Posted on 5 April 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Level E




My favourite comedies are the ones that don’t just make me laugh a lot. They also truly excel in another area, whether this is its cast of characters (Kodocha), storytelling (Law of Ueki, Gintama) or subject material (Excel Saga). It’s been a long while, but with Level E I can finally add another series to my top 10 of favourite comedies. This show is an absolute delight to watch.

Adapted from a manga from the same writer as Hunter X Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho, written in 1997, Level E is a brilliant comedy. For one, it is hilarious to watch. It’s got a fantastic comedic timing that plays together brilliantly with the chemistry between the different characters. This show really has a knack for getting under the skin of its different characters, with hilarious results.

Beyond that, though… this series is also just a fantastic storyteller. It basically consists out of a number of unrelated arcs, ranging between one and three episodes, all of which focus on alien life on earth in their own way. Some arcs share similar characters, but apart from that they just all have their own focus and story. This creates a ton of variety: every episode is different. And on top of that, they’re all really well told. They make excellent use of their momentum in order to both be hilarious, and actually tell some serious and interesting stories here, with a ton of well built up plot twists. It all comes together wonderfully in the end. While the stories have nothing to do with each other, they do all build up to the same atmosphere and universe, leaving an excellently fleshed out series behind, especially considering how there are only 13 episodes.

Beyond that, this show also has an amazing sense of characterization. Every character here is likable and original, miles away from the usual stereotypes. Both the males and females set themselves apart, with especially Yukitaka, Kraft and Miho. Due to the nature of this series they have relatively little airtime aside from perhaps the blonde prince, but they still stand out as amazing and down to earth characters who refuse to act like idiots just for plot convenience. the second biggest flaw of this show is really that we don’t get to see more of its awesome characterization.

The biggest flaw meanwhile is that it’s one big tease. The thing is, that it has an absolutely fantastic first arc. If the rest of the arcs would have followed in its example we would have had one of the best comedies ever made here. Instead, the rest of the arcs of this show do take a step back, but even then there is more than enough to like here. The amount of cliches in this series is really the bare minimum of what you can get and due to its rock-solid characters and storytelling it’s even enjoyable when it’s not funny, something quite rare for comedies.

Storytelling: 10/10 – Extremely witty and an amazing comedic timing. It’s a show that is constantly changing, even within its own arcs and that makes for a really diverse 13 episode series that leaves no moment wasted.
Characters: 9/10 – Amazing characterization for a 13 episoded series that focuses on different characters in each arc. It’s not that these characters are well developed. Instead, they’re the type of characters that are full of life, yet are down to earth and compelling to watch throughout the entire series. They’re the perfect example of how you can also get an amazing cast without a ton of drama.
Production-Values: 8/10 – The animation is average, but even this is made excellent in a few episodes with some excellent camera angles and visual ideas. The CG can be a bit obtrusive, though the soundtrack is excellent.
Setting: 9/10 – An excellent look at the concept of aliens on earth. The stories all feel fresh and a lot of imagination has gotten into creating a simple, yet over the top, yet consistent setting here.

Suggestions:
Ooedo Rocket
Sexy Commando Gaiden
The Law of Ueki

Posted on with categories: Level E



That was an awesome end to an awesome series. The twist had it coming, but it was perfect to close off this show.

This episode did a great job of making the princess more than just about any other romantic interest. I mean, the basis premise for this episode may have been an arranged marriage, but that’s about the only stock plot device that appeared in this past arc. It’s a great idea to have the princess be as cunning as the prince himself, and still make her innocent at the same time. Somewhat.

I also love how in the end, the prince was fooled by bland acting from the two thieves who pretended to be the very helpless-looking brother and princess. That’s the point where he really got caught off-guard.

Overall, If I wasn’t one already, I’m now a really big fan of David Production. Only Dogs was bad, but apart from that, Ristorante Paradiso, Armed Librarians and Level E were all wonderfully creative and enjoyable series. I really like the ambition that these people have to time and time again come with something interesting. Combined with Studio Pierrot they really made for one heck of an interesting comedy.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 29 March 2011 with categories: Level E



Awesome to see the entire main cast together again for the finale of this series. I mean, these are the kinds of characters who are awesome to watch, no matter what they do. Having an entire arc focus on them was exactly what this show needed to close off well.

