Review: "Level E" Complete Series: Aliens...Everywhere...
Earth has problems. Sure, there’s global warming, sectarian violence, discord, strife and general meanness everywhere, but there’s also aliens. Yep, aliens are real alright….real jerks. Specifically Prince Baka, aptly named not so much because he’s actually dumb but because his preferred use for his massive intelligence is pranks and general loutishness. Yes, he is actually a prince of the empire of Dogra from some unknown distance out in the universe. Dogra, among many other empires and various smaller entities, uses Earth as a big neutral dumping ground for individuals they don’t want around but can’t actually kill. Earth also tends of be the place where various aliens looking to hide tend to wash up. Prince Baka is actually none of the above, but that doesn’t stop him from screwing around with everyone around him anyway just because he can. The usual target is his security detail, led by the insanely over-wound Captain Craft, but that certainly doesn’t keep Prince Baka from abusing other random targets for kicks and giggles.
His earliest target of randomness is newly minted high school baseball player Yukitaka Tsutsui, but like any kid with too much intelligence and not enough of an attention space Prince Baka tends to hop around to new targets once he gets bored. Not that his previous targets are necessarily immune to further shenanigans. Poor Yukitaka gets to bookend Level E, with most of the middle being taken up by the Primary Color Rangers. Yes, that is their real name, per Prince Baka’s decree. More properly, they’re a bunch of elementary school kids he kidnapped so he could play out his own version of and old-school RPG that got a bit out of the Prince’s control. As I said, smart, but a terminal case of ADHD. Our dear Prince and his security detail also manage to defuse a surprising number of intergalactic crises despite, or possibly because of, the Prince’s endless capacity to both annoy and surprise.
For a character that should be eternally unlikeable, Prince Baka ends up being surprisingly interesting and dare I say maybe a little likeable, by the end of the show. Captain Craft and crew end up being one-note klutzes over the Prince’s various schemes and general jerkitude, but even that schtick stays surprisingly fresh as the Prince finds news ways to make people want to severely injure him. The Primary Color Rangers also end up playing a surprisingly large role in the plot, as does baseball. Apparently the one thing all aliens really like is baseball, and they take it very very seriously. Go figure. Of course, the Prince isn’t the only schemer running around. There’s also a bevy of other aliens that have designs on either the Earth, the Prince, or both, throwing an occasional galactic-sized monkey wrench in the works.
The animation is rather surprisingly good for a fairly low profile title. Then again, it is from Studio Pierrot, so anything less than outstanding would be a severe disappointment. There are quite a few different animation styles from episode to episode, and they all work really well. The original manga was made by Yoshihiro Togashi, most well known over here for Yu Yu Hakusho; sadly, there aren’t any character crossovers, but his ear for wit and slow-build humor is quite evident.
I wish I could say as positive things about the way FUNimation adapted and packaged the show, but I can’t. The marketing hype on the package seems to be trying to sell Level E as a 10,000-joke-a-second parody, and it’s just not. Most of the humor is more slow build and somewhat subtle…well, sometimes anyway. The English script also plays a bit fast and lose at times, as do the vocal performances. Watcher be warned, you’re not gonna get a straightforward translation of the Japanese. There also a few of commentary tracks included, neither of which add a whole lot to the package. And one other very weird extra is an interview with Vic Mignogna…by Vic Mignogna. It is as weird as it sounds. That might actually have been a better tag line for the show actually.