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July 19, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: 20th Century Boys vol. 9

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: 20th Century Boys
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 9 (of 22), $12.99
Vintage: 2002 by Shogakukan, June 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Science fiction, mystery, older teen

On New Year’s Eve in the year 2000, Kenji Endo fought to save the world from an event predicted by the Book of Prophecy that he and his friends wrote as children.  He died in the process, but the people were saved.  This has come to be known as Bloody New Year’s Eve.  An enigmatic political leader known only as Friend took the credit and branded Kenji a traitor.  Friend and his Friendship Democratic Party rose to power, and Friend became a powerful political and religious icon.  People who rise up against Friend are sent to Friend Land for reeducation, or are killed.  Fourteen years later, Kenji’s niece Kanna is continuing her uncle’s fight against Friend and the Friends, who are ruling with a heavy, tyrannical hand.  Previously, Kanna’s classmate Koizumi Kyoko found out the truth behind Bloody New Year’s Eve, and was sent to Friend Land.  Kanna, with a desire to avenge Kenji, has decided to stand up against Friend and gather an army to fight against him.

In Friend Land, Koizumi has found herself inside a strange game, which has taken her into the past, when Kenji, his gang, and Friend were children.  Believing she can discover the identify of Friend, she pursues the children.  If she finds out the truth, she’ll be killed, so back in the real world, Yoshitsune, a former friend of Kenji’s, tries to disconnect the power source for the game.  Unfortunately, this could cause permanent brain damage to anyone currently hooked up to the game.  Either way, Yoshitsune is risking the life of the young girl.  Meanwhile, Kanna cooks up an idea to build herself an army.  She goes to a large, mafia-run casino, and plays a high stakes game of Rabbit Nabokov.  Using her psychic powers (well, it’s not defined, but it’s some sort of super-natural ESP type thing), she wins a huge sum of money and hands it out to the men in the casino, asking them to meet her the next morning.  Gathering an enormous group of men, she arranges a meeting at a local church.  A prophecy from another book states that a savior will arrive to unite the people, but will be assassinated during a meeting in a church in Shinjuku.  Believing this alludes to the approaching visit of the Pope, Kanna wants the army to help stop the assassination.  Will a church full of the most violent men in the city listen to the words of a teenage girl?

If you want to avoid the major spoilers, then you should stop reading now, and just know that this is a title you should be reading.  This book has one of my favorite types of story twists, and I’m going to mention it.  Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys is probably one of the most fascinating books on the shelves.  A (pretty literally, as he always wears a mask) faceless, enigmatic ruler rises to power on the sacrifices of others.  Anyone who goes against him is reformed or disposed of.  A single teenage girl is the savior of the entire world.  A book of prophecy, written by a group of children decades ago, has successfully predicted the future.  A new book of prophecy has appeared that spells out a new future for the world.  The corrupt and the downtrodden are joining together to fight against the oppressive regime.  A regime ruled by a false savior, while the true savior’s name is dragged through the mud.  But Kanna learned a lot from her uncle before his death, about going all out, and drawing people in.  The most interesting part about Kanna is that she’s just a kid, and Urasawa writes her perfectly.  She acts her age, even while facing down gangsters and talking to mafia bosses.  With all her drive and with all her courage, she’s still just a kid.  When she’s staring down the barrel of a gun, she freezes in shock and fear, like any normal person would.  Despite everything she’s been through, she still has a child-like naivety about some things.  And she falls to she same fallacies that any other person would.  In her efforts to prevent the prophecy of assassination of the Pope, she fulfills the prophecy herself.  “In 2014, a big meeting will be held in a church in Shinjuku…and a nightmarish time will begin again.  At the meeting a savior will rise up for the forces of good, but the savior will be assassinated.”  By gathering a large mass of people at a church in Shinjuku, Kanna made herself the savior.  Fortunately she isn’t assassinated, but the New Book of Prophecy doesn’t end there.  “When the Holy Mother appears…she will bring either Heaven or Hell.”  If Kanna is the savior, then the Holy Mother can only be Kanna’s mother, who has been missing for years.  Ah, self-fulfilling prophecy is delicious.

With excellent art, a fantastic and well-written story, and engaging characters, this isn’t a title to be passed up.  It transcends simply being a manga, and would be at home on a shelf next to V for Vendetta as much as Black Jack.  It was also nominated for several Eisners this year, including Best Continuing Series, Best Writer/Artist, and Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia.  Volume 10 comes out in August.  There are also three live action films, all released by Viz Media/Viz Pictures in the U.S.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_Kris

Review copy provided by Viz Media.

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5 Comments



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: For #MangaMonday this week we spotlight 20th CENTURY BOYS vol. 9 from @VIZ_Media! http://dld.bz/mUFT #comics #manga […]



  2. […] Opipari on vol. 4 of 13th Boy (Manga Maniac Cafe) Kristin on vol. 9 of 20th Century Boys (Comic Attack) Grant Goodman on vol. 33 of Berserk (Comics Village) Connie on Black-Winged Love […]



  3. […] Opipari on vol. 4 of 13th Boy (Manga Maniac Cafe) Kristin on vol. 9 of 20th Century Boys (Comic Attack) Grant Goodman on vol. 33 of Berserk (Comics Village) Connie on Black-Winged Love […]



  4. […] Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys volume 12, by Naoki Urasawa.  ”Will 2015 bring an end to human history?!  An urgent but mysterious message left by her mother Kiriko in 2002 finally reaches Kanna.  But where is Kiriko, who developed the germ warfare weapons used on Bloody New Year’s Eve, and what is she doing now?  Memories of New Years past flood the minds of Kenji’s friends and family.  Will Yoshitsune’s clandestine actions eventually prove fruitful, or are the doomed to repeat the tragedies of the year 2000?”  December 2010, $12.99. […]



  5. […] (see my review of volume 9, as well): Kanna decided to build an army, and unite the mafia gangs to help her stand up to Friend […]



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