First Impressions – Level E

From out of nowhere – well, out of somewhere far, far off in space – comes the first hidden gem of the season in Level E. This was an odd choice for an adaptation – an old chestnut that ran in Shounen Jump way back from 1995-97. Pierrot and the relatively unknown David Productions are behind it, and based on the first episode it promises to be one of the more interesting series of the winter season.

There are elements of “Men in Black” and “Starman” in the premise, but it’s quite original. The notion here as in MIB is that there are countless aliens of all shapes, sizes and agendas living on Earth right now. One of them ends up crashing at the apartment of young Sado, a first-year high schooler recruited to a small-town school based on his middle-school baseball prowess. Sado is, naturally, quite skeptical at first but the blonde alien has some irrefutable proof. This alien, however, has lost his memories – and plans to stay at Sado’s apartment until he gets things sorted out, whether Sado wants him or not.

Despite originating in “Jump” this one appears to transcend any one genre – there are shounen elements but it’s clearly not a traditional shounen series. What sets the first episode apart is both the visual and what’s on the page – the show has a great, old-school look that still manages to be be clean and smooth. The writing is superb – our alien friend has quite a deadpan wit and there’s some excellent sight-gag humor. The premise is set up clearly and patiently, and the dialogue is natural and believable. Both the OP and ED are excellent, especially the former – a really sharp montage done in a sort of Tarantino style with a song that sounds like it came off a Bond soundtrack.

I can’t imagine this finding a big audience, but if it maintains anything like the quality of the first ep I’ll be blogging it. There’s a real respect for the audience here, and a sense that this is a series for grown-ups that doesn’t have to rely on cheap tricks to get its point across. It’s always fun when a sleeper reveals itself, and given the obscurity of this title it can certainly be called that.


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