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Excel Saga Complete Series Anime Classics DVD Review

6 min read

There’s a reason this is called Quack Experimental Anime.

What They Say:
The only thing the demented and hyper active ACROSS special agent Excel wants to do is please her supreme lord and commander Ilpalazzo. This, of course, means taking over the entire world, one small country at a time! Partnered with the chronically ill Hyatt and thwarted by an army of alien Puchus, the madcap adventures these two go on are random to the extreme.

Contains episodes 1-26.

The Review:
Audio:
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 2.0 along with the Japanese track. For those who don’t know the story, the role of Excel in the English dub originally went to Jessica Calvello, but the role demanded so much manic energy that her voice gave out about half-way through the series. So for the second half of the series, Excel was voiced by Larissa Wolcott, who did a great job keeping up with the pace with which Calvello began the series. However, if you know what to look for, the change is easy to tell. Either way, each actress did a great job.

As for the rest of the audio, my only real grip is that there is so much going on at all times, that a full 5.1 treatment would have been really nice. Otherwise, this has a solid mix.

Video:
The visuals for this release are surprisingly solid considering the age of the original material. Originally airing in late-99/early-00, Excel Saga has held up well with the digital transfer. Colors are bold, the lining is solid, and there were no technical flaws to speak of. And considering how manic the visuals can be, this is a great thing.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is nice. The four discs are housed in a single wide amaray case with two center inserts that hold them. The front cover has a shot of Excel and Hyatt holding Menchi, while the back has some screen shots and a series summary. The case itself is clear, allowing the image of Excel on the reverse side of the cover to show through the inside. I suppose the cover could technically be considered reversible, but there are no markings on the reverse side, so it really isn’t designed to be. It is a nice, compact design.

Menu:
Not a whole lot to say about the menus. There is a static image of one of the characters (a different character for each disc) to the right with the selections offered to the left. The text is in white, with a yellow highlight, which can be difficult to discern on certain discs where the background is also a warm color, but in general, it is fine.

Extras:
There is quite a bit of stuff in this release. There are spoof commercials for spin-off series, some interviews with Koshi Rikdo and Shinichi Watanabe, and a bunch of legitimate trailers. There are also quite a few things about Puni Puni Poemy, which makes me wonder if Funimation has or is trying to get their hands on it for a future release. My only complaint with the extras is that the interviews are just text transcripts rather than video interviews, but that’s minor.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For the majority of its lifespan, ADV Films owned the rights to Excel Saga in the US. Following the upheaval at ADV almost two years ago, Excel Saga was one of the titles Funimation managed to snag, and announced this release last October, keeping one of the most notorious anime titles of the last fifteen years around for at least a while longer. Introduced in the title sequence as “Quack Experimental Anime,” Excel Saga follows through on that claim with a manic nonsense that is often imitated and rarely duplicated. Only FLCL manages to surpass Excel Saga, and that is likely only because Gainax had the good sense to keep it short.

The story, if you can call it that, of Excel Saga is that Excel is a senior officer in Across, a secret terrorist organization bent on world domination. Led by the mysterious Lord Il Palazzo, Across has the foresight to start small, focusing initially on F City; but Il Palazzo has the misfortune of having Excel as the main executor of their plans. When the more dependable Hyatt literally falls into their laps, Il Palazzo thinks he might finally have a useful underling, but she has this rather unfortunate habit of dying. A lot. So, needless to say, Across’s goals have a hard time being realized.

The thing that makes Excel Saga so much fun is that each episode has a completely different bent to it. A running gag that opens each episode is a short scene featuring original manga creator Koshi Rikdo, where he gives his approval to turn Excel Saga into some different type of series. This could be a teen drama, a flat out action movie, or perhaps a detective story. Whatever the result, each episode approaches the subject matter in a completely different way, helping to keep things fresh, and opens the door for plenty of parody opportunities.

And that’s important, because things move at such a manic pace, that it can get bogged down in a hurry. There are quite a few subplots that run concurrently with the main story, such as Pedro’s cosmic quest to win back Pedro’s Sexy, Sexy Wife and the Department of City Security’s ridiculous counteractions to Across’s ridiculous actions, and sometimes so much is going on, that my head started to spin. And frankly, no matter how varied the approach to an episode might be, the end result is that there are still a lot of running gags that get run into the ground quite a bit. It can make Excel Saga a chore to watch sometimes, as it can be hard to keep up with.

But trying to keep up with Excel Saga is exactly the wrong approach to watching it. I could sit here for hours trying to explain everything that happens in these twenty-six episodes, but that’s really as futile as trying to sort it out while watching it. You just have to turn your brain off and absorb as much as you can, and if you miss something, let it go as lost. Trying to do any more than that is more effort than it expects of you.

And I have to say: no matter how many times I see it, the end title sequence is still brilliant.

In Summary:
Excel Saga is a series that is just downright impossible to explain. It is pure insanity for twenty-six episodes. Sometimes it rolls right along, other times it bogs right down as the jokes start falling flat, but the show does not stop for even a moment. It probably could have done with being a thirteen episode series instead of twenty-six, but there’s plenty there to keep you interested for the long haul. Just don’t approach it with any idea of it making sense, and you should be fine. Recommended.

Features:
Interviews, Original TV Spots, Clean Opening and Closing, Trailers.

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 17, 2011
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 650
Video Encoding: 480i
Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Du-rabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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