A title born from the people responsible for the creation of Serial Experiments Lain. NieA_7 was based of a doujinshi of the same name by the esteemed Yoshitoshi ABe. Apparently, the staff of Lain wanted to create a very light-hearted title to follow up the sever tone found in Lain. In short: this doesn’t really work out in the show’s favor. Why? I’m getting there.The story revolves around a hard-working high-schooler Mayuko (Mayu), who lives on her own and struggles to make ends meet between her three low-wage jobs. Mayu is a shy, introverted, and to make life worse, has an obnoxious, food-swiping, UFO obsessed alien named Niea for a room-mate (ranked as an “under 7 alien as per her alien class system for some reason). Did I forget to mention? Aliens have colonized on Earth years prior and now live alongside humans. I’d have gone on longer with the synopsis, but the fact that I did not points to my first issue regarding the show, the lack of explanation regarding just about everything regarding the setting. Not that I’m implying that leaving a number of questions open for the viewer is bad thing mind you. A later work based off of another ABe title, Haibane Renmei, did “leaving stuff to your imagination” in a way that NieA_7 is far, far off from. In Haibane Renmei, questions are left behind, but not a way that affects the narrative or renders elements of the plot pointless, as is the case with NieA_7 unfortunately. Gaps in information have everything to do with the “alien” aspect of the show. For the most part, this a show that mostly does not really care much for it’s sci-fiesque setting and keeps a more grounded focus on mostly the human characters and their daily interactions. It’s unfortunate in this case since the show lightly touches upon themes of alienation, discrimination, and the idea of adjusting to new settings that could’ve gone much further then what ended up happening. What we got instead was far less compelling (more on that a bit later since now I’m harping on what the show didn’t do as opposed to what it did). The opening episode leaves behind a number of questions and they only accumulate as the show progresses. Like, why did the aliens come to earth? What’s up with the mother ship? Why does it send out signals to Niea? How can Niea hear the signals even though she’s the only antennae-less alien in the entire series? I could go further, but the point is clear. Have any questions regarding the setting? Well, they’ll likely remain just that, only questions. The show’s tiny focus essentially renders most of the setting as pointless add-ons. I’m still not really sure what the point of the aliens were in this show at all. Even though we hardly learn a thing about their species, they still appear regularly to perform their comedic shtick which I felt to be hit or miss. The aliens also ultimately add nothing to the show and have no involvement in the show’s central conflict: Mayu’s inner conflict (asides from Niea, whose mostly only adds to Mayu’s stress) . The sub-plot regarding Niea and the alien mother ship was not given nearly enough detail since it mostly happens off-screen and no one cares enough to ask about it by the time the show’s over. Easily the biggest head-scratcher of the entire series.
Yeah, so this is a series that tosses some potentially cool elements at the viewers only to say "screw it, let's do some comedy". Disappointing maybe, but that's not really what sinks the show. This would not be as big a problem for me if the comedy was actually good, but that's not the case. Mostly the result of one big nasty wrench that was thrown into my enjoyment of the show the titular character: Niea. She's basically Edward from Cowboy Bebop, except she puts all her time and effort into being downright annoying. She consistently torments Mayuko by gathering trash in her apartment, blowing up parts of her property, and worst of all constantly whining about food, or being hungry. Oh god, every time food ends up being the subject you can expect the exact same thing: Niea: FOOOOOD! GIMME MORE FOOOOD Mayuko: NO, THIS IS ALL WE HAVE Niea: FOOOOOOOOD! So much effort was put into making Niea is wacky and annoying as possible that the creators forgot to make her likable. The humor is passable when Niea is not around (kinda liked Chiaki and Karna, and the Weed Bath house episode is pretty darn funny), but that's nowhere near being enough to make up for when she is. The audio doesn't really much to praise either, asides from the voice acting (watched it mostly dubbed, the voice actors did a good job of trying to sell the humor, but they were fighting an uphill battle to begin with).
