Jason checks out Hideki Ohwada's politically-charged mahjong manga, The Legend of Koizumi.
Reviewby Allen Divers, Jan 13th 2002
Niea Under 7
DVD 1: Poor Girl Blues
Life is rough for Mayuko. She's an average cram-school student working part-time to make ends meet living in an old bathhouse that used to belong to her family. Just to make things more interesting, enter Neia, a full-time free loader 7th class under-alien that lives in Mayuko's closet. When she's not eating Mayuko's hard earned food, or destroying Mayuko's room, Neia is building UFO's that blow up more often than fly.
As interesting new friends enter Mayuko's life, she encounters man-eating plants, strange Indian Aliens and a large amount of stress. This is all, of course, nothing in comparison as Mayuko deals with her alien roommate!
NeiA Under 7 - Poor Girl Blues is the first DVD release in this new series from the creators of Lain. The DVD contains episodes 1 – 4 and a collection of various extras. This is Pioneer's first DVD only release. The overall tone of the show is rather melancholy with a healthy mixture of comedy bordering on tragedy. NeiA Under 7 is a strange mixture of Alien invaders, school life and a look at living in general.
Being a DVD only release, there are no VHS copies to be compared against. While this is good for the overall growth of the DVD medium, it does prevent a wider audience from being exposed to this series. Character designs are pretty generic, with a lot of the animation looking simple and almost childish. This is in stark contrast to the backgrounds, which are usually rich and filled to the brim with details. Bright colors tend to focus around the comedy moments in the series, with the more comical characters usually standing out. The transfer to DVD from the original source material is good, with no noticeable problems.
The English dub stands out as something different from the norm. The script stays very true to the original Japanese script even going as far as keeping many of the original Japanese terms that just don't translate well. Many of these terms are defined under the extras menu on the DVD itself, which is a handy feature.
The voice actors seem to have been chosen to match with the character. They do a very good job of expressing the feelings of the characters (Mayuko plays well as a melancholy cram student and Neia a carefree bum). Whether good acting or good directing, the voices play well with the action on the screen. It's also quite nice to hear a child's voice that actually sounds like a child. The mood of the show gets rather nostalgic and melancholy so the voices seem to flow with the changes.
Music and sound are important mood setters, so they help drive the overall feel of the show. The opening song is very strange, with a gravelly Japanese male voice trying to do a good Bob Dylan impression. It really sets the stage for Mayuko's adventure through life. The incidental music during the show does not draw away from the action, nor does it try to force emotions out of the viewer.
The extras contain the standard fare of line art and the non-credit opening. Also included are definitions for many of the Japanese terms that remain in the English dub as well as background information about some of the side-things in the show. (The significance of the phrase found on the bath bowels for one.) Also included in the initial releases, is a set of paper puppets. What these have to do with the show is unclear at this time.
The story of NeiA Under 7 is one of getting along with others. Mayuko struggles through her own life, but takes time to help those around her. Her struggles with Neia are near mother/daughter roles as Mayuko struggles to find her path. It's hard to see where this series is heading as it meanders from episode to episode. New characters are introduced in every episode, but no ugly sub-plot rears its head. Even some of the major questions that could be asked take the back seat as the viewer watches. Questions like, where did the aliens come from and why are they here are simply ignored. Their presence is simply accepted by all.
NeiA Under 7 - Poor Girl Blues does a good job of introducing Mayuko, Neia and the world they live in. The episodes seem to plod away with no real sense of direction taking their time as the plot proceeds. The comic moments are never unwelcome or seem out of place and help pull the show back just when it seems its going to get too serious. On the surface NeiA Under 7 is a comedy punctuated with some near serious moments, but underneath it's an interesting commentary at what can be considered an average life. It's actually a nice change to be presented with a group of Aliens that aren't bent on taking over the world, but more curious about what makes for a good curry!
Overall (dub) : A+
Overall (sub) : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A
+ Nice, easy going anime with subtle humor
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