Excel Saga Complete Collection (Thinpak) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Mike Dungan
Review Date: Thursday, March 20, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, August 01, 2006



What They Say
Puchuuboy Publishing and ACROSS proudly presents: Ilpalazzo-mates gone wild! They're cute, they're scantily clad, and they're dying to please! But enough about those pesky alien Puchuus who're invading Earth! When it comes to dying for someone else's pleasure, there's no one who gets offed as often or as delightfully as the femme fatales of Across! Join Excel Excel and Martian Princess Hyatt as they sacrifice dignity, common sense and life and limb in a vain attempt to satiate the globe-conquering whims of Lord Ilpalazzo, Across' sole and therefore most eligible bachelor. Can Excel ever please her hunky and heavily armored heartthrob? Will Hyatt stop expiring long enough to get a life? And what's the deal with the dysfunctional neighbors next door, that dead Pedro guy and the dude with the afro? Find out the the answers in the Complete Thin-pack Collection of the most insane anime series ever produced: Excel Saga!

The Review!
Shinichi Watanabe, famed as much for his afro as for his work as an anime director, manhandles both Koshi Rikdo's manga and the artist himself to make possibly the most twisted anime series ever.

Audio:
Having watched this show in both Japanese and English, I opted to listen to it in English for purposes of this review. The show is nearly is nearly 10 years old, and the dub is 6 years old, but both hold up quite well. ADR Director Matt Greenfield felt that the character of Excel required someone with exceptional energy and talent, enough so that he flew in Jessica Calvello from New York to Houston to record. Greenfield's direction forced Calvello to be loud and screechy in nearly every scene, and it took it's toll on her voice. She was only able to record the first half of the show before her voice gave out on her and he was forced to replace her. Finding someone much closer to home, Larissa Wolcott of Austin voiced Excel for the second half of the second half of the series. Calvello's strong suit was her almost limitless energy. Wolcott matched her in energy but leavened it with a much more varied and subtle performance. Not only is it a more interesting performance, but I can actually understand what she's saying, something I couldn't always say for Calvello's performance. Episode 25 has the one major mistake in the conversion from single releases to thinpack. When watching the English dub, every once is a while, a strange popping sound is heard. It's the sound that accompanied the vid-notes as they appeared on the screen. It's obvious the wrong audio track was used for this one episode. It's a minor annoyance, but the fact that it happens on the dramatic final(ish) episode makes it more annoying than it should be.

Video:
The video quality is excellent. I can find no problems at all. Colors are beautiful and lush. There aren't any jaggies, no problems with panning, and no macro-blocking.

Packaging:
The box is covered with puchuus, the lovable little cute space aliens bent on taking over the world through cuteness. Mixed among them are head-shots of various characters peeking through the mass, and some saucy pictures of Excel and Hyatt either in lingerie or completely nude. The 6 volume release has been repackaged in five volumes, reusing most of the artwork originally used, though without the logos. The discs come in solid hot colors with silhouettes

Menus:
The menus are simple affairs featuring a large picture of Excel, with the English Excel Saga logo down the left side with the chapter numbers next to it. An image of Menchi navigates the selections for you. There are no transition animations and everything is easy to see and select.

Extras:
As with almost all of ADV's thinpack releases, there are no extras in this collection. That includes ADV's excellent Vid-Notes, a subtitle track that pops up on the screen to explain gags and homages to other anime, manga, games and aspects of Japanese pop culture.

Content:
Excel Excel is a young woman who has just graduated from high school and is eagerly looking forward to her first day working for the ideological organization ACROSS, led by the mysterious and charismatic Il Palazzo. And then she dies. Thankfully, the Great Will of the Macrocosm, a floating spiral galaxy with arms, is looking out for her and resets things so she doesn't die, something she does repeatedly since Excel is someone who acts first and thinks later. This is complicated by the fact that Excel is completely insane. Not stupid Insane. Lord Il Palazzo and the ACROSS organization plan on taking over the world, but are starting small by trying to take over F City in F Prefecture. Slowly, through several mostly non-related episodes, we meet the other characters in the show.