The soundtrack, I'm not even sure if there was one, If there is, it's either too muted or extremely unnoticeable since I can't recall taking notice of background music outside of the last episode. The ending theme, however, I found to be catchy and I dug the stringy instrumentals. The opening? Ghastly. Sounds like some dude who walked into a recording studio and tried to sing with strep throat. Lastly, I can't remember having ever given much attention to a show's sound effects, but NieA_7 is an exception. The creators of the show literally ripped several cheesy sound-bites from the Hannah Barbara library and tossed them into the show to enhance the already weak comedy. The sound effects are often times the closest the show is to being funny sadly enough.
This show does at least have more to it then missed opportunities and mostly sucky comedy. Mayuko herself is an interesting character when Niea is not involved. Her struggles come off as very as very easy to relate to. She starts off as a the "straight man" of sorts in an annoying comedic duo, but the later episodes shed light on her surrounding circumstances that are common and cause most people stress in some way or another. Whether it be her monetary troubles, social anxiety, living away from home. I have to give the show some props for appropriately portraying these issues, even in-spite of all the baggage. Don't expect any catharsis though. The show doesn't really end so much as just "stops" without much spectacle or payoff.
The strengths of NieA_7 underscore (lol) just what this series should have been all along: A tale of a young, hard working introvert trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Instead, we have a title that bogs itself down with unnecessary elements before coming to a somewhat unsatisfying stop. If slice 'o' life comedy is your anathema, you'd best look elsewhere since there's nothing here that will change your mind. For everyone else, your probably better of watching stuff like Planetes, a SOL/Drama that succeeds on all both fronts, or Haibane Renmei for mysterious elements that are thought provoking, rather than rage inducing.
This is NOT one of those fast paced, action packed, or mind blowing anime. The story is pretty light and the characters are kind of simple, but I think that's actually the best thing about this show. It follows a simple life of a broke cram-school student studying for her entrance exams. She lives in an old bath house while working two jobs and trying to make the ends meet. Oh, and she has a carefree mooching alien living in her closet. The show just kind of flows from one episode to another, but it does this well. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes shows about every day life, or someone who just wants to take a break from all the extremes that's in a lot of anime.
Watching Lain and then Haibane Renmei a while back got me on a bit of a Yoshitoshi Abe kick. What I very quickly realized was that NieA Under 7 is nothing like Haibane Renmei, or really, any of Abe-sensei's other projects. I found out later that NieA was what they worked on after Lain finished, and it was supposed to be a kind of break from the dark and heavy themes found therein. Furthermore and unfortunately for me, I was only able to get a hold of the English dub, which has very likely tainted my opinion of NieA herself.
Story: It takes place in a small town in Japan, set in a future where aliens and humans both exist. Mayuko, a human, lives above a bathhouse; the alien NieA appears one day and moves in with her. The "main" storyline is that they're trying to save the bathhouse from shutting down, and the running gag is mainly that NieA is constantly eating an already-poor Mayuko's food or otherwise getting her into trouble. There are also some hints at uncovering details of the circumstances in which the aliens arrived in Japan/on Earth, but those world-building elements are ultimately discarded in favor of staging a significant fight between Mayuko and NieA to test the strength of their relationship. Episodic shows generally rate pretty low in my book, and this one was very average in terms of depth, complexity, and my level of tolerance for weak plots.
Sound: Don't watch the English dub. NieA's obnoxious and childishly smug tone of voice still rings in my head to this day.
Characters: None of them really show a huge amount of character development, and I found none of them particularly endearing. The aliens' personalities are somewhat flat, which contrasts with some of the show's themes about discrimination and stereotypes. Mayuko is, quite frankly, pathetic, and the other human characters are boring.
Overall: Average-ness all around, but mildly entertaining nonetheless. Watch it if you're an alien or Abe-sensei buff, or if you like very average, episodic comedies with an oh-so-light dusting of social commentary.