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My Character Observations - Yuri Otani

Yuri in her Alien Party outfit smiling.

Yuri Otani is not your average main character.

A Lead Who Doesn't Lead

In most series the main character leads the show, diving into the action and acts as a driving force or pivot for the series, even if you find a main character who appears hesitant or reluctant you usually also find that they soon get into the flow and begin to get their bearings. However Yuri appears to be the opposite, it is made completely clear from the very first moment of the series that this girl is totally disgusted by, and despises, her role. As I mentioned before, sometimes we find main characters who are also reluctant to be thrown into the frontline of challenging events but usually they will try their best to rise above it for the sake of their life or others and get their bearings. Despite what people may think Yuri attempts this at many points in the story, however whenever she begins to believe in herself and scrambles at some shred of confidence within these harrowing situations, something emotionally disturbing happens to knock it all back out of her. For example, when she is just getting the hang of the usual encounters the Alien Party faces, says to herself I can do this, and seeks an alien by herself, a totally new form of encounter appears before her (I'm referring to the appearance of the first boy). Infact it doesn't just appear to her it targets her directly, chases her through the school grounds relentlessly on three consecutive events and haunts her mind. This happens again when she does her best to complete the task given to her - feed the captured aliens alone. Albeit reluctantly, she does almost complete this task sucessfully, however just as she is about to she is targeted once more and this time is driven off the edge in terms of emotional pressure. What does this say to us? Well I believe that despite what people think, Yuri's character does develop during the story, however whenever her character does develop and takes one step forward she is forcibly and distressingly knocked back fiercly two steps. One step forward, two steps back, and with that kind of outline the conclusion is never going to be good even if it isn't Yuri's fault.

Back to top of page Yuri cries whilst wearing her Alien Party outfit and borg.

Yuri's Crying, Is It Justified?

A lot of people believe that Yuri's personality is annoying, they feel that out of the trio she is the most useless and I would assume they also believe she overeacts. Personally though I find it hard to believe that people would expect such young children faced with adorning pulsating alien heads that feed off their own body and who is expected to go forth into life-threatening situations against unknown and unpredictable creatures sometimes twice their size (or more...) *not* to cry... but hey maybe that's just me thinking, eh? However Alien 9, as I said before, seems to have a big issue on the old metaphor of appearances can be decieving. Yuri is no exception. Yuri is infact in a certain aspect the most stable of the three characters. Most would not agree with this due to her constant distressed crying, but it is the fact that she cries at all that is one reason she is more stable in comparison to the others. This is because the others hold in their negative feelings, to the point that they hide them. They do not willingly cry, and they believe they mustn't. Kasumi and Kumi are both fighting to hide their past so as to not dissapoint what family they have left despite feeling distressed at their losses and so have grown up with the notion that they must not show their real feelings. So in the end Yuri is actually better off for being able to express herself, infact she is a very emotional girl who reacts strongly to events that occur upon her e.g. when she is so overcome with happiness she cries with joy, and perhaps relief, after seeing her friends visit her for her birthday. She does not attempt to hold in her feelings and instead lets people know exactly how she is feeling. She has noone she feels she needs to hide her feelings from or anyone that she feel she must suffer in silence for. Perhaps this is another thing Alien 9 is trying to show us. Yuri believes her life is a living nightmare after she is forced into the Alien 9 party, and the surface premise has us following this closely, but by entering Alien 9 we get to see the personal nightmares that are happening otuside of the Alien 9 party's time. Yuri will eventually leave the Alien 9 party, after she graduates or her position is taken over. Her uncomfortable situation has a visible end to it in the anime. However for Kasumi and Kumi, they can only return to their personal nightmare of hidden loss and there is no visisble end. By using this underlying premise Alien 9 could say to people that there may be times when we feel life couldn't be worse when really in comparison to those around us, if we took the time to look, there are people in a much worse position.

At first Yuri's way turns people like Kumi, who works so hard to be strong, away. However as soon as Kumi learns more of *why* Yuri is crying and sees her inner fears rather than simply looking at the surface tears she realises there is more to Yuri than first appears. I believe what this issue is trying to tell us is that we should not turn our back on those who cry for help without first considering their deeper reasonings and heartfelt fears that wells up those surface tears, and that even if we accept that thought, we must not overlook those who do not cry for help, and suffer in silence.

Back to top of page Yuri at home tried to hide the toys in her cupboard.

The Strength To Refuse Growing Up

Both Kasumi and Kumi are younger than Yuri, and yet both of them have already tried to become adults quicker (than perhaps they should of) and so can *seem* older, especially Kumi. As shown in Yuri's dreams, the Alien Party can be said to have an underlying theme of the pressure on children for growing into an adult and having certain expectations put upon them. Kasumi and Kumi feel no fear for the Alien Party, other than through Yuri for the most part, and perhaps this is because they are already, in some aspects, adults. Due to the pressure they put on themselves to not give in to their bare feelings, act responsibly and take it upon themselves to carry their negative burdens and responsibilities alone. So it may be that Yuri's naive personality is a blessing in the sense that she has not yet let go of her dependant childhood. Unlike the others she wishes for any chance to drop responsibility (the Alien Party) and does not take it upon herself to silently suffer the burden. She even takes the intitiative to seek help (from Kumi) which was probably something the others should of done a long time ago with their own problems, seek help. Unfortunately Yuri's attempts at finding help or turning from the responsibility are not successful, Kumi cannot help Yuri with her burden as she has a greater burden to face. This could be interpretated as a note towards how some people can find themselves helpless and with noone to turn to.

