This is part of a series of reviews on notorious anime — anime shows and films that have garnered controversy at some point since its release.
In the circles of anime and manga, “Excel Saga” and its spinoff “Puni Puni Poemy” are notorious for the split it has caused its audience, and for how far the director of the animes have gone in its humor.
“Excel Saga” started out as a manga by writer Rikdo Koshi (which has been running since 1996) that used visual and verbal gags to satirize Japanese society. The story tells of a secret organization called ACROSS that is led by its leader Lord Il Palazzo. However, he only has two employees – the very energetic but not too bright Excel, and the quieter but always sick to the point of near death Hyatt. Their goal is to start with Japan and work their way to putting the rest of the world under control. However, they are battling against a shadowy government agency led by Dr. Kabapu who want to stop their plans.
The manga was turned into an anime show in 1999, where director Shinichi Watanabe (also known as “Nabeshin”) used the storylines from the manga as a thread to make fun of different genres in each episode, each time getting the “approval” of the creator. For example, one episode made the whole show into an American action movie (where, if you listen in the sub, you can hear the Japanese actors trying to speak English in parts), while another one makes fun of Japanese dating games and visual novels.
Soon after, an OVA spinoff was created making fun of magical girl shows called “Puni Puni Poemy.” The show carried over some of the characters from “Excel Saga” and set it in a world where Nabeshin and his bride from the previous show had adopted a “wastefully energetic” girl named Poemy (who constantly calls herself Kobayashi, which is the name of her Japanese voice actress) who wants to be a voice actress but finds herself becoming a magical girl instead.
Each version has had its share of controversy. The manga, for example, got into trouble when Il Palazzo gave a speech against Christmas in one chapter (a fact that the anime referenced when Excel stopped him). The anime made a final episode that was purposely too controversial to air on television – titled “Going Too Far,” the show features many references to hentai, as well as features plenty of random violence, possible pedophilia and love hotels.
However, “Puni Puni Poemy” has the distinction of being banned in at least one country – New Zealand, which determined in 2004 that the show “’tend(ed) to promote or support’ the exploitation of children or young persons for sexual purposes. It also shows acts of torture or the infliction of extreme violence or extreme cruelty without showing consequences for the perpetrators.” A lot of this has to do with the fact that one of the characters, Futaba Aasu, has a huge crush on Poemy and is not afraid to show it. Plus, the amount of violence and fanservice gets extreme (and made fun of) that the show would be rated TV-MA here in the states.
Are they worth watching? Well, depends on your tolerance for over energetic characters that speak really fast. In “Excel Saga,” the voice actress for Excel for the American version had to be changed because the original actress damaged her vocal chords doing the character. In “Puni Puni Poemy,” the actress managed to keep up the energy level needed for the character of Poemy, because “wastefully energetic” is putting it lightly. But the humor hits the mark more often than not, so if you’re bizarre humor they’re worth checking out.
“Excel Saga” is currently available from FUNImation Entertainment, and is available at Amazon, Best Buy, FYE and Books a Million in Concord, Newbury Comics in Manchester, and any location that sells anime. “Puni Puni Poemy” was originally available from ADV Films but is currently out of print, but used and new copies can be found on Amazon.