“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to stop the man touching the equipment.” – Warren Bennis
Chances are that you probably have not heard of the OVA series Exaella. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it is not really Japanese. The man responsible for it, Andrew Oudot, is Russian. He is the creator, owner of the eponymous studio behind it, edited it, composed the score for it, and co-produced it. Secondly, it is hardly on sale anywhere. There are currently only three official retailers: Cyberpunk Anime Shop International (owned by Oudot), and two Russian companies.
Exaella is set at an unspecified time in the future, in which all the natural resources on the planet have been used up. As no suitable alternative has been found, people have been put into “artificial sleep and life support” in gigantic complexes. One of the operators of these complexes, Exaella, wakes up to revive the people in the Xonasu Area Sonniupolis.
In terms of similar anime, it puts me in mind of Texhnolyze. There are similarites between the two, first of which comes to mind is the slowness of the plot line. However, for me the main difference is that as Texhnolyze was a TV series lasting 22 episodes, it can afford to be slower because the rest of the action can take place in later episodes. Exaella lasts only four episodes and thus cannot pull off the same trick. It’s slow for all four episodes. Yes, there are some plot developments. Exaella becomes aware of the importantance of her role in the complex. Another character, a soldier called Ken, faces much more in the way of danger, so you get some action with him. But overall it is a bit slow for my tastes. If you are the kind of person who enjoys playing the long game, you will probably enjoy this, but if do not, then you have always got the forementioned Texhnolyze as an alternative.
Then there was the problem with the dub. Now, I am not the biggest fan of dubs in the first place, but I entered into this with an open mind. When I read the credits that accompany the DVD I only noted one name, Sara Colby (in English, there is also another single person dubbing it in Russian) doing all the dubbing on their own. After first I thought it might be the case that she would be dubbing just the one character, like the computer system for example, with the other characters being subtitled.
But I was wrong. It turns out that Sara Colby dubs over all the characters, male and female. Not only is there the issue of what can be termed as “laziness” on the part of Oudot, but also they do not bother get rid of the Japanese voice acting when you have the dub on. So you’ve got to listen to two people talking at the same time, with Colby speaking English loudly over the characters who are still talking in Japanese.
Next there is the issue of the animation itself. It is computer animated and not as fluid as I would have wished it to be. However, the main problem comes from the style. When I got the DVD it looked at first it was done entirely in black-and-white. I liked the thought of that, as it would add to the gloomy, cyberpunk atmosphere of the setting. However, it is not totally monochrome. There are odd bits of colour thrown in with robotic lights, faint skin colour, and rather dodgy flame effects coming out of guns. I think they should have stuck with it being totally black-and-white to enhance the setting of the piece.
Other problems include the DVD menus; it is hard to tell at times which bits you are currently highlighting and reading the text is at times difficult. Also, there is the lack of DVD extras. The back of the DVD lists extras as being “Events”, “Characters” and “Credits”, but they are just a copy of what is written in the booklet that accompanies the DVD, and as mentioned earlier it is hard to read what is on the screen.
Overall, I personally felt that this entire thing was a massive disappointment. I liked the atmospheric tone of the piece but that was about it. I hope that Oudot can pull off something better in his next work, and it is nice to see anime go down certain odd routes (although there are always those who believe anime cannot be anime unless it is made in Japan). You may want to give it a go if you want to experiment with your anime tastes. Hopefully you will find it more entertaining than I did.