animefringe february 2003 / reviews

Excel Saga Vol.4: Doing Whatever It Takes
Format: bilingual DVD, 4 eps., 100 min.
Production: ADV / Koshi Rikdo / Shonen Gahosha / Victor Entertainment
Comments: Predictable, but fun.
Animefringe Reviews:
Excel Saga Vol.4: Doing Whatever It Takes

After a rather uneventful first half as far as plot movement was concerned, the second half of Excel Saga does seem to be ever so slightly moving towards a rather interesting finale. The biggest advancement is that Il Palazzo's plans to take over the City of F are beginning to work, and the much-missed Pedro finally makes it back home for a major confrontation (yeah, right) with the man who stole his sexy wife.

Excel Saga by nature is a very formulaic show, but it continually shifts the overall episode direction into a number of different genres with one major theme prevalent throughout a given show. Unfortunately, this is a comedy series, and the over-the-top melodrama with the civil servants has gotten quite old. In fact, episode 14 is painfully slow in this regard. It's almost like the creators ran out of ideas and situations to throw Excel and Hyatt into, which sadly is the case as each episode begins with segments of the animation studio struggling to come up with an idea.

This struggle to find a new idea leads to the creation of a female android named Ropponmatsu who suffers from a fate similar to Hyatt's 'drop dead every five minutes' routine. I'd pity the scientist who made her, if he wasn't such a pedophile, as his creations are perfect in every respect except for defusing bombs.

Volume 4 does have a very bright spot and that is episode 17, which focuses entirely on Excel and Hyatt being ordered to go to America to scout things out. They jump down a really long hole, Loony Toons style, and pop out in the ghetto. The two wacko girls meet up with Sandora, Pedro's son, who is working to become an animator. Things go out of control from there, so I won't spoil anymore of that. The ending is classic.

As far as the dub goes, I have to say -- thank god this volume didn't give me a migraine. Larissa Wolcott is a welcome change from the high-pitched shrieking that plagued Jessica Calvello's three-volume stint on the show. It's worth noting that Jessica's last episode was a mid-season episode recap (she left due to vocal strain) and when Larissa takes over the very next episode the show seems to have evolved to incorporate this change. What I mean is, in the series, Excel has been somewhat absent (as the dialogue suggests) and it's not too far a stretch to accept this new voice. I don't think ADV could have managed this shift any better than they have and I applaud them for their tactful and almost unnoticeable change.

The disc's extras and menus have been an interesting twist on the conventional, and always make me interested to see what crazy concept ADV will come up with next. This time around, things are kept a bit simpler, though the rather confusing circular design of the extras page did give my remote a few fits. The pleasant surprise on this disc are the Puni Puni Poemi promotional extras, which seem to go hand-in-hand with the blatant plugs the series gives to this spin-off OVA series. Other than that, there are some mind-blowingly cool side-by-side comparisons of the various different versions of Excel Saga's opening credits. Though the differences are minor if viewed at normal speed, if viewed frame by frame the major timing differences become vastly apparent. Some portions even have whole scenes added or taken out, giving a unique look at how opening credits go through several revisions before one is finally settled on.

Though this volume doesn't hit its mark at times, it is a welcome addition to any existing fan's growing library and does feature some off-the-wall fan service that shouldn't be missed. Be sure to snag this baby, before some guy with an afro does.