Excel Saga Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, October 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 05, 2002
What They Say
Excel, Excel, secret agent and agent of disaster, and her trustworthy (although decidedly unhealthy) fellow agent Hyatt are back, and once again they're out to conquer the City of F for the glory of the secret ideological agency of ACROSS!
Whether they're up against murderous monkeys; possessed detectives, or men with inflamed anuses, you can bet they'll give it their all or die trying. In fact, you can usually bet on the latter. The most deranged duo to ever dangle their derrieres in the naked face of death return in the almost all new (contains 10% recycled material)!
After a less than thrilling second volume, Excel Saga manages to recapture most of the insanity that kept me laughing through the first volume here as well as incrementally build on something resembling a plot.
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.
Much like the previous volumes, 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 previous volumes looked, expect more of the same.
Where to even begin. The front cover here sports a mostly baseball theme to it, with Excel in the pitcher mode while various pictures laying around here have other ballplayers, but also characters from other episodes unrelated to it. The back cover continues to use different angles for different areas of text, giving it a disjointed but appropriate feel. There’s a few animation shots here, but most of it is text talking about the show or the special features included. The insert has more artwork similar to what’s on the front cover while the reverse side lists the chapter marks and the discs features. The included pack-in for this release is… different. A small tapping sumo mat is included as well as cutout figures for Excel, Hyatt, Menchi and a puchuu. I’m at a loss for words on this.
Using the basic animation shots from the game episode, this is a good looking and funny menu, as Excel and Hyatt talk about putting easter eggs on the DVD while you have the crowds of Excels and Hyatts watching on. Moving through the menus is a breeze with good access times, though there are varying animations when you move to different areas.
With the inclusion of more vid-notes, the extras for this release are already thought of pretty highly. There’s more though! There’s a game of some sort callede Find the Mint, which I’ve failed at repeatedly now. Production sketches get another go here and there’s also several pages worth of various Menchi recipes. And I mean full recipes. The really excellent extra here is a new text interview with Shinchi Watanabe where he talks about all kinds of things with the series, including his reflections on it and his interest in making a theatrical movie.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Oh, the insanity. The first episode here alone managed to recapture the weirdness and simple random insanity of the first volume for me. This episode centered around Menchi, who finally made her way out of the prison of Excel’s apartment and has headed back to the old man she used to live with. The flashback sequences are perfectly done, with the right kind of fade outs and little pawprints to give it a feel similar to certain movies. Menchi’s escape brings her out into the country, where she meets up with a group of dogs who’ve been avoiding the local catcher. The offer to help her find her way home, which leads them through a dangerous and treachery filled journey of mad dogs standing upright and shooting machine guns.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the “youth drama” episode, as it reminded me of a lot of the earlier style of shows that used to come out in the US, such as Ultimate Teacher and the failure of the Shonan Bakusozoku line. With a class filled up with the rowdy students that look one step shy of the Road Warrior, Excel and Hyatt return to Excel’s school to find out just how dark the future of the city is since education is a primary factor. Once at the school, they get wrapped up into all sorts of problems, particularly the one of the baseball coach whose team is about to be disbanded. So it starts to double as a sports youth drama as well and is filled with all the expected and completely unexpected clichés. I just want to know the relevance to the coaches massive head.
The detective oriented episode starts off perfectly, with Nabeshin playing the role of Lupin and Rikdo chasing him as Zenigata. It’s just so completely perfect, right down to the tweaking of the Cagliostro storyline. But that’s not the story that takes place here, it’s one that deals with the secondary characters in Government Service who are training to become Kabapu’s warriors of light to defend the nation. Since they’re getting bored doing paperwork and simple desk jobs, he sends them off to learn from a police box detective who has a number of issues. Playing opposite to their trying to solve a mystery, we have Hyatt being kidnapped by some burglars and she ends up “dying” on them, causing them to engage in all sorts of even worse behavior.
Their year end episode, which took place after the end of the year and has several “out of date” jokes due to that, ends up becoming a recap episode. A recap of Excel Saga isn’t like most recaps, and this one is done as a competition between Excel and Hyatt over their scenes for who came across the best. It’s set up like a game show and there’s lots of parodies of both that and review episodes in general. I thought it was worthwhile to see a large crowd of Hyatt’s all coughing in unison. This is sort of a hit or miss kind of episode, depending on how you like review episodes. This one pretty much skewers them, but there’s still a fair amount of review. The new moments are more than worthwhile though, such as watching Il Pallazzo setting up a massive domino design, the return of the bowling excel girls and getting to see a ufo catcher doll of Hyatt.
And yes, there’s a return of the dating sim game.
We definitely laughed more at these episodes than we did during the second volume, so we’re pretty happy with that. The humor seems less forced this time around and the parodied settings and shows provided better fodder than some of the earlier ones. As an overall package, it’s spot on. Excel Saga’s now hit the halfway point, so it’ll be interesting to see where it all goes from here.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,AD Vid-Notes (Tm),Find the Mint Game,Interview with Shinichi Watanabe (Director),Production Sketches,Menchi Recipes
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Excel Saga