Excel Saga Vol. #04 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Saturday, June 19, 2004
Release Date: Monday, December 01, 2003

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Rikdo Koshi
Translated by:Dan Kanemitsu
Adapted by:

What They Say
Stories the director himself said they didn't dare put in the anime! Plus bonus footnotes, FX glossary and secret messages!
Thre could be no return address for Hyayy when she's taken hostage in a post-office holdup! But the threat of death means squat to someone who already dies several times in any given working day -- and in any case seems largely unaware why she's been tied up and taken on an impromptu road trip. Excel's teeth-clenching rescue leads to a visit from -- The Clones of Dr. Iwata?!? When she deguises herself as her blood-spouting buddy in order to scam free dental care, she falls under the drill (and questing fingers) of a lustful, bungling dentist who looks remarkably like the lustful, bungling surgeon of fame. But who's going to lose more teeth in the encounter? Meanwhile, as Il Palazzo continues to ponder the ominous voices (?) inside (?) his head, and little latchkey pupp Mince, chisel in maw, labors on an apartment jailbreak worthy of Escape From Alcatraz everyone's heading for the obligatory swimsuit scene at the public pool. Ordinarily, it would be the obligatory nude scene at the hot springsd resort, but of course no one in Excel Saga can afford a vacation like that.

The Review
VIZ's cover design levels up this volume. The front cover has Excel in Mince fur in front of a background full of the series' supporting characters. Nice! This is presented under a green, red and white logo with number. The back cover has an image of Excel saluting with Mince on her left shoulder. The image is small in realtion to the huge blurb but its still cute and looks nice with the background colors. Unfortunately the spine here is once again navy so we have a case of mis-matched spines here.

Logo Check!!! (2003 Megs).... is pretty good. I like the font used and am real glad they kept the heart between Excel and Saga.

Inside Viz gives us a good transfer on decent paper. All of the chapter ending art is there and so is the famed "Excel Saga Bonus Section." These are really nice touches and at times I almost feel they are too much information (especially with regards to Rikdo and his staff).

I love the 4-panel stories from Rikdo. They are real good and this issue has two of them focusing on his assistants and their wierd personalites.

Rikdo's art is not very appealing to me. Lines are too thin and at times too long. Use of tone and sketch lines are wierd but I guess it makes sense in this world. Character designs are just poor for the female characters. It's wierd that I do not like them but their heads are just whack (i should like them because they are to scale and not super-long like other people tend to draw them.) Iwata and Sumiyoshi are great though. They really look solid but I might be enjoying them more since I dont get to see them that often. Backgrounds and layouts are actually pretty entertaining. The level of detail changes with the tone of the series so it really seems as if there is more to this manga than the characters.

Right to left.
SFX are all translated in a glossary. There are lots of notes in the glossary. Its really very helpfull. If you like manga with SFX glossaries this is where to start. Horn and Kanemitsu did such a good job with all their series insight and background that they should not be overlooked.

Viz continues with a solid translation in this one. Honorifics are used off and on. "-Chan"s and "sensei"s come up often but "-san"s and "-kun"s are used sparingly. Did not notice any issues with spelling or grammar (typical Viz work.)

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Volume 4 continues the randomness that this series is famous for. Excel and crew keep on screwing up their missions, struggling for food and money, as they raise havoc and cause confusion amongst the populous of the greater Fukuoka area.
But where volume 4 does change is how close we get to some of the individual characters. Up until now we have followed these characters in groups. So we see them, working together, fighting with each other or just struggling together. Whether its one group against the other (ACROSS v ESA) or its the individual groups doing their thing, readers would rarely get chances to see the characters in a more personal setting. So giving a few characters a little solo time brings a chance to build on the character development that has been missing so far.

When Hyatt is taken hostage by a pair of post-office robbers (some people in japan save money with the post office. Its more convenient than some banks.) we get to see a lot of the same Hyatt but we also get glimpes of her that have not come up too often. Now that she is on her own you see her trying to raise her chances of survival while crossing the line between the living and the dead, like only Hyatt can do. On the flip side some of Excel's drive and her spirit is shown when you see her trying to hunt Hyatt down. You know Excel is hyper and simple, but in this volume you can start to see that she is loyal, logical and quite possibly in olympian shape! Seeing Excel at the dentist trying to pull off being normal was hilarious but refreshing. And Excel with amnesia presented such a differenct perspective on her character that I started to feel a little more interest in the series as a whole.
Now, I learned more about the main characters in this volume than I have in the three leading up to this. And while the nature of this series being gereraly episodic it has been pretty difficult to really get to know the characters too well with the random goal based stories. Getting to know them more I earned an appreciation for them and started to almost think they were funny instead of sociopathic.

For those of you looking for comedy with a good deal of action, wild characters and little plot this is it. Excel Saga is beginning to have a sense of direction but is still as random and as episodic as they get. Some people will like this as you cannot expect anything from it; its always new. Others might just like the character play within the two factions and find their interactions downright hilarious.

For those of you looking for a comedy with better art, a plot and less insanity pass. While this volume did not give me the throbbing headaches the others did I hate having to go through four graphic novels before getting some belly laughs.

Excel Saga is funny. That is something I cannot deny but personally I could find extreme characters and tension within the office in other series. Iron Wok Jan! for instance has a unique genre, crazy characters, and some of the most interesting storylines I have read in ages. There is character development and roles are changing as the story progresses. Excel Saga on the other hand doesn't seem to be going anywhere and I am just starting to get to know the characters though I still don't know anything about their motivations (well I knew the gang of three need to pay the bills but...maybe the main characters are supposed to be a mystery??!!).


Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 204
ISBN: 1-59116-110-X
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left