Saturday, December 16, 2006

Understanding Your Future Masters: Excel Saga Overview Part 1


Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the first in a series of overviews about a manga by one Rikdo Koshi entitled Excel Saga. Excel Saga is the story of the organization of the promotion of the institution for the [supreme ideological ideal [on Earth] known as ACROSS. But before the take over the world, the take over of the city. Fukoaka Prefecture on Kyushu, one of the islands that make up Japan. Across is made up of Lord Il Palazzo and his minions, a trio of girls named Excel, Hyatt, and Elgala. With the exception of Elgala, all named after hotels. Elgala herself named after a community hall in Fukoaka. Yes, they are understaffed with complete incompetents but that won't prevent the dream, or will it?

In their conquest for city domination their only enemies include the mysterious Dr. Kabapu and his less then eager soldiers(Tooru Watanabe, Daimaru Sumiyoshi, Norikuni Iwata, and Misaki Matsuya) in the governments top secret Department of Environmental Security. As well as the assistance of his secretary Momochi and scientist Professor Shioji. Little to the knowledge of many involved, Il Palazzo's minions and several of Kabapu's employees live in the same low rent apartment complex.

Rickdos original purpose for the manga was to develop Excel from an earlier manga as well as a way to joke about various problems in real world Japan. Rikdo hails from Fukoaku and named several characters after various landmarks or locations.

I discovered Excel Saga through it's anime series in 2001(or 2002). The anime was meant as a parody on other shows and cliches present in the medium of Japanamation. Running for twenty-six episodes including one unaired in Japan because it was designed to be too explicit for broadcast TV. I thought the series was funny enough to check out the manga which I was happy to see had only some similarities to the actual adaptation. The directors and staffed added characters, left out plot points, and made it more over-the-top then the original source material.

Now that our intros are out of the way...

Volume 1
Mission 1: Opens with Il Palazzo and Excel. Both have no background information at this point. Excel is simply Excel. Hyperactive, loud, dense, and truly incapable of almost any task without failure. She has a habit of justifying any situation as progress or sabotage for Across. Has a habit of narrating out loud for no other reason but to hear herself talk. Or maybe she knows we're reading. Il Palazzo is a soft spoken individual, except during his speeches, who is rarely seen outside his secret headquarters. Besides his ridiculous gear(but you can say that about all Across soldiers) their is something just not right about him. Not counting imaginary chapters, I'd say volume 15 is the first we see him outside his secret lair. Il Palazzo also delivers punishment to his soldiers. usually as a trap door in the ground that sends Excel falling into some sort of pit. This is a running gag throughout the series. The first time is a shallow water grave and used as a way to silence her enthusiasm so he can speak. Nice guy, huh?

Excel comments on the lack of staff as she carved out a life size wooden doll to "assist" in operations. Il Palazzo promotes the dummy before mentioning he will get her help. Excel promptly burns dummy in celebration before whisking off to her part-time job at a construction site as a traffic director. Seems Across doesn't pay well, or anything at all. Similar to the first episode of the anime series Excels incompetence causes a severe car crash in which she flees the scene. "Mr. Foreman... and everyone else on the site, I'm sorry you all got mixed up in this. A conspiracy! This must be some sort of conspiracy!" Oh, that Excel... "... my wardrobe has certainly grown." Commenting on her many work uniforms.

Brief cameo from next door neighbor Tooru Watanabe and ends with a profile on Excel that reveals nothing of any clue to who she really is.

Mission 2: On Excels new job as a newspaper delivery girl she navigates through the rainy weather and flood. There she meets a dog named Mince which in her head she equates as edible. Yep, Mince, emergency food ration is introduced here. You see, Excels poor, and needs food. Part of this scene was used in episode 2 of the series and just like episode 2, while Excel tries to capture Mince(who was actually in episode 1 but in episode 2 tried to escape) her bike floats away. Which she believes another sabotage attempt against Across. Once back at headquarters Il Palazzo uses his trap door to drain the water from the lair which inadvertently, or intentionally, leads Excel in Mince out in the ocean. Poor Excel. There's also a brief cameo by Norukino Iwata as him and Watanabe come to blows over the sound level in the complex.

Mission 3: We're introduced to Hyatt. She is soft spoken, has a very calming attitude and personality, and might be a little clueless. Oh, and she dies a lot. Like Kenny from South Park. Except with Hyatt it's some sort of disease that allows her to slip in and out of the state of living. On the first time Il Palazzo discovers her ability to revive they hold an interesting conversation.

"I was just thinking about how I should get rid of the body," Il.
"Three hours... I've broken my old record," Hyatt.

Hyatt answers the ad in the newspaper for help. That's right, Il Palazzo sent out an ad in the classifieds back in mission 1. Excel however is in an immigrant detention center trying to break free. Excel eventually leads a prison riot for diversion as she "rescues" Mince, who was being treated with kindness and love by the prison guards and workers, and escapes by pole vaulting the wall. It is a comedy manga. Watanabe meets Hyatt outside his home, who is ill and can barely move. he is infatuated with her as he helps her into the room next door thinking she's replacing the last, very annoying loud, tenant. The mission ends with Excel utilizing an Across stead(actually a horse she stole) and getting back to HQ to meet her new partner, Hyatt.

Mission 4: Excel adapts to living with Hyatt. Including her rushing to keep Hyatt alive that very morning. Il Palazzo leaves the two for three days to an undisclosed location for business he can't divulge. Plus Watanabe gives up one of his parents care packages to Hyatt which becomes a trend in the series. Sumiyoshi has a brief cameo.

Mission 5: Today's trap door pit includes crickets. poor Excel, should let Il Palazzo speak instead of wasting his time. Il Palazzo asks about an investigation into the city's waste management all while at home Mince tries escaping with a mouth made rope of cloth. But realizes she has no hands to descend down. Poor girl. Apparently, in Fukoaku, people leave unwanted appliances and tools out on the curb for Neighborhood day. Watanabe and Sumiyoshi are rummaging as Excel and Hyatt enter the scene. Watanabe gets embarrassed and pulls Sumiyoshi with him saying some people have it worst off.

Excel and Hyatt rummage for things and Excel accidentally leaves a magnifying glass in position of the sun. Eventually causing a fire which she equate to another attempt at sabotage.

Mission 6: Not much here except a couple of characters have colds.

Mission 7: Today's pit involves making your own reptilian skinned accessories. Excel & Hyatt work part time selling cakes for Christmas. Excel takes time to explain the proper way to kill a crocodile with a knife. Very educational. Hyatt, unsurprisingly, dies on the job and is whisked away in an ambulance. Excel locates her and revives her in front of a stunned and horrified Dr. Sekifumi Iwata and Nurse Shiki Fukya. Dr. Iwata is the cousin of Norikuni. The doctor is a lecherous man who is one nurse away from malpractice. In an odd moment that can only work in manga/anime, our three neighbors of Iwata, Watanabe, and Sumiyoshi finally give one another proper introductions. I should to.

Watanabe-He is prone to quick burst of anger, especially towards Iwata. Is also easily depressed. Crush on Hyatt, who he still hasn't had a proper introduction to.

Iwata-One of those kind of guys whose a jerk on accident. Seems to chime in with things he shouldn't say and is very slefish and delusional.

Sumiyoshi-Um... the normal one? Doesn't really speak, as in the manga and anime captions appear to spell out what he's saying. Has an accent as he's from the country.

That hair... that mustache.. weird...

Volume 2
Mission 1: Introducing the mysterious Dr. Kabapu. A government official who wants to protest his city but is waiting for a threat to present it self. Kabapu is a very secretive person about his intentions. Also kind of outrageous. Excel and Hyatt are happy at their promotions and bring Mince some food which he believes to mean that this is his last meal. Excel now in public relations wants to get the word out on the conquest. She, with some help from Hyatt, print out notices to the people of Fukoaka. Next day in HQ, Excel fields a question on her cell from a citizen inquiring on this apparent conquest. Il Palazzo punishes her with a drop in the pit. At the bottom there is a copy of the Across Employee Handbook to reevaluate secret organization. The caller, Kabapu.

Mission 2: Il Palazzo plans for what he believes will be future enemies. How right is he? Weird... Kabapu begins practicing his elaborate welcoming speech(including a double corkscrew backflip on stage) to his future employees. In another odd coincidence Iwata, Watanabe, and Sumiyoshi unemployed and barley scratching by applied for civil servant jobs and all got accepted under the same branch. Entry level for Extra Special Technical Work. Excel and Hyatt ditch their part time jobs for the call to HQ by Il Palazzo. They take a severance package of consumer goods at the local mart. We learn what their fake names are for their W4 forms: Excel is Slammin' Flowerchild and Hyatt is Convoy Butterfly. "They sound like pro-wrestlers, don't they?" Hyatt chimes in. Il asks about any attempts at sabotage, Excel exaggerates a bunch of little things. The two notice how exhausted Il seemed in their recent meeting. Hmmm...

Mission 3: Excel fights to awaken Hyatt who was possibly moments from crossing over. The trio of Iwata, Watanabe, and Sumiyoshi prepare for their orientation today and Watanabe and Hyatt finally get proper introductions to one another. Hyatt however uses the alias of Ayasugi. Il Palazzo sends the two to scope out a government building to look for suspicious people. The trio meet Kabapu, whose elaborate gymnastic display ends in him cracking his head on the podium. he instructs them on where to get proper paperwork before collapsing. The department the trio will be working with is the Environmental Security department. Watanabe takes time to point out how this whole thing was strange. About how exams are usually given in the fall, not before employment and how they usually assign jobs based on preferences and performance on interviews. But the others don't question much because their glad they are hired.

Ayasugi/Hyatt and Watanabe run into one another again. There's a brief cameo by Dr. Iwata who is about to go out a date but learning a government official is in trouble, ops to work his hardest. Yeah...

Mission 4: Excel assumes the delicious breakfast was brought to her by Hyatts wonderful cooking of Mince meat. Nope, Mince lives! Watanabe next door gave her his food as he was leaving for a training seminar. Though, in actuality he bought it the night before to give to her just so he could briefly talk to her. SKILLS(note the sarcasm in statement).

Mince attempts escape but gets almost ran over by a taxi. After a fruitless seacrh Excel and Hyatt return home to find Mince thanks to Matsuya, whose only seen from the waist down in this cameo. She's running late for a training seminar. Yes, Misaki Matsuya lives in the same complex.

Mission 5: Matsuya makes her formal appearance in the series. We learn that Iwata, who develops a crush on Matsuya, attended a lecture in college with Matsuya. Our entire brain trust here are college graduates and probably been living in the same complex for roughly the same time as Matsuya move din after Iwata but left to trek around Europe. Watanabe didn't know she lived there.

Il Palazzo assigns his two soldiers to deliver some luggage(bomb) to a location in the countryside. Coincidentally the same countryside of the seminar? I doubt it. Il Palazzo is aware he has an enemy somehow. excel appropriates cart in the name of Across(thievery). The Civil Servants find themselves adorning bizarre skintight super sentai-type costumes and sporting lightweight guns. They turn out to be experimental, and highly unstable, lasers. Here we learn Kabapu definitely has his finger on the future of science but how?

Excel gets lose on a training course, tripping mines and showing just how hard it is for her to die. They end up a cave marked goal. Having confused this and the training course as objectives set by Il Palazzo Excel feels warmed by her lords training. Excel sets the bomb and her and Hyatt flee as it evaporates the mountain which is where Kabapu was storing fireworks for his congratulations party to his new employees.

Mission 6: Short part that seems to indicate Il Palazzo has memory lapses.

Mission 7: The recession is still ongoing in Fukuoka and Excel and Hyatt are without money. The two set off to acquire part time jobs so they can afford to eat a meal. Mince is out of the question because it isn't exactly an emergency yet. Hyatt finds a money clip and excel wants to keep the funds however Hyatt believes they should return it. They track down the owner, Dr. Iwata. When Iwata sees them he explains to the nurse they should dissect Hyatt as he's still in disbelief she revived from being brain dead for thirty minutes in their previous meeting(Vol. 1 Mission 7). The nurse knocks him out and tells the two that business came up. So Excel and Hyatt keep the money as donations from an Across sympathiser.

Mission 8: Training ends with a little party where Kabapu casually mentiosn that the leaking of classified information could result in harm to lively hood. Il Palazzo seems to be developing headaches frequently. Excel contemplates energy and environmental concerns.

Well, that's it for this entry in what will no doubt take me forever. There are currently 15 volumes out with no end yet in sight. Next week(or two weeks from now) I'll attempt another update about mangas volume 3 through 6. Maybe less but we'll see.

Part 2

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