From Parasyte’s fascination with John Carpenter’s The Thing to Cowboy Bebop’s fridge-spawned spoof of Alien, the simultaneous revulsion and attraction to the unidentified proves universal across eastern and western cultures. But in anime, we’ve found there’s more of a tendency to frame a drama around a circumstantial alien presence, rather than putting the invasion at the centre of the story. No matter how they appear, of all the extra-terrestrials to land on planet otaku, here are our personal favourites.
Migi – Parasyte
This member of an insectoid alien infestation is one of the most intriguing takes on a neutral evil, detached yet self-interested character we’ve come across. In taking over protagonist Shinichi’s right hand, and spending every waking moment with him thereafter, Migi begins to be influenced by humanity, as do several of his kind who don’t manage a complete takeover of their host. Fusing with humans has more complex implications than they could have perceived, and Migi in particular finds human emotion encroaching further upon his singular directive. In turn, the more Migi aligns with us, the more we can understand how similar we are to these creatures in nature. We’ve become dominant by evolutionary coincidence alone, with the luxury of feeling righteous in our place on Earth, our impulse to devour so ingrained that we barely notice until threatened with domination.
Frieza – Dragon Ball Z/Super
Particularly in the DBZ Kai dub, fabulously performed by Christopher Ayres, Frieza tops our list as one of the ultimate sinister alien adversaries. Traipsing over to any planet he fancies and destroying it, plainly to assert himself as The Most Powerful Being in the Universe, he’s emperor of at least 448 planets and based on real estate speculators, which Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama claimed were “the worst sort of people”. Equipped with the most pompous threats and insults, he somehow refrains from entering the crammed Room 101 of cheesy villains, because he emanates being entirely convinced of his own absolute superiority. Thus, his calling the Saiyan race “the whole barrel of monkeys” as he plots to destroy them never fails to raise a chuckle.
Yuki Nagato – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Though biologically human, at least in appearance, Yuki Nagato was not born from Earth. She is an artificial creation of the Data Overmind, a network of sentient data organisms that watch over the part of the universe where our planet happens to reside. They have noticed our dominant evolutionary abilities, especially in the case of Haruhi’s potentially universe-destroying whims, and so Yuki, under the guise of a shy and bookish high school student, is tasked with keeping an eye on her. Though incompetent in many forms of human interaction, especially when it involves conversation, she is intelligent in ways that humanity could never comprehend, even uncovering emotions that her race most likely didn’t create her to be capable of.
Kagura – Gintama
Someone has to keep the guys in line in Gintama, so it’s just as well that this hot tempered China girl is the house matriarch in all her unearthly strength. Though easily underestimated based on her appearance and naïve outlook, at times it’s this apparent naïveté that makes her the hero of the day. Although easily angered, she doesn’t like violence, giving space frequently unexplored in shonen to work things out without the need of fisticuffs. She appreciates the Earth as “a star of freedom” we should be thankful for, a place where all should be accepted, and she forgives the show’s first adversary, her brother Kamui, in respect of this belief. But at the same time, we love that she’s a belching, farting “improper lady”, caring but unrestricted, free to love and nurture but also give someone a punch in the face when required.
Haru – tsuritama
You would be excused for assuming chunibyo when this adorable, yet overbearing little cherub introduces himself as an alien right off the bat. But how you come to realise that this is the truth is extraordinarily touching, especially as his bond with Yuki, his first ever friend, grows. Where he’s sprung from is never explained, and doesn’t need to be, because his development as a person is quite rightly placed central to the story’s flow; his love of fishing and underlying loneliness, learning to get along with people, and finding that the times when things don’t go your way can mean the world in the end.
Some were adorable, others icky, but those were the anime aliens we both came to love all the same. Which otherworldy beings have invaded space in your heart? Let us know in the comments below!