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ADV Films presents
Excel Saga #3: When Excels Strike Out (1999)

"Excel just wishes that she had a DVD player instead of a coffee can filled with gravel. Hey, Ilpalazzo, just who does a girl have to sell her unmentionables to to get some personal electronics around here?"
- Excel (Jessica Calvello)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: November 03, 2002

Stars: Takehito Koyasu, Omi Minami, Satomi Koorogi, Shinichi Wanatabe, Jessica Calvello, Jason Douglas, Kelly Manison, Hilary Haag
Other Stars: Yuka Imai, Takashi Nagasako, Wataru Takagi, Paul Sedillo, Brett Weaver, Mark Laskowski, Jay Hickman
Director: Shinichi Watanabe

Manufacturer: MOFC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (17 and up)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: November 05, 2002
UPC: 702727023729
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AAB+ B-

DVD Review

It's time for volume three of Excel Saga's tangential humor, bizarre animation, and eternally flat-lining characters (the Hyatt death count continues to rise). The setup is the same as ever: leads Excel and Hyatt (oh she of the frail, eternally failing body and persistent nosebleed) continue to work to carry out the orders of Lord Ilpalazzo, the head of the ideological organization ACROSS, bent on world conquest for the purpose of world betterment. Each episode parodies a particular style of anime, packing in obtuse references and reams of nonsensical hilarity. Disc three includes episodes 10-13, and it's the best collection yet, though enjoyment is impingent on having viewed the previous episodes, as running gags are a major source for jokes.

All four episodes are real winners. The first features Menchi, Excel's pet puppy and emergency food supply. It tackles the basic anime revenge plot, with characters facing betrayal and conspiracy at every turn. Except the characters are all dogs. And the material is treated with the utmost seriousness, which makes it even funnier (I love the slow-motion shots of tears leaking out of the dog's eyes). Episode 11 takes on the "youth drama," and adds a healthy dose of "sports" as Excel and Hyatt become the replacement coaches for a team of misfit ball players. It's surprising how many of the clichés carry over—all of their sports movies apparently include a talented player who quit the sport after a humiliating "big game" as well. And, of course, there's the coach with the bathroom problem, and the opposing team ("We must crush the Monkey Balls!").

Episode 12 is a detective anime, with three of the tertiary characters (Excel's neighbors) taking on jobs with the police department. It starts with a note perfect reference to The Castle of Cagliostro, and just gets better—particularly when Hyatt is kidnapped, only to die before her captors can collect the ransom (those terminal diseases will get you every time). I also like the lady detective who is ultra serious when wearing her hat, and bubbly and cute when not (it's the hair!). Finally, there's episode 13. It's a "summary" show, one that aired just after the end of the year and was intended to recap the series for new viewers. Because no amount of recapping could possibly summarize the story of Excel Saga (does it have one?), the show instead turns into a competition between Hyatt and Excel to see who has performed better in past clips. There are great audience shots of a huge crowd of Hyatts coughing and gasping in unison, and the stuffy Ilpalazzo constructs an intricate domino display while the hosts from the last disc's bowling episode look on.

Supporting characters continue to pop up in gag roles (I love poor Pedro, lamenting the loss of "sexy wife"), and filled to the brim with parodies (not only of anime, but of Japanese culture in general, and even movies like Star Wars). Director Shinichi Watanabe must exhaust his animators with all of the detail he packs into each episode. Hopefully the energy remains throughout the next 13, because at the halfway point, this is easily the most frenetic anime series I've ever seen (and I mean that in the best way possible).

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: There's not a lot to say about the video quality on this disc. As with the others in the series, it's quite excellent. Colors are rich but never oversaturated. Detail is good, showing off the intricate animation, and edge halos, aliasing, and artifacts never intrude.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: This mix is comparable with other discs in the series. Dialogue is well placed in the mix and always clear and supported (Excel's somewhat shrill voice never sounds too harsh). Music and effects are confined to the left and right mains, utilizing decent directionality throughout, making up a bit for the lack of support from the surrounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Zone of the Enders TV, Devil Lady, Wild Arms, Colorful, Noir, The Samurai
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. AD Vid-notes
  2. Production Sketches
  3. Find the Mint game
  4. Menchi Recipes
  5. Text Interview with Shinichi Watanabe
Extras Review: The AD Vid-notes are again a much appreciated inclusion, the pop-up Menchi heads explaining each and every in-joke and reference to other anime series and Japanese culture in general. This volume also includes a few other bizarre extras, all of them more than appropriate considering the less-than-routine nature of the series. The Find the Mint game is very odd, and involves picking which urinal holds the urinal cake. Picking right or wrong will earn you a live action video clip of... a urinal. There are also a number of recipes for cooking your very own Menchi. Full recipes, really. For cooking a dog. Heh?

A few "normal" extras are also included, including an informative text interview with director Shinichi Watanabe. He discusses his vision for the series and his opinions on "going too far" with television. There are also are few production sketches and an ADV trailer gallery with spots for Zone of the Enders TV, Devil Lady, Wild Arms, Colorful, Noir, and The Samurai.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

This volume of Excel Saga is the best yet, if only for the deadly serious Menchi episode. That dog cracks me up. Not that I condone keeping a pet as an emergency food supply. If the series keeps getting funnier, it might replace Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop as my favorite anime.

 


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