Excel Saga (エクセル・サーガ Ekuseru Sāga?) is a manga series written and illustrated by Rikdo Koshi. It has been serialized in Young King OURs since 1997, with individual chapters collected and published in tankōbon volumes by Shōnen Gahosha. The series follows the attempts of Across, a "secret ideological organization", to conquer the city of Fukuoka as a first step towards world domination. The titular character of the series, Excel, is a key member of the group working towards this goal, while the city is defended by a shadowy government agency led by Dr. Kabapu.
The manga was adapted into an anime television series by Victor Entertainment. Directed by Shinichi Watanabe and featuring animation from J.C.Staff, the series premiered on TV Tokyo in 1999. TV Tokyo only aired twenty-five of the series' twenty-six episodes, with the finale having been intentionally made too violent and obscene for public broadcast. As such, it was only included in the DVD release of the series, although it has since been broadcast in other markets.
The series has enjoyed some critical success coupled with respectable sales.
Believing the World to be corrupt, the secret organization Across plans to conquer the world. The first step in the plan for world domination is to begin by focusing on one city in order to minimize setbacks. Across consists of the leader of the organization, Il Palazzo, and officers Excel and Hyatt. Excel and Hyatt live in an apartment building in the city, along with their pet dog Menchi, who is also their emergency food supply, and are later joined by Elgala, another Across officer. Living in the same apartment building are three friends Iwata, Sumiyoshi and Watanabe, along with co-worker Matsuya, and later Ropponmatsu, who work for the Department of City Security under Dr Kabapu. Eventually the members of Across begin making appeals directly to the City's citizens before Il Palazzo publicly declares the existence of Across and its intentions to the public. Hyatt is captured and Excel and Elgala are later held in an immigrant detention center before being rescued by Il Palazzo, who begins the new phase of his plans.
The series was created by Rikdo Koshi and based on a dojinshi he had previously created while in high school named Municipal Force Daitenzin (市立戦隊ダイテンジン Shiritsu Sentai Daitenjin?). Excel Saga was created as an evolution of Daitenzin in order to develop the character of Excel, as well as to laugh off the vision of a depressed and pessimistic view of the world. Excel Saga is set in Fukuoka City and the names of characters and organisations are derived from local locations and buildings. Rikdo would later become influenced by the anime series due to its quick broadcast in comparison to the monthly schedule of the manga.
Victor Entertainment contacted Shōnen Gahosha about adapting Excel Saga into an anime, and the two companies approached Rikdo. Shinichi Watanabe was chosen as director. Watanabe added his own alter ego, Nabeshin, and expanded several elements. He says that the Great Will in the manga was "conveyed just as words," and he himself developed its appearance, eventually settling on the "swirling, talking cosmos." He also increased Pedro's role in the story from a single frame in the manga. Watanabe says he was pleased with that aspect of his work, noting that "Pedro's situation was considered unsuitable for broadcast in Japan". The anime production staff was given the freedom to do anything they wanted as long as they kept the theme of the series intact, and Rikdo requested they created a separate timeline. The anime makes frequent use of parody and in-jokes as comedic devices, with each episode having a genre-based theme. This extends to the animation, with several characters designed in the style of other works, such as those by Leiji Matsumoto. Kotono Mitsuishi was chosen to play the role of Excel, and Watanabe was impressed with Mitsuishi's rapid delivery of her lines, saying that "she really pushed herself to the limit and beyond." He also says, "at times she was too fast, and there was plenty of time left to match the lip-synch". In such cases, either he would add new material or Mitsuishi would ad-lib. At first Rikdo felt stunned and uncomfortable at hearing Excel speak, but he called the casting "amazing" and was pleased to hear his favourite voice actors read lines from his work.
The series began serialisation in Japan in 1997 in the monthly anthology Young King OURs. The individual chapters began being collected and published in tankōbon format by Shōnen Gahosha in April 1997. Volume 23 was released on September 30, 2009.
Viz Media licensed Excel Saga for an English language release in North America in 2003. The first volume was released on August 13, 2003, and as of April 2010, twenty-one volumes have been released. Each volume of the Viz edition includes a section called Oubliette, which consists of a sound effects guide and production and cultural notes. The series is also licensed for regional language releases in France by Kabuto and in Italy by Dynit.
The series was produced by J.C.Staff and directed by Shinichi Watanabe and ran for twenty five episodes on TV Tokyo from October 7, 1999 to March 30, 2000. At the publisher's request, the anime series follows a different storyline from the manga, however Rikdo was pleased with the adaptation. Victor Entertainment produced the music of the series, which was composed and arranged by Toshio Masuda and directed by Keiichi Nozaki. Director Shinichi Watanabe wrote the lyrics for the opening and closing themes, which were performed by the Excel♥Girls (Yumiko Kobayashi and Mikako Takahashi), and he claims to have written the opening's lyrics "on the train, five minutes before the deadline". The opening theme wasLove (Loyalty) (「愛(忠誠心)」 Ai (Chūseishin)?) and the closing theme was Menchi's Bolero of Sorrow (「メンチの哀愁のボレロ」 Menchi no Aishū no Borero?). The two themes were released together as a CD single on November 3, 1999.
