Title: Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 11 (of 22), $12.99
Vintage: 2003 by Shogakukan in Japan, October 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Drama, science fiction, suspense
With all of the twists, mysteries, revelations, and incredible secrets that this story holds, it’s difficult to talk about without spoiling anything for new readers. The time splits and the story shifts focus during the story, so it’s easier to talk about in parts, but that reveals what happened during previous time frames. If you’re entirely new to 20th Century Boys, just know that it’s an incredible, fast paced, well written, science fiction mystery. A mysterious leader has taken over the government, following a prophecy written by a group of children. His political party rules all of Japan, and anyone who disagrees with this group is sent away for brainwashing. Only the daughter of the original group of friends who wrote the first book of prophecy has the power to stand up to this oppressive power and save the world. The only question is whether she will survive long enough to do anything about it.
Previously (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 and the Friendship Democratic Party. She gathered a large group at a local church, where an assassin attempted to kill her, but she was rescued by her father’s friend Otcho, who escaped from prison. In the ensuing chaos, peace was made, and Kanna was convinced to go back to her normal life for the time being. Meanwhile, Koizumi Kyoko was busted out of Friend Land before her brainwashing was complete, but the Dream Navigators believe she has seen the face of Friend as a child, so she must be eliminated. Koizumi tried to go to Kanna for help, but was abducted by her new teacher, Sadakiyo. Now on the run from the Dream Navigators, Sadakiyo and Koizumi race against time to find answers, while Kanna, reeling from a revelation about the true identity of Friend, chases after them.
That brings us right into volume 11. Kanna, confused by this new information, is left in despair, longing for the sound of her uncle Kenji’s voice. She finds herself in a car with some strange men, who happen to be keeping up with the news on Sadakiyo and Koizumi, who are being chased by the Dream Navigators. Kanna steels herself and decides to take action, but she’s up against a formidable foe – the right hand of the leader of the Friendship and Democracy Party, and the leader of the Dream Navigators, the exceptionally loyal and dangerous Takasu. Takasu is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Friend’s secrets hidden, even if that means wiping out a building full of people to hide a few scraps of paper. Sadakiyo was among the group of boys who once went to school together, and knew Friend as a child. Twelve years ago, he confessed everything he knew about Friend to a man, but managed to retrieve this confession and has been holding on to it all these years. Confused about the state of his own soul, he hands the information over to Koizumi, just as she is rescued by Yoshitsune. After researching the barely legible memo from Sadakiyo, Kanna finds clues to her missing mother’s whereabouts, and sets out to find the truth about why she left, and her involvement with Friend and Bloody New Year’s Eve. What she finds will shock her to her core, while other members of the resistance begin uncovering hidden relationships that reveal an upcoming catastrophe.
The effects of Bloody New Year’s Eve continue to reverberate in the lives of those who were involved, of anyone connected to Kenji and his group of friends. Mysteries grow deeper, even as secrets are revealed. Some revelations only muddle what Kanna and her friends have managed to learn. Things are looking grim indeed as 2015 approaches, and someone close to the disaster claims the world will soon end if Friend is not stopped. The pacing is fantastic in this series, keeping everything flowing quite nicely, even with all the flashbacks. The moments of “downtime” can hardly be called that, as there is always something going on, even if it varies in importance. It’s a testament to Urasawa’s talent that he can keep the tension up, even as he drops revelations left and right. Though those revelations are really just trickles from the massive framework that makes up the world of 20th Century Boys. He’s revealing secrets, but they’re just small parts of the whole, leaving the reader desperate for what might come next. Kanna is quickly learning things about her family that she never wanted to know, and there’s no telling how she’ll deal with the information in the volumes to come. At least she’s not alone. The group of Kenji’s former comrades that surrounds and protects her is as good as a real family, if she’ll only allow them in, instead of trying to do everything on her own. Another fantastic volume from Urasawa and Viz Media.
Dear Naoki Urasawa: You are awesome. Please live forever so your awesomeness never ends.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.