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Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 15 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 20, 2011 by  



Volume 15 of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” features the return of The Friend and a mysterious person that loves to carry around his guitar!  Overall, Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” is definitely one of the best manga series out there and if you want suspense, mystery and a storyline that is 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. 15

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 June 21, 2011

Sorting through the volumes of research his dearly departed mentor left behind, a young priest, recently returned to Rome, stumbles across a mysterious (and potentially dangerous) book that prophesizes the end of the world. Uncertain as to the text’s true meaning, Brother Luciano’s search quickly leads him to a startling revelation: the Friends may have operatives inside the Vatican, and the young priest’s life is most likely now in danger.

Around the globe, the mysterious and deadly virus continues to spread as the death toll mounts. However, Kanna, Otcho and Yoshitsune have another concern: despite what is being reported in the media, several people have claimed to see the Friend alive and walking the streets of Tokyo. But what does this bode for the pope’s visit to Japan and the 2015 World Exposition in Tokyo?

Millions are in mourning of the Friend’s death.

But in the last volume, Otcho and a few others swear they saw the Friend walking around, including members of his own staff.

What is going on?  It’s not a surprise if the Friend would resurrect himself as he had done it before, but what is he up to?

Meanwhile, with the Pope now planning to visit the Friend, Kanna and friends wonder, is the Friend planning to assassinate the Pope himself?  What is going on?

That is the question that will be answered in the 15th 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 15 focuses on Kanna, Otcho and friends trying to guess what the Friend’s next move is.  Having seen him walk around the city and prove that he is very much alive, they try to understand what is the correlation between the prophecy of the Friend about the end of the world at the end of 2015, the assassination of the Pope and how this all fits into the Friend’s plan?  What is he up to?

Meanwhile, in other areas around the world, we start to learn about a mysterious man (or men) in gas masks walking with a suitcase.  Can these people be responsible for the virus attacks that are killing people all over the world?

Also, there is a man riding a moped with a guitar on his back? Could it be Kenji?  But isn’t Kenji dead? Hmm…

“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 15 (spoiler-less summaries):

  • Chapter 1: Trite Book of Prophecies – A priest in Italy is looking into the death of Father Perrin and the mysterious book he was researching.  The more deeper the priest goes, the more he begins to find something wrong.
  • Chapter 2: Trite Japanese– When the priest Luciano begins to look into the mysterious death of Father Perrin, he becomes the wanted.
  • Chapter 3: Tattooed Man – Luciano is being held by Japanese authorities and who to brief him but Kanna’s police friend, Chocho.
  • Chapter 4: Writhing Truth –  Kanna and her Uncle Kenji’s friends start to figure out why they saw the Friend walking around Japan.  Is he alive?  What is his plan?
  • Chapter 5: Bravery in 2001 – Kanna’s priest friend (a former yakuza member) tells her how the Pope saved him and made him become a priest.
  • Chapter 6: Farewell in 2011 – The priest continues the story of how the Pope saved him and made him become a priest.
  • Chapter 7: What a Wonderful World – Otcho and friends and the gangs in Japan are working together to protect the Pope when he arrives to Japan.  All fearing that the Killer named No. 13 will assassinate him.
  • Chapter 8: Greatest Show of All Time – Worried that No. 13 will assassinate the pope, everyone tries to look for him, meanwhile protecting the pope.
  • Chapter 9: Gas Masked Salesman – As Kanna, Otcho and friends mobilize to Expo 2015 in fears that the No. 13 is up to something terrible, reports are coming in of a man with a gas mask walking with a suitcase.
  • Chapter 10: Time Limit – In the United States, Keroyon learns about a man in a gas mask with a suitcase walking from city to city.  Can he be the person responsible for the virus attacks?
  • Chapter 11: Expo Hurry – All eyes on Expo 2015 as the Pope gives his speech on The Friend.  Will the Friend assassinate the Pope?
  • Chapter 12: This Side of the Rainbow – The plan revealed…the Friend is resurrected but not to assassinate the pope but something that will make the world think that he is a god.  Meanwhile, who is the guy riding a moped with a guitar on his back?

The latest volume of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” can be considered the return of the protagonist and the antagonist.

For many issues, we have seen the Friend show his awesome power to the masses, die and then to be resurrected and then killed once again.  But now his plan has probably won worldwide support and it’s going to be very interesting to see how Kenji’s friends can even show how much of a fraud that the Friend is as everyone is probably going to believe that the Friend is a deity.

Meanwhile, with everyone talks about the return of the Friend, one makes you wonder if the man we see with the guitar is who we think it is.  A man who has been missing from the manga series for many issues but yet, have many people who believed in him continuing their mission to stop the Friend.  I’m talking about Kenji…but Kenji hasn’t been seen for nearly two decades?  Isn’t he dead?

Needless to say, this latest issue is going to cause excitement for those who know that the end is coming near for the series and we will eventually, or hopefully see a final confrontation between possibly Kenji and friends vs. the Friend and his minions.

It’s too early to say right now but what prophecy that the Friend had made, the world is to end in 2015 and many are realizing that the time is coming soon in which they have to be careful on what they plan if this prophecy is to become reality.

Meanwhile, we also get to see the return of Keroyon and to see him carrying on Kenji’s mission by trying to help people in the United States and possibly stop this mysterious person in a gas mask who may be responsible of unleashing the virus in many cities.

Suffice to say, Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys”  just gets better and better and as we now are nearing the final stretch of the series, one can only wonder what Naoki Urasawa has planned.  And I’m guessing that we are going to see a lot of deaths and possible demise of several main characters.

Featuring wonderful illustration and awesome storytelling, which Naoki Ursawa is known for, “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys Vol. 15” is awesome! With seven more volumes left in the manga series, I can’t help but be excited of how things will end.

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.

If you have been following this series this long, you’re probably as addicted as I am and can’t wait until the next volume.

Overall, “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 15” is highly recommended!

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