With the whole opening arc having been a setup by the Prince, let's see where they want to go next.
What They Say:
It started when a single girl went missing during a school orientation field trip. Among the grieving classmates were boys, shaken to the core by fear. They had seen it... Seen their fellow student be eaten, bones and all... Afterwards, one, and then another, disappear... Their hearts engulfed in darkness thinking "It might be me next..." The ones that remain search for help at a mental health clinic in the red-light district. There, they meet a mysterious psychiatrist, Doctor Yumeno Kyushiro, and hear the difficult to accept truth. Then, the shocking conclusion of these boys, trapped in the darkness...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The opening arc of Level E was the kind of thing that feels like it's quite brilliant as we get a whole lot of things going on and it all turns out to be an elaborate gag by one hell of an alien prince. The characters it introduced were a ton of fun and the situation became even more nuts as it went on until it elevated to a level that felt like it was world ending, only to have the Prince do the big reveal with such a grin on his face. Togaishi's original work certainly had a flair to what we had seen in both Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter, but here he takes it in a more concise form to let things roll out.
After that arc, you have to wonder where the show will go. And it's really hard to tell with this episode that introduces us to a high school horror story involving a female classmate who ends up being killed and they see it happen with her being eaten completely. That sends them all into a panic and slowly but surely, all of them are being hunted down and killed, which only makes them all the more scared while trying to find a way to survive. It's like a game of ten little Indians as they're dwindling away. They get some sort of help from a doctor that they come across who talks about aliens and parasites which becomes something that they latch onto as more and more of their friends start disappearing.
There's a few twists and turns along the way but the story is largely one that feels very obviously out of place in comparison to the three episodes prior. The alien aspect certainly comes through but it's such a distinctly different work with its look and feel, while still keeping certain elements here, that it's hard to pin down what you're supposed to take away from this. Being adapted directly from the fourth chapter of the first volume of the manga, it's definitely something that Togaishi wanted to tell but reinforces the idea that he had no plan or clue what to do with this series and was just throwing stuff out there to see whether it'd work or if he could actually get canceled.
Level E has a really neat sense of style about it here that you rarely see with a very raw edge to it with lots of rough line work to give it that gritty feeling. It's an interestingly paced and structured murder mystery involving aliens that has a very distinct voice to it. Combining that with the look and it's easy to get drawn into it, though you spend a good deal of the episode wondering exactly when we'll get back to the characters we had just fallen in love with the for the three prior episodes. When it does get to the gag, I can't say that the payoff is enough to make it all worthwhile. There are things to like about this episode, but it's not enough to sustain it completely.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.