"Excel Saga" is an ongoing action-parody/satire manga that documents the battle between a Super-Sentai city protectorate (lead by the massively corrupt bureaucrat Mr. Kabapu) and ACROSS (a villainous organization run by the deeply enigmatic Ill Palazzo). Largely told from the point of view the field leader of ACROSS, a girl code-named “Excel”, for over 10 years “Excel Saga” has detailed the organization’s attempt to take over the city and replace the local government - something they recently succeeded in doing! Dealing with robot doppelgangers, inappropriate inter-organization romance, and a female scientist who might well be inhabited by the mind of her own husband, “Excel Saga” holds back nothing in its attempt to stretch the limits of bizarre comedy.
And if that paragraph doesn’t get you interested, then I’m probably not telling it right.
It’s a tough job, reviewing volume 17 of a manga series. After all, unlike most western comics, many manga series simply aren’t designed to be joined mid-run, so in a way I’m only preaching to the converted. Still, if you’ve never read “Excel Saga” before but like what you read in this review, I heartily recommend going back to volume one - the journey back here’s a long one, but it’s (mostly) worth it.
Volume 17 opens with Excel still deeply amnesiac and living with Umi Rengaya in the Shiouji household while her robot doppelganger remains undetected in ACROSS’ ranks. With the robot-Excel, Hyatt and El Gala now running the city under Ill Palazzo, the real Excel struggles to regain her memory, taking fast to a job in a maid cafe alongside Umi (because the uniforms remind her of being in ACROSS). After meeting Hyatt and El Gala, (who still haven’t properly realized that Excel has been replaced) Excel unwittingly saves her workplace from demolition. Meanwhile, after months of defeat, Kabapu discovers a new source of revenue and begins clawing his way back to the top of society, vowing to defeat ACROSS once and for all!
Unfortunately, despite the summary, Volume 17 is actually the least eventful for some time. The majority of the major plot threads receive very little advancement - Excel’s amnesia isn’t cured yet (though she is slowly regaining her memories) and despite meeting the real Excel, neither Hyatt nor El Gala have understood what’s going on with her robot double. Amnesia plots make tedious reading at the best of times, but the pace of this one is bordering on glacial and we’re only seeing the barest hint that anyone has even noticed!
That said, Kabapu’s first step on the road to recovery makes for reading as hilarious as his initial downfall did. Even though he’s got all of his money back, he’s still physically and emotionally impaired, and a sequence where he attempts to open a champagne bottle while the physical act of doing so cracks and breaks his bones, all under the sickened gaze of his employees, is easily a contender for the high point of the book - the other being when Iwata’s penchant for jumping off buildings, "Ghost in the Shell"-style, has unfortunately realistic consequences for his decidedly un-"Ghost in the Shell"-style robotic body.
Despite the brilliance of seeing Kabapu ruined over the last few volumes, he always worked best when allowed to take full advantage of his massively corrupt enterprise, so I’m glad to see him ready to try and seize back the city from ACROSS, which he immediately does by organizing a series of arson attacks. It’s good to have the old nutcase back.
While not quite the comedy epic that the previous volume was, it’s hard to complain about any amount of new “Excel Saga”. Even so, when considered objectively, it’s a fairly lackluster installment in the series made all the more excruciating by the long wait between releases. Volume 18 is due in December, so there’s no excuse for not catching up beforehand!