Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: A-
- Extras Rating: A
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: NieA_7
NieA_7 Vol. #1
By Mike Dungan
February 16, 2002
Release Date: August 14, 2001
Audio: I watched this disc in both Japanese and English. The dialogue and music came through clearly, but not especially so.
Video: The colors are soft but lush, lending and ethereal quality to much of the disc. I noticed no real problems with rainbows or any other artifacts. Just like the audio quality, the video quality was good but not remarkable.
Packaging: The disc comes in a white box with great artwork by character designer yoshitoshi ABe, better known for his characters from Lain. There is a cutout of the Enohana bath house included with the disc as well. The style of the packaging is understated, in keeping with the feel of the show.
Menu: The menu is slightly animated, with NeiA and Mayuko's eyes moving about as an acoustic song plays in the background. The menu itself is simple to use and understand. The only real problem is in the setup screen. A yellow dot highlights both the English and Japanese language options. The same problem exists for the on and off buttons for the subtitle option. The yellow dot really should only highlight the current option.
Extras: There is a textless version of the opening song, a glossary of some of the Japanese terms, and several pages of character designs showing the evolution of the characters. All three of these were well done and very welcome.
Music: The opening song, "Koko Made Oide" by Sion is a guttural rock song performed by someone who's listened to his fair share of Tom Waits records. It's a great song but unexpected in anime. The ending song, "Venus to Chiisana Kamisama" performed by Maria Yamamoto (better known as the voice of Amazing Nurse Nanako) is a lovely little acoustic song that really grows on you. The rest of the music is older acoustic blues by American blues singers and original music performed mostly on the acoustic guitar, banjo and ukulele. The music blends well with the story, enhancing it, rather than getting in the way.
Content: (Warning, I may give away some spoilers.)
Mayuko Chigasaki is a poor starving cram school student trying to get into the college of her choice. She lives in a bath house and makes ends meet by working at the bath house, a restaurant, and delivering newspapers.
In the middle of Mayu's life of quiet desperation lands a short blonde alien by the name of NeiA. She's as extroverted and uninhibited as Mayu is introverted and repressed. NeiA wants nothing more than to eat and sleep and build UFOs out of junk. Along the way, we meet Chiaki Komatsu, a well-off UFO nut who befriends Mayuko at cram school; Yoshioka, the gentle boilerman/handyman at the Enohana bath house with a thing for fire and Tomoko, the beautiful, young owner of the bath house; Karna, the overly ambitious elite alien who is striving to improve the standing of aliens on Earth; Chada, an alien who dresses and acts as if he's from India and runs a convenience store with the odd name of "AM11/PM7"; Genzo, the quiet giant who is Mayuko's childhood friend, and Chie, a little girl who is the driving force behind her fathers restaurant.
Especially notable on the English dub tracks were Tricia Dickson, the voice of Mayuko and Eric Dare (the psycho truck driver Leo Johnson on Twin Peaks) who was the voice of Yoshioka. Those roles required a lot of range, both vocally and emotionally, and both actors delivered.
The humor of this series, from the creators of Serial Experiments Lain, is understated while still able to go completely overboard where necessary. I laughed out loud several times, but that's not really the point of NeiA. It rarely grabs you by the lapels and shakes you. It's more of a sly nod and a wink style of humor.
The backstory of NeiA is that aliens landed, or rather crashed on Earth about 20 years ago. After the initial furor died out, they assimilated into Earth culture with varying degrees of success, and, in the words of Mayuko, "the extraordinary became ordinary". There is a complicated caste system, with NeiA at the bottom of the rung, but it's never explained. One gets the feeling that explaining it would take too much effort, so most just accept it.
One interesting thing about the world in which NeiA and Mayuko live, only slightly in the future, is that the only cars seen are all abandoned. There are no working cars in the show. Only buses exists to take people from one place to another, even the famous people.
This is a quiet yet humorous story, more of a dramedy than strictly a comedy. The characters are likable and the stories compelling. The animation is well done, the colors are downright lush in places, and a feeling of bittersweet melancholy is never far from the surface. NeiA_7 is a welcome change from the usual fare in anime, and I heartily recommend it.
TV NEC CT-2510A, DVD player Toshiba CD-1600U