Level E is pretty much the show with the best execution this winter, even if Puella managed to be a bigger “hook” in terms of invoking curiosity in the next episode. Given the shows that has entered my queue so far have fairly conventional plot flow and simple premises, what really separates wheat from the chaff is execution. In this Level E has it in spades.
Shortly before I started writing this I wasn’t even aware Togashi (he of YuYu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter fame) drew Level E in the mid 90s. This manga cum anime is clearly a different bent from his usual shounen stuff, and there is some really inspired stuff at times in the first episode, with sly playful digs at the alien visitation tropes in science fiction (nothing is complete if it doesn’t have an ET gag). Amnesia of our blond bishounen friend from afar is toyed with and discarded within ten minutes, and the interplay between him and Yukitaka reaches near manzai levels with healthy dollops of sardonic wit. The setting plays nicely with the comedy, with the town presenting a slight aura of menace to balance things out, but not in an overwhelming fashion.
Other elements like the music and art direction is decent, but not fantastic. Colours are clean and lines on the character designs are generally sharp, if not exactly fully integrated in tone with the backgrounds. The OP/EDs are at least not your usual J-pop drivel, which is enough of a plus factor for me in these trying times of otaku pandering on Nico. I even had a pleasant surprise in hearing Koyasu Takehito’s voice in the preview, and sure enough, he was there when I checked the credits.
This is probably the first show of the season I’m giving an unequivocal thumbs up without adopting a wait and see for the 2nd episode, but most importantly, it gives me a Occult Academy vibe that offers hope that Level E will fulfill the promise that Occult gave but only rarely delivered after the first 2 arcs. Occult had a serious problem in integrating its meandering arcs within a largely disappointing main plot thread, so I want Level E to succeed where Occult did not. For those not aware, Fall 2010 was also hugely dominated by comedies like Ika Musume, Panty and Stocking, Soredemo, Kuragehime and even Star Driver, so having a new one this season markedly different in approach (except perhaps SHAFT-ish Soredemo) is refreshing. Here’s a figurative toast to it doing well.