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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Excel Saga-Volume 2: Missions Improbable (1999)

Excel Saga-Volume 2: Missions Improbable (1999)

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Released 11-Dec-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
On-Screen Information Track
TV Spots-the show in Japan
TV Spots-the CD single
TV Spots-the CD soundtrack
Gallery-production sketches
Trailer-5
Easter Egg-several
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 97:32 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Shinichi Watanabe
Studio
Distributor
Quack Experimental
Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Toshio Masuda


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Titling
English
English Information
English Information
English Information
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode teaser

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

This is the second volume of episodes from the Excel Saga. For a background on the show, please read my review of Excel Saga, Volume 1.

The four episodes on this disc are:

  1. The Cold is Winter - Snowed Under Episode (24:23) - presented as a survival drama. This episode introduces Misaki Matsuya (we'll see her a lot later), and gives more insight into Kabapu (the moustache man).
  2. Melody of the Underground Passage (24:23) - presented in the form of a Japanese horror movie. Matsuya leads the local government workers (Excel's neighbours) in exploring the sewers near the ACROSS base.
  3. Increase Ratings Week (24:23) - presented as a pretty girl anime, with lots of fan service. Visiting the pool for no apparent reason (apart from the excuse to show swimsuits...).
  4. Bowling Girls (24:23) - sending up sports anime, and TV sports shows. A bowling alley is attacked by an ideological terrorist bowling group. Excel gets intensive training.

It's amazing that they managed to get every episode exactly the same length, but it's no mistake I checked twice.

If you are not an expert in all things anime, plus completely knowledgeable about popular Japanese culture, you must watch this show with the AD Vid-notes turned on. You'll find them on the Extras page. Without these, way too much of what goes on will be utterly incomprehensible.

The main characters are established by the end of this volume. This volume seems a bit easier to understand than the first one, perhaps because the characters are a bit more familiar, and perhaps because the structure makes more sense.

Excel goes off of a private rant more than once, with the rest of the conversation continuing over her non-stop ravings. It's rather neat the way that her rant is shown in white subtitles while the rest of the conversation is in yellow.

I'm looking forward to future volumes, if only to see how many more styles they can use before they are forced to repeat one. I'm also looking forward to seeing what happens when they do some kind of martial arts anime, or a swords'n'sorcery piece.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. This is a TV series, so I rather expect that this is the original aspect ratio.

This transfer is as good as the first volume, with very few artefacts.

The picture is sharp and clear, with no apparent film grain. Shadow detail is a meaningless concept with this kind of animation. There's no low-level noise.

Colour is very good bright and colourful, with no colour-related artefacts.

There are no film artefacts that are worth mentioning. There's the usual aliasing and dot crawl on the black lines outlining characters, but it's not particularly annoying. There's no moire, and no MPEG artefacts.

Just as on the first disc, there are five subtitle tracks, all in English. If you want both the AD Vid-notes (very strongly recommended) plus the English subtitles, you want track 4.

The disc is single sided and single layered. That means that there's no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese. Both soundtracks are Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded. They are most definitely stereo, with quite distinct panning across the stereo image. I listened to all of the English, and one episode of the Japanese. Strangely, there are four soundtracks, but they seem to be two each of the English and Japanese I found no obvious differences between the two English soundtracks, and the only difference I could ascertain in the Japanese soundtracks is that one is louder.

The dialogue is mostly clear, if you don't count Excel's ravings while other people are speaking. Even then, both streams of dialogue can be made out, albeit with some concentration. Dialogue moves from one side to the other of the stereo image as the characters move this is done quite well.

Toshio Masuda continues to write marvellously over-the-top scores, exactly what's required for each episode. The Excel*Girls, singers of the theme songs, appear again in Bowling Girls, and get the opportunity to sing the theme under the battle montage.

The subwoofer and surrounds are given nothing to do by this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

The menu is animated with music. This volume's menu is styled like a security console (as used in Episode 7). There are nicely made transitions between menu selections.

Trivia Track AD Vid-notes

This is a must if you want to understand half the jokes in this series it is a subtitle track that pops up snippets of information explaining the cultural references in the show. It also contributes to the humour by popping up the occasional joke.

Japanese TV Spots (1:24)

A variety of short spots shown on Japanese TV advertising the series. It's frightening to learn that it is shown at 1:45am in Japan.

Japanese CD Single Spots (0:52)

The Excel*Girls released a CD single of the theme, and these are ads for it. Most of them show the Excel*Girls in cosplay outfits cute!

Japanese CD Soundtrack Spots (0:38)

Then the Excel*Girls released an album of the soundtrack scary! The sound features Menchi, though.

Gallery Production Sketches

Sketches showing the designs of various characters. There are 28 images.

Easter Eggs

There are at least seven Easter eggs on this disc, most of them short fragments of video and sound (a few are just shortcuts into the sketches). The ads for Menchi Dogs, Cream of Menchi Soup, and Spenchi (a version of Spam made from dog) are funny. Each of the Easter eggs is accessed by selecting a folder icon on the menu not all of the icons activate an Easter egg, though. Just keep pressing the arrow keys until you highlight a folder, then press Enter.

Trailers ADV Previews (7:21)

Trailers for five other ADV series, shown in one long stream. These are the same as on the first volume. Don't know that "preview" is accurate, though, because the selection includes four series that have already been released here (wonder when we get Steel Angel Kurumi?).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

This series was released a little while back in Region 1. The DVD content sounds very much the same (although it mentions 17 Easter eggs!). Even the cover art looks to be essentially the same.

I'd guess that you could choose either version and not regret it, apart from the price, which favours the R4 rather strongly.

Summary

A strange, but compelling, anime series given an excellent transfer to DVD.

The video quality is very good.

The audio quality is very good, for a stereo soundtrack.

The extras are reasonable, and I'm glad to see that they are different from the previous volume.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, January 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS905V, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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