"Are there any questions?"
"I've got way too many, but I'm not sure they're questions I should even be asking..."
And that, ladies and gents, sums up Excel Saga (to a tee) in its own words. If you're like me and a fan of random humor, this series will go down in your books as one of the greatest anime you've had the fortune to set your eyes upon. While not the funniest or most clever comedy to be produced, it boasts an incredibly unique flavor that you will either passionately love or fervently loathe.
The core of Excel Saga's humor revolves around a number of individual storylines that loosely tie into each other. These include:
Trying to predict the direction the series will take is virtually impossible. Even with a repeating theme such as Excel being dropped down a hole, each occurrence is distinct; something new always happens when she hits the bottom, ranging from wrestling alligators to popping out of manholes in American sewers. Yet, oddly enough, everything flows together with a surprising level of coherence -- it's incredibly hard to get lost despite the constant chaos flowing across the screen.
With all that said, Excel Saga's animation is fairly well sophisticated for its time, but nothing spectacular. However, Excel Saga is entirely self-conscious of its flaws and doesn't give mocking itself a second thought. For instance, there's an episode where all the male characters are given no screentime and the females are given a "30% increase to shading and highlights." It uses its low-budget animation quality to its advantage, which is a definite plus.
By far the least commentable (is that a word...? Is now!) of the categories; not too much else to say here.
Moving on, the sound score is much more commentable. The opening theme fits the series like a glove, and probably even better considering it's sung by the seiyuu who voice Excel and Hyatt. On the other side is an ingenious ending theme, sung in dog barks regarding the manner in which Menchi would choose to be eaten should the time come. Sandwich a great OST inbetween and there's not much to complain about. Each of the tracks capture the moods of their respective scenes with finesse, and despite their obvious lack of great production quality I quite enjoyed them. Even better, though, top it all off with an outstanding Seiyuu and you're good to go. The voice actor for Excel is especially impressive, as capturing that energy and hype is certainly no easy task. I also loved Pedro and his Spanish-accented Japanese.
If you've seen Azumanga Daioh, you probably have a good idea as to how Excel Saga executes most of its character designs. Every character has at least one trait that's exaggerated in the extreme, whether it be Excel's non-stop ranting or Shioji's knack for having little girls appear and assist him in every possible circumstance. Despite having a massive caste of characters, I found each individual to have a distinct and memorable flavor.
What really stands out in this category, however, are the interactions between the characters. Where they personally lack depth, their relationships are weaved with amusing complexity -- the quartet from the civil service agency are perfect examples. The constant sparring between Iwata and Onigunse is particularly notable, as the two are constantly at odds over everything save women; quite ironic considering the two spend the entire series chasing their respective love interests.
All in all, Excel Saga boasts some hilarious random humor that parallels its parody well. As I mentioned before, however, it polarizes itself in such a fashion that it becomes an anime you will either adore or despise. The content is much less an issue than the presentation; being able to tolerate Excel is probably the sole defining factor as to whether or not you'll enjoy the series. If you can, this will probably become a classic in your anime collection; if you can't, it will probably become a classic on your black list.
This is one series that I'd been wanting to see ever since first encountering it on some music videos during my college years. Once I had the money to buy it... I found out the DVD collection was out of print. Fortunately, a brief search around various online stores rectified that problem and, in a matter of weeks, I finally had a copy in my hands. Don't bother to ask how long ago that was since I only got around to finally watching over the course of the past week. The question now is, was it worth it?
There was a story? Fortunately the answer to this is yes (sort of). The main story consists of the hyper Excel in her duties as a member of the ideal secret organization ACROSS and its efforts to conquer F City in F Prefecture under the orders of their leader, Ilpallazzo. Most of these missions involve information gathering and the occasional terrorist bombing, but in nearly all of the cases nothing happens as a result. At the same time, Excel has to make sure her friend and junior officer, Hyatt, remains alive and kicking (as she has the tendency to die from an unknown illness and revive at least once a day), that her dog and emergency food supply, Menchi, fattens up and doesn't run away, and maintain her various part time jobs in order to stay alive. Various pieces of the story fall together for the first several episodes, but the middle episodes, mostly until number 21, focus on other characters or are just recap episodes with no real purpose.
