Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 06 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

February 25, 2010 by  

Gripping, addictive and a wonderful manga series thus far!  Vol. 6 takes place 14 years in the future with a 17-year-old Kanna and some surprises to show how much the world has changed since that tragic New Year’s Eve day.  Highly recommended!

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


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



RATED: T for Older Teen

Fourteen years after “Bloody New Year’s Eve” brought the world to the brink of extinction, Neo Tokyo in the year 2014 has fully recovered and become a thriving, multi-ethnic metropolis. Kanna has survived the chaos and is now 17 years old – and has just stumbled upon a terrible truth that may change her destiny.

Meanwhile, at a maximum security prison ten kilometers out in the middle of Tokyo Bay, a young manga artist learns firsthand the chilling downsides of the world he now inhabits. Things go from bad to almost unbearable when he’s thrown into solitary confinement right near one of the prison’s most notorious inmates. Has all hope been lost, or will this mysterious prisoner offer the frightened artist his only true shot at escape?

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 sixth volume of the popular manga series has been released by Viz Media.

Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS” 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, as superheroes 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.

Volume 6 takes place 14 years later after the New Year’s Eve incident.  Not much is known of what happened to Kenji Endo and his friends but 14 years later, the future indicates that things did not go well.  Kanna, Kenji’s niece is now a teenager who has lived with Yukiji but has kept the flame ongoing for her missing uncle.  Working at a restaurant and has developed street smarts, she is very weary of the police, especially knowing that the influence of the religious cult known as “The Friends” has permeated into major society from politics to the police and has changed the world.

People who go against the rules made by “The Friends” have been given prison time and there are stories about a monster that lives in solitary confinement.  Who is this “monster” and does it have anything to do with Kanna?

“20th CENTURY BOYS” Vol. 6 features the following characters:

Kanna Endo: The daughter of Kenji’s missing sister. She is now a 17-year-old teenager who tries to keep her missing uncle Kenji in her memories by listening to his music (rather loudly) and works at a restaurant and is very protective over her friends and her living area.  Has street smarts and adopted her guardian, Yukiji’s fighting spirit and not afraid of anything.

Yukiji: The only member of Kenji’s group who wasn’t part of the New Year’s Eve devastation as Kenji left young Kanna with her to raise in case if something went bad.  Yukiji is the guardian of Kanna.

Chono Shohei – A freshman detective following his grandfather’s footsteps of being a great detective and to have the name “Cho-san”.  Is always interested in Kanna but she and him are like fire and water and as he tries to get along with her, Kanna’s distrust of the police pushes him away.

Ujiko Ujio – Manga artists who are neighbors of Kanna.

Kakuta –  A manga artist who was friends with Ujiko and Ujio who has been given prison time for his manga work which goes against the rules by “the Friends”.

“20th Century Boys” takes a different path as the story progresses 14 years into the future.  The whereabouts of Kenji and friends and who survived and who died are unknown but for 17-year-old Kanna, she wonders what has happened to her uncle and everyone.  But for now, life is different in a world dominated by the Friends and finding people she can trust has become difficult.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter of volume 6 (spoiler-less summaries):

Chapter 1: Witness– Police are looking for a drag queen named Britney for some reason.

Chapter 2: The Killer – Chono goes to investigate murders but Kanna gives him some surprising news of who was the killer.

Chapter 3: Umihotaru – Manga artist Kakuta is being put in jail and hears stories of a monster in solitary confinement.

Chapter 4: The Monster – Kakuta is caught with a pencil and put in solitary confinement and starts a conversation with whoever can hear him.

Chapter 5: Tunnels – The so-called “monster” is revealed.

Chapter 6: On the Run – With Kanna helping out Britney, now she may be targeted by the police.

Chapter 7: Big Shot – With Chono receiving detail from the witness about possible assassination, he goes to a man, a higher up in the police force that he considers a friend of his grandfather.

Chapter 8: Amulets– Chono tells Kanna that he has helped Britney by going to his friend with the information.

Chapter 9: Final Hope – Kanna knew police can not be trusted and Chono now learns first hand that the police force is corrupted.

Chapter 10: The Great Escape – With Shogun (Otcho) now learning that something bad may happen to Kanna, he and Kakuta try to plan their escape from the prison.

Chapter 11: Test of Courage – Kakuta knows the longer he stays in prison, he will be killed.

Volume 6 definitely takes the storyline of “20th Century Boys” to a different direction.  For the last five volumes, we have watched Kenji and friends try to find out who is the Friend and then grow their force to fight them.  But with the New Year’s massacre evidently not going their way, 14 years later, the storyline focuses on Kanna.

We know that Kanna is the daughter of the Friend and Kenji’s sister and since the earlier volumes, The Friends have attempted to kidnap her when she was a child.  But now that she has become so street savvy, she has managed to avoid being caught by them and using her street smarts to fight her way out.  But obviously, trouble is growing and it appears that the Friends cult are up to something sinister, once again.

Although not an action driven volume, there is good character driven storylines featuring Kanna and Detective Chono who appears to have a bigger role in this storyline.  Nothing is revealed to what happened to Kenji and friends but we do see Otcho (Shogun) and how he has been mistreated, chained and possibly tortured within these last 14 years.  If anything, I enjoyed this volume as it shows how much the Friends have permeated into regular society and are now so powerful that they would be difficult to stop.

I have no idea where Urasawa is going to take the seventh volume of the series but from reading vol. 6, I can’t wait.  Another excellent volume of “Naoki Ursawa’s 20th Century boys”!  All six volumes thus far are highly recommended!

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