Excel Saga, Vol. 23

By Rikdo Koshi. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialized in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in North America by Viz.

As you can see by the fact that that header says ‘serialized’ rather than ‘serialization ongoing’, Excel Saga has finally come to an end in Japan, with Vol. 27 being the last. Sadly, this does not mean that the volumes will be going on a faster schedule anytime soon – Carl Horn ends the volume by saying we will likely see Vol. 24 in 2013. On the bright side, at least it’s still not cancelled! Given this economy, we can all be grateful for that. Of course, as the plot gets more convoluted and some of the past volumes get harder to find, it can be difficult to work out exactly what’s going on. This is a manga series that requires a great deal of paying attention to get the most out of it. So what happens here?

Given Misaki’s on the cover, let’s start with her. When we last left her in Vol. 22, she was somewhat shaken up by Iwata being in Nishiki’s body, but more by the fact that Iwata was near death. That’s temporarily halted here, but not for long – we think things are back to normal, but halfway through the volume Iwata’s brain has regressed to the point where he’s forgotten everything after meeting Misaki in college. This shakes her up badly – by now most folks are aware that she’s in love with Iwata, but given her personality – and Iwata’s – it still comes as a shock every time we see it shown. So much so that she is willing to betray a newly formed allegiance.

Back to the first chapter of the book, and we are rather surprised to see Misaki and Excel genuinely teaming up, especially after last time when Misaki basically admitted her true desire was to stay out of things and just be left alone. Unfortunately, what’s going on with Iwata – and its connection to Excel – means that really isn’t an option anymore. Seeing them briefly working together is awesome – they are both in their own ways the most sensible and competent members of their respective groups – and it’s a shame we couldn’t see more of it.

We can’t see more of it because of what happened with Excel and Isshiki (Ropponmatsu 1 for those playing at home). To be fair to Rikdo, he did not pull this out of thin air. Much of the plot of the previous two volumes has been setting us up for what we see here. Excel’s amazing strength is shown in Vol. 20 in her fight with Isshiki, and we also see how consciousnesses can translate into other robot bodies when Iwata does it. That said, Excel definitely does not seem to be a robot. Despite having robot strength, and apparently robot invulnerability. Misaki hitting her with the laser whip was startling, but she had to know for sure. And that’s BEFORE Excel swapped bodies with Isshiki.

This is, as Shiouji tells Elgala, very dangerous. They’ve no idea how it happened, and no idea how to recreate or stop it. Meanwhile, Excel’s ACTUAL body does not have an Isshiki mind in it – it’s just sitting there slowly dying. And so Misaki is forced to ally with Elgala. This is much less of a powerful alliance. Elgala is very strong for a human, and is incredibly resilient for one too, but the fact is that compared to Excel she is simply not a superhuman. She’s also an idiot – yes, even compared to Excel. On the plus side, she’s a member of ACROSS. That’s about all the pluses. Her reasoning with Excel fails to take into account Excel’s devotion to Il Palazzo – one made even stronger by her immortal robot body.

As for other characters, it was rather surprising to see Hyatt not only remember Watanabe, but even seem to remember affection for him. Hyatt will, let’s face it, always be the most opaque cast member (And I include Miwa in that group) – and it’s not surprising that she vanishes from the second half of the manga. However, seeing this suggests that perhaps there is something more to her than just falling over and dying, and Watanbe brings it out… somehow. As for Watanabe, those weary of his descent into sleazy pervdom will be relieved to note that he reverts after this confrontation to his old Miss Ayasugi-loving self. Who is still a wuss, but the alternative was not to most people’s liking.

(BTW, Carl Horn confuses ‘True End’ with ‘Good End’. Watanabe thinks he’s getting the True End as he’s going to DIE, but still happy knowing he was loved/remembered. True endings tend to be bittersweet. Higurashi is a good example – the original games, manga and anime had a ‘Good End’, but the PS2 game version had a ‘True End’, which did not save everyone. True endings are generally deeper and more realistic, but of course less happy.)

Kabapu really doesn’t do much here, but we do get more Miwa. She’s clearly our end villain by now, and the one in control at ACROSS. Well, most of the time – it hasn’t been clear for AGES when anyone is dealing with the real Il Palazzo. For example, the Il Palazzo Elgala and Hyatt report to seems unaware that there was a robot President Excel at all. And Miwa walks right up to him at one point – is that the hologram? Is Il Palazzo like Isshiki? Or, more likely, is Il Palazzo like Excel? (We’ve seen flashbacks of the two of them in their previous lives.) I wonder if his consciousness can jump bodies? As for Miwa, we don’t know precisely what she wants just yet, but I’m betting having Excel in Isshiki’s body is good for her and bad for everyone else.

And so we leave off for another year – at a fairly annoying cliffhanger, it must be said. (Though really, wait till Vol. 26 – that’ll really make you scream.) Is Excel aware she may be working for the enemy? Where is the real Il Palazzo? Will Iwata regain his old goofy self? Can Misaki admit her feelings for him at all? Is Miwa really her husband in disguise, as all of Excel Saga fandom seems to think? What is Kabapu going to do? Can Watanabe ever truly reunite with Hyatt? And is Elgala going to say hilarious yet dumb things?

We won’t find out any of those for at least another year. Though I’m guessing the Elgala one will be true if nothing else. This volume was great. So much hot, thick plot pushing into my brain – ACK! Must stop that! Keeping my brain free of plot is what Il Palazzo desires!

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