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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Excel Saga: Complete Series (Anime Classics)
Excel Saga: Complete Series (Anime Classics)
FUNimation // Unrated // May 17, 2011
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 2, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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ExcelSagaReview


Excel Saga
is undeniably one of the weirdest and wackiest anime series ever made. That's a seriously bold claim and the absolute reality of what it feels like to watch this bizarre anime. It's even zanier than one of my personal all-time anime favorites: FLCL (Fooly Cooly). Those who have seen FLCL and have yet to experience Excel Saga probably wonder what exactly that means... It means that this is another anime unlike anything else seen before. Whoa! There might not be giant robots popping out of kid's heads (an FLCL reference) but there are spoofs for almost every type of anime around and the tone is all over the map (rather gloriously). Funimation's new reissue under the Anime Classics label presents the entire 26 episode run of seemingly random hilarity and quack-tastic fun for newcomers to discover this comedic favorite that has delighted dedicated anime fans for years.

The series jumps between pure comedy, action, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, horror, and several other genres almost every episode. The creator of the manga appears on the show in anime form to give the director and writers permission to turn each episode into another type of genre series or one-off blend with each episode.

Excel is the lead character. In fact, almost every episode places a larger focus on her character than anyone else in the show. She is a teenage girl who acts zany and over-caffeinated regularly (if not constantly). She has a dog named Menchi who she frequently acts as if she wants to eat (as an emergency food supply of course) and the end credits even have Menchi singing a song (translated by a woman unseen in the rest of the show) about how he would like to be eaten if it ever does indeed come to that. There is also this character named Hyatt who is always dying (or almost dying) or falling over and acting tired or seeming completely weak. She is a partner to Excel in (hey -- wait a minute: fanboys need to get that idea out of those collective heads!) helping the evil mastermind ll Palazzo (who really seems to have little to no idea on how to do anything). ll Palazzo regularly has Excel and Hyatt doing seemingly random tasks for his secret organization named ACROSS, which is apparently supposed to take over the world. It just doesn't seem to be working out that way.

The show also features a continuous storyline with a construction-worker named Pedro who works hard at his job for his "sexy wife" and kid. The entire series takes a slow and bizarre trip with following his rather unexpected journey and all that it entails. Rounding out the central characters are some goofy and geeky guys living in the apartment next to Excel. They have their own storylines that occasionally connect to Excel's but for the most part they seem to have separate storylines.

These characters are pure spoofs of classic anime archetypes. Excel is ridiculously hyper and surpasses the typical anime girl with intense energy by at least a mile. She can talk with lightning-fast speed. Hyatt is supposed to be the more frail, innocent, and natural beauty but instead of merely stumbling the character dies all the time and has some genuinely questionable behavior that makes her a harder character to understand. This character truly helps point out the silly and unrealistic nature of these types of characters found so frequently in anime, and the results are some of the more outlandish humor. The guys are the typical bumbling geeks thrust into weird situations, but unlike most anime series they don't have an abundance of women falling in love with them head over heels.

The series feels like some strangely brewed concoction that mixes ridiculously over the top adult humor (think: Futurama, or that other Matt Groening series) with the more ridiculous stupidity and vulgarity of South Park or that one other show on Fox (if you watch animation, then you know the show that I'm vaguely referring to and am refusing to name specifically). Consider that weird reference without making an actual reference my own special kind of Excel Saga joke. Feel free to interpret!

Here is a unique anime series that at many points throughout the entire series run makes absolutely little to no attempts at actually being a logically sound creation with streamlined storytelling. Who needs logic when instead you can kill off the characters in an instant only to bring them back to life in a few seconds with a "restart" moment aiming for some pure comedic gold? This is only one example of a recurring joke in which the series propels itself towards the bizarre and unusual.


One of the possible charms and bizarre strengths of this series is an ability to win audiences over. Throughout several of the earliest episodes the predicaments and general nature of the humor seemed off-putting and disappointing to some small degree, but as this unique show progressed the wackiness became almost subliminally enjoyable and started to win me over. It wasn't that the earliest episodes were bad - in fact, there are some genuinely classic comedic moments towards the beginning but it wasn't as easy to recognize until a second take was given to try and better understand what was being watched. This wasn't the easiest show to become attached to quickly as it was unlike anything I'd seen before.

