The world is corrupt. This is the conclusion reached by Ilpalazzo, leader of the secret idealist organization known as Across. Plans for world domination are drawn up, but tactically difficult considering he only has one minion - the ever energetic Excel. Instead it's decided to focus on a single city. Excel is joined by reserves from headquarters, although Hyatt is too sickly to really be called reinforcements. They do at least have Menchi, the dog marked as "emergency food rations". Whether or not the city will come under the grip of Across remains to be seen, but it will certainly never be the same.
Humor is a matter of taste, but it's also something that can be heavily anchored in culture. The Japanese are already notorious for being "out there" with some of their culture, but anime can push past even these boundaries. One flavor comedy is being crazy, unexpected, and really freaking weird. I can't tell if you're the sort that will find this funny, but the only way to really know is to watch this kind of show. Excel Saga is as good of a place as any to start if you haven't. If you do find this sort of humor funny (and I do), you'll find Excel Saga hilarious, and disturbing.. which makes it all the more hilarious. If you've ever had a contest between you and a friend where you try to keep the strait face, while the friend does everything in their power to make you laugh; no matter how off the wall, crazy or risque it is - they'll do anything it takes: Excel Saga is a lot like that.
The Excel Saga manga is a wacky comedy in its own right, but the anime is an example of an adaptation that deviates from the manga, and takes on a life of its own with great success. Each episode begins with manga author Rikudo Koshi approving Excel Saga to be made into the theme for the day - thus why it dubs itself "crackpot experimental anime". Parody themes range from date sim romance, to horror, to war drama. With such different topics, the results also vary. Some themes I gravitated to immediately. I loved the date sim episode because the humor was spot on, and I was familiar with the topic. Other episodes didn't look interesting from appearances, but turned out to be just as funny. Menchi's "dog explores the world" Disney type of story didn't interest me and I was tempted to skip it. About half way through I thought... "hey wait a minute", and started to laugh. By the end the melodrama and plot twists were so over the top, my sides were hurting from laughter. Point being, you probably wont know if you like an episode or not until you watch it. All episodes have comedy throughout, but a few load their impact in the punchline. Consisting mainly of parodies is also a drawback in that much of the humor works best if you are familiar with the source material. For example, episode 23 is a parody of Fist of the North Star, which is entertaining if you've seen the content (and possibly some Digi Charat), but will likely not make sense otherwise. The more versed you are with anime (circa 2000), the more you'll get out of this title.
Subbing and Dubbing present an odd array of problems. Japanese voice performances were good but nothing exceptional. There is a problem with how fast these dialogs can come at you since Excel speaks very fast, and this may test the mettle of your reading ability. The ADV dub was ok all things considered, but they decided to have Excel speak at maximum volume the entire time. At first that struck me as overacted and annoying, but as I watched more, it seemed to fit really well. I'm not joking about the maximum volume thing. Excel's voice actress, Jessica Calvello; had a vocal blow out around episode 14 and the series was finished by Larissa Wolcott. While Calvello had grown on me as Excel, Wolcott's performance grated me at first but likewise grew on me after a while. I'd recommend the subtitled version, but I have the feeling if you don't like the way Excel was dubbed, you'll switch it yourself after a few seconds. The rest of the performances aren't worth mentioning.
Excel Saga actually features all sorts of wacky stuff that goes beyond even being an anime. The opening credits sung by the Excel Girls (voice actresses of Excel and Hyatt) was performed in the studio with the girls dressed up in the costume of their characters. The end credits were also performed by the Excel girls, but Satomi Kourogi as Menchi; actually got into character and knelt down like a dog for barking out the recording. Many characters are named after hotels and places. That's only the tip of the iceberg for how far this series gets into wacky stuff, and ADV continued this with quirks of their release. As far as I've heard ADV used to have a lot of notes included with the series, but as it's been handed off to Funimation, it's hard to say if most of this documentation remains. You can still read about it on line however.
In the end I enjoyed Excel Saga a lot. Each episode felt like a totally weird surprise that was always a treat. It is a level of crazy that can become overwhelming and I personally couldn't watch more than three episodes in a row - but I did always look forward to watching them. I will also point out that Excel Saga looks like only silly gimmicks and craziness but there is a surprising amount of sly wit to the show, particularly embedded in the dialog. This can be easily missed in the dub. If you can concentrate and hear more than "blah blah blah" from Excel's babbling, much of what she says is surprisingly clever. Also be sure to read the end credits. There's some amusing stuff buried in there.
Be warned that while this series had pushed boundaries all the way through, episode 26 intentionally pushed so far it had no prayer of being airable on Japanese television. This episode is fairly... extreme.
Excel: If this were a hentai anime, this would normally work.
Angel: The bullet of justice caps evils' ass. Remember that!
Exel: Justice plays dirty.
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