Excel Saga Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, August 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, August 27, 2002



What They Say
When the plan to conquer the city isn't going well, Lord Ilpalazzo doesn't get mad, he just gets ACROSS...his crack team of Excel and Hyatt, that is. Of course, maybe this is one crack team of special agents that might be doing better if they weren't actually on crack.

The Review!
The second round of Excel Saga episodes finally hits, but the insanity lessens a bit, as do the laughs.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The series continues to sport a pretty decent stereo soundtrack that makes good use of the forward soundstage with some amusing amounts of directionality. There?s nothing going to the rear speakers here though, but the forward mix is done well. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and the music plays out nicely when it?s called into service.

Video:
Much like the first volume, this is a sparkling clear transfer. Colors are rich and vibrant without any noticeable over saturation. Cross coloration and aliasing appear to be pretty much non-existent. There?s hardly anything I found problematic in this transfer at all. If you liked how the first volume looked, expect more of the same.

Packaging:
The cover this time around is rather interesting looking since a first glance doesn?t provide a real accurate look at it. Excel?s shown underwater with copious amounts of food in her mouth with Hyatt floating underwater behind her as well. The back cover has a few animation shots and a look at the main menu while there?s all kinds of weird wacky stuff all over it, such as the ingredients list. There?s a good summary and a good listing of both the discs extras and its features. While the front cover features the artwork from the fourth Japanese DVD release, the insert provides the artwork from the fifth volume which I think would have worked better, showing material from the bowling episode. The reverse side gives a breakdown of how the chapters are setup and lists the discs extras. Also included in this release is a small foldout poster the encourages you to Throw Away Your Life For Justice.

Menu:
The theme used for the menus this time around is an Ilpalazzo powered versions of Windows with just a couple of smaller windows open inside to access the various pieces you usually find. Scattered around these menus are other clickable areas, which provide something like seventeen pieces of weird and amusing omake. One of the nice things done with this release is that when you start the show, there?s about a half dozen different transition animation pieces that play, so you?ll usually get something different. If you just get Nabeshin each time, like I did, it just means you?re cool.

Extras:
There?s another solid batch of extras here, with the vidnotes being the big piece. They play again through all four episodes and provide a lot of information on the jokes and various puns as well as general wackiness of the show. We also get a look at the TV spots that ran for this show prior to its first airing and a look at the ads for the CD single and full soundtrack. Those are just plain weird at times. There?s also a selection of production sketches included in this rounds.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the initial batch of Excel episodes, and watching them several times, I was indeed very hooked on the show. The humor definitely appeals to me as well as the general whacked nature that it employs at time, being weird just for weirds sake. So it was unfortunate that it seemed like for at least the first two episodes here, the humor just wasn?t as appealing.

With each of the episodes doing a particular kind of show, it?s probably natural that there?d be some that wouldn?t appeal. The two opening episodes deal with some actual plot, such as the three guys who live together and all going for civil service training end up going through a bizarre series of tests and training and end up being assigned to sewer duty at one point. There?s humor along the way, and it ends up playing against what Excel and Hyatt are doing, but it feels less connected and less tightly written. The addition of Misaki didn?t do a heck of a lot for me either.

One episode deals with Excel and Hyatt performing their mission to increase the visibility of Across and search for more resources by tackling a local mountain. There?s some good moments with Menchi and his role as a food supply, but the subplot with Antonio and then Nabeshin feels really tacked on. Of course, I love just about everything Hyatt does, so getting to watch her stuck in a block of ice was amusing. I will admit the whole Aliens/Puchuu tie-in did have me laughing out loud as well.

But there was a good amount in the final two episodes that worked for me. Episode 8 was a ?Increase the Ratings? titled episode, and to do that, they eliminated all men from the episode and showed only women. And with it being an extremely hot day, women at the pool. Fan service galore with amusing little bits such as girls wearing Puchuu bathing suits and dragging them along like toys. Excel wears the worst looking outfit ever, and Hyatt?s not that much better (but is cuter!). The guys aren?t completely excised from the show though, as they get to participate by simply being off-camera but still able to talk, or showing up as shadows. Only Nabeshin in his Beauty Theater segments and Pedro get full shots.

The Bowling episode was the one that had me laughing the most though, and it?s probably an episode that works better in Japanese than English with all the word/character puns and jokes, as it deals with Excel and Hyatt working in a bowling alley to try and understand the big sport that draws the youth. It?s their attempt at a sports anime episode, but instead pokes more fun at various morning shows that cover various sports or other entertainments. In fact, Excel and Hyatt get sent to the sidelines for a lot of this episode, and finally get referred to as main characters awhile after they?ve been gone. What was amusing here is the singers for the opening song play themselves on the show, adding another level of surrealism to the show.

We?re still enjoying Excel Saga a lot, and who knows, it could just be an off day in watching this. Comedy doesn?t always work the first time you see it. There?s enough in these episodes that kept us laughing overall, but they just seemed a bit toned down from the series opening.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Vidnotes,CD Single Commercials,Soundtrack Commercials,Production Sketches

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Excel Saga