The second story features the immigrant worker Pedro, a man who loses his life due to an accident and ends up as a lost soul who must regain what he lost, most especially the love of his wife. Each episode has a bit of a featurette starring Pedro and the end result culminates in an epic battle against That Man, one of the leaders of ACROSS, in a hilarious parody of the end of the Cell Game in Dragonball Z. While one of the recap episodes stars Pedro and replays nearly all of the events up to that point before continuing, it wasn't really necessary since the first recap episode already took the time to do the exact same thing in movie trailer fashion.
The series as a whole takes parodies a different genre with every episode. Each episode begins with original manga author Rikdo Koshi granting the series his permission to turn the anime into each of the various genres (sometimes against his will). The most memorable of these are the B-movie, sports, "Japanimation," sentai, and post-apocalyptic martial arts genres.
While the first 25 episodes consist of the main plot, the production team created a 26th episode that was intentionally too violent and obscene to be aired on TV. This single episode contains contents such as intense blood, sexual intercourse, child abuse, lesbianism, and pedophilia. While most of those elements aren't displayed outright, the content behind them is some of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.
Despite the lack of a coherent story for most of the series, the characters in Excel Saga are more than memorable. Excel herself is the very epitome of hyperactive and blindly loyal to her leader's ideals (mainly because she idolizes him more than anything) while Ilpallazzo himself exudes an aura of cleverness while suffering from his own mental disorders that fuel much of the climactic conflict of the final TV episodes. While Hyatt's constant deaths and revivals serve as one of the main running gags of the show, Hyatt herself is a very gentle, polite, and innocent young woman who doesn't intentionally crack jokes and holds Excel in high esteem. Finally, out of the main characters, Menchi completes the cast as she has a greater role other than Excel's emergency food supply. Two well-connected episodes feature her and are only tied together at the very end, but they also teach her that, despite her fears of being eaten, Menchi knows that she and Excel care for each other.
On the antagonists side, we have the strangely hairstyled and thickly mustauched Kabapu, the head of the Department of City Security, and one who has sworn to protect the city from ACROSS at all costs, which his deep political connections allow him to pull off. He has six underlings, all of whom actually live in the same apartment as Excel and Hyatt: Watanabe, who is in love with Hyatt. Iwata, who fancies himself as a ladies man but only ends up being beaten up. Sumiyoshi, whose "speech" consists of floating words onscreen. Matsuya, a young woman who is no-nonsense and very likely the only character who makes any sense. And Ropponmatsu Units 1 and 2, special androids programmed to counter ACROSS's actions with Unit 1 taking on the appearance of a young woman and Unit 2 looking like a little girl with cat ears. The man who created the Ropponmatsu units, Shioji, is a genius scientist who is always punctual with his projects but also gives off the aura of being a pedophile, for this he is incredibly misunderstood (most especially since his reasons for observing little girls weren't given in the manga until long after the anime series was complete).
Along with Pedro and his family- his son Sandora and his "sexy wife"- the other major characters in the side character consist of The Great Will of the Macrocosm- a female floating entity in the shape of a spiral galaxy with human arms and the ability to grant Deus Ex Machina "resets" of events that would have otherwise left a main character dead, and the mysterious afro man named Nabeshin, a parody of series director Shinichi Watanabe, who helps train Pedro in his mission to defeat That Man. Series creator Koshi Rikdo and members of the production staff make regular appearances as well.
All-in-all, every single one of the characters played their parts perfectly and contributed to the overall story flawlessly. This also applies for all of the actors in their particular roles. Excel's incredibly fast speaking method at times is masterfully done, especially since her actress spoke so fast at times that she had to ad-lib a lot in order to make sure the lines ended at the same time as the lip movements in the animation.
