Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 12 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

December 17, 2010 by  

Volume 12 is a gripping, exciting, pulse-pounding volume of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS”.  It just gets better and better!

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Image courtesy of © 2003 Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts. All Rights Reserved.


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



RATED: T for Older Teen

Available on December 21, 2010

Will 2015 bring an end to human history?! An urgent but mysterious messsage left by her mother Kiriko in 2002 finally reaches Kanna. But where is Kiriko, who developed the germ warfare weapons used on Bloody New Year’s Eve, and what is she doing now? Memories of New Years past flood the minds of Kenji’s friends and family. Will Yoshitsune’s clandestine actions eventually prove fruitful, or are they doomed to repeat the tragedies of the year 2000?

Meanwhile, Otcho and Kakuta are busily trying to track down Kiriko’s former colleague, Dr. Yamane. Unexpectedly, their search leads them to the very neighborhood that Otcho, Kenji, Maruo and the rest of their childhood pals grew up in. Can a visit to their old school shed new light on a bizarre incident that happened when they were all in the sixth grade?

For so long, readers of the Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” have wondered about Kenji Endo’s sister Kiriko. Why she left her daughter behind? Why she went missing? But now we get some of those answers in the latest 11th volume!

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 storyline and scenarios of the bad things the evil side would do and how they, as superheroes would have to conquer the evil bad guys.

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.

What we know of December 31, 2000… Many lives were lost and although Kenji and his friends did what they can to stop the Friend’s giant robot from killing people in the city.  They were blamed for it and since then have been reviled as the terrorists who massacred innocent people (when it was actually “the Friends” who were responsible).  And 15 years later, the Friends have used the massacre to grow their cult and to take control of society, politics, law enforcement and have their foot in the door worldwide.

But for friends of Kenji who survived that fatal day, they will continue to do what they can to defeat their friends in the honor of their friend Kenji and save the world.  The last volume featured Kanna, who is now a teenager who will never forget her uncle and is investigating any details or leads to her uncle Kenji but also her mother and possible father.

In Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS” volume 12, we learn what has become of Kenji’s friend Maruo who has been missing since New Year’s Eve.  Maruo has now become an assistant to Japan’s most popular singer Haru Namio who appears to know much about Maruo’s pain and plight of wanting to get back at “The Friends”.

Meanwhile, Otcho and his manga-artist friend Kakuta go to Otcho’s old high school to investigate the details on the night their friend Donkey saw something suspicious (a ghost?) at their school a long time ago.  Meanwhile, Yoshitsune and Kiriko are hoping to get more details from Koizumi Kyoko who is being pursued by “The Friends” but also because she saw the true identity of “The Friend” while under their virtual machine.

But the biggest revelation is the identity of “The Friend” (or is it him?).

“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.

Otcho – One of Kenji’s friends who escaped from prison to reunite and help Kanna.

Yoshitsune – A friend of Kenji who used his position as a cleaner at Friend Land to spy on the Friends.

Mon-Chan – One of Kenji’s friends who died while trying to gather information on the Friend’s conspiracy.

Sadakiyo – A childhood acquaintance of Kenji who always wore a mask. At first he is thought of as the Friend but he is a guy who is the director of the Friend museum and works with them.

Manjome Inshu – Top cadre of the Friends organization and head of the Friendship and Democracy Party.

Director Takasu – A Dream Navigator at Friend Land.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter of volume 12 (spoiler-less summaries):

Chapter 1: New Year’s Eve – It’s another New Year’s Eve, 15 years since Kenji and friends tried to prevent the Friend’s Armageddon and a time for those who survived the massacre to salute their fallen friends.

Chapter 2: Shrine Visit – We learn of what Maruo has been doing in the last 15 years and that he has been an assistant to the very popular singer Haru Namio.

Chapter 3: Suicide Bomber – Otcho and Kakuta do some investigating on Dr. Yamane.

Chapter 4: Secret Message – Otcho remembers a special message given to him by Yamane when they were children.

Chapter 5: Library – Otcho tells Kakuta about the day Donkey discovered something scary and alarming at school.

Chapter 6: Science Lab – Yukiji and Yoshitsune try to help Kyoko with her memory of what she saw in the virtual machine.

Chapter 7: By the Light of the Alcohol Lamp – Otcho and Kakuta discover someone waiting for them inside the classroom.  Who is this mysterious man?

Chapter 8: The Men Who… – The mysterious man turns out to be Yamane who tells Otcho that he has been trying to escape the Friend’s for a very long time and what type of job he was doing.

Chapter 9: Gunshot (1) – Haru was able to meet the Friend and see his true identity which alarms Maruo.

Chapter 10: Gunshot (2) – Yoshitsune and Yukiji remember important details surrounding their past.

Chapter 11: Gunshot Explained – Could it be?…The Friend has come to kill Yamane, Otcho and Kakuta?  Meanwhile, Kanna arrives to the school and has a memory from the past.

Chapter 12: Friendly Face – It’s January 1, 2015 and Maruo has just arrived to see Kana but both hear gunshots?  Who dies?

The suspense continues to build with the latest volume of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS”.

For so long, many have wondered what happened to Maruo and finally, this latest volume shows us that despite meeting financial success, since the massacre, Maruo continues to mourn for Kenji and friends.

Also, this latest volume gets down to business as we learn of what Yamane has been doing with “The Friend”, more details on Kanna’s mother Kiriko (who had been missing) and also, a major revelation when the man, who may be “The Friend” is unmasked.  I’ll just say that I was surprised when the mask came off and who the person ended up being.  Wow!

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.  There was some major revelations but you can tell that things are going to continue to build and eventually leading us to hopefully the storyline that we all have been waiting for… what happened to Kenji?

Volume 12 is a gripping, exciting, pulse-pounding volume of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th CENTURY BOYS”.  It just gets better and better!

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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