Also, I finally spotted an overused cliche in this series: the seemingly helpless girl who manages to hit a home-run against all expectations. But then again, as an alien it makes perfect sense, and this episode even poked fun at the “walking into the shower”-scene that baffles me of why it was the first one to do that.

Overall, it’s true that the first arc of Level E was without a doubt its best: it had the element of surprise and used it utterly brilliantly. What happened after that is very interesting, though. Instead of joining the bandwagon of trying to make more episodes in the same vein, the rest of the episodes continued to experiment with all kinds of different stories and characters surrounding aliens on earth. Standalone it’s indeed easy to just compare the to the first three episodes and label this as a show that goes downhill, but nevertheless I find the way in which this series paints together a complete picture, making use of its momentum and constantly changing its focus and characters, to be quite brilliant and the single most enjoyable show of this season.

The thing is that I rarely give very high ratings to comedies, even though it’s a huge genre in anime. Level E has opened my eyes on how good the genre can be when it has some actually interesting stories to tell. This way, it can also be good whenever it’s not funny. Call it the X-Factor of comedies. With most comedies I’m just disappointed when they’re not funny, because besides being funny they fall apart without their humour. For Level E though, I think that it also would have worked as a series if it didn’t have its humour. It’d obviously be less awesome, but I can imagine that it would still keep my attention.

What’s more: a lot of comedies seem to be trying to solve this by going all serious in the final two episodes. I’ve only seen very few of them that actually pulled off such a good climax, though (Hyakko being one of those rare examples). This series however showed that you can just as easily tell serious stories that fit in 1 to 3 episodes that can work just as well as long arcs if they all succeed in coming together and form a whole and creating its own universe.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 21 March 2011 with categories: Level E




So, after the slight disappointment of last week, this episode hits back in full force with just a completely bizarre premise. And even there, the episode plays out completely unlike I expected. This episode was just… surreal.

This episode toyed with mystery like no other. It was both an excellent mystery story, but it also brilliantly poked fun at the genre with the way in which it suddenly put the local baseball team into the middle of Koushien. The balance between the silly and serious parts was excellent and I loved the original twists it gave to the whole premise. The characters all just calmly analyzed what was going on, with a few goofballs being entertaining (most notably, the Prince and the Captain of the team).

It related back to an event in the past that was surprisingly intense, and created a really great mystery atmosphere. Because of that I also loved the way this episode played out, because in the end we never really were told who exactly caused things, and things were just solved by having fun and playing baseball. It fitted perfectly and yet subverted a ton of mystery cliches.

And really, this is what I have been missing so dearly in Gosick: none of the characters were idiots. They all shared their own take on things, but aside from the obviously moronic captain (who really had his own charms and purpose), they all looked around and used common sense. That’s how you write good mystery. Not by relying on artificial stupidity.

Overall I think that 13 episodes (yes this series will be 13 episodes long) is the perfect length for this series. It’s short, but really sweet in this way, making no scene wasted whatsoever. Even the previous episode served its purpose of breaking up the pacing, and I love how the creators managed to do that in just one episodes. Compare that to so many other 13-episode series that put in intermezzo after intermezzo after intermezzo. So far, every episode has stood out. This is really what these short series should strive for.

There is just one reason why it’s a shame that this isn’t a long series: the characters. With that, I don’t mean that they should be more developed; they already have a ton of charms. Instead though, it’s a shame to see so much potential go away. The characterization in this series is absolutely amazing: none of the characters feels like a stereotype, aside from perhaps Ouji. The people that this series shows feel so fresh and interesting: even though we only see most of them for a few episodes, they feel and act like real people. Their acting is just wonderfully down to earth. If anything, I just hope that future series will take them as their inspiration because characters this fresh really don’t appear often. The best example of this is of course the couple from the first arc.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 15 March 2011 with categories: Level E



So, this episode was something else. It had no Ouji whatsoever. In fact, none of the recurring characters aside from the color rangers even made an appearance. There also was hardly any comedy and it actually was really focused at telling a serious story here. It’s an excellent change of pace for just one episode, especially considering how next episode the hilarity is surely promising to return with the reappearance of Baseball Guy.

Now, something obviously was missing in this episode, but even so the story it told was quite good. It was a bit simple, but it fitted quite nicely within just twenty minutes, and it made good use of the Color Rangers in a setting completely different from an RPG parody (plus it actually fitted in some development for the spiked hair guy). It had very typical bad guys, but even they were just more than evil for the sake of being evil, and were quite successful at creating some tension.

