Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 09 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 7, 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. 9 is a Kanna-driven storyline and is definitely setting things up for an explosive volume 10.  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

The year is 2014, and Neo Tokyo is completely under the control of the Friend. Kanna has decided to stand up and avenge Kenji – will she be able to muster up enough support for her cause? Kanna makes her way to a mafia-operated casino and quickly finds herself at a high stakes table. Is she lucky (and smart) enough to turn the odds in her favor at the bizarre and fast-paced game of Rabbit Nabokov?

While Kanna marshals her forces, Koizumi Kyoko experiences true horror at the reeducation camp known as Friend Land. Going back in time in their “Virtual World,” she meets Kenji and his pals as boys in 1971 and sees something that is strictly taboo: the Friend’s childhood face! Will she live to report back on the Friend’s identity?

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 9 takes place 14 years later after the New Year’s Eve incident. A new prophecy has emerged and that a crowd will gather around and the savior will be assassinated.  Meanwhile, for Kanna, she is not aware of this new prophecy but she is trying to get as many people gathered together in hopes to prevent an assassination as she believes the pope is the target.  And the only way to stop it is by getting as many people to gather together and fight against the Friends.  But how will Kanna manage to fill the area with hundreds of people?

Meanwhile, Kyoko is close to finding out the identity of the Friend…or does she?

“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 9 (spoiler-less summaries):

Chapter 1: Don’t Look – Kyoko wants to find out the true identity of the Friend but Fukube must stop her before it’s too late.

Chapter 2: Nightmare – Kyoko finds herself in the past and about to come into contact with the Friend and find out his identity and Fukube must make a decision that may work or may kill Kyoko.

Chapter 3: Playing for Real – Kanna tries to win some money at the casino.

Chapter 4: Rabbit Nabokov – Kanna needs to raise more money and the only way she can is by playing the game, Rabbit Nabokov.

Chapter 5: ESP – Kanna makes a gamble to find out how she can bring masses of people to a location.  Also, we learn about Kanna’s special abilities.

Chapter 6: Confession – Kanna goes to confession and the revelation of a second prophecy.

Chapter 7: The New Book of Prophecy – Mon-chan explains to Yukiji about the second prophecy and what he was able to dig up.

Chapter 8: Pulpit – A large number of people begin crowding around a church and Kanna asks for their help.

Chapter 9: Savior – Yukiji thinking that Kanna may be assassinated tries to get to the church in time to help her.

Chapter 10: Assassination – A Friend comes to assassinate Kanna but she gets help from a close friend of her Uncle Kenji.

Chapter 11: Fatal Bullet – Otcho finds out who made the final shot and a revelation from the New Prophecy of who is to show up.

Volume 9 is a Kanna-driven storyline that gives us an idea that she is a special person who has special abilities.  Not only is she clairvoyant but she also has the similar ability of the Friend, that she can also bend spoons at will.  But as she tries her best to create a crowd to protect the pope from assassination, a new prophecy is revealed and speculation of who will be the savior and who will be assassinated.

Although there are two chapters dedicated on Kyoko Koizumi and this virtual world that she was able to tap into, you are kind of left in the dark and hopefully we learn more in volume 10.

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 gripping and exciting ninth volume 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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