Director: Shinichi Watanabe
A-C-RO-SS! A-C-RO-SS! A-C-RO-SS!
So begins Excel Saga, the series that was made just for anime fans. It begins with the hyperactive heroine, Excel, on her last day of school, happily shouting out the name of the super secret organization that's recruited her to help take over the city. That's right, just the city, not the country or the world. Across's leader Ilpallazo doesn't want to start too big. Within a few seconds Excel is dead, and has to be revived and the anime started over from there.
In it's 26 episodes Excel Saga parodies just about every possible genre of anime and Japanese popular media. You've got space battles, animal drama, horror, survival tales, and post-apocalyptic fighting all interwoven with inside jokes about dozens of different movies and series. The series focuses around Excel, one of the three members of Across, along with her junior Hyatt, and the leader of Across, Ilpallazo. Arrayed against them is the Safety Assurance Agency, comprised of a Excel and Hyatt's neighbors. Throughout most of the series they don't even realize they're fighting each other but they manage to foil each other's plans anyway. Accompanying the main story is an amusing side story following Pedro, a foreign worker killed in the first episode, as he tries to regain his wife from Gomez and That Man while being involved in a relationship with the Great Will of the Macrocosm. Also in every episode is Nabeshin, the Afro-wearing super agent who serves as an alter ego for the series' director.
It's almost impossible to put into words how funny Excel Saga is. There are other parody anime's out there, such as Dragon Half, but none with both the breadth and the staying power of Excel Saga. The characters may all be parodies of anime stereotypes, but they're funny and likable parodies. Ilpallazo., for example, seems to be the typical evil organization leader, with his oversized shoulder armor, cape, little round sunglasses, yellow cat-like eyes, etc. Not every leader sits on his throne all day, trying to learn guitar, playing girlfriend games, and talking on his cell phone though. The other characters are each just as funny or better.
The discs themselves are gems. The first disc (and the last too) contains five episodes, and each following disc has four. On the disc are all the nice extras you'd expect plus a wonderful feature that pops up explanations about the in jokes and references to Japanese culture. This feature is great, but you have to be sure to turn it on from the "extras" menu. The menus themselves are a little sparse, especially the one of the first disc (with two letter abbreviations for the options), but they change from disc to disc. Sound and video quality are very good, but not spectacular. Having watched the Japanese version first, I prefer the subtitled version, but the English dubs aren't bad. With the pop-up explanation feature it's almost impossible to read both that and the subtitles, so you're probably best sticking to the English dubbed version. All fans of anime, and especially fans of comedic anime, should see Excel Saga - you'll love it.
Excel Saga (Vol. 1) (DVD)