Excel Saga, The Complete Series (Anime Classics) – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Sci-Fi
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

Meet the agents of ACROSS and their delicious dog Menchi.

It’s the last day of school and a perky (yet loud) school girl comes skipping out of class swinging her notebook around as she unknowingly smacks other students out of her way. She’s a cheerful gal with a song in her heart as she skips right into traffic and gets run over by a car uttering the word “ACROSS.” Little do we know that this girl is a secret organization’s best agent in The Complete Series of Excel Saga … a crazy anime comedy classic.

That scene above is our introduction to Excel, the loyal agent working for ACROSS – an organization whose mission is to conquer planet Earth. Of course, Excel is doing it for the love of her leader, the handsome yet hammy Lord Ilpalazzo who just isn’t that into her. Lord Ilpalazzo’s plan is to take over the planet little by little and he starts with Japan’s bustling F City, F Prefecture. Of course, it’s hard to do that when your top agent is a babbling, easily-distracted and starving girl who has a day job on top of her ACROSS duties.

The series doesn’t really follow a story structure that takes us from A to B and that’s exactly what Director Shinichi Watanabe wanted and – as we are told by the manga-ka who created Excel Saga, Koshi Rikdo – he gives his permission to turn the series into just about every genre anima has ever covered from romance to musical. In fact, the series features both men with Rikdo as himself and Watanabe as the afro-sporting Nabeshin (who is dressed like Lupin III). At one point, Excel assassinates Rikdo only to find that he (and just about every character that dies) returns thanks to the sexy cosmic entity known as The Great Will of the Microcosom.

Excel isn’t alone very long in her mission to do whatever Lord Ilpalazzo tells her to do because she is joined by the frail hemophiliac named Hyatt who has a tendency to die quickly and often only to come back to life just as quickly. Together the girls attempt their missions only to fail miserably and hysterically as well as try to keep a job … something that is hard to do for both women. At one point, Excel even gets her immigrant co-worker named Pedro comically killed. Oh, and they take in a cute stray dog that Excel keeps around as a backup food source.

While Excel and Hyatt are quirky characters, they are joined by the ladies’ three neighbors who all get a job working for the Department of City Security for a man named Kabapu. These three guys not only come to stand for justice with their boss but also find romance as they are joined by the hard-as-nails Misaki Matsuya and cute-yet-disposable female robots all named Ropponmatsu. Both girls even meet a pint-sized assassin named Cosette Sara.

I do find Lord Ilpalazzo’s “missions” rather puzzling as he sends the girls to try to take over F City by having them infiltrate a High school as teachers only to find the girls caught up in their new duties coaching the school’s baseball team. Then they’re sent to infiltrate City Hall only to botch up the plan and accidentally exposing political corruption.

As Excel and Hyatt go about their bumbling duties, the series follows the comical misfortunes of Excel’s dead co-worker Pedro who yearns to be back in his country with his sexy wife and his son Sandora. Of course, now that’s he’s dead and sleeping around with The Great Will of the Microcosoms, that will be hard to do. On top of that, Pedro finds out that his wife has been with another man named Gomez. Pedro vows to get revenge as Nabeshin takes him under his wing. Personally, Pedro’s story is one of the series’ biggest highlights.

Meanwhile, we get a glance at two escape stories with Menchi as the lead as he tries to get back to an old man that treated her decently only to encounter a complex and crazy twist. No genre is left untouched in this series and every cliché or theme we’ve seen in anime is parodied in comical and occasionally even playfully offensive ways.

Of course, the show’s sense of humor isn’t for everyone and, at times, it can be as draining as listening to Excel talk, which is why Lord Ilpalazzo has a trap door ready to swallow Excel when she’s being too hyper. Still, those who like lighting-fast puns and visual gags will find plenty to laugh about although a good portion of it makes more sense if you’re fluent in Japanese. It’s too bad that the Anime Classics release didn’t include the video notes feature that explains some of the puns and jokes that might go over the heads of these who aren’t too familiar with the wordplay or the references.

I do enjoy both language tracks for this series and being fluent in Japanese it was easy to enjoy the puns but then again the English dub cast does a great job changing the dialogue enough to make up for missing out on the puns. I should note that Jessica Calvello (who was rumored to have exited after injuring her vocal cords) was replaced by Larissa Wolcott in the role of Excel but Wolcott does a great job keeping up with Calvello’s energetic performance.

The Complete Series of Excel Saga is definitely an anime classic worthy of being packaged as one and yes its sense of humor might not work for everyone but those who enjoy a lot of crazy in their anime comedies will find enough to like here. Occasionally, the episodes can be draining but that’s just how energetic the madness gets in this series so fans of this style will definitely know what to expect. If crazy and hilarious sound good together, Excel Saga is definitely for you.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
ACROSS wants to rule the world one city at a time starting with Japan’s F City and the organization’s two mismatched pair will do just about anything for their leader, Lord Ilpalazzo. Excel and Hyatt tackle a number of oddball missions that involve their next door neighbors, a cute dog that seen as a food source, an ever-suffering immigrant worker and The Great Will of the Microcosom.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The visual gags fly fast in this series and you just have to love the zany parodies of familiar anime series. On top of that, there’s fan service but it’s mainly there to make light of it. It’s also a bloody series and much of it comes from Hyatt herself. Still, the series definitely looks good on DVD and this collection proves it.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese cast is downright stellar and makes the dialogue and jokes work but, for my money, the English dub cast will not fail to make you laugh with their delivery. As annoying as Excel is, though, both Jessica Calvello and Larissa Wolcott (who replaced Calvello after Episode 13) are outstanding. The music is as quirky as the episodes and the opening (sung by the Excel Girls) and closing (sung in-character by the voice of Menchi) theme song are actually good.

EXTRAS: A
The fourth disc comes packed with extras that include original Japanese trailers plus TV spots as well as a spot for the CD Single and soundtrack (with the voices of the Excel Girls Yumiko Kobayashi and Mikako Takahashi in costume). There’s even a Video Piracy Warning that appeared in Japan (Excel scratching her butt) plus a Daitenzin Commercial. Of course, you’ll also find the textless songs and the opening credits first cut and timed sequence version.

Besides those features there are text interviews with Koshi Rikdo and Shinichi Watanabe that are really worth reading, especially if you love the manga. Interesting enough, there are six extras devoted to the magical series that Sandora created in the show called Puni Puni Poemy. You can find a preview for the OVA as well as character designs and various interviews with the staff, director and Yumiko Kobayashi who voices Poemy.

OVERALL: B+
An over-the-top, fast-paced comedy series that is just overwhelmingly zany, The Complete Series of Excel Saga might not be for everyone but if outrageous comedies are your thing then you really need to check this series out. This really is crazy experimental comedy at its most insane.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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