There’s no point in running these ‘no anime is dropped forever’ posts if I never actually watch any of the anime in question. Last time I picked up Clannad ~After Story~, which despite some very poor segments, turned out to be the right choice. This time round I decided to pick up something on the opposite end of the serious spectrum. The bizarre 1999 JC Staff comedy series: Excel Saga.
Picked up on: Episode 1 (although had previously watched until episode 11)
Why I picked it up again: Because, although I dropped the series, it was originally only meant to be a temporary drop (of course, every anime is just a temporary drop, which is why I started these posts in the first place, but lets leave that aside for now), I just never got around to picking it up again. But when it showed up in these posts, it got a lot of support from the comments from people who looked back at it fondly, remembering the utter bizarreness that was Excel Saga. It won the poll from that round and was a pretty much guaranteed pick up anyway.
Review: Watching Excel Saga prompted me to make a comparison between it and Seto no Hanayome. They both rely on a mixture of absurdity, parody and taking plot points to the nonsensical extreme to draw laughs from the audience. The only real difference between the two is Seto no Hanayome spends it’s time going to complete extremes with tropes, such as the schoolground division, while Excel Saga spends more time reveling in its lack of a fourth wall. Actually there’s an even bigger difference between the two. Seto no Hanayome is funny. Excel Saga just isn’t. In fact, I’m at a bit of a loss to say quite why Seto is funny while Excel Saga isn’t. Yes, comedy that often uses randomness to draw laughs can vary hugely from person to person (I managed to ‘inspire’ this post BTW).But let’s leave Seto aside for now and focus on why Excel Saga isn’t funny. It’s hard to put my finger on as to why put a large part comes down to the characters.
Excel is meant to be the character from which most of the punchlines come from. In that sense, a dubbed Excel would have worked better for comedic timing purposes but that wasn’t an option. Excel might as well been speaking in Klingon for all I knew, such was her incomprehensibility. Even if I understood Japanese I would have had to watch the thing subbed, and they were the most difficult subs to keep up with this side of a Shaft anime. There was also a lack of facial expressions. It’s not like they lacked the animation quality to do that. In fact, the artwork and animation in this series were of a very high standard (especially when you compare this series to GTO, which came out in the same year. God did GTO ever look awful). It’s just Excel rarely went beyond shouty loud face. Bloody Menchi had more variety of facial expressions than she did.
The rest of the characters were pretty much a one-trait bunch, which in itself isn’t a bad thing. But those one-traits weren’t funny. Hyatt’s constant deaths were only funny in the last episode where they took it to the nonsensical and hugely bloody extremes. Illpalazzo didn’t do much beyond have theme music and a piece of rope. None of the office staff were remotely funny (what the hell was with the guy who only spoke with writing?) and the mustache Mr.Kabapu was done better by FLCL. Pedro’s story was all a bit of a anomaly in the series that sat there and took up time from the main story, kinda like Chibitalia except nowhere near as bad (for one, the non-chibitalia sections are actually funny). Oddly enough, the star of the show was Nabeshin, the director turned anime character. It’s as if he saw that there was a total lack of other funny characters in the show so he decided to stick himself in to liven things up a bit. His pulling of machine-guns out of his ‘fro was one of the few highlights from the first half of the series.
One thing Excel Saga did have in it’s favour was that the girls were hot. I found myself wishing that they would have more fanservice orientated comedy. This feeling, I have noted before, is usually a sign that the show is failing in other areas when I’m looking towards sex appeal for entertainment (unless you happen to be a certain spin off from Full Metal Panic)….uurrmmm…sorry, my eyes keep wandering to the above picture and I forget what I was going to type. Yeah, my mind kept wandering in Excel Saga as I looked for other things in the show to keep me entertained. I was so starved for comedy in what should have been a comedic series that I started finding laughs from parts that weren’t really meant to be for humour. I distinctly remember an episode where a few characters repeated the name ‘Mr.Kabapu’ a few times, something I inexplicably found to be the funniest thing of the series thus far and from then out found myself laughing whenver someone said his name. One thing that helped me continue was spacing the episodes with the occasional Gintama jaunt, which put Excel Saga to shame in every way bar having hot women (sorry Kagura but you stand no chance against these two).
Because I was desperately looking for something different in Excel Saga, I really enjoyed the last few episodes and the total change in tone. Then there was the last episode which, after 25 previous episodes of relatively unfunny episodes barring the occasional mentioning of Mr.Kabapu, was a joy to behold. Asides from delivering the fanservice I’d been secretly hoping for the entire show, it finally took the show to the nonsensical extremes that it had yet to do.
Was it worth picking up again: Sitting through 25 episodes to get to that one genuinely funny episode? Add on the fact that the episode wouldn’t have been as funny without the previous 25? No, this wasn’t worth picking up again.