Excel Saga - The Imperfect Collection (1999)
Review by Dindrane

Written by one sick puppy (aka Koshi Ridko)
Directed by another sick puppy (Shinichi Watanabe)
Starring some people who aren't right


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Released by: ADV
Region: 1
Rating: 17+

My Advice: Get it or run away. Your choice.

One of the most self-aware and self-referential anime ever, Excel Saga is a treat for viewers who like silliness, parodies, slapstick comedy, Martian princesses chronically about to die, afroed action heroes who can shoot little people out of their afroes, prisoners in iron masks, jungle trains, annoying roommates, humping bunnies, and futon beaters. For example, the series' director is represented in the show, chased constantly by strange men. The main character Excel dies frequently, but can't die permanently because that would end the show, and spends all her time starving. The secret evil overlord, Lord Ilpalazzo, is, well, not your usual evil overlord, and wants to take over the earth because it is corrupt, and Excel adopts an adorable dog and then names him Menchi, for her emergency food source. Most episodes concern in part Menchi's attempts to escape her.

The plot of the show, loosely speaking, is basically Excel's attempts to conquer the city of F in the name of Il Palazzo and his organization ACROSS (membership: 3), whose directives are never entirely useful, such as killing off all manga artists. There are also a number of side plots, such as the bizarre love shared by an unknowing Pedro and the Will of the Universe. It is, however, a clever play on all anime and manga expectations, as well as most entertainment genre. For example, a military mission suddenly begins one episode with all the clichés of military movies and seems unrelated to Excel, until she shows up as their prisoner. Of course it still has little to do with anything, but that's the point of this show... to be pointless and strange. Another episode is a parody of love/dating sim games, and Excel even references "stock footage."

The show looks just fine, a lovely combination at times of goofy, distorted animation laid atop detailed high quality images; each image is calculated to represent an archetype that the show will mock mercilessly, such as the hopelessly bishie Lord Ilpalazzo. The colors are clear and pure, helping to support the surreal, bizarre feel of the show, along with the screen cuts and other visual tricks. Look for the Matsumoto homage. The sound is also good, and a great deal is asked of it between the groaning, the game sound effects, and the other assorted weird sounds. The dog barking "Hail, Ilpalazzo" is about the cutest thing ever.

The features list contains a very cool element that more anime shows should copy: AD Vid-notes. These are basically little pop-ups (think "Pop-up Video") that explain cultural references, word play, etc. during the episodes. It's a feature like subtitles you can turn off and on. The default setting is on, and I definitely suggest you leave it on, as you'll miss a lot of the anime references and humor of the show without it. The clean opening and closing are nice, but standard; you will want to take a look at the piracy warning, which has been doctored a bit to go with the show. Nice. We also get the original Japanese trailer--very madcap-- and an interesting selection of production sketches. There are a ton of other assorted features ranging from recipes to creator interviews, making this one of the more loaded DVD sets offered to date.

The menu is nicely designed and in the shape of the hand-held video game that Lord Ilpalazzo uses to play the dating-sim game. Very cute and clever.

Fans of such shows as South Park and FLCL will love this one. If you enjoy Earth being endangered by hoards of overly cute teddy bears called "Puchuu" (and their Space Butler), don't mind dogs being treated only as food sources, or like silliness as comedy, then this one is for you. If that sort of thing annoys you, then Excel Saga will probably drive you mad, though I suspect that may be the point. If you expect it to make much narrative sense, your head will hurt. When something is as dangerous to a viewer's sanity as this show is, it's hard to recommend it, and yet almost impossible not to recommend for the same reasons. If you want to laugh at your own otaku nature or just have a madcap good time, then check this one out. But I warn you, don't expect much to make narrative, typical sense, and its very wrongness is its strength, and beware some hentai moments in the last episode.

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