Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 08 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 23, 2010 by  

Engrossing and highly entertaining. “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys” is a manga series that continues to capture your attention and never feels like it’s getting old! Vol. 8 features Kyoko Koizumi as she must survive “Friend Land”. Highly recommended!

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(C) Image courtesy of 20 SEIKI SHONEN 7 by Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts. All Rights Reserved.


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



RATED: T for Older Teen

As boys, Kenji and his friends came up with a bunch of stories about an evil organization bent on world destruction. As adults, someone is now turning their fantasies into reality! What really happened on Bloody New Year’s Eve?


Kenji, Otcho and Maruo have just driven their dynamite-loaded truck under the robot… where they see what a poor relation to the giant robot they dreamed up in their childhoods it actually is: just two legs with caterpillar treads, held together by an enormous hot air balloon, with cloth hanging down to disguise the underside.


Meanwhile, at the meeting of the government’s crisis control committee, Manjome Inshu unveils the Friend’s benevolent plan to distribute worldwide a vaccine against the virus being spread by the robot. The Friends, he says, have been developing such a vaccine since the terrorist germ attacks of 1997. At the same time, the Friends will contribute a monument they were building for their headquarters to serve as a blockade against the robot. The Friends are saving the day! Or are they?

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 manga classic.

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.

Kenji and friends tried their best to stop the Friends but something happened on December 31, 2000 and fourteen years later, Kenji and friends are seen as the terrorists and the Friends have now further permeated into society worldwide.

As the stories from 2014 have focused on Kanna as a teenager who will never forget her uncle, a few of Kenji’s friends have turned up. Some missing, some alive and some dead. One of the friends, Otcho (Samurai), has been kept in a high level security prison and put into an area that is pitch black and where he will never escape or see sunlight.

Volume 8 focuses on high school student Kyoko Koizumi who attends the same high school as Kanna and has decided to do her report on “Bloody New Year’s Eve”.  What she is unaware is that any student who pries into what happened during that day are taken to the amusement park known as “Friend Land”, where many students are either killed or re-programmed.

Meanwhile, Otcho and Kakuta who have escaped prison discuss what happened on Bloody New Year’s Eve and what Otcho saw that day, the last day he saw Kenji.

“20th CENTURY BOYS” 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, he now believes in Kanna that there is corruption in the police.

Mariah – A transvestite friend of Kanna who is trying to help her.

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”.

Kamisama – The homeless man who had visions of what Kenji should be doing and would relay it to him but 14 years later, somehow he has become a millionaire.

Kyoko Koizumi – A high school student who selects Japan’s notorious terrorist Kenji Endo as the historic figure for her homework. She finds herself in Friend Land.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter of volume 8 (spoiler-less summaries):

Chapter 1: Decision – Otcho tells Kakuta of what happened on “Bloody New Year’s Eve”.

Chapter 2: Robot – Otcho tells Kakuta about the robot that attacked the city

Chapter 3: Kenji’s Song – Kanna tell’s Chono about her uncle Kenji and his music.

Chapter 4: The Bus – Because Kyoko is writing a report on “Bloody New Year’s Eve”, she must go to Friend Land.

Chapter 5: Friend Land – Kyoko arrives in Friend Land and is afraid that the room is bugged.

Chapter 6: Escape – Kyoko tries to escape from Friend Land and is greeted by an older Yoshitsune who tries to help her.

Chapter 7: Request – Yoshitsune needs Kyoko’s help in trying to find the identity of the Friend.

Chapter 8: Score – Kyoko uses Yoshitsune’s training in order to help fool the Friend’s.

Chapter 9: Savior – Kyoko reaches the bonus stage which will bring her back to 1970 via the virtual world.

Chapter 10: Plan – Kyoko meets Kenji and friends when they were younger.

Chapter 11: Hanging Hill – Kyoko visits a haunted house with Kenji and friends.

Chapter 12: Voices – Yoshitsune fears that Kyoko’s life may be in danger and he may disconnect the virtual world which may hurt Kyoko.

With the latest volume 8 of “20th Century Boys”, the reader is given insight of what took place when Kenji and friends tried to enter the Friend’s giant robot.  But the primary storyline centers around student Kyoko Koizumi who is brought to Friend Land and is paranoid that something bad will happen to her.

Fortunately, she finds the aging Yoshitsune who works at Friend Land but happens to have his faction staying underneath the park to monitor Friend activities.  But hoping to use Kyoko in order to find out the identity of the Friend, while the other story arc features Kyoko reaching the bonus stage and going to the virtual world and find Kenji and friends.

Which makes people wonder, how can someone know so much about what had taken place with Kenji and friends at the time?  Is the Friend, someone they know and hung out with?

As always, Naoki Urasawa knows how to grab the attention of the reader. His artwork and how he is able to capture the sense of action and emotion through the pages is magnificent and so far, this series has been engrossing and highly enjoyable thus far.

Needless to say, readers are being setup for something huge and I definitely can’t wait for the next volume. Overall, a wonderful eighth of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS”. If you haven’t started already and you are looking for a deep, well-drawn, well-written manga series, Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS” is highly recommended!

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