Excel Saga is arguably "the ultimate parody anime" as it pulls out all the stops to parody every anime convention and genre it can. It is clear from the start that Excel Saga is a good-natured farce revolving around the main character Excel. On the surface Excel seems to be quite similar to other anime heroines, but there is one big difference. Excel is insane. But then the rest of the cast aren’t exactly normal either. Excel is a member of Across, and she worships their leader Lord Ilpalazzo. With her fellow member Hyatt, who is always dying for some reason, they set out on their quest to conquer the F City, F Prefecture. Along the way they encounter Martians, afro-wearing action heroes, space butlers and much more.
Just watching the opening to Excel Saga should give you a good idea of what you're in for. The 26 episodes see Excel trying to rid the world of the evils of manga artists and animators, starting with the series creator Koshi Rikdo, enjoying all the clichés of summer in an all girl, fan service episode and even trying to defeat Martian invaders.
At the same time there are the adventures of Excel's emergency food supply, an unfortunate Pomeranian dog called Menchi who is nearly always trying to escape, and also the story of Pedro, an immigrant worker who it seems life is out to get. But that's not all the characters! There's some civil service workers who live next-door, a man with an enviable moustache, Nabashin the action-hero with an afro, girl robots, a crazy old man, dogs and Martians that look cute but are evil. Excel Saga parodies pretty much everything they can, if you can think of it then they've probably ripped it to pieces and made a mockery of it.
The animation is pretty clean and crisp, and in some episode the style changes a little to fit with the genre being parodied, such as the all-girl episode having a "30% increase to shading and highlights". It's quite a low-budget anime (though do bear in mind that Excel Saga was produced in 1999) but it uses that to its advantage so it works well. Equally the music is a little low-quality but the opening and ending themes make up for that tenfold. The opening theme is sung by Excel's Japanese voice actor and the ending is sung by the dog, which sounds a little odd but considering that this is Excel Saga it's probably one of the more normal moments.
The best thing about Excel Saga is the characters. There are lots of characters but they all have at least one thing that makes them really stand out. The characters manage to be more than simply 2D personalities. Their relationships with one another are quite complex, especially amongst the civil servants who are always at loggerheads over something.
Overall Excel Saga is violent, crass, politically incorrect and full of black humour. Which is just what anime fans need when you're sick of serious storylines and angst, and just want something that's fun and doesn't take itself seriously at all? Excel Saga can be a little hard to follow at times and some people might find the characters (mainly Excel) a little annoying, making it very much an anime you will either love or hate.