There isn't much to say about the art as a whole other than the fact that every character's appearance is as memorable as their personality. Everyone looks very distinct and can easily be pointed out in a crowd of people. The background scenery and effects are a good match for the style of the characters and provide an excellent backdrop to set the current mood. One of the best moments where this happens is near the end of the series where Excel is slowly being covered with sand as she lay dying in the middle of a desert after being shot.
In terms of how smoothly the characters moved, the animation as a whole was excellent, but unique moments such as Excel's rubber movements during her moments of hyperactivity are what really stick out in mind. Not only that, but the animators did an excellent job in maintaining the style of how one would expect to see the genre that the current episode parodies. The exemplification of numerous animation styles, both Japanese and American, in episode 17 is one of the most masterfully done moments in the entire run of the show, as Excel sums up everything one can expect to see in both in just a single scene.
Most of the actors portrayed their roles brilliantly, Excel's especially as she was able to complete many of her lines by speaking so fast that the animated character's mouth was still moving, prompting the director to tell her to ad-lib. The ad-libbed portions of the script integrate so seamlessly into what was already written that it's practically impossible to tell what already existed vs. what was insterted. Hyatt's actress is another shining example as she carried her character's gentle demeanor at all times despite her constant deaths and the rare times when she had to use a weapon. Most of the other main characters fared just as well, with Pedro's catchphrase of "Nnnnnooooo!" being one of the most memorable (as well as much better than Darth Vader's in Revenge of the Sith, but I digress). The one major issue I had with the actors is when a Japanese voice actor attempts to portray American English because of how easy to tell that it's not an American speaking it, even when it's often only one word or so.
There isn't much to say about the music. Sadly, it was drowned out by much of the insane action and constant dialogue whenever Excel was onscreen. The opening theme isn't very memorable in and of itself since it didn't have much of a catchy. The ending theme is very somber and a bit out-of-place, but is absolutely hilarious as it features Mechi "singing" the end theme song with barks and whines while an actress reads off the translation nearby.
This series as a whole is definitely one that I can reccomend for people who like random wackiness that makes no sense but also provides for a good laugh and memorable experience. It's even better for those who are fully familiar with the various genres that are parodied and want to find someone (Excel) who can be used to prove that there are people out there who are even weirder than themselves. For something that is meant to be viewed as a means of just having some random fun, Excel Saga definitely doesn't fail to deliver.*
*Does not fully apply to episode 26. Be warned, because the goggles will do nothing.
This and other reviews can also be read at my blog: http://gunarmdyne.blogspot.com
I really liked all of the humor in Excel Saga, which I felt to be clever and original. I loved how seemingly random the whole thing was and there were many times when I just busted out laughing. The antics of Excel and Hyatt never cease to entertain and provide humor. I also loved all of the lampshade hanging that took place throughout the series which allowed it to get away with a lot of things by making them funny. Excel Saga even made 2 clip shows hilarious and original. Plus the diverse cast made for even more humor that could not be provided by Excel and Hyatt alone.
I felt that the animation was excellentand that the art was interesting to look at and it fit very well with the overall tone of the series, which is downright craziness.
The Characters of the Excel Saga are what really make the series great. Both Excel and Hyatt make a hilarious duo, and both can be quite humorous on their own. All of the other characters were great too, and I believe that there wasn't a single character that I didn't find amusing.
This is one of the better series that I have seen in a long while, and I would recommend it highly. HAIL IL PALAZZO!
Oh Excel Saga, you were my first... not counting the usual stuff that every kid watched in the 90's (Pokemon, Digimon, Dragonball Z, etc).
Yes, Excel Saga was the show that took my otaku virginity and led me into the world of anime, a never-ending voyage from which I may never return. I have no regrets, for this is the only path; my whole life is now Unlimited Anime Works.
But that aside, let's get reviewin'!
~~~Review is being approved by Rikdo Koshi; please wait...
