Alien Nine Vol. 1

By Hitoshi Tomizawa
224 pages, black and white
Published by CPM Manga

One gets the impression that Tomizawa has seen one too many “cute girls save the world” stories. That’s my reasoning for the thought process behind Alien Nine, at any rate. At a casual glance, it looks like your typical entry in that genre, with 6th graders and matching outfits and evil aliens. It’s when you start adding in the revulsion factor, though, that one first gets the hint that this is not quite what you were expecting, here…

Yuri, Kumi, and Kasumi were each elected by their home room classes to be members of the Alien Party! What this means is that the girls get to help defend their school against the seemingly continual attack of aliens from outer space landing in Japan these days. They get roller blades, and training, and permission to leave class if it means stopping another pesky alien attack. Oh, there’s only one catch. They have to wear an alien on their head all the time that likes to eat their sweat. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

I have to give Tomizawa credit; he came up with almost instantly just what would gross out a 6th grade girl. So many of these books give young girls fantastic powers, but Alien Nine attaches a real price to these duties. Yuri’s reaction to being part of the Alien Party is realistic and a great character moment, especially when contrasted to her teammates Kumi and Kasumi. The characterization of the girls is nicely varied here, with each of the girls coming from a completely different family life. Each on their own, the scenarios aren’t too mind-blowingly special, but together it’s a good mix of backgrounds and Tomizawa does a really good job of working them together. Perhaps most importantly, there are some pretty big hints about where Alien Nine is going beyond the obvious immediate story of the girls capturing the invading aliens. Tomizawa introduces just the right amount of this storyline to the readers, not giving everything away in the first volume but making sure there’s enough of a hook to want to see more.

At a casual glance, I wasn’t terribly impressed with Tomizawa’s art. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it simply seemed pretty standard. There’s a familiar style that goes with a lot of manga aimed at more of a female than male audience (although I have to say, I think both sexes will like this equally) that Tomizawa sticks to here, with pretty eyes and near-cherubic expressions on his girls’s faces. What did catch my attention, though, were the aliens. Watching the first alien headdress extend its drill-line tentacles into an ornate attack pattern was a real surprise, and it was that sort of thing that kept my attention throughout the book. While the main characters themselves may be pretty ordinary (although I do love the visual of having the girls skating around on roller blades), the aliens steal the show. Before long, you’ll be saying, “Ewwwww!” right along with poor Yuri.

Alien Nine is a nice addition to the ongoing manga invasion of North America; what looks like a young girl’s adventure comic has some surprisingly dark and edgy moments to it that set it apart from the rest. Just when I’d think I saw the pattern coming, we’d get an unusually violent or upsetting scene that would reaffirm my hope in the series. What I thought would’ve been a harmless diversion is ultimately something that I really need to see the conclusion to. Now that’s a good hook.

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