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NieA Under 7

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2000), based on the Manga by Abe Yoshitoshi. Triangle Staff. Chief Director Tomokazu Tokoro. Written by Takuya Satō. Voice cast includes Ayako Kawasumi, Yuko Miyamura and Fumiko Orikasa. Thirteen 23-minute episodes. Colour.

Mayuko Chigasaki (Kawasumi), teenaged and poor in small-town Japan, attends cram school in preparation for the examinations to enter university. To pay for this she lives frugally above a bathhouse and works in a restaurant (the owners of both facilities are also struggling to make ends meet). A freeloading Alien, NieA (Miyamura), sleeps in her closet and builds small flying saucers (see UFOs) out of junk.

Aliens landed some years previously and, once the initial excitement died down, the world carried on as before. The human-like aliens are class/caste-ridden and NieA, being an "under seven" is the lowest of the low. She lacks the antenna of the other aliens and is regularly mocked by children in the nearby alien shanty town: NieA's volatile personality is her defence mechanism. Higher ranking aliens are successful in human society (one minor character is a celebrity actor whose rank is then discovered to be lower than previously believed and afterwards is only offered demeaning roles).

Mayuko is befriended by Chiaki Komatsu (Orikasa), a wealthier classmate who finds aliens much more exciting than she does; Chiaki is envious of her having an alien roommate and being able to see the enormous crashed Spaceship that brought the aliens from her window.

This is a story about the difficulties faced by the poor and immigrants (see also Race in SF). The "aliens as immigrants" comparison is underlined by the two most prominent aliens after NieA identifying as Indian and Chinese. The rather broadly played Indian holds regular alien advancement meetings at his restaurant, but the Chinese alien complains they're just an excuse to try out new curry recipes (though this might be to provide free meals to needy aliens without it being seen as charity). Later on, NieA appears to receive messages from the spaceship and disappears for several days: the ship (for which one may read cultural roots) then dissolves away.

In the end, after going through a period of depression, Mayuko pulls through; her relationship with NieA calms down and the threats to the bathhouse and restaurant ease: the series ends with a feeling of mild optimism. Many questions are left unanswered, such as the aliens' backstory and NieA's link to the spaceship, whilst NieA's ability to build little flying machines is not followed up – though this might be intentional, to convey that which is lost through assimilation, as in Avram Davidson's "The Slovo Stove" (in Universe 15, anth 1985, ed Terry Carr).

This was the series created by ABe Yoshitoshi after working on the excellent Serial Experiments Lain (1998). Though not without flaws – the humour being hit-or-miss and the animation unexceptional – NieA Under Seven is an interesting "slice of life" Anime whose sf side is underdeveloped. [SP]


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