By Rikdo Koshi. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialized in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in North America by Viz.
I have to remind myself at times, when Miwa or Kabapu are making master plan after master plan and putting different personas in different robot bodies of other characters, that Excel Saga is still predominately a satire. Yes, the plot and characterization are a cut above the anime (and again, I remind readers that when the anime was licensed, Shonen Gahosha’s caveat was that the show would NOT use Rikdo’s plots), but it’s still making fun of everything, be it the fall of Japan’s bubble economy, the everyday 3-jobs-a-day week of the Japanese working girl, sentai shows like Power Rangers, or power-mad villains stockpiling schemes like Aizen. To a degree, the inability to truly understand what’s going on may be hard-wired into the format – that’s the joke.
That’s not to say there aren’t points of interest here. Il Palazzo has always been the hardest character to get a grip on in this series, even more so than Hyatt, and even Miwa is having difficulty figuring out what he’s doing. Indeed, he may not know himself – we’ve seen he is having a war with some other personality in his head. And for that matter, how many people are possessing Iwata at any one time, and re any of them Iwata himself? It gets bad enough that even Misaki is taking to making guesses – she picks Shiouji’s father, and is informed that she’s incorrect (if fan theories prove to be correct, she’s more wrong than she knows). For that matter, how much of ACROSS’s base runs on ancient technology?
This being Excel Saga, there are many moments of hilarity here. Elgala’s crucifixion, The meta commentary on Iwata and Excel being the sort who would “be the hero of a manga” (notably, Hyatt is absolutely correct, but for the wrong reasons – I’m afraid we’re at the point where Excel is simply never going to climb that pedestal Hyatt puts her on), and almost everything with the Department of City Security folks imprisoned in ACROSS’s base with, theoretically, minimal food and water. Even Misaki, who is usually out Only Sane Woman, finds herself losing it a bit here. One of the more serious parts of the book is her self-awareness of how close she’s coming to a total nervous breakdown, and trying to calm herself and stop it from happening – or at least put it to good use for things like blowing up walls.
Then there’s Umi, the one remaining innocent in this series, who’s been sent/lured down to ACROSS’s base by Miwa in order to see if Excel will break. It works, to a degree – Excel’s berserker rage is distracted for a moment – but I think as long as Excel still thinks that Robot Body allows her to be more useful than Human Body she’ll continue to make the same decisions, whether Teriha’s memories are still talking in her head or no. Of course, this may all be moot now that she has a giant hole blown into her. The thoughts in her head about “not wanting to be alone” are odd – are they Teriha’s, or is she picking up Umi in some odd way? Honestly, we’ve never seen Excel have much of a problem with solitude, and I think as long as Il Palazzo was with her, she’d be absolutely fine being alone.
(Great seeing Shiouji SUPER PISSED, too – for all that he finds Umi annoying, he doesn’t want to see her hurt in any way – indeed, a large part of his actions in the series are to avoid Umi getting emotionally damaged.)
And of course there’s the endnotes by Carl Horn, which are marvelous as always. They contain actual info about obscure references, meta-commentary on the series itself, they have their own in jokes (Carl is right – that line absolutely should be read by George Takei), and there’s a long endnote afterword discussing Rikdo’s current series, which he is drawing and Masamune Shirow is writing. Yes, Ghost in the Shell Shirow. As for Excel Saga 25? It was great, though the plot was not advanced a whole lot, and there may not be as much to advance as I think – see point #1. And it’s good to see all the Ropponmatsu vs. Ropponmatsu battles, after so long apart. Can’t wait till August, for the penultimate volume!