The Outer Limits (Of Screwing You Over)
Level E’s easily one of the best sci fi anime series ever made. Mainly because it doesn’t let the anime get in the way of the sci fi.
Level E has its fair share of animeisms. We have the sentai parody with the Color Rangers. We have… well… actually, that’s probably the only real anime-like bit that got shoehorned into this series, along with the RPG jokes that accompanied said storyline. And I think that’s part of what made Level E work.
The series plays like a parody of shit like Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. It plays off some short subject sci fi scenarios, like “what if a kid comes across a beautiful alien and helps her escape her captors” or “what if some teens get sucked into an alternate reality formed by their anxieties over qualifying for a baseball tournament.” These stories may play out over a handful of episodes and include a small group of semi-reoccurring characters, but the scenarios themselves are exactly like the sort of things you see in these old school sci fi anthology series.
The only thing that makes the series diverge from that “tradition” is the snark. It isn’t just the Prince that adds to the sense of humor (Although he’s easily the epicenter of all that shit.). All of the characters share in his self aware but not self referential style of humor. They’re fully aware that they’re getting down with some weird shit (Or starting some weird shit if you’re the Prince.) and react accordingly, but they aren’t jumping up and down and reminding you what stereotype they represent (So we aren’t getting any bullshit from the Prince about how pretty he is and how he’s a trap. He just dresses in drag and let’s that say everything.).
And that’s a sign of the times. Level E’s a 90’s manga, and that sort of hit-you-over-the-head-with-the-obvious bullshit wasn’t in favor at that time. Peeps may complain about past trends and wonder why people like X or Y when it was clearly cliched at the time, but the sort of “look at me I know I’m a tsundere” humor we get nowadays is gonna be just as dated 10 years from now as the “hawt” and trendy character designs from shit like Saber Marionette from the 90’s.
So yeah, while everyone was gawking over Kore wa Zombiewhatever, the kiddies that’ll follow you will mock you for liking its style of humor. They won’t be able to do the same about Level E. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Level E’s “timeless” or anything stupid like that, especially since it’s fantasy RPG parody during the Color Ranger arc is a product of its time, but it’s kinda ironic that it’s avoiding dating itself by playing off older source material.
But the Prince’s style of “fuck you” is timeless. And, no, don’t call it trolling. Way to date yourself by using trendy internet jargon. Your unborn children are already snickering at you the way you snicker at people who say “rad.”
A Twilight Zone that wears its cynical nature on its sleeve– that’s pretty much what Level E boils down to. It might be a bit uneven as a whole, since not all of the stories rock to the same degree, but it’s a pretty damn refreshing series. Then again, I’m kinda hesitant to call anything “refreshing” nowadays, since we always seem to get at least one series that bucks trends with each season. Panty and Stocking did that during the fall, Occult Academy did it last summer, Tatami Galaxy and Cobra and… well… yeah. We always get shit that avoids being the same old shit. “Refreshing” isn’t the best way to put it when there’s plenty of options out there.
Let’s call it Optioning. Level E was Optioning compared to the me-too zombie masses. Roll on with your Lonely Bad Katamari Self, Prince Baka.