Anime series, from the creators of Serial Experiments Lain. Despite this, NieA_7 (pronounced "NEE-uh under seven") is really nothing like Lain aside from similar character designs.

It is the story of a struggling student named Mayuko who lives above, and works for, a public bath house in Japan. Mayuko is trying hard to get into a good college, while working several jobs to get by, but her problems are compounded by the presence of the title character, NieA. NieA is an alien girl who basically freeloads off of Mayuko and is constantly begging for food. There are, in fact, a lot of aliens living in Japan (and, presumably, elsewhere on Earth). Most of them have antennae, but not the traditional insect or fairy antennae that aliens often have. Rather, these often look like TV antennae or even simple twisty pieces of wire. NieA, however, has no antenna, a fact which marks her as a very low-class alien.

Other characters include the various bath-house personnel (including one who is something of a pyromaniac, other aliens (including one who thinks he's Indian and one who wears stereotypically Chinese clothes), and the owner of a restaurant that Mayuko works for. The restaurant is, in reality, run by the man's little daughter. Mayuko has a couple of friends, including Genzo, a tall, quiet young man, and Chiaki, a well-off, rather hyper girl who's obsessed with aliens.

Unlike NieA with its dark, cyberpunk-ish ambience, NieA_7 is a fairly light-hearted series. There's lots of physical comedy and plenty of very quirky characters. Nonetheless, there are some dramatic moments where it becomes clear that there's more to these characters than pratfalls and overzealously chasing after food. Mayuko has some real self-esteem problems that keep her from doing the things she wants, and even the seemingly carefree NieA has a bit of depth to her. The last episode on the second DVD, for instance, can be quite a shock, especially after the previous, exceedingly silly episode.

I picked up NieA_7 because I was intrigued by its premise, and because I liked the character designs in Lain. I was pleasantly surprised by a series that has more meat on its bones than I was suspecting. If you like both comedy and drama, and aren't put off by strange, SF elements in an otherwise ordinary, modern-day growing-up story, I highly recommend NieA_7.

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