So far throughout this column I have covered anime series that I believe should be watched because they are good, but it seems only right that I should also highlight the odd series that beginners should avoid. Thus, this week I am covering the worst anime I have ever reviewed.
Exaella is a sci-fi cyberpunk series released as a four-part Original Video Animation (OVA) in 2011. Part of the reason why this series is so flawed is that it is not an anime in the strictest sense of the word. In fact, it’s only part-Japanese. The other part is Russian. It was created by a man called Andrew Oudot, who owned the eponymous company the made it. He also directed, co-produced, wrote and composed the score the entire series. The only Japanese person of any significance involved was the actor and co-producer, Isakawa Denisu.
Now personally I support the idea of Japanese anime working alongside people from outside the country. There have been cases in which multinational works have paid off (see No. 20 IGPX, a Japanese-American collaboration). However, this one just did not work.
It’s set in an unspecified time in the future, when all of the planet’s resources have been used up. Due to there being no alternative, people have been into an artificial sleep in giant complexes. At one of these, the Xonasu Area Sonniupolis, one of the operators is woken up, a woman named Exaella. She goes around the complex, trying to awaken the other people in it. Soon however, she finds herself being attacked by the various security systems in the area including vicious robot guard dogs. Meanwhile a soldier called Ken infiltrates the facility facing even greater danger.
The problems with this series are many and they start immediately. When you get the DVD (a hard thing to do seeing as how there are only three websites which sell it; and only one of which is in English) it’s in black-and-white. When you see it the first thought might well be: “Oh, a black-and-white series? Looks cool, atmospheric, suitably metallic and grim for a cyberpunk setting.” But it isn’t. It is mostly grey with the odd bit of pointless colour thrown in, like very faint skin colours and the blue glowing eyes of the robot guard dogs. Not only that, but the special effects are seriously underwhelming as well. For example, when some machine guns fire they just seem to stick some orange flames on top of the film. It would be better if it was just totally monochrome, as it might have heightened the gloomy mood, which was one of the few plus points to this series.
Another issue of it is the pace. Exaella is way too slow. Now sometimes an anime can work if it is slow. Indeed there are other cyberpunk anime which are slow and they do indeed work. The difference however is the length of the series. If a series is slow, it’s best if it’s long because then you have enough time to tell an engrossing story. A 26-part series works well for a slow story. A 13-part series can work but the writing needs to be right. But Exaella is only four episodes long, which is way too short. If you have a limited amount of time you need to tell the story quicker in order to keep the viewer interested and Exaella doesn’t do it.
The dubbing into other languages is also a big issue. While the original Japanese has four different actors voicing all the parts, when it has been dubbed into English and Russian they only get one actor to voice all the characters, both male and female. Not only that, but they do not even remove the original Japanese voice acting while the dub is being played, so you are hearing to performances one on top of the other.
Even small things like the DVD menus are bad, because they are hard to read. The extras on the DVD have issues too. Extras listed include things like “Events”, “Characters” and “Credits”. However, all of these things are a copy of what you get in the booklet that accompanies the DVD, so what is the point of putting them on the DVD in the first place?
When I reviewed Exaella, it was the first anime I ever reviewed, working for the website Anime UK News. The series currently has the lowest rating of any anime reviewed on the site with 2 out of 10 (I had originally gave it 1, but I was persuaded to mark it up on the grounds that the atmospheric tone was not too bad). Because it was such a low rating I was asked the give the Exaella DVD to someone else just to be sure my review was right. I am glad to say my views were vindicated.
If you wish to give this series a go, that is your choice, but I would personally not recommend it.
Exaella is available from the website Cyberpunk Anime Shop as either a Region 0 DVD or as a download. It is available in the original 4-episode or as a re-edited movie edition.