Also, I’m surprised to see some actual karate used in the action scenes. You could actually see that that the two kids practice the basics a lot, and they really got the basics down. At the same time though, you could see that they didn’t have much experience in actual fighting against a partner: their movements were a tad too neat and slow; in a real fight while using karate, you’ll always see people sacrificing clean techniques in favour of being able to move fast enough to actually be able to hit your opponent. This time the kids were lucky that they were helped by their powered suits.

In any case, this episode was the weakest of Level E so far, and yet I still really liked it. This show has always had the problem that it was nearly impossible to live up to the absolutely fantastic first arc, but even considering how the subsequent arcs were a step back it still had plenty of stuff to like.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 7 March 2011 with categories: Level E



I love how despite there being multi-episode arcs in this series, every episode still feels different, and this arc in particular was an excellent example of this. The romance gets dropped, and instead this turns into a bit of a thriller, and as for the lead characters… Ouji returns and the episode is chock full of the addictive chemistry between Kraft and Ouji, making this episode even better than it already was.

I also loved that for once, an arc with a gimmicky premise like this doesn’t end with a cop-out. I mean, usually when the creators put the stake of the entire earth on something silly like this, they end up writing themselves into a corner and end up with a very cheesy and rushed ending. Here however, Ouji actually comes up with a plan to save the entire earth using clones and a whole lot of breaches of intergalactic treaties.

This episode also contained a few nice jabs at alien abductions, in quite a few different ways, from abductions while asleep, those classic light beams and suddenly feeling like 30 minutes disappeared. I also keep getting amazed at Ouji. His trick is that he’s either completely honest, or not honest at all, and his lies sound so sincere. When he said that he used to be a woman… oh lord.

The reason why I consider Level E to be one of the best comedies I’ve seen though, is really because of the big picture. I mean, standalone comedies that are funny are nice, but this series adds in so much more. The standalone stories that it tells are actually very good ones that could have worked well even without the humour, it has consistently created down to earth characters that are believable and relatable, and its backdrop of 90s alien fiction continues to create interesting backstories and fits really well in terms of the big picture. It’s just everything that this series does that still makes me consider this to be an amazing comedy, even though I do admit that the funniest arc was the first one.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 28 February 2011 with categories: Level E



Aah, finally! Finally we have an actually good parody of the romantic comedy. Even without the awesome twist at the end, I just loved what this episode did and how it poked fun at the genre and how it made everything look ridiculous with its ever-sharp wit. There also was a lot of building up in this episode, but in the end, it was totally worth it. This is really what an awesome comedy should be: don’t just show a bunch of random jokes, but have everything build up for each other and create a whole picture that’s larger than the sum of its parts.

The interesting thing is how this was written more than a decade ago, and the things it parodies still are incredibly overused, and it just showed how timeless this episode was. I also love how there finally is a series that acknowledges that love at first sight is pretty implausible, and how it takes this to the absurd by putting the fate of the world hanging on it. The inclusion of Kraft only made this better: his energy and sarcasm were awesome to watch during the building-up parts.

Not to mention the awesome excuse that the creators found in order to leave Ouji uninvolved in this episode. The different combinations of characters for each arc are really dynamic here and instead of overexposing the same characters, the creators really try to give all kinds of characters their own time to shine, going both for the main characters as the new ones that it introduces. And again, the characters in this arc are fairly simple, and make writing good characters look so easy.

The revelation that the lead guy was basically a lesbian was the highlight of this episode. It gave a completely different meaning to the episode, plus it also left a very interesting cliff-hanger for the next episode, which just has to be different from the previous. But then again, this series has shown before that it loves to toy with expectations.

Also, this all took place at a Ski Resort. Take that, hot spring beach school festival pool episodes!
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 21 February 2011 with categories: Level E



Perhaps not the funniest episode of the series, but this episode still is excellent in the way that it completely went against my expectations. Just about everything about it was unpredictable, and it turned the rules of your average RPG completely upside down, multiple times.

The best part was without a doubt the way the creators trolled us with the expectations that were built up in the previous episode. I was really looking forward to seeing the crushes of these five characters pop up in the RPG world…. and instead we got a cross-dressing prince. The teacher meanwhile kept saying that she should do something about the prince, and yet never showed up.

