Excel Saga Vol. #5 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • 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

Excel Saga Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     February 07, 2003
Release Date: February 25, 2003

Excel Saga Vol. #5
© ADV Films

What They Say
Just when you thought it couldn't get any stranger, Excel Excel and her associates encounter the most horrifying of all plot devices... a sub-plot! You won't believe who's been plotting against whom as the writers double cross the author, the director takes a new direction, and the supporting cast comes back with a vengeance but absolutely no clue whatsoever! There's Menchi-mania and Pedro-philia galore as everybody involved takes the fifth in Excel Saga Volume 5: Secrets and Lies!

The Review!
The odd/even curse continues with the fifth volume as the episodes here are to me much better than the fourth volume. Hopefully the sixth and final volume will break the curse.

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.

Continuing in the same style, Excel returns to the center focus with this volume as she finds herself surrounded by various members of the new protectors of F City. There?s a lot of muted colors going on here that works well with the multiple colors of the new heroes, but it?s not garish enough to offend. The back cover continues with its varied design style with text going off in all directions and fonts as well as having amusing phrases scattered all over it. There?s a few shots from the show and a look at the wacky language selection menu and the usual listing of the discs production and technical information as well as the extras and the brief summary of plot. The insert shows off more of the same kind of cover art, especially amusing is the Menchi in boots image, while the other side lists the extras and basic chapter stop information. The pack-in extra for this volume is an Excel Saga Board Game, complete with six pieces and board. I fully expect to see this as an official competition at conventions this year.

A special note must be paid to this particular volume, as it?s been labeled ?Secrets and Lies?. Some time ago, a number of folks in the forum had started one of their joke threads, similar to where they placed and ?X? after every show to come up with amusing variants and to poke a little fun at one particular show. This time though, they noted the number of series that seemed to have ?Secrets and Lies? as at least one volume in the series; this was actually more noticeable during the VHS run of series when there were 13 volumes to name, but some of those carried over. So it?s only appropriate that Excel Saga gets tweaked the same way, and those of us who caught it during the original solicitation definitely got a great laugh about it. Who knows when the next installment will be!

Let this main menu play on repeat for 30 minutes and see what?s left of your mind. You?re either crying or bouncing up and down to the beat as we get a 60?s-ish palette of colors and imagery with spinning stars and bits of animation from the episodes playing in circular windows to the beat. Menu transition times are a bit better this time around even with the animations that play during several of them. Access times are nice and fast and things load quickly and without any problems.

The extras continue with all new pieces again, mostly in anticipation of building up the Puni Puni Poemy show. There?s an interview with Watanabe (complete in Nabeshin gear) about it as well as a general staff interview about it. There?s a character design segment as well, but more in-theme with these episodes we get a Daitenzin commercial and some production sketches. Also, a real treat, is a multipage interview with the manga series creator Koshi Rikdo. It?s hard to separate the anime-vision of him from what he?s probably really like. And as with each volume, the great vid-notes continue here again.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While with the fourth volume I found myself fairly well put-off by the new character and didn?t care for the direction it took, the fifth volume gets back to the things that I actually found amusing and provided three solid episodes. The one less than solid episode is the one that Koshi amusingly didn?t approve, as the producers and director just wanted to get drunk.

And that?s the feared recap episode. Of course, it?s done up Excel style, so it?s worth watching, but it really does still just serve as a recap episode. The general premise is to have Excel and Hyatt getting toasted while talking about their past experiences, but most of it plays out as a continuing version of ?Pedro: The Movie?. This does a great job of recapping Pedro?s story, but also lets some quick jokes fly from the two girls while drinking. And there?s just something mind bogglingly amusing in watching Hyatt manipulate her drink like she does. At first, I thought she was doing that with blood.

This volume also actually managed to get me to find humor in a parody of a sentai group, something Shinesman wasn?t able to do. With Kabapu?s group firmly within their uniforms (unwillingly and unknowingly), he sets them into the city to do acts of good and to help protect and save the city from all the things that go on there. Since there?s nothing major going on, the team end up taking down every litterbug, jaywalker and general low-level misdemeanor that they can find. And taking them down hard with massive guns and huge explosions. Excel and Hyatt are involved only through a slim tangent as their mission to take over the city meets its own usual problems, but has Hyatt running across Watanabe in his outfit.

One of the best episodes in recent memory though goes back to Menchi, who through luck manages to escape the apartment just in time to participate in Around the World in 80 Days. His escape onto a massive cruise ship lands him in the company of a young beautiful woman named Ann Anzai, who is slated to become the new leader of the Alps Group. She can only do this if she goes around the world in a certain amount of time. As it happens, she ends up saving Menchi from becoming food again and the two take well to each other and set off on their journey. The episode ties to the past big Menchi episode as his past continues to haunt him, but it?s just a great episode in general, especially when he takes the wheel during a chase sequence with a Jigen look a like.

The entire Visual Key episode though? I think that one is just disturbing on many levels, with the most basic being the inclusion of a visual key parody. The show is pretty basic in that it has ACROSS HQ sending someone to provide new orders to Illpalazo, but the young stud dressed only in straps just can?t bring himself to do it while the goddess of music has abandoned him. So he has Excel and Hyatt watch him until he?s ready to tell him the new orders. There?s a lot of music parodies in here and in-jokes, but the worst section by far that I will likely never forget has Key and Illpalazo embraced and rolling in the flowers while in love with each other. It?s either that or the shadow sequence where you see Key ?playing his guitar? in the girls apartment.

With this volume, I laughed and I cried. I also suffered mental damage. But I found it much more enjoyable than I have the even volumes of the series, so who knows what the deal really is. With comedies, it continues to be a very hit or miss thing, especially when you?re dealing with a show that?s parodying so much culture that is as foreign and alien as Japanese culture can be. There?s plenty that I?ve learned in my twenty years of watching anime that I can catch easily, but I still laugh at the ones that get explained to me. And in the end, those help me understand the continuing variety of new shows that keep coming out.

This was a great volume in just about every aspect. Very recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Daitenzin promo,Interview with Koshi Rikdo; author of the original manga,Puni Puni Poemi conversation with Director Shinichi Watanabe,Interview with the Puni Puni Poemi Staff,Puni Puni Poemi character designs,Production sketches,Printed board-game insert

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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