Friday, July 30, 2010

Excel Saga Volume 15

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

This is the final volume of what I like to call Part 3 of the Excel Saga manga, and ends with a major sea change for the entire series. It begins right where we left off, though, with Hyatt 'captured' by Kabapu's people and posing as Watanabe's wife, and Excel and Hyatt having been arrested by the JSDF as terrorists.

I've got to say I love Excel and Elgala's double act. It works better than Excel and Hyatt, as Hyatt's occasional tendency to get snarky to Excel in previous volumes seemed rather out of character for her. Elgala has no such issues, and the best part is that she and Excel can trade off boke and tsukkomi several times over a single conversation. Witness first Excel and then Elgala discussing how they ended up going to an all-female prison island on a rickety boat. By the way, Excel is COMPLETELY AWESOME right after this, where the warden threatens her with rape and she just goes berserk, screaming "Does no really mean no? YES!" and noting she's saving her virginity for Lord Il Palazzo.

Meanwhile, Hyatt and Watanabe's love-love marriage is still going on, but it can't possibly last. Just as he's about to finally go all the way with her (and she actually seems very willing in doing this), Il Palazzo (who had been absent for all of Volume 14) shows up and holds out his hand. And BOOM, Hyatt's back to normal, working for ACROSS, and defending her Lord against the evil Watanabe who might try to harm him. This leads to two wonderful things: Il Palazzo and Hyatt's stroll through Fukuoka at night, which is just a masterpiece of funny; and Watanabe's complete nervous breakdown, which in this volume just seems to manifest itself in his playing H-games, but will get far, far worse.

Hyatt reminds Il Palazzo that he does have two other followers, something that he seems to have completely forgotten. Much is made of Il Palazzo's on-again, off-again memory, and this volume seems to show it at its worst. Having been reminded, though, he quickly goes to rescue Excel and Elgala, who have found themselves at the mercy of an insane missionary priest, who as Carl Horn notes in the liner notes looks an awful lot like the insane priest from Berserk when he's trying to kill both of them. Fear not, though, Il Palazzo is here to teleport them to safety!... OK, so he only teleports Elgala, leaving Excel behind. And seems to have forgotten she exists again. Such is life, however.

Excel, as we know, is not without her mad skillz, and quickly sets out to defeat the priest and run through the jungle to return to her beloved ACROSS. Meanwhile, Kabapu is starting to run into issues. It seems that a new electronics store has popped up, offering insanely high quality advanced gizmos at obscenely low prices. Called ILL, too. Gosh, who could be behind it? To make matters worse, Ropponmatsu I has been stolen by Il Palazzo. It's heavily hinted that it's Miwa who let this happen, so that she can advance her own hidden agenda. To make matters even WORSE, a lot of Kabapu's political cronies are suddenly being arrested, and his stocks are starting to fall.

Meanwhile, excellent news on the ACROSS front. Excel has managed to extricate herself from the jungle, and is now ensconced in a high-rise as ILL's president. Hyatt and Elgala, her underlings, are also living high on the hog, and everything's coming up roses. We see how well things are going in a giant party thrown for ILL by city leaders, praising the company for its stimulus of economic growth. Kabapu is there as well, and has a complete and utter freakout when he sees Il Palazzo and confronts him about the missing Ropponmatsu. And finally, to round out the volume, Umi is running through the rain to get back to her beloved professor, and comes across a rather familiar-looking bedraggled body lying in the gutter.

Yes, that's right. It'd be a spoiler if it was a surprise, but it's not much of one. The real Excel is that body, and Il Palazzo has given Ropponmatsu an upgrade to create RopponExcel. Rikdo did try to fake out the reader for a chapter or so, showing RopponExcel yelling at Elgala and demanding to be called President, but there was never really any question - this Excel was simply far too cool and efficient to be our heroine.

So what now? Will we have Excel doing battle against her robot double? Will Hyatt and Elgala realize that their Senior is a fake? Will Watanabe get over the loss of Hyatt and find himself a nice sweet girl? And what of Kabapu, who by the end of this volume was starting to actually look his age, with his hands starting to tremble as he gestured? Find out in Volume 16, start of the 'Teriha' arc!

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