Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Level E Episode 1 – Aliens Among Us

Level E Episode 1 – Aliens Among Us

One of the things that both attracts and repels people from anime is its tendency to be, well, zany. From the temptation for artists to employ super-deformity to heighten comedic situations, to the frankly bizarre settings, plots, and characters, there are plenty of opportunities for enterprising writers, artists, and directors to go a little crazy here and there.

The problem with this is that it can detract from the seriousness and drama of a show. There are rare shows that can get the mix of humor and tragedy in a proper balance, and even rarer gems that can switch between the two in a matter of seconds and still do both justice.

Level E is trying just such a balancing act, taking what is at its core a hard science fiction setting with what could easily have been a serious plot (and might be a serious plot even now), and then milking the comedic potential of the setting for all it’s worth. I’m surprised it works, let alone works so well and on so many levels. And yet it does.

The quality of the show bleeds into everything, including the lovely animation and the opening and ending sequences. Placing aliens in mundane situations becomes both hilarious and creepy

Yukitaka Tsutsui is your normal baseball-loving high school student transferring out to a new school, who finds a not-at-all normal squatter sitting in his apartment: a blond bishounen who claims to be an alien amnesiac. Tsutsui, needless to say, is not impressed, but his attempts to get the guy out of his home continually fail as the latter just ignores his demands, changes the subject, or occasionally just appears back in the apartment after being thrown out.

Tsutsui eventually settles for demanding proof that the (as yet unnamed) alien prove he is an alien, which he eventually provides in the form of showing off his UFO—being reported on by local news crews as they speak—and handing him a peice of alien tech. The tech winds up being a self-destruct trigger for said UFO, but really Tsutsui should have been convinced by the alien’s seeming ability to teleport and create objects from nothing.

Fun fact: Act completely calm while doing ridiculous things, and you too can make the aggrieved parties seem like the unreasonable ones

The humor of the show, thus far, comes from their interaction, with Tsutsui playing the outraged straight man and the alien playing the odd ball. The latter displays the remarkable ability to misbehave and still seem likable, while the former is sympathetic simply for the crap he has to deal with. The two establish their roles well, and the direction and pacing of their conversation are simply excellent.

The more serious moments, which I confess I was not expecting, stem from Tsutsui truly coming to realize he is dealing with an alien creature. As he witnesses his guest’s unexplainable abilities, or is made privy to his real form, one senses an actual respect for the science fiction elements in play. The first episode actually ends on a cliffhanger as Tsutsui must respond to learning what the alien really looks like.

Tsutsui is left gaping in shock at an image of the alien's true form as the episode ends. It's an effective moment, even if there's a 50/50 shot of it being used as a gag next week

There’s also plenty of indication, from the opening narration to certain oddities about the town, that the alien will not be the only extraterrestrial around. Apparently aliens have been living on earth incognito for quite some time, Men-in-Black style, only perhaps without an MIB organization to police them. Whether this will be used for drama or comedy (my expectation: both), there’s clearly a deeper plot going on.

Given that the first episode is really just the alien worming his way into Tsutsui’s good graces enough make himself a semi-permanent boarder, it’s far too early to say anything about the plot as a whole. It could be that the organization looking into the UFO will prove a continuing threat, that other aliens will prove less friendly either to the new kid in town or to his host, or something else entirely. All I know is that this show sells its concept in just about every scene.

Rounding out the cast is the next door neighbor and fellow high school student Miho Edogawa, whose father is heading the research team inspecting the wrecked space ship. While I'm laying odds, I'll give her a 50/50 shot of being an adopted alien, just because it would make Tsutsui's crush on her all the easier to use against him

I can’t guarantee that I’ll blog the series, pure comedy shows being very difficult to fit into the antiotaku formula. To that extent, I’m hoping that the more substantive elements of the plot will carry through enough to allow for regular posting. Even if I don’t blog it, this show has found a regular spot on my weekly watch list.

You can watch the episode here. Please do.

I'd have failed in my blogging duties if I didn't include a shot of the sock puppets. I did neglect the ET reference, but I had to prioritize

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