Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 17 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 23, 2011 by  

What has happened to Japan since the resurrection of the Friend… Chaos!  In this latest volume, we learn how bad the chaos is on the other side of Japan, while learning of what has happened to a few characters since the resurrection.   Without spoiling anything… let’s just say volume 17 of Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” is awesome!!!  Overall, if you have been following this fantastic manga series, vol. 17 is highly recommended!


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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 October 11, 2011


It is the third year of the Friendship Era. Darkness covers the earth, and the world is under the control of evil. The Friend has become President of the World, and he reigns from within the enclosed walls of Tokyo City. Most people believe in the Friend, but hidden below the surface is a small ray of hope. Someone known as the Ice Queen is calling for the people to rise up, and she has deemed August 20 the day to take up arms… but can anyone really stop this nightmare?

Justice Never Dies.

The words that came from the mouth of a young Kenji back in the 1970’s.

But Japan has since changed since the resurrection of the friend.  In volume 16, we were introduced to a future where Japan was divided, a wall was put up and the years were now known as “The Friends Era”.  What has happened to Japan?  That is the big question many people may have with the last volume, where an injured Otcho was found by two children who have chosen to risk their lives to help him.

Well, hold on to your seats “20th Century Boys” fans as that question is revealed in this latest volume from Naoki Urasawa!

But some of you may be wondering…who is Naoki Urasawa?

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 volume 17, without spoiling on the details of what has happened, we can easily get into what happened to Japan.  When the Friend was resurrected, he literally took control of Japan.   Those who were there at the Japan Expo to witness the resurrection were given a vaccine against the virus and live in one half of Japan, while those who didn’t go, were all forced to live on the other side of Japan where only a few vaccines were given out and of course, because of that, chaos.

In volume 16, we saw how Otcho was being sneaked into Shinjuku courtesy of two children but unfortunately, the soldiers working for the Friends have discovered their ruse and now they are on the run.

Meanwhile, we get to find out what has happened to several other characters of the Kenji faction since the resurrection of the Friend.

“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.  In the Friend Era, she is known as the “White Queen”.

Chono Shohei – A freshman detective following his grandfather’s footsteps of being a great detective and to have the name “Cho-san”. In the Friend Era, he is stationed to work and watch over farmers.

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

Kyoko Koizumi – A high school student who has helped the Kenji faction and is now working for a music company searching for talent during the Friend Era.

Otcho – One of Kenji’s friends who escaped from prison to reunite and help Kanna.  Now on the run during the Friend Era and was able to make it through the wall.

Maruo – A friend of Kenji who now works at a music company and has used his position to help the Kenji faction.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter of volume 17 (spoiler-less summaries):

  • Chapter 1: Global Defense Force – Otcho and the two children: Sanae and Katsuo with the help of Kamisama must escape from the Friend’s soldiers.
  • Chapter 2: Go, Katsuo! – The children must split up!  Sanae must find the Ice Queen and Katsuo must find Father Nitani.
  • Chapter 3: Much Despair – The kids try to find who they are looking for, while Otcho learns from Kamisama.
  • Chapter 4: Ice Queen – Sanae meets with the “White Queen” who turns out to be…
  • Chapter 5: Beginning of Despair – The history of how Japan was split during the Friend Era.
  • Chapter 6: Mid-Journey – Otcho learns quickly of how the introduction of few vaccines to the vaccine-less side of Japan had led to chaos.
  • Chapter 7: Heaviness of Travel – Otcho’s experience on the other side of Japan and encountered chaos.
  • Chapter 8: Officers at the End of the World – We learn what has happened to Officer Chono since the resurrection.
  • Chapter 9: Song at the End of the World – Officer Chono learns from the farmers that something is happening..
  • Chapter 10: Summer Homework – Sanae tries to convince the “White Queen’s” people to not pursue what they are doing or they will get hurt.
  • Chapter 11: Encounter at the Crossroads: Cross-Counter – We learn what has happened to Maruo and Koizumi and the return of a character.

With volume 16 explaining the history of the Friend and taking the readers forward three years since his resurrection, we know that Japan has undergone through a major transformation.

What kind of transformation?  We find out in volume 17 as we learn how Japan has headed straight into chaos as those who were present at the Japan Expo were kept to one side of Japan, while those who weren’t, were forced to live on the other side, told that they will die from the virus and then introducing vaccines to stir up chaos… people killing each other, people killing neighbors, friends, family in order to stay alive.  And Otcho has witnessed it all.

While I don’t want to reveal too much of what happened in this volume, we do get to see what has happened to a few characters since the resurrection but how Kenji’s music becomes instrumental in the fight against the Friend.

But saying anything else will be a major spoiler because big things do happen in this volume and fans of the manga series will definitely be satisfied as we can only expect that from volume 18 and on…things are going to get crazy!

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. 17” is awesome! And I emphasize “AWESOME!”.  Every chapter in this volume just builds and builds to the final shot and you can’t help but smile.

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.  “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 17” is highly recommended!

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