By Rikdo Koshi. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in North America by Viz.
Sorry for the rush, but I got sidetracked for a while, and now need to wrap up these reviews so that I can review Vol. 22 when it comes out in April. :) And there's a lot to talk about with this volume, which continues the very, very long Teriha arc.
Our 'villains', the City Environmental Security Administration, don't have quite as much plot-related stuff to do in this volume. The highlight manages to be Iwata's insane desire to get a driver's license, which fails not because he's a total freak who would wreck a car by merely looking at it, but because he is dead. Cyborgs with false identities have difficulties getting basic amenities. So Iwata does the next best thing, and gets a bicycle, which he can drive at superhuman car-like speeds. This goes about as well as you can expect, and he merely ends up smashing Sumiyoshi's brand new car that he was able to buy.
They also get focus in the final chapter, which is about a bomb that's been planted at ILL's giant office tower. This concerns Dr. Kabapu greatly, not only as the bomb isn't one of his, but because he did plant a different, MUCH BIGGER bomb that might go off if this other one does - and level part of the city. Well, he gets bored easily. The highlight here is seeing Misaki's face as she realizes how screwed up the situation they're in is. She actually facepalms twice in two pages. Il Palazzo, of course, is not deterred by something as gauche as a bomb, and tells his employees not to panic or flee but merely look for suspicious packages.
Meanwhile, we also have Hyatt, who hasn't really coughed up that much blood lately, possible as she's been relatively stress-free. That ends here, as she's starting to worry about Elgala's words to her about Excel being a replacement. This leads, of course, to copious coughing of blood and collapse. Still, she's better off than Elgala, who really hits rock bottom here. Having already been demoted to the fifth sub-basement, she's now been scapegoated as the culprit in an embezzlement plot that Kabapu is trying to pin on Il Palazzo. Il Palazzo solves this by simply telling Elgala to be the best fugitive she can be, and then promptly forgetting about her. And so it's back to pursuits that are somewhat familiar to readers of Excel Saga - dine and dashing, and sleeping in a cardboard box under the bridge. Not to mention fleeing the police courtesy Iwata's bicycle, in a nice dovetailing of plots that reminds you how insane everyone in this cast is.
She's not alone, however, as she is joined eventually by Menchi, who gets a long chapter devoted to her, the first in several volumes. She's been having it soft recently, and in fact has had to be put on a diet to avoid diabetes. That changes here, though, as Elgala is now on the lam, and Hyatt has fallen over dead again. So Menchi leaves the apartment to go find help, and ends up getting completely lost. Things get even worse when, at a park, she runs into Umi and Teriha - and seeing Teriha brings back all the old trauma of her time with Excel (in a full, 2-page spread, no less), causing Menchi to flee in terror and end up nearly drowning in the river. Luckily, Elgala is already there to rescue her, even if she was fishing for actual food. Menchi will do in a pinch!
And lastly we have Teriha, who gets the most serious chapter, as she writes in her journal about her life with Umi and Profession Shiouji. I'm somewhat torn here, as this is quite well-written, with Teriha noting that she's having a pleasant, if somewhat unusual life. But she's consumed with half-formed impressions of her past self and Il Palazzo, so everything is consumed by melancholy and the idea that she's living a lie. There's a rather chilling juxtaposition of a photo that was taken of Teriha with Umi, Professor Shiouji, Miwa and Iwata, which we then see at the end with Teriha completely removed, as if she'd never been there. And finally, at the end, Teriha hears about the bomb threat. And flees, headed to ILL's office building, because even if she can't remember anything, she HAS to do something to save Il Palazzo.
This is the last complete volume with Teriha, and it's as frustrating as ever. Rikdo knows this, of course, and much of Teriha's arc has played on the frustration of the reader. We don't want this shy, passive, emotionally stunted girl, even if she may be more cute and moe. We want our heroine. We want Excel. Luckily, events are starting to come together, as Teriha, Elgala, and the Security Sentai Force are all converging on the ILL towers to try to stop the bomb from going off. Stay tuned for the exciting Volume 20!