The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Level E

Title: Level E
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Studio Pierrot
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 11 Jan 2011 – 5 Apr 2011

Synopsis: Unbeknown to humans, many species of aliens make Earth their home, blending in among the dominant population and rarely causing trouble. That is, until Prince Baka of the planet Dogra crash lands on Earth, with his belabored bodyguards – Kraft, Sade and Colin – not far behind. Baka’s favorite pastime is to wreak as much havoc as possible, and the denizens of Earth give him plenty of opportunity to conjure pranks the likes of which no human has ever seen.

The Highlights
Prince Baka: Truly a master trickster.
Humor: Consistently funny.
Plots: Surprisingly interesting much of the time, though there are some misses in the middle.
Finale: Has twists that bring a smile to Baka’s face.

Anime comedy is often a mixed bag. Some shows are content to be so self-referential that we’re at the point where simply name-dropping a show is supposed to count as a joke. Others drive physical slapstick and shouting up to 11 and drive any humor derived from those routines into the ground. Still others make genuinely funny jokes and then ruin the moment by explaining the joke for the apparently stupid audience. But there are a few series that genuinely get comedy, where wit and character are the driving forces. Level E is one of those shows.

Key to enjoyment of Level E is the alien around whom the show revolves, Prince Baka. He is the constant throughout the series, save for a couple of episodes. Level E is broken up into short arcs and standalone episodes where the main connecting element is Baka causing mayhem and making life miserable for everyone around him. And he is excellent at that. Baka lives for elaborate pranks, and many of the show’s plots are constructed in clever ways that maximize the impact of Baka’s plans.

Baka himself is up there with Guu (of Hare+Guu), Takino Tomo (of Azumanga Daioh) and others in the Anime Prick Pantheon. He’s utterly unapologetic and manipulative, and always funny while inflicting pain and embarrassment on those who are dumb enough to trust him. What is also great about Baka’s characterization is how it plays so well with how Level E’s stories are developed. The details are planned so well that everything Baka does seems improvised and real rather than developed for the sake of the plot. That’s probably more manga author Togashi Yoshihiro’s work than anything, but it must be noted.

The voice acting must also be praised. Comedy as whole absolutely needs good acting; timing and delivery are absolutely precious, and the actors in Level E get those crucial elements down perfectly. Koyasu Takehito as Kraft is excellent as always (he’s particularly funny when he gets to turn the tables on Baka), and Namikawa Daisuke’s Baka is so wonderfully playful and great at sounding like an innocent, even though he has terrible tricks up his sleeve.

What’s also interesting about Level E is how it blends comedy and drama. There are a few episodes that are actually all drama, and they work surprisingly well because they sketch characters and situations that take advantage of the fantastic origins of the aliens who venture to Earth. It’s not perfect, though. There’s a run of episodes in the middle that is of noticeably lower quality than the first half of the series. They can be appreciated because they try to switch up what Level E does and give the viewer something different, but they’re hit and miss, although they’re still solid overall.

But the show rights the ship during its finale, which gets back to the characters introduced at Level E’s beginning and follows a plot about Baka trying to avoid an arranged marriage. Like all of Level E’s best episodes, the finale is masterful at setting up certain expectations and then pulling the rug out from under the viewer, all the while providing plenty of laughs. It’s an excellent end to a fun anime.

Level E is quite the fun series, blending science-fiction drama and gut-busting comedy in clever ways. It’s not a series that makes the viewer think hard about the world, but there’s obvious care taken with the stories, even when they don’t quite work. This show is one of the better comedies to come out in the past few years.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

Top of page