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Level E Complete Series Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
Level E Complete Series
Level E Complete Series

When an idiot alien prince takes up residence on Earth, things just get wacky, smartly so.

What They Say:
Do you love a good prank? Does your sense of humor border on sadistic? Then you’ll love Level E, a hilariously twisted new series from the creator of Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter X Hunter that’s unlike anything you ve ever seen!

This extraterrestrial adventure follows the alien genius, Prince Baka (masterfully portrayed by anime legend Vic Mignogna) as he turns life on Earth into his own personal laugh track. The Prince has the biggest brain in the galaxy, and he’s also a sadistic prankster who loves to make humans squirm. Anime fans will fall hard for this nostalgic, ”undeniably clever” series that spoofs the television shows, video games, and superheroes they loved as kids. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll remember that thing you did that was super mean – but also super hilarious. (Don’t worry, you won’t get grounded.) So yeah, Level E. The alien invasion has begun. Prepare to die – laughing.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty standard as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the English track with a 5.1 mix, both of which are encoded using the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The release is a locked track release in that you can’t switch on the fly and subtitles are locked on while watching the Japanese track. The show is fairly standard with what it does as it’s filled with a lot of comedy dialogue and plenty of straight man sequences with some exposition as well, but it also does some big and fun bits with the science fiction aspect and the comedy. The stereo mix handles things cleanly with some good placement across the forward soundstage and some solid depth in a few scenes where people are moved about in such a way. The English mix ramps all of it up, especially with some more outgoing acting that does fit for the presentation, and just has a bit more of an immersive feel to it with the rear channels being utilized well but not overly so. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in early 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two Blu-ray discs with nine on the first and four on the second disc, which also has a few of the extras. The series is one that has a bright and vibrant look to it with a good deal of detail in both the character designs and backgrounds while also having a very smooth flow to the animation. The transfer captures the look of the show very well with its quiet sequences and its more frantic aspects as it doesn’t introduce noise or macroblocking when things pick up. Colors stand out really well here with a solid feel in both foregrounds and backgrounds and even some of the usual problem spots like blacks in background areas have a solid and clean looking. The show has some very busy sequences and the encoding handles it all well, giving it a far better look than I expected that it would.

Packaging:
The limited edition packaging for this release is pretty good as the show definitely has some material to it that lets it stand out a bit. The front of the box gives us a good close-up of the Prince while to the right it brings in a lot of the primary characters that populates the series. It has a dark background but it’s minor overall yet still sets the tone better than I would have expected. With so many different characters and outfits here it has a busy feel to it but doesn’t come across in a bad way but rather draws you into it. The back cover pulls away from this close concept by giving us a mostly full length body shot of the Prince, mostly naked, while ringing in a star filled background with some cute and quirky science fiction elements. It’s got a very good mix of dark and light and it brings the science fiction side in through a great way here. With the black background wrapping around the box overall and the two main panels being a wraparound as well, it has a very good look and design here.

Inside the box we get a pair of Blu-ray cases where one holds the Blu-ray’s and the other the DVDs. The two covers work very differently yet similar as it gives us variations of the Prince for each of them while bringing in other characters, such as the teacher that figures in lightly and a princess. They both use the black background with some stars to accent it but the character artwork is the bold and strong part here that dominates it and really stands out well. The back covers extend the background, allowing the star filled sky to fill it, while the episodes are listed by disc with titles and numbers associated with it. The extras are also included with what disc they belong to as well. The covers are reversible as well, though with a minor change as the episode information isn’t included. One cover has a look at the Color Rangers while the other goes for a shot of the baseball team, both of which have some stellar bodies next to them. No show related inserts are included with this release.

Menu:
The menu design for this release does some nice thematic aspects to it while still going with a fairly standard approach. The overall design of the menu has the clips playing in the background that show off the characters, silliness and the serious aspects to it as well. The logo is kept overlayed along the upper left side in a small form while the navigation strip along the bottom is an interesting blocky piece that has a science fiction feel about it. The navigation aspect does dominate things but it provides a kind of viewscreen feel to things that fits the show well. Submenus load quickly and everything is well placed and easily accessible.

