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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: レベルE
Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation.
Content Rating: 14+ (Violence, mature situations.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Excel Saga
Notes: Based on the manga by Yoshihiro Togashi, published in Weekly Shonen Jump.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars

Level E

Synopsis

Bored extraterrestrial Prince Baka (yes, "fool") likes to use his alien powers to torment humans- sometimes with small pranks, but he’s especially fond of elaborate hoaxes and labyrinthine plots. Are humans doomed to be his playthings, or will he receive his comeuppance?


Review

"Forget that. I'm sticking around as long as I can blackmail you"- Prince Baka

The world of Level E is that of MIB without any Men in Black- in other words, "hundreds of alien species" live disguised as humans, but here there are no police to keep them in line. If there WERE, their first order of business would be restraining Prince Baka, who is the kind of person who'll let you wrongly believe that you carelessly snuffed out dozens of lives just so he can be amused at your shame and horror. Or the kind of person who'd kidnap a bunch of kids, turn them into Power Ranger clones (which in itself proves how sadistic he is), try to get said kids to fight the sweetest alien assassin ever, and, failing in that, trap them in a video game. And he shows no more mercy to his own henchmen than he does to the humans; he's equally willing to humiliate both in the service of realizing his scenarios. That's the kind of guy he is.

The show definitely has some problems, and one of them is pretty endemic- the storylines are often complex contrivances that hinge on a myriad of completely arbitrary details about the aliens, and the same can often be said about the stories' resolutions, whether Baka's schemes are involved or not. For this reason, I was particularly unhappy with the story arc of Episodes 8-9, which groaned under the weight of the complications thrown in. Episode 4 was also a specific disappointment, rather pointless and unconnected to anything else in the show- in other words filler, and rather gross filler at that. And while the character art and backgrounds are quite well done, and there's plenty of good CG, both the opening and closing pop songs are utterly insipid, bombastic things.

On the other hand, some of the series' characters are quite well conceived- like Tsutsui, the somewhat hotheaded baseball player who unwillingly gets Baka as a roommate (and to whom the Baka quote at the beginning of this review was addressed); Tsutsui's very level-headed girlfriend Miho; and that charming alien assassin. They disappeared from the show midway, and I despaired that they would simply be abandoned- at this point, I was only going to give the show 3 stars- but the show turned out to have a nice symmetry; everybody returned later- even the Power Ranger kids made it back toward the end, and their second outing was better than their first, maybe because the kids themselves were more self-assured the second time around. The series does also have some wonderful bits; one of my favorites is a running gag where Baka, in drag (not much of a stretch for him- he always looks pretty androgynous), finds creative excuses to deter an unwanted suitor. And I finally forgave the show its lapses (and awarded it that fourth star) when I found that its symmetry really did extend all the way to the end, and I think it's more teaser than spoiler to say that Prince Baka finally DOES meet his match.

A show with an overly complex and contrived story structure, and yet is able to finally conjure a satisfying (even feel-good) ending from that very weakness. As I've said before, I'll forgive much in the service of a good ending.

Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: Episodes 8-9 deal with alien reproductive issues, and includes a transsexual character and some partial nudity, otherwise there’s no sexuality or fanservice. But there is violence (with blood shed) and, in Episode 4, horror elements, and kids won’t be able to follow a lot of this anyway. Once again, for older teens and adults.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Level E © 2011 Pierrot-TV Tokyo/Shueisha
 
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