The best thing about this screwy comedy is that we never know when it is lying. The direction is a massive exercise in sleight of hand, the script a riddle within a puzzle, and guessing what the hell is going on becomes the most compelling reason to keep watching.
Level E smells suspiciously like Men in Black, with a backdrop of aliens who immigrate to Earth for various reasons and live among unsuspecting humans. But instead of counting down to an epic intergalactic crisis topped with macho laser battles, it narrowly follows the social chaos that occurs when one self-absorbed and utterly brilliant alien, Ouji of Dogura, throws misadventure and misfortune in everyone’s way. Indeed, this is comedy played any way but straight, and it relies mostly on the Prince being a complete dick while the rest of the cast try not to implode with frustration.
With no substantial stories and just a string of misadventures and non-sequiturs, there is really no point to Level E except to give Ouji a platform to fuck around. Veering from parodies of Power Rangers to moral parables on the ethics of poaching before swerving back to dubious character arcs, Level E simply relishes its moment in the viewers’ attention to do whatever the hell it wants. Any uncharacteristic sober lapses, for instance, quickly dissolve in the face of troll jokes.
This is a delightfully creative work and one of the most intriguing uses of aliens I’ve seen in recent years (although the manga is from the 1990s when this topic was trendy). But Level E is also a textbook case of fizzling out. Between the stunning introductory episodes, which arguably deliver the biggest laughs, and the final episode, which has the most fulfilling surprises, there lie a few misfires. One oddly sentimental diversion follows a mermaid-alien as she fights nasty poachers with the help of school children, while another has the heroes trying to prevent a nasty alien race of insect-like females marrying a human. These instalments do not, frankly speaking, make the grade, although they act as tolerable padding for a show this short and eclectic.
Level E doesn’t deserve the animation it gets - with such frenetic, schizophrenic content, I would have assumed a lackadaisical cartoon style to match. But Studio Pierrot has given it a sober, clean appearance and borderline bishounen character designs that seem altogether too pleasant. Admittedly, the budget doesn’t stretch as far as sassy-looking action or intriguing environments, but it looks deceptively sophisticated.
The soundtrack is modest and barely noticeable; apart from complementing scenes or adequately book-ending the content, it makes no significant impact.
If Level E can be said to be about anything in particular, it would be Ouji. His eccentricities not only dictate much of the comedy but also set the tone for the story. Simply put, things happen in Level E because the Ouji wants them to. It’s always gratifying to observe a narrative so wholly absorbed by one personality (the last example I remember is Light’s performance in Death Note). What makes Ouji a powerfully attractive protagonist is his enigma: all his words are lies nestled in truths or just plain lies, and sometimes he will speak the truth in a manner that looks suspiciously like a lie. The source of amusement (and his co-stars’ frustration) is the act of detangling his speech and behaviour to minimise collateral and psychological damage. In one sense, Level E becomes an extended character study of this individual so utterly removed from our reality not just biologically, but also mentally.
Ouji’s only rival for attention is the long-suffering bodyguard, Kraft. Kraft’s eye-reddening, vein-popping, twitching rages as the Prince systematically ruins his life fill in the gaps of relatable emotion where the Prince has no reach. As for the others, don’t get attached to them; none make any significant contributions except to get caught in Ouji’s madness and often exit the story as inexplicably as they enter it. Yukitaka Tsutsui is a particularly curious case as he appears to take the role of half of the comedy duo from the start only to be pushed aside two episodes down the line as the show runs in new directions.
Level E is basically a troll comedy around the farces of an alien prince. As long as you dig his obnoxious personality then the comedy factor will work on you. I must say myself that the first arc was highly entertaining since I had no idea what is going on with the setting; it felt very mysterious, scary and humorous at the same time in a way that reminded me of Men In Black. Yet as soon as it was over I was more prepared to see something similar in later arcs and thus the rest did not feel as amazingly funny as the initial episodes. Also, the prince trolls different people each time, none of which are as interesting as those in the first arc, thus you are left to stare at a cast you don’t care about much. It was only in the finale, when the prince again goes back to his first victims that the comedy factor went high again and even offered a cool and unexpected finale.
The type of humor the show uses feels very different from other comedies of its era, since it is based on a manga from over a decade ago, when otaku jokes and clichés hadn’t crawled in all shows yet. This helps to get something uncommon from it that sets it apart from the numerous slapsticks and satires of today.