Extras:
The release has a few extras to it with some material that works more for the English language dub fans. For fans of both, we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences here. The release also includes a fun little interview with the voice actor for the Prince and we get two English language commentary tracks by the production team talking about the show and its characters and quirks.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi, Level E is a thirteen episode series that is in many ways unlike other shows. When the series debuted back in the winter 2011 series, it caught most people off guard because of its quirky nature and approach but also its origin. Togashi is a well known manga writer and artist who came to fame for Yu Yu Hakusho and then Hunter x Hunter. In between those two series, he did Level E, which ran for three volumes in the mid nineties and basically feels like he was just pranking the editors and audiences. It’s definitely a break from his other, longer works and shows a wacky style that isn’t always apparent in his other works, though there are flavors of it at times. It’s also a complicated series in some ways because of the structure of it and the way it works its characters.

The premise of the series is simple in a way, but what it does in each of the arcs binds it all together with the larger storyline that’s not apparent until the final couple of episodes. We’re introduced to the present day world where a young man is entering high school and has come to the outlying city from Tokyo in order to beef up their baseball team. While he was a big man in the middle school league, it’s a new world for him here. But he’s excited, full of enthusiasm and living on his own in a great little apartment complex. Unfortunately for him, someone has arrived the day before him, unpacked all his stuff and has settled in nicely. Unfortunately, this person isn’t a normal person but rather an alien. And not just any alien, but a prince of the power known as Dorga.

The opening arc makes it clear that Earth is certainly an interesting place as hundreds of different species of aliens come and visit the world, be they benign or hostile, and quite a few have settled along the way. A lot of them like Earth and what it offers, which includes how Japan has largely been settled by two different types of species that really, really like baseball. The Prince has found himself on Earth after escaping from the ship that he was on, which was taking him to some massive galactic conference. He’s hiding out at this point, but mostly from his bodyguards who are desperate to find him so they can protect him and safely get him to the conference. But he has his own plans, including screwing with his new roommate and his life, which is a big part of what the Prince likes to do. As we meet the bodyguards, notably the leader in a man named Craft, it becomes apparent that the Prince is essentially a huge prankster, but one with some specific goals. Seeing them revealed in the first arc here is a whole lot of fun and make sit clear what he is.

But the show doesn’t want to spend time on any set of characters or circumstances. While the baseball side of it is something that starts it off, we don’t revisit it until towards the end of the series where the high school student, Yukitaka, is heading to a regional baseball game with the team only to end up stuck in someone’s mind in a special place. The whole team is there, along with Prince, and it’s an interesting mystery about how they got there and how to escape. With there being about six episodes between the two arcs, going back to Yukitaka was surprising in a way, it’s amusing to see that we get something so focused on baseball yet it’s all taking place in someone’s mind due to their pressure from the upcoming game. Yukitaka wants to blame Prince right off the bat based on what he knows about him as his sort of roommate, but even Prince is caught up in all of it, one of the few times he’s really uncertain about things.

His penchant for causing trouble is what really drives things though, such as when he grabs a group of elementary school boys and turns them all into Color Rangers, part of the Primary Color Warriors motif of sentai teams. With Prince orchestrating all of it, he does essentially trap them into this situation where they can transform, even if they’re not into it, and they’re able to see some of the truths of the world when it comes to the aliens, one of which is their teacher. Where it goes weird though is when Prince transports all of them to a world that’s essentially one giant RPG maker and really puts them through their paces with a truly immersive experience. It’s fun watching the kids deal with him and the situation but also the details that he glosses over which is his eventual undoing.

There’s a really fun arc involving some female aliens that have come to mate to ensure the survival of their species, and a weak punk style episode early on that just made me cringe both in its original airing and here. All of it wraps up in a shorter arc at the end that involves the Prince’s younger brother arriving with Prince’s upcoming fiancee that he’s trying to get out of marrying. This piece gets a bit complicated as it progresses and there’s spying, double spying and other twists, but it manages to draw the whole series together with some great call backs and explanations about what the point of the whole series is. The scale of the series at times is a bit surreal but it’s all done with the right level of humor and threat and the improbable nature of it all that just makes it fun. It’s wacky and outlandish and even as it goes big, it never really goes over the top.

In Summary:
Level E is a series that doesn’t feel like it should have gotten the green light in this day and age of anime series. It’s based on a work that feels like the mangaka was essentially punking his editors with something that didn’t make any sense and with a lead character that often spent time out of the limelight. Yet it was given a very strong presentation in terms of animation and was a real surprise when it got licensed. And an even bigger surprise when FUNimation opted to give it a combo release. It definitely pays off in terms of how the show looks and the way it flows and feels, making ti a stronger work. It’s a hard series to really say “This is what it’s about,” but it does have a central story to it. It prefers to instead play among different things and to just have fun. And that’s exactly where it succeeds, proving to be that odd man out that will delight those of a similar mind and confound others.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Interview, Clean opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 11th, 2012
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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