Excel Saga is a show built on near-episodic parody of a specific anime genre or trope, with crazy offbeat side continuous side stories (like the plight of Pedro or ACROSS's plan to conquer the city), loosely tying them together. While the formula sounds hit or miss, vast majority of Excel's episode are diversified in its insanity to kept you entertained throughout. Oh and I hope you don't like 4th walls, they don't exist. No literally it doesn't exist. Nabeshin is literally the director of the show (Shinichi Watanabe) and the characters often refer to past events by first stating what episode it was from. Honestly there’s little middle ground, either you love the over the top craziness or it just makes you want to scream “NOOOOO”. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the penultimate episode decides to self-parody itself and have a whole episode played straight with no gags (and maybe like 3 jokes that weren't in the first minute or two) which is a neat idea except Excel's plot sans-crazy is an awful mess that is barely more entertaining than a screen-saver. Thankfully the finale, “Going Too Far”, leaves the show on an epic note full of SEX and VIOLENCE. YAY!
At times (like the close ups in the OP) the character designs are beautiful, the backgrounds colourful and there's explosions, and general havoc all over the screen. Plus who doesn't love it when characters randomly turn into wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men. And then's there’s the barely animated clip shows. Yes, shows plural. There's like 3 of them... Yes in the great tradition of non-uber budget quality shows, Excel Saga stretches to far and suffers for it. But hey, we at least got over 20 GOOD looking episodes out of it rather than 26 average looking ones.
To start the OP is fantastic. Seriously, go watch it right now and bask in its glory. I don't know how many shows had used the seiyuu to sing the OP before Excel but it was a homerun in this series. As for the rest of the music....nothing really stands out except for maybe Pedro's theme just because it was so distinctive. The background music works, and is tailored for the scene but I wouldn't give it much more credit than that. Voice acting on the other hand is superb, from Excel's “Is she on crack?”, to the Spanish accented Japanese of Pedro and his family or yet another great performance by Takehito Koyasu (Il Palazzo). Fortunately, the dub is ALSO very good and maybe be funnier for less otaku audience though it does feel like some of the zip (mainly Excel) is taken out of the dialogue (I blame the lack of crack).
At best, Excel is the lone character with depth. At worst its cast made of cardboard cut-outs. However their AWESOME cardboard cut-outs. Each one designed to get the most comedic value out of their role, and just be...weird like having the main villain named “That Man”. Excel is nutso and we love her for it, Hyatt dies at least a hundred times, Menchi is always struggling to not be eaten, Pedro is sent into multitudes of despair, and Nabeshin is Nabeshin. Oh and there's a Mustache guy that is mysterious, dangerously cute aliens (who turn GAR in a heartbeat), a scientist who loves innocent little girls, a wandering goddess that resets events, and college students turned municipal workers turned Power Rangers. Really there's so much going on between the side stories, and gags that value is put on immediate entertainment than meaningful character development, as it should be for Gag/Parody Anime.
As the title implies, as Excel goes so does the show. She optimizes the show's relentless and bizarre comedic flair so if you like her you like the show (reverse is true as well). Those looking for something built on progression and subtlety should look elsewhere, but anyone looking for a classic random comedy that goes the extra mile will be thrilled with Excel Saga.
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