Shin

Excel Saga

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.

Characters

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.

Excel Saga

Type: Parody comedy
Target group: Shounen
Number of episodes: 26
Recommended age: Somewhat mature, includes medium violence, sexual references and nudity.

(Possible spoiler warning)

The Plot
Mental. Absolutely completely positively mental. It’s pretty much impossible to think of a more fitting description for this series. Allow me to give you a short summary of the first episode: The year is 200X. The scene is F City, F Prefecture. A revolutionist group called ACROSS, led by the mysterious Lord Illpalazzo is plotting to take over the city, and in the long run, the world and rid it of its corruption. The only problem is that the current single member, Excel, is a complete airhead and produces more surplus energy than a nuclear power plant. In fact, Lord Illpalazzo has to kill off Excel twice before she is conceivable to carry out his order. Sound strange? Not at all, because this series conveniently comes with the Great will of the Macrocosm who can reset the plot whenever necessary. (Which is often) As for Excel’s first assignment, she is briefed to annihilate one of the main threats to the world; the bringers of chaos and perversion… manga artists… Target no.1; Koshi Rikudo. (Who just happen to be the original author of this series.)

The first episode amazingly manages to give the viewers a rough hint of what to expect from the other 25: It is a bunch of strange and always-failing attempts to take over the city, and members of the Excel Saga production staff are pretty often seen. Each episode is also designed by the author to be a parody on a specific genre, ranging everything from romantic comedies to dating-video games, Star Wars and B-action movies. Due to these unusual twists in style, the series is not as much a series, as 26 loosely connected episodes. The most noticeable red line Excel Saga offers is the sub-plot perils of the immigrant worker Pedro, whom gets killed in a fire caused by Excel and as ghost desperately tries to reunite with his “sexy wife” and his son.

A special warning is in place for episode 26, named “Going too far”, which is a very fitting name for one of the most perverted episodes from a not-hentai series I’ve ever seen. Also expect much blood and general grossness! Definitely not for the timid!

The main characters
Excel: She is a young girl, just graduated from high school, with enough energy to light up a block. Unfortunately she is unable to process all that energy into something productive, and therefore mostly just end up failing her missions. Her will to please Lord Illpalazzo also makes her incredibly unfocused and throws her into constant rants about the greatness of Lord Illpalazzo, which in turn forces him to use a special trap door designed for Excel only, to allow her too cool down when necessary. (Which is quite often.) It takes to the end of the series to realize, but deep down Excel is a sensitive person and the reason she follows Lord Illpalazzo at all is not out of ideological zeal but out of an over-dimensioned teenage crush.
Hyatt: She is the second member of ACROSS, and is actually some mystical Space Princess brought to this world with the invasion of the alien race of Puchuus; small, pink and devastatingly cute little creatures. Hyatt herself has a kind and innocent personality, but a curious disease causes her to cough up blood and die at least twice every episode. The reason she follows Lord Illpalazzo is unknown but her docile personality has made her Illapalazzo’s favorite.
Menchi: A stray dog who by coincidence ran into an Excel near starvation and therefore got abducted to serve as her emergency food supply. Excel’s reoccurring death threats has brought poor Menchi to a breakdown and a couple of episodes are about Menchi’s attempted escapes. Unfortunately for her, sudden twists in the plot always bring her back into Excel’s clutches.
Lord Illpalazzo: A mysterious character who’s background we know basically nothing about, but for some reason he was entrusted by the ACROSS High Command to secure F City. Apart from planning the various plots for conquest he delivers to Excel and Hyatt, he appears to be doing very little but sit on his underground hideout-throne and play dating-video games or electric guitar.
Nabeshin: He is probably the most curious character of them all, since he can jump into the plot for no apparent reason at anytime. He is the avenger in afro, and the fact that he is the director of the series (Watanabe Shinichi) makes him impossible to defeat for all the nasty bad guys.
Iwata, Sumiyoshi and Watanabe: Three ronins living next door to Excel and Hyatt. Iwata is a carefree guy mostly out to bring the over-serious Watanabe down to earth, while Sumiyoshi is a calm thinker, but for some reason he has no voice, making everything he says appear in kana and kanji characters on the screen… In order to become respectable to the ladies, they manage to get hired as municipal workers.
Kabapu: The head of a secret municipal branch in charge for city defense. An eccentric character with an impressive yellow moustache, which comes off from time to time.
Pedro: South American immigrant worker, hard working and honest, but misses his wife and son terribly. Gets caught in a fire and dies, but turns into a ghost.

The music
You wouldn’t expect too much out of a mental comedy like this, but Excel Saga brings us a pretty all right soundtrack indeed. The composer Toshio Masuda brings us a variety of songs, from pop-ish to hard rock (one piece even sounds suspiciously alike Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’) and several melodramatic tear-jerking pieces. Most noticeable however are the up-beat and catchy opening song “Ai chuuseishin”, lyrics written by the director and superhero Nabeshin, and the hilarious ending called “Menchi’s Bolero of sorrow: ‘So, are you going to eat me’”, which is quite as insane as it sounds. We have Menchi on screen, making howling noises, which are translated into a tear-jerking story of Menchi’s death-angst. It is hardly necessary to point out who wrote the lyrics… What is really funny about the song is not only the lyrics, but mainly that the music itself is your classic, tear-jerking, tragic drama piece, in my opinion a beautiful work of art, and you often hear variations of the theme whenever the story focuses on Menchi.

Overall
Excel Saga is without a doubt the craziest series I’ve ever seen. Never before have I seen so many mental plot-twists and ridiculous occurrences and jokes. Of course, you must have a pretty special sense of humor to fully appreciate the work, expect to encounter much stupid, ridiculous Naked Gun-class humor.
However, in my opinion it is way too long, because no matter how silly it might be, the lack of a red line throughout the series apart from the Pedro-subplot makes the series a little dull eventually. Fortunately for the series, a real multi-episode plot takes place when you pass 20 episodes and the last episodes are actually quite intriguing as the humor takes a backseat to allow the initial plot to have it’s final showdown! The series actually end at episode 25, but to show the viewer that the Excel Saga staff are sick sick people with sick sick minds, they decided to make a final episodes with no boundaries. Expect heavy ecchi stuff!

The characters, on the other hand, are very well done in my opinion; They’ve put together a good mix of comedic characters, I’m especially fond of Nabeshin because of his often ridiculous and completely pointless appearances, and the minor character Shioji, an eccentric inventor whom suspiciously enough surrounds himself with young girls when he’s coming up with inventions. He has a weak spot for kawaii girlish language, and so do I. =)

All in all, it’s well worth watching, it’s a little too long, but if you got the same sense of humor that I got (somewhat twisted), you’ll be sure to have many heavy laughs!

Finally, to all those who own the DVDs, I strongly suggest that you set the ad-vid. feature on, because it will explain to you whenever a parody-remark is made, which is quite often. You can tell there’s a thorough work behind.

By Midnightwolf

Work in progress... not home!
Trying to get all/most of the new code working before I start on the eyecandy.