Written by: Ron Bricker
It took a full week, but April Fools' Week finally has its first disagreement! The subject of the debate is Excel Saga – an anime piece you've probably never heard of before. The players weigh in here.
A word from the nominator, Anastasia Salter:
Anime of a certain sort is an acquired taste: after a certain age even the voices of the girls on Sailor Moon will cause the unwary listener to flee the room. Excel Saga is a parody of that kind of anime but in its parody it manages to reach levels of horror beyond the material it attacks: the voices will make you cry, the content make you wince, and the singing cat leave you wondering what on Earth just hit you. It's an affair sure to leave mental scarring long after the music fades from the speakers [but probably not from your ears!]
Excel Saga is Excel Lent
by Jack Hork
There was a time when Saturday morning cartoons weren’t bound by the belief that children were impressionable idiots. They entertained because of their outrageousness and originality. Or, maybe it’s that they entertained in spite of those things.
Imagine if you will, a landscape consisting of desert, cacti, the occasional cliff and a ribbon of highway stretching to the horizon. Populate this landscape with a speedy inarticulate bird and a wily coyote; then let nature take its course and, coupled with millions of years of evolution, the instincts of the predator will seek out and devour the prey, or possibly the elusive, speedy bird will completely flummox the predator and will live another day. Interesting? Perhaps. Entertaining? Not so much.
So, alter this scene by anthropomorphizing the coyote, break laws of physics at will, and insert a company that sells every conceivable product your imagination could desire (except for frozen road-runner cutlets for some reason). Serve this up in five minute installments and enjoy. Now, is this version interesting? Oh, yeah. Entertaining? Definitely.
And that’s the beauty of animation, at least the animation of yore. Cartoons (and by cartoons I mean CARTOONS: short, action packed, anti-establishment, entertaining) didn’t have to make sense. They could, but they certainly didn’t have to. They were the short-stories of the screen. Long on visual, short on plot; long on entertainment value, short on character development; long on fun, short on meaning.
Leap frog to the 1980s, and observe the paradigm shift of Saturday morning television. The children that watched those ‘old’ cartoons have now grown up and, in their infinite wisdom (NOT!), decided that children’s programs now have to have a positive message. Stereotypes have to be removed. Entertainment and outrageousness must be sacrificed for the common good. So much ‘story’ has to go into these thirty minute long uber-episodes that the joy and originality is gone…but, not gone forever, thank god!
(Yes, I realize that’s a long and convoluted opening…suck it.)
With the advent of cable television, hundreds of channels now compete for market share and they are often very successful by appealing to specific demographics. Programming for gardeners, cooks, realtors, music junkies, etc litter the cable environment. And even more prevalent, the internet has not only opened the world to everyone with access to electricity and a ‘magic box’, it has opened ideas, imaginations and originality too. And, in this vast conglomeration of flying electrons, mega-bytes, and photons, there is room for real animation. Real cartoons. Real entertainment. Real FUN!
Take the time to check out Robot Chicken or Frisky Dingo on Adult Swim and you’ll find short tasty bits of animated delicious-ness. Point your browser to YouTube and open up a world of original animation as well as old school cartoons from decades gone by. Get involved in a pop-culture website / message board and get yourself exposed to truly intelligent (but, not always like-minded) people with a variety of tastes that will expand your mind and sate your need for new experiences.
So, what does all this have to do with the Excel Saga, Episode 1? I’m glad you asked.
The Excel Saga is an anime based on a manga of the same name. The story revolves around a teen girl, Excel. She is involved in an ideological group called ‘Across’ that is bent on taking over the world, but just to be safe, is focusing on taking over just one city. This is probably a good idea because the ideological group initially consists of the leader, Lord Ilpalazzo, and Excel (a new member, Hyatt, is introduced later in the series). In the premiere episode, Excel graduates from school and is promptly killed by a truck. She is revived by the ‘Great Will of the Cosmos’ so that the story can continue. She is then killed by Lord Ilpalazzo and again revived…twice.
Now, when the title character of a cartoon is killed three times in the first six minutes of the first episode, I take notice. This is a throwback to Wile E. Coyote. This is disjointed, creative fun. I found myself laughing several times during the episode and have since bookmarked the website that hosts them. The episodes each run approximately twenty-five minutes, and even if that’s a little long for most normal people with A.D.D., I find them to be enjoyable and worth the extra time investment.
I do not consider myself to be an anime fan, nor an aficionado of manga. I am absolutely NOT an expert on the definition of pop-culture. Frankly, I don’t think either medium qualifies for ‘pop-culture’ status in the United States because of their limited audiences, but I recognize (and accept) the signs of pop-culture-ness of both anime and manga in Japan. Based on some reviews I’ve read on various websites, the Excel Saga anime pokes fun at Japanese culture, society, and parodies many other anime, including DragonBall, Fist of the North Star and Sailor Moon. So, for those reasons, I amend my early comment and believe this does indeed qualify for pop-culture status; we should not be so country-centric and dismiss our Asian brethren.
In conclusion, to whoever offered this up for an April Fool’s prank, I apologize for disagreeing with you so strongly if you truly disliked it. However, if your prank is that you wish to spread the glory of Excel to an unsuspecting fellow CC2k-er, then your prank has succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. I will preach the gospel of Across, Lord Ilpalazzo and Excel to whoever (should that be whomever??) will listen.