An anime series televised in 1998-9. Based on the manga of the same name but very little of the original plot. Best described as Attention Deficit Disorder mixed with a crack habit.
What storyline was absorbed from the manga is this: Excel (girl not spreadsheet, though the spreadsheet does make a cameo appearance) graduates from high school and gets a job working for Across, an organization (headed by wanna-be rockstar Il Palazzo) bent on conquering the world, or at least fixing the parts Il Palazzo doesn't like.
The anime then breaks far away from the manga. So much that one of Excel's first tasks at Across is to kill the manga's creator. This show takes self-parody and random plot-twisting to a whole new level.
Each episode starts off with a shot of a signed letter, supposedly written and signed by the mangaka, stating that he allows the writers and animators to do whatever they wish. Survival drama, sports (well, bowling) drama, Benji-style talking animal show, and so on.
It's too hard to describe (or keep up with) the non sequitur story, so here's some of the characters:
- Excel (voice by Mitsuishi Kotono)
Main character, else it wouldn't be her saga. Employee of Across. Worships Il Palazzo. Hyperactive. Can't afford to eat very often since Across doesn't pay well. Lives in "F" Province, "F" City, Japan.
- Il Palazzo (also "Il Parazzo")
Leader of Across. Created Across to conquer the world, but would rather play lead guitar in a popular band. Thinks Excel is too hyper. Tries to drown Excel. Succeeds several times. Practices rockstar poses on his throne and interviews candidates for his band.
Excel's dog that looks more like a fluffy, fat cat. Excel adopts her as a last resort - she plans on eating Menchi once she's too broke to eat. Menchi sings the closing theme of the show - a song about not wanting to be eaten, complete with Excel shaking pepper on him and a Japanese translator in the lower-right corner speaking the lyrics (since Menchi only howls).
- Ishi (short for "Daiuchuu no Ooinaru Ishi", or Will of the Great Universe)
One of the more important characters - she's a black hole with arms and legs, whose purpose is to resurrect the characters who die so the show doesn't end (Excel gets hit by a bus in the first 5 minutes). Scolds Excel for being too careless and dying too much. Excel calls her I'z-chan.
An immigrant worker who left his beautiful wife and son to earn enough money for them to move. Has very little to do with the story, but is in every episode. Acquaintance of Excel. In one of the funnier moments of the first couple episodes, sleeps with I's after being brought back to life.
Another member of Across, acts as Excel's sidekick. Coughs up blood and passes out (and of course, dies) an awful lot, especially while she and Excel are singing the opening theme song (sung and choreographed karaoke-style with portable microphones in various places - street intersections, men's spas, etc). Really likes tomato juice.
Has nothing to do with the story. Shows up mid-episode, running from goons with guns in a typical action scene fashion. He then disappears, and the story continues.
Nabeshin is actually the director of the show, and appears only to make him look a lot cooler. Full-on afro, sunglasses, and red suit. Looks quite a bit like Lupin/Rupan.
This show is more like a vacation or a practical joke for the creators than the usual heavy-on-plot anime. Not too many viewers liked it for the feeling that they were being put on, or left out of some big inside joke. But if viewed in the context of the studio cutting up and pushing away all the tired space opera/fantasy/etc plots they are forced into (see also Gundam, Dragonball, and anything that takes place in "Neo-Tokyo"), it's one of the funniest and most refreshing shows out there.
A few of the things Excel Saga is good at making fun of:
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - one scene contains "the Crayon Fleet," a big spoof on NERV.
- Giant Robo - the "Big Fire run" is re-enacted in episode 6.
- Akira - Nabeshin, in his usual running-from-the-MiB, screams, "Tetsuo!" in one episode, a la Akira.
- DiGi Charat - a cameo appearance by "Bishoujo Charat," a mid-20's man with a goatee dressed in a DiGi Charat catgirl costume, out to destroy F province.
- Weather Break - the Japanese TV weather report Excel believes in a little too much.
- Star Wars - the opening disclaimer scrolling as mentioned above.
- Rambo - around episode five, the producers decided to make the show a survival drama (all part of the plot, of course). References to almost every popular action/survival movie pop up here...
- Japanese humor - Excel's boss at a construction site laughs at anything that's not even remotely funny, assuming it's some sort of pun.
- Cowboy Bebop - in episode 25, can't bring myself to spoil it.
- Itself - every time a potential storyline comes up and starts to build, it's extinguished in the next episode. It intentionally changes it's genre to appease the (fictional, since this is part of the plot) viewers and original manga fans.
Very recently, AD Vision picked up the rights to the show, and will be releasing it when they get around to it (typical domestic anime style deadlines ^_^;). But without any sort of translation, the sight gags alone give this show the ROFL-ability of MST3K mixed with the good movie spoofs from Mad TV. Most people who aren't anime fans might not get it all, but even my anime-illiterate mom started crying from laughing so hard when I brought the tapes over.