Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Excel Saga Volume 14

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

Excel Saga has had increasing fanservice for a while now, but 14 is really where Rikdo goes whole hog and reminds you of his hentai roots. Between Excel and Elgala wrestling in a sewer drain to get a 100 yen coin, to the public baths scene, to their frantic escape and Elgala exposing herself to most of the neighborhood, this volume comes very close to smashing its T rating throughout. (My favorite exchange from this, as Excel puts band-aids across Elgala's (hidden from us) nipples and crotch: "Learn to be frugal, El. As long as those three points are covered, what more do you need?" "CONSIDERABLY MORE!")

In fact, Excel's frugality is really hammered home here, as she chooses to wash up at one point in a public fountain. This causes Elgala to break down into a sobbing heap, crying out, "In the name of humanity!" Excel, seeing neighborhood children pointing at the wet crazy lady, decides for once to go wild and spend money for... a public bath! And more fanservice, of course.

And that's not getting into the gore, which is almost standard now. After all, this is a manga with Hyatt in it. Their stove explodes, and the hideous blood-soaked walls and floor would make for grim viewing if we didn't know Hyatt would turn up fine later on. (This is lampshaded later on, where Excel and Elgala wonder what's happened to the missing Hyatt. El wonders if she's dead, to which Excel responds, "How can she be killed?")

Il Palazzo is entirely absent from this volume, but we do get one major plot point, as when the girls are separated at the public baths after being attacked/interrogated by Kabapu's team (Misaki is trying to get serious answers out of them, rather than arrest them; Iwata just wants naked girls), somehow they end up with Hyatt captured by the other side. This is especially amusing as she's now living at Watanabe's apartment, posing as his wife. Naturally, Watanabe is torn between pure joy and horrific angst that he is thinking perverse thoughts about his beloved (Sumiyoshi and Misaki both note he should grow up).

This does, however, lead to the most intriguing part of the entire volume, with Kabapu and Momochi discussing their captured prisoner. They note that she has memory blocks that have made it impossible to get any information from her head, which is interesting. Far more interesting is Momochi noting that "except for the memory loss, she appears to be a completely healthy woman." Wait, WHAT? This is HYATT they're talking about. She was just bleeding out heavily 50 pages ago! Something highly intriguing is going on here, although don't expect answers soon - Rikdo likes to throw these at us, then move on. Puzzle pieces that don't fit anywhere else.

In the meantime, Kabapu goes to a hot spring and gets caught up in a murder mystery. This is easily the weakest part of the book, serving only to show that he still has lots of influence over the city (and law enforcement in particular), and that he's also brusque, uncaring, and a bit crazy. The chapter seems to be parodying several types of detective series, but I didn't recognize anything but Columbo (and even that may have been adapted to Western by Carl Horn). I do note the 'treasure hunter' pictured reminded me a bit of Geobreeders.

Finally, we have Excel and Elgala on board the battleship. Yes, it's the return of Mr. Owner and Ms. Manager, everyone's favorite Matsumoto parodies, who are determined to turn this enormous instrument of death into a classy 5-star hotel. This is easily the funniest part of the entire volume, with Excel in particular boggling at Mr. Owner's hideously flawed logic. (For once, Elgala gets to play the snarky commentator, and notes how amusing it is to see Excel freaking out and trying to make people see reason.) Naturally, the boat ends up sinking, and Excel and Elgala are (again) captured by the JSDF.

This was a fun, action-packed volume of Excel Saga, but did not really do much to advance the main plot beyond Hyatt's capture. Presumably we'll see her rescue in Volume 15... and perhaps some other major changes as well.

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