Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Level E Review (English)

There are hundreds of alien species living on Earth, who come and go as they please. Some are friendly, others are hostile. But they all do their best to disguise their appearance and blend in with the locals. Keeping that in mind, it’s not too surprising that things go a little haywire from time to time.

Level E is a 13 episode SciFi/Comedy series based on the manga written by Yoshihiro Togashi and published by Shueisha. The anime from both Studio Pierrot and David Production was directed by Toshiyuki Katou and aired during the Winter 2011 season. As of this review, Level E has been licensed in the states by FUNimation Entertainment and is available for legal streaming thanks to Hulu and Crunchyroll.

Tsutsui Yukitaka is a freshman who moved out of his parents' home to live on his own, hoping to pursue a baseball team position at the new high school he's attending. When he arrived at his new apartment however, he discovered that someone else was already inside—a young man who claims to be an alien and is suffering from amnesia.
I think it’s been a while since I’ve seen a series where there are two animation houses involved. Can’t even think of the last one I ran into prior to this, so it’s interesting to say the least….. Wait! I recently rewatched Hellsing Ultimate and that has at least three studios that worked on it! Nevermind! Anyways, between Pierrot and David, Level E’s animation has it’s good points and it bad ones with the use of CGI as one of the sour notes of the series. The majority of the CGI is used for the massive monsters, spaceships, and one little puppet gag in the first episode but it isn’t all that wonderful to look at. Seeing as how this series is from 2011, months after Highschool of the Dead, another series with rather odd CGI animation use, this isn’t all that surprising to me. Outside of that, however, the animation is rather fun and realistic while at the same time using color and lighting to it’s advantage in order to create both dark and comedic moments. As for the soundtrack, it takes the cliched tracks you’d typically see in SciFi series and combines it with some light hearted tracks in order to create that SciFi parody. Also, don’t skip the opening theme no matter what! The song, “Cold Finger Girl” is extremely catchy and the look of the opening is colorful, kinda reminding me of a comic book in a way.
Level E’s story is one of those cases where the beginning and the end were wonderful while the middle was a bit of a mystery to me. The arcs at the start and end of the series were centered around Prince Baka and involved a more central group of characters, where as the middle centered around a couple different stories, one involving an alien species looking to find a mate and the other, and much longer, arc involving a bunch of elementary school kids and the Prince’s idea to turn them into Power Rangers of some kind. It’s kind of like after episode three, maybe even after episode four, the initial story just disappears in favor for a bunch of antics for the sake of comedy. That doesn’t mean these same episodes aren’t well written, the series overall has wonderful writing. It’s just that those middle episodes felt very out of place compared to what I was originally getting into and what I finished up with. It also threw some of the characters I thought we would get to see throughout the series to the side for those several episodes with only Prince Baka, Kraft, Sado, and Colin sticking around during some of those episodes. Personally, I feel the story would have benefited more if it kept Yukitaka and Miho in there while the Prince bugs the ever loving crap out of them. At the same time, that would also be a little too cliched of a story method so I can understand the desire to stray away from that. The series is well written with rather amusing parodies on science fiction nicely placed throughout, but I still think the middle section was out of place.

I’d say there are three sets of characters in this series: the aliens of Dogura, Yukitaka and Miho, and then the Color Rangers as these are the three groups who have the most screen time. Between all three groups, there isn’t really any kind of development throughout the series. It doesn’t help that the story itself is a bit odd in terms of general story line, so that takes Yukitaka, Miho, and the Color Rangers out of the mix. So what does that mean for the Prince as well as any other aliens from Dogura? Again, there isn’t really any kind of development here. There may be small things here or there, but because of the bombastic nature of the overall series, it doesn’t leave much room for the characters to learn and grow. Prince Baka is the only one with maybe a tiny bit of development in the final episode, but that mostly comes with the territory of basic comedic elements. Again, if there was a bit more focus in terms of the story I’d probably have a bit more to say about the characters, but because there’s so little growth it makes this section a bit difficult to talk about.

So……. The dub was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it. The script and dialogue kind of helped enhance the science fiction parody quite a bit, and it’s really all thanks to one character and one performance; that being Vic Mignogna’s portrayal of Prince Baka. The couple of major roles I remember seeing him in, from recent memory, were Ouran Highschool Host Club and Vampire Knight. Although, his voice acting is one of those hit or miss kind of deals, Level E was certainly a home run because that performance was all over the place! One minute we may see him act as a woman with a British/Southern accent and then the next, and I kid you not, he goes all William Shatner on us. I think his role here is among my favorites alongside Ouran, now, and, I’ll admit, it kind makes me even more curious as to how his role as Rin in Free! Eternal Summer will pan out. But Mignogna isn’t the only one that has some fun with this series. I also have to give huge props to Jason Douglas’s (Black Butler II, Trinity Blood) performance as Kraft because this was another one that was all over the place thanks to the hijinks that the Prince manages to get them all into. Same could kind of be said for Ian Sinclair’s (Princess Jellyfish, Shiki) Colin and Jarrod Greene’s (Guilty Crown, Robotics;Note) Sado, but for Sinclair’s role it’s more along the lines of a dreamer while Greene’s has more dry humor compared to the rest of the cast. We also get to see Micah Solusod (Code:Breaker, Red Data Girl) jump into the role of Yukitaka and he manages to play off of Mignogna’s Prince Baka well making for some solid interactions between the pair. Lindsay Seidel’s (Psycho-Pass, Steins;Gate) Miho was also fun as she plays the “this is nothing new to me” kind of role wonderfully! Performances from Apphia Yu, Caitlin Glass, Cris George, Leah Clark, and Terri Doty as our five Color Rangers were also rather fun to listen too! And we can’t forget to add in Eric Vale and Colleen Clinkenbeard’s roles as Mohan and Luna (mostly because it was fun to see Vale as the little brother for a change). It’s rather solid overall. Though there is one other thing I do want to give mention to. There were a couple episodes that I had to watch in the Japanese because my computer has been a pain in the butt recently, but I at least wanted to comment on Diasuke Namikawa’s (Black Lagoon, Fairy Tail) performance of Prince Baka because, although it wasn’t as bombastic as Mignogna’s, it also managed to play itself a bit more straight and a bit dry in humor based on what I’d seen. Just figured I ought to give something to Namikawa for the performance!

In the end, Level E takes a fun look at science fiction, and aliens specifically, as a fun parody. While the dub was phenomenal and most of the animation was well done, because the story in the middle seemed out of place it did kind of mess with the flow of the overall story. That doesn’t mean it’s completely bad in terms of writing, it just lacks that focus and direction that I was really hoping it would go for, while, at the same time, didn’t stick to the standard comedic writing. Honestly, the first three episodes, alone, and the final four are enough to enjoy together while the middle section you could probably do without. But, let’s be honest here, where’s the fun in doing that?!

Next time, we do a little bit of work at an amusement park. Until then, oatku on my friends!

Final Rating: 7/10 A rather solid parody with a voice actor's craziest performance yet! … In a good way.

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