Excel, a bubbly airhead of a blonde (gee, we haven't seen this stereotype before) has just graduated from high school. She dances and skips her way into the real world, where the first thing she meets is the grille of a two-ton semi.
Needless to say, Excel is one dead blonde. However, the powers that be decide to resurrect her, because it's not yet her time to die: the TV series has barely started! (Yes, that's exactly the rationale.) So she becomes the mildly annoying and totally ineffective tool of the nefarious (okay, kinda nefarious) Lord Il Palazzo, who aims to subjugate the planet Earth to his ambitions. Her first task: to punish those advocates of anarchy and evil intent, the dreaded manga creators: specifically, the manga creator of Excel Saga. Means: execution by sword. And so begin the numerous (lame brained) plots to take over world by way of sheer insanity.
Well, I thought it couldn't get any weirder than Elf Princess Rane. I was so wrong.
Quack Experimental Anime Excel Saga (yes, that's the full name!) is solid, irrefutable proof that Japanese manga and anime creators are on drugs. (At least some of them, anyway.) It's violent, it's crass, it's politically incorrect, and it's just the salve for those anime fans who are tired of the umpteen Evangelion rip-offs and need something a little less seriously angsty in their lives, without resorting the gross-out toilet humor of South Park or The Ping Pong Club. And we even get to follow the villain of the series for a change, as there's no actual protagonist in the series, unless you actually do advocate random destruction of the world (as some THEM members do ... but we're not going there). Okay, maybe there IS a protagonist, but we'll get there in a moment.
Excel is not bright. In fact, she's so brainless that Il Palazzo is compelled to use various firearms on her just to shut her up. ("Hail Il Palazzo-" BANG!) It's a wonder she survived through elementary school, much less graduation, as she obviously hasn't the sense to look both ways before crossing the street. (She gets nailed more than once by large vehicles.) And yet, she isn't as annoying to the audience as you'd expect, because she seems to do everything with much the same sort of dumb faith as Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo, or, say, Detective Clouseau from The Pink Panther. Of course, it doesn't matter that she never really succeeds in what she aims to do, because, well, half the fun of Excel Saga is to watch the utterly surreal carnage she unwittingly inflicts on her environment. She's a walking natural disaster, and that makes her fun to be around, so long as she stays behind the screen.
But she's not the only one infected with this careless, yet humorous attitude to life. Even most of the extras seem to know they're not real, so they never take themselves too seriously. And therefore, the jokes fly. One joke includes a several-hundred-foot fall from a building under construction, only to have the fallen characters quickly stand up and say, "Helmets save lives!" with a goofy smile on their faces.
And this twisted sense of humor simply pervades Excel Saga. What other series could get away with the ritualistic execution of its own manga creator - twice in one episode? (By the way, the artist is portrayed as a pathetic girl-obsessed otaku who has not even an iota of a social life.) Or have the stereotypical "angel" conscience and "devil" instinct of the main character duke it out until one of them actually outright kills the other one and is sent to jail for it? Not to mention Pedro, the hapless migrant construction worker ... you'll just have to see that one to believe it.
And that's just one episode out of twenty-six! Parodies fly like there's no tomorrow, as the Excel Saga crew spoof everything from sentai shows to Rambo to dating simulation games to yaoi to the Visual-K rock phenomenon. And the whole thing gets even sillier when Excel's foil, the sultry (but incredibly sickly) Hyatt shows up ... and EVEN sillier during the not-so-trivial cameos from the director, Nabeshin (voiced by Watanabe Shinichi, not coincidentally, the actual director).
About the only time that the series really falters is during the snippets involving the Ropponmatsu androids (a weak spoof on Cat Girl Nuku Nuku and its ilk), but other than that, the constant struggle between the utterly inept members of ACROSS and their equally inept opponents is often hilarious. Massive kudos to Mitsuishi Kotono, voice actress for Excel, for, well, basically being completely freaking insane!
The final episode gets special mention for being considerably raunchier and more offensive than the bulk of the series (which often pushes the limits of even its original midnight run to begin with). It's certainly not the best place to start, to be sure.
Excel Saga is a total laugh riot, and even though the end of almost every episode insists that "the experiment has failed", it's a solid watch for those with a taste for black comedy with a pinch of satire. It's insane in every sense of the word, from the opening song (where the main characters sing in various locales, from Ginza, to the inside of a public men's bathhouse, while one of them continually coughs up blood) to the ending song (a dog singing an enka ballad about how Excel wants to eat it while various condiments rain down at random intervals, complete with Japanese-language interpreter). This show is certainly not for everyone (after all, it is pretty sick humor), but if you're game for a show so out-there, you can't help but stare in disbelief, Excel Saga is for you.
Go ahead and remove two stars if you don't like black comedy, or think that humor needs to include bodily functions to be sophisticated. Add one star for fans of madcap parody laden with sight gags based on pop culture references. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Excel Saga is violent in the most unbelievable of ways. Excel herself is run over, shot at point-blank range by various firearms, blown up, or otherwise killed at least a half-dozen times in the first episode alone. There are also plenty of redshirts (as befits the chaos ensuing from Excel's mere presence), and minor characters rarely last longer than an episode. Teens and above would get a kick out of this, but recommending this to anyone younger might result in a kick in the pants from their parents. So I won't. But at least it isn't The Ping Pong Club. (Unless you're talking the final episode, which is ... something else.)
Version(s) Viewed: digital source; R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Excel Saga © 1999 Koshi Rikdo / Shonen Gahosha / Victor Entertainment
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