The ending was also brilliant. Virtually every RPG has an end with some ultimate villain who is ridiculously powerful and wants to destroy the world for whatever reasons. This one is completely different and instead just asks the five characters to not turn off the game. At first I also thought that Ouji was being a bit stupid by getting himself caught and all, but the punchline at the end of the episode explained it all: he really isn’t going to let go of these kids until he gets bored.

On a side-note: how far are we exactly into the manga at this point? I know that the manga only has sixteen chapters. Are we about halfway through them right now, or are the creators going to run out of time at this pace?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 14 February 2011 with categories: Level E



Oh, this show is brilliant! This episode was again an awesome that continued the Color rangers story and turned into a full blown parody here. The characters though were the ones who made it awesome.

Two episodes in, and these characters are not only already developing, but this series is also really making use of it. The point in which they found themselves caught up in the traps that Ouji had set for them was just awesome, but also how Ouji forced them to say the names of the girls they liked was absolutely hilarious. I especially loved how thorough that password system was set for the blond-haired kid. and of course, the grin on Ouji’s face when he found those out was just priceless.

The irony is that Level E is a collection of short stories with no main plot, and yet it still blows every other show this season out of the water. This series however has made every second count, which is very rare for an anime. it’s consistently creative and tries out great and interesting ideas and the delivery also couldn’t be better. Especially the chemistry between just about all of the characters is just fantastic here.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 7 February 2011 with categories: Level E



After the end of the previous episode, I already had a suspicion that this episode would focus on Ouji’s plans to create the earth rangers. That indeed turned out to be true, but I didn’t expect him to kidnap a group of innocent children to do it. Seriously, this episode was just nothing but a grown man grabbing a bunch of random kids and playing a ridiculously unfair game with them. And it was hilarious.

It’s perhaps not as good as the previous episodes, but even then I absolutely loved this episode. It again takes a group of random guys, this time in middle school, and this time it’s non fiction. Again, their designs were nicely unconventional for anime, and really feel like Ouji picked the nearest five kids that he could find. The way in which they tried to deal with the fact that they had been turned into power rangers (without any actual powers besides a bunch of illegal ones) in a great little parody of the super sentai genre.

This episode subverted a ton of these tropes, like how most kids who get these powers really aren’t going to play along, and how for some the powers may just rise to their heaDS. Or the way in which they couldn’t use most of their weapons because they were grossly illegal.

I also liked that twist with the teacher, and how she as an alien immediately noticed that something was up, and also how she laughed when she found out that Ouji was behind everything. I’m not sure whether this was a one shot episode or whether it’s going to continue next week. That would be interesting, if only to see a bunch of kids beat up Kraft.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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  • Bam
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 10:26 AM)
    What do you think?
  • Bam
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 10:25 AM)
    I met a French art student in a bar tonight, and after getting into Hugo and Notre-Dame de Paris, he suggested a more faithful French theater production of it. He believed that this is a much better portrayal of the conflicted priestly character of Frollo, and specifically offered this Hellfire-esque song sang by the talented Daniel Lavoie as evidence:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5St9zF849o
  • SuperMario
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 08:22 AM)
    @Kaiser: haha. If this film indeed was made I’ll be the first one on the line to watch it.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 06:32 AM)
    @Mario: This made me laugh far more than it should have: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kno3xDw27bY
  • Bam
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 06:30 AM)
    Anybody else seen Jungle Book yet?
  • Bam
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 06:25 AM)
    @Kaiser: I see. Look retro, so I might actually enjoy.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 06:24 AM)
    I don’t wanna hyperbolize, so I admit that some of the Disney/Marvel stuff has ingenuity to it. Guardians and even Antman had their moments of disarming charm, and genuine sentiment from the cast and crew, that made it special and not just another superhero flick.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, May 5. 2016 06:22 AM)
    @Aidan: Marvel movies feel like a very nice amusement park ride- they are always fun, but the return diminishes after successive exposure. Everything in the movies, from the fights, to the dialogue, and plot is incredibly formulatic. You just don’t get the same effect when you know what’s coming.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 06:05 PM)
    @Bam: Actually let me rephrase
    I meant that you will like: http://letterboxd.com/film/the-company-of-wolves/
    Because it is fairyrale inspired
    Because you liked brotherhood of the wolf and tale of tales.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 06:02 PM)
    @Bam: I meant tale of tales =)
    @Mario: My usual ratings are ***/***1/2 rating and ****
    Generally that indicates a film is kind good/good or great.

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