Story and Art – Rikdo Koshi
Japanese Publisher – Shounen Gahousha
Serialised In – Young King Ours
English Publisher – Viz
Released Date – 08/2003
Format – Right to Left
First Volume ISBN – 1-56931-988-X
Genre – Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Age Rating – Teens
Excel Saga is by no means a conventional manga. The second manga written by Rikdo Koshi (The first being Municipal Forces Daitenjin which contained many of the characters from Excel Saga before their new found fame) the story is as whacked out and surreal as they come. The protagonist is the dim witted yet enthusiastic and energetic Excel, her dog is also her emergency rations, her co-worker defies the laws of life and death and her next door neighbours are employed by Across’ only obstacle in the conquest of the city, The Safety Assurance Agency… Not that either party knows this.
Thus is set the background for what is one of the funniest and insane mangas available and Rikdo Koshi’s best and most celebrated work to date.
As far as plot goes Excel is an agent of the ideological organisation of Across who’s goal it is to take over the world, though to prevent Across over stretching it’s resources and to provide a workable formula for the domination other areas of the world it has been decided to concentrate the organization’s efforts on the small northern province of Fukuoka. Thusly Excel and her loyal yet unreliable co-worker Hyatt surge forward to spread Across’ message and undermine the forces that oppose them, well that’s their intent at least. In reality the agents of Across embark on a series of misadventures in the name of their Lord and commander Ilpalazzo leading to all manner of insanity, projectile body fluids and animal cruelty which inevitably end in failure.
The Manga itself is well presented, in true right to left format with a large sound effects glossary and all new messages and mini-strips from Rikdo Koshi himself. Rikdo Koshi’s style while not unique, distinctive or breath taking like titles like Berserk or any of the Clamp titles it is very well presented and in a way I’d expect a spoof manga to be, changing from normal to super deformed chibi to anything in between throughout the length of each volume. What is graphically unusual about Excel Saga is the sheer amount of text in it, on average it takes twice the time to read Excel Saga in comparison to a regular manga.
Excel Saga is one of those special titles amongst manga, not only is it hilariously funny it is also an excellent parody of formulaic “spy” titles. Where as many mangas will reward readers with the occasional smile Excel Saga somehow manages to leave you in stitches at least once ever chapter. The main source of comedy comes from the characters interaction with each other; the way they interact with each other and their environment is a joy to behold. It seems that no one truly likes everyone in their respective groups (with the exception of the two Ropponmatsu units) and everyone exists in an almost constant state of exasperation or conflict with one another, Iwata chases women who aren’t in the least bit interested in him, Watanabe and Excel both have their respective infatuations, Excel likes Hyatt yet is secretly concerned that she is stealing Ilpalazzo (Who was never hers in the first place) away from her and Matsuya violently puts down Iwata’s constant advances.
As you’ve probably realised if you want a manga with a plotline that makes a lot of sense then try something else. If you’re expecting giant robots, go get some Gundam. But if you’re into something a little strange, surreal and addictive, get excel saga.
Lord Ilpalazzo – Haaaail Ilpalazzo! Supreme commander of the super secret ideological organisation of across whose goal it is to bring about a new order to the world by over throwing the status quo of today’s boisoiure politics and installing a regime based on his ideals. Though of course world domination is no small goal, so to start he has decided to direct his operatives to take control of Japan, and further more, to prevent his organisation over stretching itself and to provide a workable formula for the domination other areas of the world he has decided to concentrate his efforts on the small northern province of Fukuoka. Ilpalazzo is an elegant mysterious figure head indeed. Through out the manga Excel’s pretty boy lord commander seems to either have a fetish for dunking pretty young women (That is poor Excel) down specifically designed pit traps, or simply finds Excels lung blowing, irreconcilable and illogical reports tiresome and distasteful and I suppose only he will ever know, he does however do a good job of stocking the trap with original and varying nastiness which changes with each and every dunk.
Excel – The heroine of the manga who also lends her name to the title. Excel is an overly energetic young agent working for the secret ideological organisation of Across whose leader and supreme commander, the great Lord Ilpalazzo, she has what could be described as a dangerously serious infatuation. Excel is fundamentally kind, obliging and happy person, unless you’re a small dog and emergency food supply named “Mince” or an enemy of Across of course.
She is totally and utterly devoted to Lord Ilpalazzo and his cause, this devotion tends to cloud her already shaky judgment and this combined with her, what wouldn’t be unfair to describe as minimal intelligence, results in major problems for her and Across and is one of the factors in it’s failure to conquer the city. The fact that at the beginning of the series she is the only across agent, Across’ total membership numbering two by the end of the first book and then three further into the series is also a factor in Across’ failure to gain any ground in conquering the city. Excel eventually shares a flat with fellow Across agents and the poor, unfortunate puppy come emergency food supply Mince. Here they share meals of bread crusts, tend to every day events and launch operations in the name of across under the unknowing eyes of their neighbours.
Hyatt – is another… Well the other Across agent for much of the series, though her demeanour and mannerisms would suggest otherwise. Hyatt is a pretty, but frail, looking young woman; she is quiet, intelligent and thoughtful unlike her senior Excel.
However where as Excel is lively, energetic and seemingly indestructible Hyatt is the exact opposite. Hyatt is a rather frail, sick young lady… That is she often dies. But do not fear because in the style of Monty Python and the man who was turned into a newt she gets better, usually after being revived by Excel or if not by herself, she just dies and is resurrected like most people would sleep and then wake, in fact she often dies in her sleep and then resurrects herself in the morning. This can be problematic for Across’ goals but of course it is Excel who must take up the slack during the time Hyatt is courting Angels, though she still seems to be the favourite of her Lord Ilpalazzo.
Mince – Excel and Hyatt’s Emergency food supply, Beige hair, Black eyes, Very much resembles a cat. She is ‘adopted’ or more accurately captured by Excel in the first volume, to serve as an emergency food ration. As Excel’s thought process puts it: “dog > organism > edible!”.
The Neighbours – Sumiyosi, Watanabe and Iwata. Two of this trio actually live two doors down from Excel but spend most of their time at Watanabe’s house, much to the annoyance of Watanabe himself.
Iwata chases whatever skirt he can find and is dangerously possessive over women that aren’t his and obviously have no interest in him while Watanabe has a worrying infatuation with his next door neighbour Hyatt yet hates her noisy roommate and co-worker, the noisy Excel and barely tolerates his supposed friend and co-worker Iwata’s constant idiocy.
Later in the manga they join Dr Kabapu’s Safety Assurance Agency, becoming sworn enemies of Across and their next door neighbours the Across girls, not that they actually ever realize this of course.