A twenty-sixth episode, Going Too Far never aired on TV Tokyo because it was purposefully too violent and obscene for broadcast in Japan, but was included as a DVD bonus. Watanabe commented that it "felt good to go past the limits of a TV series", although he thinks it "is not something that you should do too often". In Japan the series was released on 12 DVDs between March 1, 2000 and January 24, 2001.
The series is licensed for an English language release in North America and the United Kingdom by ADV Films and in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. The English adaptation initially starred Jessica Calvello, with Larissa Wolcott taking over the role after episode thirteen after Calvello had damaged her voice during production. In North America, ADV released the series on six DVDs between June 11, 2002 and April 8, 2003. A complete collection of the series was released on July 6, 2004 as Excel Saga - The Imperfect collection and re-released in different packaging on August 1, 2006 as Excel Saga - Complete Collection. In the UK, the series was released between May 19, 2003 and March 15, 2004. The complete series was later released as Excel Saga - Complete Box Set on July 2, 2007. The UK license for the series expired in January 2008.
In the United Kingdom, the series was broadcast on Rapture TV from January 2, 2007.
Several albums were released featuring music from the anime. (Excel Saga - Original Soundtrack Experiment 1 (エクセル・サーガ ― 大いなるサウンドトラック実験1?)) was released on January 1, 2000. The album was later released in North America on August 9, 2005. This was followed in Japan by (Excel Saga - Original Soundtrack Experiment 2 (エクセル・サーガ ― 大いなるサウンドトラック実験2 おまけ 寸止め海峡?)) on March 23, 2000. A North American release followed on November 1, 2005.
The English-language reviews of the Excel Saga anime were broadly positive and enthusiastic. Mike Crandol of Anime News Network puts it in the same class as Airplane!, National Lampoon, Tex Avery, and Monty Python, adding that the "combination of character-based humor, outrageous slapstick farce, and a plot that is engaging if only for how weird it is make for a thoroughly enjoyable comedic experience". A contrary opinion is expressed by Joel Pearce from DVD Verdict, who says the series is "occasionally clever and funny," but that "much of it is gratingly obnoxious". Many reviewers express displeasure with middle and later episodes, saying they were "more of the same," that they had stale humor, that they were tiresome, or even painfully unfunny. Episodes fourteen through sixteen, starring the Ropponmatsus, bear the brunt of this criticism, but several reviewers consider episode seventeen, Animation USA, to be one of the best.
Reviewers also agree that the series suffers from too much filler in its later episodes, with Crandol describing the show as spinning its wheels. Yegulalp reserves his harshest words for the unaired Going Too Far, calling it "pure, idiotic, wretched excess." He goes on to say that the episode has "the feeling of trying to deliberately enrage the audience by resorting to the only tactics left: genuinely offensive subject matter." Joel Cunningham at Digitally Obsessed disagrees, saying that the episode succeeds just in time, "with one of the series' funnier sight gags".
The series generally receives high marks for technical aspects. Cunningham feels the animation is flat-out gorgeous, but Crandol considers it merely above average. In the latter's opinion, its quality wanes as the series progresses and increasingly relies on super-deforming the characters for comedic effect. ADV's release earned praise for the quality of the video transfer and the DVD extras (particularly the Vid-Notes). Reviewers especially appreciated the English voice acting: Crandol calls it brilliant, and several note that Calvello and Wolcott were each able to capture Mitsuishi's Excel. Pearce, in contrast, found the English cast to be pretty bad and its Excel to be dental drill shrill.
Akadot's reviewer of the manga writes that "some of the strange events go on a little too long and do not have the impact that they do animated," but that Rikdo's Excel Saga is "graced with fantastic visuals and a hilarious story," and that the English edition is "a masterpiece of the translator's skill." Barb Lien-Cooper from Comic World News concurs that the manga cannot keep pace with the anime, but she finds Excel herself to be wittier in the manga and that the manga's plots make more sense than the anime's. A reviewer of the French edition also praises Rikdo's work, noting that it is an "...easy read without problems of clarity."
- "Interview with Rikdo Koshi". Excel Saga DVD Volume 5 (ADV Films).
- "Anime Expo - Press Panel with Koushi Rikudo". Anime News Network. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
- Koshi, Rikdo (2003). Excel Saga vol.2. Viz media. p. 202. ISBN 1-56931-989-8.
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- Crandol, Mike (June 17, 2002]). "Review - Excel Saga DVD 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved December 8, 2009. Check date values in:
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- Cunningham, Joel (April 8, 2003). "Excel Saga #6: Going Way Too Far (2000)". Digitally Obsessed. Retrieved June 3, 2006.
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- Full quotation (French): "En ce qui concerne la mise en page, celle-ci est particulièrement dynamique avec un enchaînement impressionnant de cases les unes sur les autres et qui laissent, malgré le nombre, une lecture facile et sans problèm de clarté." "Critique de Excel Saga". SciFi-Universe. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
- Official manga website of Viz Media
- Official anime website of Madman Entertainment
- Excel Saga (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Excel Saga (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia