Friday, April 23, 2010

Excel Saga Volume 9

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

After 2 volumes that could cost you a bundle if you never got them when they came out, here's Vol. 9, a return to sensible prices. This one's still in print, and thus on Amazon for only $9.95. And it's just as packed with plot as Volume 8 was. Rikdo has now finished introducing his cast (with 2 big exceptions), and can get on with proving that Excel Saga is more than just a series of part-time jobs and Hail Il Palazzos.

We start off with one of those AU chapters that puts the characters in another venue, this one being a parody of Japanese detective shows. Unfortunately, much of the humor actually relies on knowing those shows, so it's not quite as funny as it could be for North American audiences. I did recognize Sukeban Deka and the Matrix in the mix there. Best out of context line: "I bet he'll kill *again*!"

Back in the real plot, Excel and company have now arrived at their new apartment. Since this one was given to them by Kabapu's organization (you may recall the old one burning down in 8 due to Iwata/Ropponmatsu being an idiot), it's bigger than the old apartment, and furnished. To Elgala, this is simply normal, and she cheerily goes off to watch TV and take a hot soaking bath. To Excel, used to living in utter penury, this luxury is hideously untrustworthy, and she quickly puts Elgala in her place.

The most interesting part of the chapter comes after Excel, due to penury putting holes in her pockets, accidentally loses the keys to the apartment. Luckily, they were spotted almost immediately... by Ropponmatsu II, who manages to return them while looking utterly creepy doing so. Incidentally, this is one of the few times Carl Horn will need to correct a translation. Volume 9 has Ropponmatsu, on handing the keys back to Excel (whom she clearly recognizes in some way), "Be careful with those." In Volume 17, though, there's a flashback to this exact scene, and owing to future plot points (which I shall not reveal here), Ropponmatsu now says "Don't lose it." This is why translation can be hard - one cannot read the mangaka's mind.

Meanwhile, Elgala goes off on another super sekrit mission on her own (we briefly see her skulking around Kabapu's building), so we're back to just Excel and Hyatt. And actually, it's just Excel, as Hyatt collapses in a pool of blood in front of Lord Il Palazzo. She's done this before, but for once he actually seems to notice (again, we note Il Palazzo does not always seem to have the same set of memories from one day to the next) and takes Hyatt to the medical bay. This leaves Excel on her own, just like the start of the series... except she, like the reader, is now used to actual interaction. But too stubborn to admit she's lonely.

This leads to the most intriguing part of the manga, as we see Il Palazzo examining Hyatt, who is floating naked in a tank of fluid, in the time-honored sci-fi way. Il Palazzo notes that she had something implanted in her, and it's clearly failing. This would certainly explain the constant coughing up blood and dying. Yet he notes that not only was the implant from the finest genetic materials, but it's implied that he implanted the same thing into Excel... who is clearly *not* coughing up blood and dying. In fact, if anything Excel's strength and endurance verge on superhuman. What made it work with Excel and not with Hyatt? Well, we don't find that out yet. Il Palazzo 'fixes' Hyatt, and we're back to normal. (Mostly as by the very next page she's back to coughing up blood and collapsing...)

There then follow two filler-ey chapters, both amusing. One deals with the rest of Kabapu's team wondering what kind of robot Iwata will be like when he returns. Super-strength? A brain in a jar? A 300-foot Mecha? The other involves Menchi, who got bonked on the head and lost her memory a while back, having it suddenly return and realize oh yeah, she's trapped in an apartment with people who want to eat her as food. Her escape is actually far more successful than usual (she avoids Misaki, who we know will merely return the dog to Excel), but unfortunately can't get past a returning Elgala.

Meanwhile, Il Palazzo seems to have decided that ACROSS has done enough research, and they are now ready to reveal themselves to the world. This involves Excel and Hyatt, wearing sunglasses to hide their identities (the joke being that they actually seem to do so... even Misaki doesn't recognize them) going out into the middle of City Hall Plaza and talking up the glories of Il Palazzo. At first the only effect this seems to have is getting a bunch of cosplay-loving otaku to watch them... but Kabapu, watching from his penthouse office, is blown away. He seems to regain some memories of his own, involving Il Palazzo (it's now clear the two were colleagues in the past), and heads off to a secret base.

And now the big finale, as who should drop in to stop Excel and Hyatt's plans but a sentai warrior! This is Iwata, of course, in his new cyborg body (which looks pretty much like him, for those who wondered if he would be a brain in a jar). He's got laser guns, he's got super strength, he's... just as stupid, so things don't go well. In fact, the audience is starting to see him as a villain. While this goes on, Kabapu explains to the other 3 City Security members... all now magically in sentai outfits... that their job will be to PROTECT THIS CITY!

Those who know Excel Saga's pedigree have been waiting for this. The original doujinshi he based Excel Saga on was called Shiritsu Sentai Daitenzin, and featured Iwata & company, in somewhat proto form, battling the evil organization, i.e. Il Palazzo and Excel. The doujinshi starred the so-called Municipal Force, and was a parody of Power Rangers-esque shows beloved in Japan. And now we get to finally see them here. But not quite fully in action yet. Iwata starts blowing things up, and Excel and Hyatt run away. They did get the crowd to chant "Hail, Il Palazzo", though. So 60 points out of 100.

I was pleased at how much I enjoyed this plot-tastic Excel Saga. It's still amazingly silly, of course. Hopefully 10 will have more Elgala, though... this volume was sorely lacing in Elgala.

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