The story aspect is weak and mostly underplayed for random actions the prince plays on his victims. Although each arc can work as a separate fully told story, there is little to no continuity amongst characters of different arcs, a thing which makes the whole plot to feel nothing much to care about.
The cast is basically separated into the Prince and All The Rest. He alone is very memorable and funny, simply because he is obnoxious and sadistic to his subordinates and victims. All the storylines start and end from his uncontrolled desire to play tricks on people; even those who care about him. All the rest are basically character archetypes who are being constantly trolled by him. Passive and constantly in amok, they are mostly a parody of their respective molds, yet they never become memorable in the long run. The baseball player and the alien researcher’s daughter from the first and last arcs are by far the most interesting ones, followed by the Prince’s unfortunate bodyguards. Character development is close to zero and it is mostly colorization all you should expect from them.
The production values are awesome! Comedies are notorious for their cheap animation and overuse of deformity yet Level E offers consistent proportions and detailed colors and backgrounds almost all the time as means to fool you it is all serious. Even the soundtrack is made of pieces more fitting to an action / adventure than a comedy, still part of the same joke. I must say I liked them a lot and didn’t expect such a good overall from a minor studio such as David Production. I guess that is part of the troll jokes. And so is the director Katou Toshiyuki, who has a thing for directing shws with the single letter E in their title. He also did a fine job in Looking for the Full Moon so he is good when he wants to.
Being unorthodox and with a highly memorable lead character, Level E is easily becoming entertaining. It still has very few chances of rewatching it, since the troll jokes work only once and there is no overall story or many interesting characters.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 0/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 3/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 0/2, Story 0/3, Characters 2/4
Ok, here goes a short opinion based on the first three episodes.
Watch it! Now!
If you're not watching it yet you should definetely reconsider. I can tell safely that this is the best anime of the season up until now (ep 3).
The story is simply great. I came to watch this anime without any expectations but it turned out that the plot is simply amusing and unpredictable. It is very compelling, ranging from very serious and tense situations to ludicrous yet clever jokes without giving the whole thing an unnatural feeling. I haven't seen an anime so surprising in a funny way in ages. It has a good pace (not too fast nor too slow), and yet some seriously amusing twists. Especially the the third episode.
About the characters, they're also very good. The male protagonist is not a worthless, crybaby guy or excessively shy, the girl isn't extremely cute to the point of being annoying (they can talk with each other without blushing!!), the alien prince is nothing less than really amusing. Also the side characters, like the captain, are very well employed. Actually the funniest moment up untill in my opinion is thanks to them.
Not much to say about the sound, except that I liked the op very much. The rest is just ok for me, nothing that extraodinary.
Animation is not extraordinary as well, but it is very well done. The character design is more realistic than usual(they have noses!) but still conserving the funny, exaggerated facial expressions, which turns out to be very interesting (see captain grinning). Ah, holofotes at the openning now! It is really great!
Again, if you're not watching it, give it a try. If you're into humor genre but is tired of senseless plots and wanna laugh but still feel dragged by the history, this is certainly your series. Sci-Fi fans will also have a great time.
Watch untill episode 3 and I guarantee that you won't regret it.
Please, overlook any grammar mistake or misspelled words, this review wasn't written by an english native speaker -or a good english speaker. Thanks!
Level E was such a funny anime! I watched each episode every week and i loved each one, it has such a hilarious and unique character cast so i highly recomend Level E if you like, random comedy, sci fi and its so funny so i think you need to check it out!
The anime starts off great and ends great, but in the middle its kind of weird in that you feel that some of the episodes are insignificant to the progressive story line, and for a little while I wondered if this series was episodic instead of progressive. It is in fact progressive though.
This anime is very unique and intertaining. It goes from dark themed to light themed to joking themed to serious themed and all inbetween and around so smoothly.
It is intellectually competent to say the least, so if you are an intellectual like me, then this is one of those few animes for you! (yes, i am arrogant. no im not foolish enough to not listen to the advice of others. For example, I now realise more of the point behind people telling me to wait until the anime is finished to review it. I however do not regret my premature reviews since that is a perspective that is usefull as well, but in the future i will do less of them.)
The baka ouji is one of my favorite characters of all time now. Im not going to ruin any of his great scenes by giving you an example. All you have to do is watch the first episode and you'll know what im talking about.
and well... now that i think about it, I dont want to ruin any of this anime for you. I think this anime can appeal to a great variety of people, so try it out! It may get bland near the middle, but if you liked the beginning, then stick through to the end.
I would like to see a sequel, but i guess thats too much to hope for.