Hyatt is a Martian Princess, brought to Earth by the Puchuus, cute little aliens who also want to take over the world. Lost in a battle, Hyatt ends up in Il Palazzo's secret lair and becomes Excel's junior as well as roommate. She's a beautiful woman with long black hair and a penchant for dying. Repeatedly. And in the most disgusting fashion. Excel adopts a small dog she names Menchi (as in minced meat) as an emergency food supply in case their meager earnings aren't enough to cover the food bill. Sadly, Menchi is aware just what she's there for, and is always trying to excape.

Next door to Excel and Hyatt are three young 20-something men, Watanabe is a typical slacker. He falls in love with Hyatt, believing her name to be "Miss Ayasugi." Iwata is a loud mouth who's only joy seems to be harassing Watanabe, and Sumoyoshi is a large silent man from the Kansai region who only speaks in subtitles. They all go to work for Kabapu of the City Department of Public Safety, a shadowy organization with questionable methods and purpose. Misaki Matsuya is the no-nonsense yet very beautiful fourth member of the department. The two robots Rapponmatsu 1 and Rapponmatsu 2 complete the team. Pedro is an immigrant worker, trying to save up money for his sexy wife and son Sandora back home. Nabeshin (the director Shinishi Watanabe) is a globe-trotting adventurer, always in every hotspot, fighting alongside several strange fighters for justice.

Each episode opens the same way, with Koshi Rikdo, the creator of the original manga giving his permission (sometimes willingly, sometimes after a lengthy fight) to change the style of the show. Each episode is a parody of a different style. Space opera, war story, horror, rock opera, clip show, post-apocolypse show, dating sim, you name it, they cover it. A side story involving Pedro, his sexy wife, Sandora, Nabeshin, the Great Will of the Macrocosm and a well dressed man known simply as "That Man" makes up a large portion of the show, to the point that an entire clip show is made up only of material relating to them. Some favorite episodes include the bowling episode, where Excel and Hyatt attempt to discover the past time that most young people enjoy, a baseball epsiode where Excel and Hyatt become school teachers, and the Visual Key episode in which a beautiful rock star member of ACROSS causes Excel to forget her love for Is Palazzo if only for a little while.

While Pedro gets his own ongoing storyline, Excel and Hyatt get almost no story line until the last few episodes, when Il Palazzo finally attempts to take over F City. One of the most fascinating episodes in the series is the episode with no gags. Both Kotono Mitsuishi in Japanese and Larissa Wolcott in English shine as they demonstrate their dramatic acting abilities. With F City destroyed and Excel abandoned, she must regain her memories and return to Il Palazzo and Hyatt. She also has to choose between her love for Il Palazzo and the city's Public Safety department who have rescued her. The final battle returns the show to non-stop gags for a great finish. There is one more episode, a final chance for the animators to go all out with sex and violence. Girl on girl, nudity, and projectile vomiting blood fill the screen in one of the most insane episodes ever committed to Japanese celluloid.

In Summary:
This is the most sick and twisted anime series I've ever seen. Ever since the show was originally broadcast in Japan, American fans claimed it was "the show that couldn't be dubbed." Matt Greenfield proved them wrong. The English dub thoroughly captures the insanity of the original show. Greenfield went to great effort to get the show done right, and it shows. His script manages to hit all the right notes and still give us the show largely unscathed. He went to extra effort to try to keep as many of the jokes as he could, and in the few instances when the joke was changed, it was done for a purpose.

For instance, in the episode "Animation USA", Excel appears in a scene dressed as Sailor Moon, a role Kotono Mitsuishi has before playing Excel. When someone points out how she's dressed. Kotono complains that it was a good gig, but it's over now. In the English dub, Larissa complains she wanted the role, but it was dubbed in Canada. Yes, it's a change, but it's a change that makes sense and works while keeping the spirit of the original joke. Some of the more memorable performances are Monica Rial's sweet, sickly Hyatt is, Jason Douglas's manly Il Palazzo, Paul Sidello's energetic Koshi Rikdo and Mike Kleinhenz's over the top Kabapu, but they are far from the only noteworthy performances from this large cast. The show itself is a scream, a chance for Shinichi Watanabe to pull out all the stops and use every gag he can think of to create a strange and wonderful comic masterpiece. While this is a line that's very overused, Excel Saga is truly a title that belongs in every anime fans library. There is so much packed into every episode, it will take repeated viewings to get even half of it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
NEC CT-2510A TV, Pioneer 440 codefree DVD player



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Excel Saga