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Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 03 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

July 8, 2009 by  



“The third volume definitely ramps things up for this magnificent manga series.  Kenji finally confronts The Friend and more bombshells and revelations are showcased in another exciting volume of Naoki Urasawa’s ’20th CENTURY BOYS’!”

(C) Image courtesy of 20 SEIKI SHONEN 1 by Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts.  All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 03

STORY AND ART BY: Naoki Urasawa (浦沢直樹)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Older Teen

It turns out that the Friend’s plan to destroy the world was dreamed up long ago by a group of boys playing “good guys against bad guys”…And now, the only one who can stop this diabolical plot from succeeding is the one who came up with it – Kenji!

Kenji races home and picks up the newspaper: sure enough, the mystery microbe has hit London.  He thinks back over everything that has happened and what he and his childhood friends dug up, and is forced to face the unbelievable truth – someone really is putting into motion the story Kenji made up as a child, and people are dying because of it!

Naoki Urasawa is well-known in the manga industry.  Having created excellent titles such as “Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl”, “Pineapple ARMY”, “Master Keaton” and “Monster”, his manga series “20th CENTURY BOYS” was the winner of the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award, Winner of the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award and Urasawa was the recipient of the “Excellence Price at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival”.

The manga has been made into a live film, with the first film having been released as a part of a trilogy with a budget of 6 billion yen and will feature a cast of 300 people, it’s natural to say that the manga series “20th CENTURY BOYS” will definitely be a bonafide classic.  And now the the third volume of the popular manga series has been released by Viz Media.

The manga series follows a group of friends when they were as children and the present time as adults.  When these friends were children, they played a group of super heroes who would take down evildoers.  But first, they needed to come up with their own storylines of the bad things the evil side would do and how they would have to conquer evil.  This plot of what the evil group would do was written down in a little guide which they called “The Prophecy”.  As for the group, they devised a symbol of their group. But now many years later, this symbol has re-emerged as the symbol of a religious cult who may be behind terrorist activities.

“20th CENTURY BOYS” features:

Kenji Endo: The main protagonist of the book.  An owner of a convenience store raising his missing sister’s baby daughter Kanna.  A slacker who was once a talented musician.

Maruo: Kenji’s chubby friend (as a child and as an adult) who owns a fancy goods shop in the neighborhood and raises his chubby child who always wants to eat.  One of Kenji’s close friends.

Yoshitsune: Another close friend of Kenji and always down on himself.  Known in adulthood with his eyeglasses.

Keroyon: A Childhood friend known as Froggy.  Lives in Kenji’s neighborhood and the first of the friends to get married.

Mon-Chan: A childhood friend who now works overseas.

Donkey: A  childhood friend of the gang who died and reunited the friends many years later.  But with mysterious notes written to Kenji, there is indication that he may have been killed and that there is relation to the symbol that is used by the cult and the child superhero group that they were all a part of.

Yukiji: The strongest girl in class (a tomboy) who is now a customs officer and works at the airport with her sniffer dog.  Can’t stand how Kenji had become a slacker and always had to defend him when he was a child.

In volume 1, Kenji does is own investigation of the symbol from his childhood and how it is showing up at the homes or belongings of people that have gone missing.   Of course, it’s not easy as his family sold their convenience store to a chain and in order to live in the premises above the store, they need to make sure they managed the store well.  But life is a bit tough as Kenji has to raise his niece Kanna after his sister Kiriko asks him to take care of her and since that day, he has not heard from her.  So, Kenji has to manage the store and his baby niece at the same time.

With the death of his childhood friend, Donkey, Kenji does not believe he committed suicide.  To make things more suspicious, he receives a letter from Donkey before his death with the original symbol of their club.  Kenji is convinced that Donkey must have been killed.

In Volume 2, Kenji starts to learn that occurrences happening in reality is tied to a cult that uses a symbol which he and his friends created long ago when they were kids.  A group that takes down evil, someone has used their childhood game and is now carrying it out in reality.  The mysterious person knows as “The Friend” has thousands of people in his cult in his grasp to do his bidding.

But Kenji comes in contact with Yukiji, an old female friend (from those early childhood years) who is a customs officer and has a friend who is representing the families of these people sucked in by the cult.  Kenji is desperately trying to learn more about the past and eventually runs into a cult member who has tried to escape and warn Kenji about the intentions of “The Friend” and that he is the only person that can stop him.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter of volume 3 (no spoilers):

Chapter 1:  Hero with a Guitar – Kenji reads a final letter from his deceased friend Donkey and tries to think of how he can stop “The Friend”.

Chapter 2: Resolve – Knowing that he needs to take action, Kenji doesn’t know if he can do this alone.  So, he tries to recruit his childhood friends who are now adults in trying to stop “The Friend”.

Chapter 3: Confrontation – Kenji goes to a concert hosted by The Friend with hopes in confronting him about his terrorist activities.

Chapter 4:  Brother – Kenji confronts The Friend and is shocked to find out from the confrontation a life changing situation.

Chapter 5: Classmates – Kenji goes to Yukiji for help and attends a school reunion in order to find out if The Friend will attend and if other friends will join and help him take down The Friend.

Chapter 6: Someone Else… – Kenji meets an old classmate named Fukube, who’s wife had joined the cult.  Fukube wants to find out more about this cult and may know the Friend’s true identity.

Chapter 7:  Sadakiyo – Kenji realizes that the next place The Friend may attack is the airport.  After realizing that Yukiji works there, Kenji races to the airport to try and save her.

Chapter 8: Airport Bomb –  While Kenji races to find Yukiji at the airport and warn her about a bomb, the Friend has his cult go after his baby niece Kanna (daughter of Kenji’s missing, elder sister Kiriko).

Chapter 9: Destiny’s Child – While Kenji and Yukiji are at the airport, the cult immediately start on their plans to abduct baby Kanna by going after Kenji’s mother and Kanna at their convenience store.

Chapter 10: And then… – Kenji and family are in hiding.  Desperate to find clues about his past, his mother remembers a spot when Kenji dug up her plants and buried something as a child.  Now Kenji needs to find out if what he buried was something important from the past.

Chapter 11: The Guy in Bangkok – We are introduced to a mysterious man known as “Shogun”.

With volume 3 of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS”, the story is now starting to ramp up as Kenji has realized that all these bad things that have happened, were all from his past and his friends writing “The Prophecy” of how his friends would be imaginative heroes to take down evil.  But learning that someone from his past has took “The Prophecy” as truth and enacting those events that he and others have planned.

With already one friend dead, and many others injured or have been killed due to The Friend’s cult, Kenji knows that he needs to take action.  But doesn’t know quite how.

With each volume, there is a significant revelation and needless to say, The Friend definitely drops a bombshell on Kenji.  It’s also the first time that the Friend has set his cult upon Kenji’s family and now, while in hiding, Kenji must find a way to figure out what the remaining plans were written in “The Prophecy” that he and others planned when they were children.  If he can remember, he can help the authorities at least try to stop a catastrophic event.

The third volume also leaves with a mysterious person named “Shogun”.  Not much is known about this character but more than likely, he plays a major role in upcoming chapters.

So, far each release of “20th CENTURY BOYS” has been enjoyable and the storyline and artwork just captures your attention.  With the first two volumes more about Kenji’s search, this third volume now puts him in an unknown predicament of having to play “hero”.  That is if he can remember his past in time.

Overall, another magnificent volume of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS”.  Highly recommended!

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