Oh Craft, I'm going to miss your Koyasu antics

Oh Craft I'm going to miss your Koyasu antics

Look at this scary, SCARY man hating on the….

....poor little thing. Why does the cruel world hate Genius(tm)?

….poor little thing. Why does the cruel world hate Genius(tm)?

While Level E didn’t actually reach the heights it promised, it’s still a stellar effort, especially compared to Occult Academy, which had a fatally flawed central plot that wandered all over the place like a drunken sailor. In fact, it’s quite the reverse for Level E, the series tends to suffer in quality if at least 2 of Yukitaka, Craft and/or the Prince aren’t involved in the short arcs. Kudos must be given to Teh Koyasu for chewing scenery like it’s going out of season as Craft. Their comedy gold interaction just meshes well with the surreal atmosphere that Level E is fond of using, and the arcs they’re in tend to be the most surprising in terms of hilarious twists. The show also starts well and ends well, which is not really the forte of most anime we see these days. They’re either open-ended for sequels, or the writing simply goes downhill for whatever reason. Level E is clearly atypical in this regard, since the bookend arcs are the best of the lot, and plays delightfully on the characterization of the Prince we’ve seen so far. His delicious comeuppance and the fate of the Earth both end on a good note, so the sense of closure is as well executed as anyone could expect.

People have lamented the short length of the original manga, but either Togashi thought it wasn’t suitable for the shounen-specific nature of his portfolio and wanted to keep it short, or he didn’t want to ruin the series integrity by continuing once the ideas ran dry. In any case, it’s more than 10 years since the manga ended, and since Togashi can’t even be arsed to work on a regular schedule with HunterXHunter, that ship has not only sailed, it’s halfway across the ocean.

Aliens are THE riot at parties“Comedy is the universal language!”

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.