Excel Saga Vol. 1

By Rikdo Koshi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

For a while now I’ve been hearing about a Japanese anime series called Excel Saga. I was told it was wacky, it was bizarre, it was hysterically funny. So of course, I never got around to seeing it. However, when I heard that Viz was publishing the Excel Saga manga, I figured that was a good a way as any to see what all the fuss was about.

Excel is a secret agent, part of the agent known as ACROSS that is going to conquer the city of Fukuoka. Well, to be fair, there are only two members of ACROSS and the other is its leader Il Palazzo. As Excel fumbles her way through life, perpetually dying roommates, and a pet dog that she’s keeping around in case of an extreme lack of food hits, the only real question is not when will ACROSS take over Fukuoka, but when they will accidentally blow it (and themselves) to bits…

Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’ve just read too many comics by Ivan Brunetti and Pete Sickman-Garner, but Excel Saga just wasn’t everything it was promised to be. Now don’t get me wrong, Excel Saga is amusing. The first couple of times that Excel got dumped through a trap door made me crack a smile, the ongoing saga of Excel’s neighbors can be funny at times, and the saga of Excel’s dog Mince is easily the high point of the book. The problem is, it’s just not that funny. When a book keeps billing itself as being this fall-over-laughing, utterly-zany book that instead just often meanders all over the place and recycles jokes well past their due date, well, it’s just not all it promises.

Koshi’s art probably didn’t help matters; as the number of books brought over from Japan continues to increase a thousand-fold, we’re starting to see a lot of very homogeneous looking books unloaded into English. The art is little more than an afterthought here, using a very standard look (big eyes, crazy hair, slapstick moves) that audiences will quickly recognize and comprehend, but almost as quickly forget. I think that’s really part of the book’s overall problem; it’s by no means a bad book, but you just won’t remember it a day later aside from one or two brief shining moments. When the art does work, you’ll sit up and notice, but the rest of the time, well, it’s the same old thing.

I can only hope that the anime of Excel Saga has a spark to it that got everyone talking, because this ends up falling firmly into the average zone. Maybe my expectations were built up too high, but there just wasn’t enough that made me think, “I must read more of this!” Like the recent review of Shaolin Soccer, I can only hope that this is a book that is much more enriching once you’ve seen the original media it’s based on.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

2 comments to Excel Saga Vol. 1

  • Peter Samson

    The books hgave a really good story and a fairly unique style but not until later on int he series
    in the beginning it was almost a parody series

    the anime however is almost an entirely different story altogether, they are essentially two different things.

  • Peter Samson

    PS: the anime is based on the books, not the other way around.