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Pioneer presents
NieA Under 7 #1: Poor Girl Blues (2000)

NieA: Hey, what happened to my breakfast?
Mayuko: Enough with the food thing! Why did you make another junk UFO?

- Yuko Miyamura, Ayako Kawasumi

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: January 04, 2002

Stars: Yuko Miyamura, Ayako Kawasumi, J-Ray, Tricia Dickson
Other Stars: Fumiko Orikasa, Takayugi Suko, Chieko Ichikawa, Machamishi Sato, Etsuko Kozakura, Zarah Little, Eric Dare, Linda Bendik, Howard Clarendon, Taliesen Jaffe
Director: Takuya Sato

Manufacturer: CADDS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (13+ for brief nudity, themes)
Run Time: 01h:33m:54s
Release Date: August 14, 2001
UPC: 013023156098
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BA-A C+

DVD Review

Coming from the producers of Serial Experiments Lain, I didn't know quite what to expect from their followup, NieA Under 7 (aka NieA_7). With a unique personality and visual style,the character designs by Yoshitaka Abe and animation by Triangle Staff helped Lain become a highly popular anime series, also due in no small part to its very strange and wonderful story. The designs for NieA Under 7 are again out of the ordinary, as is its premise, and thankfully it is not simply a Lain rehash. Running 13 episodes in total, it is being released on four DVDs.

Mayuko Chigasaki is a shy, hard working, eighteen-year-old girl who, despite her efforts, lives on the verge of starvation. Each day she delivers newspapers before taking the bus to Tokyo for cram school, and at night she has a job a local restaurant. She lives in an apartment behind the Enohana bathhouse her parents used to own before her father's death, where she also helps out. She's extremely smart, but lives on a very tight budget, no thanks to the demanding roommate she is reluctantly living with. NieA is an alien, and being an "under 7 class" alien means bottom of the rung—in fact she doesn't even have an antenna. She lives in Mayuko's closet, and is perpetually pestering Miyu (her pet name for Mayuko) about the day's menu, as she has an unsatiable appetite. Her enthusiasm for eating does not extend to working, however, as she would rather build UFOs out of junk collected from the neighborhood than actually get a paying job. Miyu's soft-spoken nature is only broken when dealing with her freeloading companion, whose engineering skills leave a lot to be desired, and only worsen their living conditions when she blows something up.

Life in Tokyo has returned to normal since the aliens arrived some twenty years prior. In fact, apart from the image of their crashed spacecraft or the impact craters where the rest of the under aliens live, things are pretty much as they always had been. Chiaki Komatsu, a very popular girl Mayuko met in high school, is extremely excited when she learns Mayuko is living near the crash site, and NieA sees that this has some advantages, since Chiaki is also very generous with the food offerings in exchange for a chance to look at the UFOs up close. Other characters come into play as the series progresses: Kotomi, the current bath house owner; Yoshioka Nenji, the resident handyman and fire enthusiast; Shuuhei Karita and his daughter, Chie, who own the bento bar where Mayuko works; and Someya Genzoo, an old family acquaintance, who recently moved to the area. We also get a collection of strange aliens, including NieA's snooty nemesis, Carna, who is never short on uncomplimentary comments for her antenna-less associate, or the wannabe East Indian, Chada, who runs the local minimart, and whose "image consultant," Daljit, gives us tidbits about India in a live-action satellite feed at the end of each episode.

As expected, the production quality here is pretty high, with wonderful backgrounds, and a lush color palette. There are also a couple of the Lain-esque departures from traditional anime design, adding an additional stylistic element to the content. The tone of the series is completely different, while being comedic, it is only occasionally in-your-face, relying on a somewhat more subdued form of humor. That isn't to say that NieA herself is anything in the way of understated—she plays the polar opposite to Mayuko's mousiness, as a brash, loud and always hungry freeloader, full of her own quirkiness and self-assuredness—no matter how short sighted she may be. While the show seemed a little over-the-top at first, once I settled into its style, it became quite a bit more enjoyable. The voice performances are pretty well done, though I found the English track to lack the dynamic the Japanese actors delivered, but not so much so that it was unbearable, as is often the case. It's hard to say this early on how things will pan out, but it is an interesting start, and certainly not the usual fare. I'm liking it so far, and am really looking forward to seeing where it will go.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Being a newer series, there are no print defects to speak of. Colors are vibrant and solid, with good black levels. There are a couple of places with minor cross coloration on tight lineart, and a few select scenes exhibit jaggies, but overall this looks quite good.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio presents a nice wide soundfield when appropriate, with some directional dialogue. There are no technical deficiencies in either track, with a well-rounded tonal range, and pleasing spectral representation.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Line art gallery
  2. Textless opening credits
  3. Glossary
Extras Review: For extras, we get a small image gallery containing a number of design sketches showing our main characters in a variety of conceptual poses.

The opening credit animation, accompanied by its gutteral and bluesy opening song, is available without text.

Finally, a glossary is included that explains a few of the cultural references (like bento) within the show, which I am happy they didn't try to Americanize in the subtitling.

While not really an extra, Daljit's live-action omake between episodes add a bizarre touch, and contain some nice tidbits about India.

Menus are interesting with some animation, and the overall packaging is clean and simple. For those who enjoy the little extra standup cutout goodies Pioneer is known for, the first pressing of this series contained them—my copy unfortunately didn't.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

NieA Under 7 is another refreshing series that does a good job of infusing some new elements into traditional anime. The humor, while over-the-top in places, is more often subdued, and the atmosphere has some unique qualities to it. Of course, with a premise based on having an alien living in your closet, there is room for some outrageous stories and, so far, the characters are likeable and have room to expand. If you are looking for something a little off the beaten track, NieA Under 7 is a good choice.

 


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