The entire show aims to poke fun at every cliché found in the countless and rather amusing (if ridiculously weird) anime series that most fans probably consider as perfectly normal shows. This is another reason why Excel Saga winds up being so successful. It essentially mocks anime but in a completely loving way (well... at least mostly). Unlike more offensive comedic works - where the comedy seems almost purposely aiming to hurt fans this is one series that understands it's better to play along with fans who already know how silly some of their favorite series are rather than to be cruel and unfair in generalizing the surrealism which is so often found in this art form.

New (or recent) anime fans who are still just getting started as viewers should know that much of the humor probably comes easier to viewers if there is an abundance of familiarity with the many anime series styles that the show references throughout. Serious anime fans (those who have at least some passing familiarity with the various styles typically found in this art form) will find many reasons to laugh and embrace Excel Saga while other viewers may be somewhat baffled by how bizarre the show is and not understand why it's perceived as a comedy favorite.  

With the humorous and well-made Excel Saga the show-runners knows how to pull punches, and delivers them with giant smiley faces plastered everywhere. It's that kind of dedication to telling such a gleefully random story that makes this a series worth watching and that also makes it clear why this is deserving of an Anime Classics release.

The DVD:


Video:

Excel Saga looks impressive on DVD with strong colors that tend to pop and a notable level of detail and clarity. The show looks remarkably clean. Black levels are disappointing though and there are some moments of aliasing but this series looks relatively strong nonetheless. The animation is suitably represented with the release and the series is presented in the original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33.1 (4:3) full-frame.

Audio:

The audio aspect of this release is not as impressive as the video. It would have been nice to hear a 5.1 surround sound mix for the English language dub but no option is available. The series is presented in both English and Japanese stereo. Both tracks sound remarkably similar in clarity and detail (which is crisp and clear) so viewers will want to decide between the two tracks based upon dub preference. The English dub sounded poor in comparison to the Japanese dub as the original voice actors understand the humor of the series more and resort less to simply making loud obnoxious sounds (as frequently done in the English dub version). English subtitles are included.

Extras:

There are a surprising number of extras featured on this release. Unfortunately, most of the included extras are less entertaining than one would hope to discover. There are still some worthwhile inclusions though. The most notable extras are text interviews with Koshi Rikdo (Writer of the Manga) and Shinichi Watanabe (Director of the Anime). They provide some good insights into the creation of the original story and how this anime adaptation was formed. There are also some good (if relatively short) insights into their early careers. In referencing an element of the series, a Daitenzin Commercial is included. A Video Piracy Warning is also available on this release with Excel Saga characters bringing the message. Standard inclusions such as the Original Japanese Trailer, Japanese TV Spots, and CD Single and Soundtrack Spots archive promotional materials. Puni Puni Poemy is the show director Shinichi Watanabe began working on after Excel Saga (and there is an actual tie between the series) so there is a plethora of short extras related to that show. Here is a list of those extras: Puni Puni Poemy OVA Preview, Puni Puni Poemy Interview with Yumiko Kobayashi, Watanabe's Puni Puni Poemy Interview, Puni Puni Poemy Staff Interview, Puni Puni Poemy Character Designs, and Puni Puni Poemy Latest Info. Most of these are short promotional videos and they don't provide much satisfaction. The Staff Interview sounded the most intriguing but it was more of a short comedic video and it barely highlighted staff discussing the series progression. Closing out the extras are clean opening and ending credits for Excel Saga and trailers for other Funimation releases.

Final Thoughts:

Excel Saga is a fun show that is worth seeking out for those who think the premise of the show sounds intriguing: It's an experimental anime comedy that lovingly pokes fun at the art form and all the wacky series and character that exist in the medium. This is a show for knowledgeable anime fans who are looking for something a bit different and with plenty of humor. It's not going to appeal to everyone but for those who end up enjoying the show it's a wild blast of total randomness. Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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