Level E – 8

If I can make the statement, “I’ve never seen anything quite like it” about a series, that’s a big feather in its cap as far as I’m concerned. For me to love a series it’s neither necessary or enough, but it’s definitely a point in favor. And I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like Level E.

This was another insanely clever episode, full of smart parody of both genre cliche and modern Japanese society. It was set an an extremely realistic ski resort, which is something you don’t see too often in anime, and focused on Princess Saki of the Macac race. They’re an all-female alien race in which only the Queen can mate. She seeks out a member of another species, falls in love with him and bears a child, and stays with him until he dies. That all sounds romantic and nice, but unfortunately she also transmits a virus – a kind of galactic STD that races through the male’s species and renders the males incapable of reproducing. Thus, the species is wiped out in a matter of a few generations.

It falls to poor Craft both to escort the lovely Saki and her two companions and to act as cockblock extraordinaire, in an attempt to stave off the fatal mating. The chosen mate turns out to be a teenager who was visiting the resort with the intention of banging his girlfriend, who backed out at the last minute. And where was Prince Baka during all this? Off collecting medicinal plants in the jungles of Southeast Asia, apparently – though both through his musings and the PV we’re clued in that he’ll be a part of the puzzle next week. We also get a nice cliffhanger ending – what would this show be without a cliffhanger ending? – where the Princess’ chosen turns out, apparently, to be a girl. All of a sudden it’s Hourou Musuko!

While this was nowhere as frivolous an episode as the “Color Rangers” arc, it was still hilarious at times – both in the way it fillets the “love at first sight” fangirl fantasies of shoujo and in it’s use of Craft. He’s a wonderful character – so luckless yet so devout in his desire to do right, so given to freak-outs. It also takes on a major problem in Japan, which is the declining population due to low birth rate. There are lots of theories as to why this is happening – some of them (the guys are only interested in 2D, mother-complexes, etc) espoused by Craft himself in his efforts to dissuade Saki from mating with an Earthling. While this manga originally appeared 15 years ago the problem hasn’t gone away, and the country is still dealing with it today.

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