Yuri is the only one of the trio who does not willingly choose to be in the party. She has no reason to be there other than because she was asked to. Kumi wished to be in the Alien Party to escape some responsibilities and Kasumi may of also been using this team activity as an escape/distraction from her loss but Yuri has no possile need for being in the Alien Party, she does not see it as any kind of escape and the only escape she wishes for is straight out the scary group.

Back to top of page Yuri in her Alien Party outfit and borg flying during a dream sequence.

Inner Visions and Meanings

Yuri is the only who seems to have nightmares, even though Kasumi and Kumi later begin to see these nightmares, it only seems to be by means of Yuri herself that they see them at all. If we refer to a possible underlying premise within Alien 9 that relates to the pressure on children towards growing up we can maybe assume that since Yuri is the oldest, she is probably nearer puberty than the others and so perhaps these nightmares are a part of her mental development and concerns with that matter due to her emotional growth within. Or it may just be the pressure of the fact that the others had gone far beyond her abilities and she feels the need to catch up.

The nightmare that includes the borg song which states that everyone will become adults and therefore aliens is something else to note. Kasumi's and Kumi's growth into adults is abnormal as they have tried to grow up too quickly, hence why they are so quickly adaptive to working with aliens within the Alien Party it seems. Adults = aliens can also be interpreted in a much more different way, as a comment towards some children seeing adulthood as an alien subject, something separate to them perhaps, something they wish to turn away from and not have to acknowledge or that they can't always readily understand comfortably.

In this nightmare we also see Yuri's teacher encouraging her to race. This can be seen as a reference to the high pressure on some people in regard to achieving well within work and school, so therefore Megumi (the teacher) is very eager that those under her teachings achieve better than those around her, it is her priority to win the race for the best results. However this race in the nightmare seems more like a direct attack upon Yuri who looks on in fear. She is then seen naked and exposed, isolated in an empty pool with a darkening sky above. This image can be interpreted many many different ways... Isolation would probably be the first, the feeling of being alone, we know that Kasumi and Kumi have tried to grow up fast and as a result feel very alone so perhaps this is saying that achieving adulthood in this way, independantly taking on responsibility etc., can leave some people very alone. It may also be saying that by acheiving adulthood, her childhood was stripped from her and left her feeling cold, vunerable and alone. Why was a pool chosen, and not a race track or some other form of sports competition, for this scene? Maybe it's because if you don't keep your head up in a pool you end up drowning and stragglers in deeper waters are in more obvious danger than on a solid track...

Back to top of page A worried Yuri in school uniform with her borg.

The Weakest Weakness

In episode 4 Yuri's borg, unlike Kumi's, seems to completely ignore remaining with Yuri and instead goes straight to Yellow Knife. Perhaps the borg believed Yuri wasn't in direct danger of being attacked or manipulated and could handle Yellow Knife whilst he goes it alone, or he could just have so much doubt in Yuri's ability to do anything upfront about the situation, he took it upon himself to confront Yellow Knife alone. Unlike the others she has no deep psychological concerns for Yellow Knife to target, Yellow Knife targets the feeling of loneliness to make people give up hope and Yuri has lost noone in her life from what we can see, unlike the others she has all her family. Whilst Yuri's borg is off shouting at Yellow Knife, Yuri has another vision/dream sequence in which she is being told that she is on her own, similar to the vision presented to Kumi, however in the vision she doesn't seemed to be that concerned and simply waves bye and comments how the dream is getting a little weird before getting hit hard with the fall back to reality, sure she cries but not to the extent that Kumi did and does not get manipulated like Kasumi. I feel that this is because in the end Yuri is stronger and happier on the inside than the others, the others may appear calm/happy on the outside but what they have on the inside does seem to be presented as something far worse than Yuri's overall situation. Yuri isn't exactly a strong figure in the Alien Party sure but that is because she turns it away and perhaps that isn't such a bad thing for her longterm future, she may be happier for choosing to be that way rather than merely conforming to what her life is forced into which is what the others did, and they sure didn't come out with much of a future.... no future if you count poor Kumi. It could also be said that Yuri presented that vision/dream sequence to herself rather than Yellow Knife, as unlike the others she had been having such strange visions for awhile now, and if that is true then the only danger for Yuri in particular in this episode was probably only herself, and I guess the borg didn't believe that was much of a problem if he went after Yellow Knife by himself rather than remaining with Yuri throughout the attack.

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