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Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 18 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

December 26, 2011 by  



Naoki Urasawa’s manga masterpiece…”20th Century Boys” is simply awesome!!! The manga series continues to get better and better and with so much despair in these last three volumes, volume 18 begins to show readers a glimmer of hope.  Meanwhile, another teaser/bombshell is dropped on the reader and definitely sets things up for the final four volumes of the manga series.  If you have wanted a manga series that is well-written and just all out-exciting, Naoki Urasawa’s “20th Century Boys” is highly recommended!

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

MANGA TITLE: 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 18

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 December 13, 2011

 

Far, far from Tokyo, a man approaches the checkpoint at the Northern Border… Everyone north of the gate is dead, but here he comes on a motorbike with a guitar strapped to his back. Who is this man who calls himself Joe Yabuki, and why does he break out in song? Is he a Messiah here to save the people, or is he just a deluded nut?

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?

In volume 17, we learn what has happened to Otcho as he witnessed people fighting and killing over vaccinations and as for Kana, learning that she and Yoshitsune have splinted into two factions.  Yoshitsune trying to save people, while Kanna…a young woman who has lost so much, has become a terrorist known as a White Queen, still leading an army of freedom fighters trying to fight against the Friend but are in constant pursuit by the Global Defense Force.

But we were treated with a little teaser with volume 17… who is the older man driving around with a guitar on his back.  Could it be…Kenji? A man who was thought to be dead all these years?

“20th Century Boys” is simply the masterpiece manga series created by Naoki Urasawa. 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 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.

In volume 17, we learn that 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.

And here we are with volume 18, as we are learning that many people have heard of Kenji’s old song…but this time, a new revision with the words, “Gutarara Sudarara”.  It was thought that Kanna was the only person who had access to Kenji’s music via cassettes, but how is it that people in Japan have heard of Kenji’s music today?  Could it mean that Kenji…is still alive?

Meanwhile, as Otcho tries to stop Kanna from sending her people from going to war against the Friends, they are captured by someone who they know quite well.  And this mysterious person also has something quite interesting to reveal, that will add yet another twist in the story of Naoki Kursawa’s “20th Century Boys”.

“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 18 (spoiler-less summaries):

  • Chapter 1: Gutarara Sudarara – Otcho looks for the missing Sanae.
  • Chapter 2: The Two Who Survived – Officer Chono comes across a person known as “Yabuki Joe”… Can this man be Kenji?
  • Chapter 3: Oh, Daughter – Kanna explains what has happened to her since the beginning of the Friend Era.
  • Chapter 4: Everybody’s Strong – Otcho does all he can to stop Kanna, even by telling her that he thinks that there is a chance that Kenji is still alive.
  • Chapter 5: Come Together – Kanna makes her decision.
  • Chapter 6: Get Up! Stand Up, Joe!! – Officer Chono and the other Friend officers confront Yabuki Joe.
  • Chapter 7: Encore! Encore!! – Kanna finds out that something dire has happened to her followers.  Meanwhile, Officer Chono is inspired by Yabuki Joe!
  • Chapter 8: Starting to Change the World – Otcho and Kanna are captured!
  • Chapter 9: What Should Not Be Seen – Maruo and Namio discover something about Manjome Inshu.
  • Chapter 10: What Should Not Be Heard – Who is the child that came across Manjome Inshu?
  • Chapter 11: What Should Not Be Known – A new twist revealed by Manjome Inshu.

We sensed that after reading volume 16 & 17 and seeing how Japan has gone through chaos since the Friend Era, that things were not going to be the same.

We learned of what happened to Otcho during the Friend Era and seeing the carnage as people killed each other in order to get a vaccine from the deadly virus and we were treated with teasers of possibly Kenji being alive.

With volume 18, it takes a step forward in furthering the tease that Kenji is still alive…but is he the same man as “Yabuki Joe”?  Also, we learn about what has happened to Kanna since the first year of the Friend Era and that she has become cold and bitter because of so many friends she has lost due to the Friends.

But we expected those things to happen as part of the progression from the last two volumes covering the Friend Era, but there is so much more story to be told of what happened to Yoshitsune and friends but also these twists that Urasawa has planted in this latest volume.  One being the Yabuki Joe storyline in which so many followers (ala hippies) have joined in following the singer in his nationwide tour.  But yet this person sings variations of Kenji’s song, so it may or may not be him that is being heard on the radio.

But possibly the biggest twist was the final page of volume 18 which I best not spoil for readers of this wonderful manga series!   Suffice to say, the unveiling of that final page definitely showcases a major change that definitely sets things up for the final four volumes of the series.

I personally don’t know what is going to happen now, especially with these twists.  Needless to say, this volume really has me excited in seeing how things play out for the final volumes because the storyline not only has gotten exciting but this time, our heroes are in so much despair at this point in time that all hope seemed to be lost, that is until Otcho and Kanna hear Kenji’s song being played on the radio, albeit a new version of the song.

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. 18” 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 be surprised!

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. 18” is highly recommended!

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