was just my temperment changing.

    @kwok, yeah that’s Chada. Chada is awesome.

  5. Martin said,

    I’ve only seen the first two discs but I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of it sometime soon. The humour is pretty slapstick and harmless – the gentle, innoffensive sort that goes well with the slice-of-life themes. Anyone who’s been a student will understand Mayuko’s predicament (without the freeloading alien, obviously)!

    It’s very different from the likes of Lain and Texhnolyze though, and the main similarities with Haibane are only in the latter’s brighter moments. Whichever way you look at it, ABe is a brilliant artist – it’s a shame that this series won’t make it onto UK shelves because considering the talent that’s behind it, NieA_7 is a really fun and thought-provoking series.

    “Genrally speaking
    I like it.”

    Seconded.

  6. kacpy said,

    Seen the whole show. Loved the off-beat-random comedy from Niea and Chiaki. Mayuko’s dillemas were quite real to me. So… great show.

  7. sethjohnson said,

    Actually, I don’t think I mentioned this, but another of the reasons I liked this show was the humanity that was delivered by Mayuko. Anime is often bereft of believable characters due to its tendency to caricaturize *everything*. So I liked Mayuko for being believable, particularly in a vaugely sf setting =)

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