Over time, I’ve come to expect a lot of eccentricity and absurdity in anime shows that are driven by comedy; it’s something that I really love. Excel Saga, which came out back in 1999, is an interesting take in the comedy genre since it mainly parodies various different tropes and conventions within anime in a very brazen and in-your-face manner. Just simply calling it a strange anime is a massive understatement.
Articulating on what the story of Excel Saga is all about is sort of hard to pin down since it carries itself with more of an episodic structure similar to Lucky Star and Nichijou; their is very little to no continuity with regards to plot from one episode to the next. But from what I was able to take away from it, this anime centers around a special agent named Excel. She’s affiliated with a space organization known as ACROSS, which is planning to take over the world through dastardly doings. Excel displays unwavering love and support for her captain, Lord Il Palazzo, an authority figure that doesn’t really appear to care about whatever happens to Excel; their feelings toward each other aren’t shared mutually.
Another character that enters the fray in Excel Saga is Hyatt. She’s also a member of ACROSS and serves as Excel’s junior officer. Lord Il Palazzo does appear to have a crush on her, but she seems mostly oblivious to it and doesn’t really notice. Excel and Hyatt are also accompanied by a dog named Menchi, who mainly serves as their “emergency food supply”. Most of his screen time is spent humorously trying to escape from their wrath. I’m sure PETA would get immensely triggered if they ever decided to watch this anime.
Simply put, Excel Saga is quite absurd. Even in the comedy genre, I’d normally come to expect a sense of coherency or that the show is trying to leave you with some kind of contemplative or deep message worth pondering about for a couple of days or weeks. Excel Saga slashes these expectations, which can be either it’s biggest strength or cause of annoyance. In this anime, some characters are killed off (time and time again) and then reappear in future episodes as if nothing ever happened, the fourth wall is occasionally broken, and its sense of humor can be somewhat crass and loony. Their was one episode in particular where the original manga creator of Excel Saga was about to get assasinated, another episode was parodying Mobile Suit Gundam, and the last episode is pretty much lewd fanservice and references the 1995 sarin gas attack that took place on a Tokyo subway in a rather bizarre manner.
In terms of sound, the OP song didn’t immediately compel me at first since I found the lyrics to be quite nonsensical and asinine. But upon closer inspection, I think this song works in it’s favor because it does thematically tie in with what the show was aiming to accomplish as a parody of other anime shows and it encapsulates the zaniness of Excel Saga quite well. The ED was also pretty amusing; hearing Menchi sing is so darn cute.
As for the voice acting, I went for the English dubbed version. For the most part, I thought it was mostly average and serviceable, but I think the standout performance was definitely for the role of Excel, which was initially handled by Jessica Calvello. I was truly in shock and amazed at her rapid-fire delivery with the way she spoke, it was like a speeding bullet thoroughly invading my ear canals. Apparently half-way through the show, they had to hire another voice actress to replace Calvello since she ended up damaging her vocal cords due to the arduous strain that was put on her voice. It did sort of take awhile for Wolcott to ease into this role in my opinion, but I thought she did carry on this role pretty well.
All in all, I really enjoyed Excel Saga. If you normally watch anime shows that flows with a sense of progression in the story department, and prefer comedy in short bursts that gives you time to collectively gather your bearings, then this series may not be for you since it is quite incoherent and hyperactive. But even if you are just slightly curious about this show, I still think it’s worth a shot; maybe it might surprise you…Hail Il Palazzo!