Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 19 (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

April 6, 2012 by  

Naoki Urasawa’s manga masterpiece…”20th Century Boys” is simply awesome!!! With volume 19, the long asked question of what happened to Kenji Endo is finally answered!  Fans of the manga series will not want to miss this latest volume!  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 February 14, 2012

The man with the guitar heads for Tokyo and arrives at a rough-and-tumble border town with an ominous-looking checkpoint. Only those who have a pass may go through, and those who try to get by without one are summarily shot. Many have tried, and many are buried nearby. Who can change this horrific situation and get through the checkpoint? And who or what could be waiting on the other side?

Kenji Endo, the leader of the team that was to stop the “Friend” and the robot/poison attack in Tokyo  had been missing and considered dead for nearly two decades.

His body never found, there are those such as his niece, Kanna, who hoped that her uncle was alive.  But with the Friend in complete power and that reach of power extending to other nations, the fight against the Friend seemed hopeless.

But whenever she felt down, Kanna would listen to her Uncle Kenji’s music tapes and listen to a song that he would perform on the streets over and over.  And she would share it with the people she knew.

And for these other people who became familiar with Kenji’s music, somehow they would hear that song elsewhere.  Modified just a bit but the song was a glimmer of hope that perhaps Kenji Endo is still alive.

When a man with a guitar arrives in Japan and is going by the name Yabuki Joe, could this man be… Kenji Endo?

All is answered in volume 19 of Naoki Urasawa’s award-winning manga series “20th Century Boys”!

“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 over 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 18, 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?

In this issue, Kanna’s police officer friend Chono decides to join with Yabuki Joe but as they head towards Tokyo, security only allows people into Tokyo with a permit.  Anyone who submits a fake permit will be killed immediately.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man has been carefully watching Yabuki Joe’s return to Tokyo.   Who can it be?

“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.

It was a given that our main protagonist of the series would make his return.  It was all about when?  For so many issues, we have seen the past and the present, but more importantly how the people who joined with Kenji Endo to put a stop to the Friend’s evil plans had done in their lives after that fateful day.

No one knew if Kenji was a live or dead, but the fact that nothing has been heard of him for over 15 years, needless to say, anything pointing to him being alive seemed non-existent until now.

While mentioning anything about what happened to Kenji after all these years would be a spoiler, for the last three volumes, there have been hints that this Yabuki Joe character with a guitar and sings Kenji Endo songs is in fact Kenji.  But typically any pages dealing with Yabuki Joe were small and we were given little hints that he may be alive.  With volume 19, everything is confirmed and what happened to him after all this time has now been answered.

But while Kenji Endo now making his return, what will happen to Kanna Endo and team as they feel they must mount their attack against the Friend.  Also, there is another mysterious question of who the true identity of the Friend truly is since Fukube was killed.  Who is now donning the Friend’s mask?

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. 19” is spectacular! And I emphasize that this manga series is absolutely awesome. Every chapter in this volume just builds and builds to the final shot and you can’t help but be surprised or just excited for the next upcoming issue.

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 with this latest volume, “Naoki Urasawa’s 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 19” is highly recommended and should not be missed!

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