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Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 14 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 20, 2011 by  



Volume 14 of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” reveals the mystery of what the character Donkey saw inside the lab and meanwhile, Yoshitsune, Kyoko and Kanna take a gamble by entering the virtual world.   Overall, Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” is definitely one of the best manga series out there and if you want suspense, mystery and storylines that are so addicting, you can’t go wrong with this manga series! Highly recommended!

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

MANGA TITLE: 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 14

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

Available on April 19, 2011

As the entire planet grieves over the death of their beloved Friend, the remaining members of his inner circle continue to silence any and all dissenters. Dream Navigator Takasu believes that once they locate Kiriko – Kanna’s mother and Kenji’s older sister – Manjome Inshu will finally be in a position to control the entire world.

What happened in 1971?

This is the question that an older Yoshitsune is asking himself as he tries to piece the past together.  1969 was when he and the group worked on the prophecy and created their makeshift hideout.  1970 was when they continued to have fun as friends.  But what was it about 1971 that changed the dynamics of things for the guys when they were younger?

That is the question that will be answered in the 14th volume of “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS”!

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 14, the story focuses on Yoshitsune and Koizumi Kyoko as they take part in Friend Land’s virtual program and return to 1971.   With Koizumi being the only person who went in and successfully got out of it, she is a wanted person by the Friends but with teaming up with Kanna and the others, because she remembers and survived the virtual program earlier on, only she can help Yoshitsune.

But for Yoshitsune, once he arrives back in 1971, he realizes that the painful memories he had as a child are all coming back.  Remembering that the hideout that kept him and his friends together, was bulldozed by a man creating his own bowling empire.  Once that happened, Yoshitsune and his friends would never be the same.

Meanwhile, the people mourn the Friend’s death and members of the staff wonder who will assume the leadership position.

“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.

Keroyon – Also known as “Froggy”, one of Kenji’s friends who got married and is now living in the USA.

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 14 (spoiler-less summaries):

  • Chapter 1: Memorial – Millions of people worldwide mourn the death of the Friend.
  • Chapter 2: The Real 1971 – Yoshitsune and Kyoko entered the virtual world and end up in 1971.
  • Chapter 3: King of Evil – Yoshitsune remembers what led to the split up of his friends back in 1971…a man he calls the “King of Evil”.
  • Chapter 4: Intruder – While Yoshitsune and Kyoko are in 1971 via the Friend’s virtual machine, someone else has entered and is moving towards Yoshitsune and Kyoko’s position.
  • Chapter 5: Seeing Things – In the real world, people think they have spotted someone they know, while in the virtual world, Yoshitsune and Kyoko realize they are back on the day when Donkey went to the lab and saw something that freaked him out.  Who was it that Donkey encountered on that day?
  • Chapter 6: Spoon Bender – The spoon bender revealed and Yoshitsune and Kyoko watch as Donkey prepares to enter inside the school.
  • Chapter 7: Science Lab 1971 – The intruder of the virtual room is getting even closer to Yoshitsune and Kyoko at the elementary room, with no choice but to warn them, Kanna enters the virtual room.
  • Chapter 8: Brush with the Past – Kanna enters the virtual room but instead of being near Yoshitsune and Kyoko, she ends up in the bedroom of her uncle Kenji when he was a young boy.
  • Chapter 9: What Donkey Saw – The revelation of what Donkey saw inside the lab room that day.
  • Chapter 10: Twisted Memory – While Yoshitsune and Kyoko watch alongside with Kanna on who entered the laboratory, what they see is Friend’s number two, Manjome enter the room.
  • Chapter 11: My Summer Vacation – Another intruder has entered the virtual room and while Kyoko was able to be brought back, Yoshitsune runs into his past self in the virtual world.
  • Chapter 12: A Boy and a Dream – With Yoshitsune being rescued from the virtual world, Kanna is still in there and she finds herself talking with Donkey.

It seems that I tend to always say with each review that each volume of “20th Century Boys” gets better and better, but its the truth. Naoki Urasawa is a wonderful mangaka and along with his wonderful artwork, his stories are well-crafted and he knows how to entice the readers with suspense.

Volume 14 is primarily a Yoshitsune, Kyoko and Kanna as they enter the virtual world of 1971, to find out that the virtual world is modeled exactly as things were back then.  In other words, it’s more than just the virtual world, it’s like they are going back in time.

But what makes this volume a bit different from the past volumes is the fact that it gets into more character development of Yoshitsune’s character.  We know that Yoshitsune was the shy boy of the group but what we don’t know is that there was a time when all friends of Kenji ended up going their own different direction because their hideout was destroyed.  The big reveal was who was responsible for the hideout being destroyed and of course, later in the chapters, what took place inside the laboratory when Donkey jumped off the school building after his encounter of whatever inside the lab.

In a way, this latest volume is slightly emotional was Yoshitsune realized that as a child, he was literally forgotten by his friends as they all went on to do things on their own.  May it be work at their family’s store or had different interest but for Yoshitsune, the hideout was the string that brought everyone together and just reliving the pain that he once had to go through, and then meeting with a young version of himself was touching.

Also, to see Kanna go back and meet people of that time period including a younger version of her Uncle Kenji and Donkey.

There are a few major questions that were answered in this book, mainly of what took place back in 1971.  But also, setting things up for vol. 15 as everyone seems to have spotted someone mysterious.  Who can it be?

Featuring wonderful illustration and awesome storytelling, which Naoki Ursawa is known for, “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys Vol. 14” is awesome!  With eight more volumes left in the manga series, I can’t help but be excited of how things will end.

Another volume that is highly recommended!

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