NieA_7 Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2001
Overall Rating: 4.7
(on a scale of 1-5)
What made me get this? Well I was a big fan of Serial Experiments Lain. This series was created by the same gentleman, so that perked my interest first. Then I got a chance to read a quick blurb about it: an alien living in a college girl's closet. It sounds weird. It is. It's also pretty funny.
This disc is so close to getting a perfect score. So close, but just misses it by one point. The sound and picture were great on our new TV. It made me wanna watch several other shows to see what I'd been missing on our old clunker. This show is very colorful and those colors just popped off the screen. The menu was great. You've got a nice little piece of music playing and the image from the cover, with just a bit of motion thrown in. It reminded me of the menu for Amazing Nurse Nanako. Yep it's another great menu from Nightjar! I also love the little flying UFO that cruises by when you make a selection. The keepcase has a nice simple look to it. It has all the info you need on it except for volume number and it's also missing one of the extras on the back. You get the opening animation (credit free), you get some character design art and you get a glossary of Japanese terms that are used in the series. I suggest you read this first, it doesn't give any plot points away, but it does explain some things that pop up later. For example you learn what Bento is, so when a certain characters starts screaming about it, you know what she's talking about. With only a couple missing elements the presentation area Niea gets a high technical grade with it's first disc.
The only real way to describe this series is an off beat comedy about an alien living in a poor students closet. It's got lots of typical plot devices and moments but it's style is just slightly off, and that is what makes it fun to watch. In some ways (mostly stylistic) this is like lain, but mostly it's something totally different. I enjoyed it.
Mayuko is a poor student living above a bath house in a small town near Tokyo. She's out of high school but is in cram school so she can get into a good college. Things wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that she's got an alien named Niea living in her closet, eating her food, building UFO's out of trash and generally creating havoc wherever she is. And to top it all off Niea doesn't do a lick of work. Mayuko does her best to be semi patient with this little bum, but it's tough. The first four episodes mostly follow Mayuko around to school, and to her various jobs. We get to know her personality, she's very nice and painfully shy. Of course it wouldn't be funny if Neia wasn't the exact opposite. She's loud, spazzy and totally devoted to making life "interesting" for her pal Mayuko. Toss in Mayuko's pal at cram school who's a UFO nut (and webmaster), a pyro handyman who lives in the boiler room of the bath house, and an upper level alien with a lollypop shaped antenna on her head and you've got the set up for wacky alien filled comedy. Ack! It's a new variation of UY! Kinda... well not really.
The character style is very similar to lain. So if you enjoyed the character design for that show you'll be right at home here. The animation itself is much less dark and more colorful than lain, but that is to be expected. This is a comedy. The settings are well done and you get a real feel for this new version of Tokyo now that aliens are roaming freely around and mixing with people. The aliens themselves look just like people , except for their pointy ears and antenna's on their heads. It's a cliche 60's take on aliens especially when you see the saucer shaped mother ship that has crash landed not too far away. It's an interesting choice to make these aliens look silly and not very threatening in the least bit. There are quite a bit of stylistic shots and use of angles and animation changes (things look more realistic one minute and go totally SD the next). It works well with the comedic nature of the show. I actually reminded me a bit Sakura Diaries as well, especially with the SD moments. The sound design is also good. Again since we are dealing with the "real" world for the most part things aren't too wild. But when aliens are involved there can be some good sound work. There is also some interesting stuff during the more stylized parts. Neia looks and sounds pretty good so far.
I mentioned above that the plot is pretty standard at this time. I think we are introducing the main characters and getting all the relationships developed. It's nothing really jaw dropping, and the comedy can be a bit obvious at times. The characters themselves seem like they could be interesting, but I'm not really being drawn to any of them at this time. I'm hoping that things go a bit further as the show continues but this could also turn into a one note series, with the same jokes keep repeating over and over again. The thing that has really got me interested in it is the style. But the plot itself is just slightly above average. We'll see where it goes from there.
I really enjoyed the dub job on this disc. Everyone did a great job of capturing the characters and keeping the energy up. This series doesn't seem to be as wacky as Nadesico, but it does involve some over the top acting. Everyone did a solid job, and I really didn't have a problem with anyone under or over doing it. I found out that this was the same dubbing company that handled another great dub job in Amazing Nurse Nanako, so that explains it. I have faith in these ladies and gentlemen, so keep up the good work! I'm looking forward to more in the next disc.
I really liked the score and the ending theme for this series. It was a great mix of music that makes up the score and it works perfectly with the series. It isn't too much and sometimes it can be so subtle that you don't even realize that it's there. The end theme was light and poppy and reminded me of the style of songs used in Sakura Diaries. As for the opening theme, I really didn't care for it. The singer sounds like he smokes while working in a hazardous chemical plant and is constipated all at once. An interesting choice, but it's definitely not my cup of tea, and it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the series at all. But maybe it makes more sense in later episodes. At this time, it's the only reason I didn't give the music a top rating.
Off beat was the best word I could come up with to describe this series. I found it pretty entertaining, but the episodes didn't fly by. I was pretty conscious of 100 minutes passing. Compared to Nadesico, the other comedy I had watch recently, this is lacking just a bit. The style is fun and quirky but that's all that is raising it above the average rating. I'm hoping for a bit more in the next disc, some better connections to the characters. This has potential to be real fun. Right now, it's a pretty good show, but it's got my attention, and I'll definitely be picking up the next volume.
Roman J. Martel
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Phillips Flatscreen (27 Inch), Sony Playstation 2
Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2