I said when I reviewed the first episode of this series that I didn’t quite know why someone had green-lighted it, and that I was glad they did. You don’t see many 15 year-old manga, especially relatively unheralded ones, get anime adaptations. And this series isn’t remotely like anything else out there – derivative of nothing but influenced by a dizzyingly diverse range of sources, Level E is a gem.
It’s an odd thing to get trolled by a series over and over, yet rather than getting mad – enjoy it. It happened to me here week after week. There was always a sense that the ground was moving under your feet as a viewer – you could never be sure if what you were seeing is what you were really seeing. That must have been what Yukitaka and especially Craft felt like – imagine having to try and interact with Baka Ouji in real life. It’s no wonder both of them had tempers like they did.
This is a show that was always unpredictable I enjoyed the fact that in certain eps, the Prince plays it more or less straight – as when he saves the Earth from the Macbac race and when he gets marooned in someone’s imagination with Yukitaka’s baseball team. At other time he’s a complete tool – what he did to the boys in the Color Rangers arcs for fun was just plain wrong. But I also enjoyed that the show as willing to spin separate stories that exist more or less independently of each other, with no real attempt made to connect them. This is fearless writing – a mangaka doing what he wants to do without worrying about meeting anyone’s expectations. And they made an anime out of it – 15 years later???
Prince Baka certainly has to go down as one of the more interesting anti-heroes of the last few years. There was a sense in the premiere that he might be kind of a “Starman” character – a gentle alien puzzled by the quirks of Earth – but little did we know. There’s no question the term “evil genius” suits him to a “T” – the genius part is obvious enough. But what makes Ouji so dangerous is that he’s completely self-involved – his own amusement is the only thing that realty matters most of the time. He’s whip-smart, powerful, and has nothing to lose – this is pretty much play time for him. That makes for a seriously dangerous foe.
The other central pillar of the plot – that there are alines living undercover all over the planet, and they meet just about every description you could imagine – while reminiscent of “Men in Black” (though this was written first) is a damn interesting one. Guys like Yukitaka and the Color Rangers kids are basically at the wrong place at the wrong time, and pay a heavy price in blood pressure as a result.
I pretty much liked all the supporting players here, but Kraft would have to be my favorite. His manic fits of rage are a nice vent for audience, as each of them is richly deserved. He’s fiercely loyal, but you get the chance he’s off the Prince in a minute if he knew he could get away with it. I really think Davis studios did a nice job with the animation and sound on this series well – I especially love the clever and catchy ED.
My final analysis about this show is pretty simple – it’s fun. It’s easy to enjoy and despite it’s smart writing never asks the audience to drop out of life and analyze the videos for a week to figure out what happened. It handles the transition from drama to comedy and back with aplomb. It would be nice to think this series might give the manga a new source of readership, but I somehow doubt it. As good as this show is it’s clearly not for everybody, and steers well clear of all the hooks that bring in viewers these days. Too bad for them – their loss.