Excel Saga is (somewhat loosely) based on the manga by Rikdo Koshi (Koshi Rikdo? Which way around is it?). Primarily a comedy series, it skillfully combines parody, surrealism and non-sequiturs to create a unique style of humour that I've not seen anywhere else. Following the adventures of world-conquering-organisation henchwoman, Excel Excel, the show bounces schizophrenically between genres in every episode - this week science-fiction horror, next week girl-get-game romance - parodying everything within reach and never slowing down for anything.
THE FOUR REASONS I WATCH ANIME
As noted above, Excel Saga's humour is quite unique. Parody, surrealism and non-sequiturs can be found in many anime, but rarely all three at once. Toss in a generous helping of slapstick and puns and set the whole thing on rapid-fire; that's Excel Saga in a nutshell. In fact, it's so fast that the English dub VA for Excel lost her voice due to the strain and had to be replaced. You've heard of things being described as 'a laugh per minute'? Excel Saga is 'a laugh per dozen seconds'. Maybe even less.
The action in Excel Saga is pretty generic, but of course most of the action that takes place is taking the piss out of something else, so naturally it would have to be cliched and easily identifiable. You'll see dual-wielded light machine guns, mountain-destroying laser beams, oversized swords, even a suspiciously-named 'G**dam' or two, but it's all stuff you've seen before and will doubtlessly see again. At least it's funny though.
Excel Saga does the Fullmetal Alchemist trick of not entirely following the storyline of the original manga... except it does it thirty times worse. The plot is barely there, although it does all come together towards the last quarter of the series. But as a comedy show above all else, there's very little call for plot anyway. And besides, thanks to constant storyline resets - provided by The Great Will of the Macrocosm - and the bizarre magic of the status quo, F City of F Prefecture can be flooded, bombed and caught in the crossfire of sentai action hero antics and still make it to the next episode as if nothing happened... until the plot kicks in, that is.
Archetypes, archetypes everywhere! Excel's the Genki Girl, Hyatt's the Sick Girl, Misaki's the Tsundere, Nabeshin's the Author (Director?) Insert, et cetera et alium. But despite that, they're exaggerated so much and have enough effort put into them by the VA's that you can't help but get excited for them anyway. The setting is inconsistent at best, but having not read much of the manga I can definitely say that the chaos of the anime's genre-confusion makes it far more interesting that it would have been otherwise.
- The Ropponmatsu units were my favourite characters and inspired the earlier designs of some of the characters in my short stories (non-fanfiction, I don't write that stuff). Thanks to them, I now have a thing for kuuderes and catgirls. Well played, Rikdo, well played.
- Likewise, Ilpalazzo was my first taste of loud, Large Ham type characters, and damn are they AWESOME. Ilpalazzo ramps up the ham factor with grandiose speeches, intermittent bouts of schizophrenia, child-like tantrums over girl-get games and DIY guitar lessons, SHEER BADASSERY towards the plot's climax and a very Gendo Ikari-esque personality.
- Kinda disappointing that it doesn't seem to be that widely known and/or appreciated, especially given how funny it is.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10
Anime in 200 Words: Excel Saga
Premise: Excel Saga is a parody of all things anime. The main plot revolves around a secret agency trying to take over the city (and eventually, the world). Throughout the series, various sub-plots and characters weave in and out of focus.
Hazards: Poop humor, jokes about pedophilia, sexual situations, etc. Because Excel Saga’s trying to push the envelope on what’s permissible, there are lots of things that might bother you.
Perks: The Daitenzen (a Power Rangers spoof) and one of the early episodes in which Excel rips off some classic Sailor Moon stock footage make me laugh. The constant reinterpretation of the show as a different genre is amusing as well.
Gags: They’re so integral to the show that the episode that doesn’t include them seems foreign. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to them.
Overall: You can’t really jump into the middle of Excel Saga and expect to understand what’s going on. Granted, if you’re willing to roll with the random switches between plots and accept that some things won’t make sense, you should be able to enjoy this show. It all depends on how much you enjoy teenage boy style humor.