Title: Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 12 (of 22), $12.99
Vintage: 2003 by Shogakukan in Japan, December 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Mystery, drama, science fiction
(See my review of volume 11 here.)
The identity of Friend is revealed! Or is it? How much can really be taken for the truth in this series? In this volume, readers will try to sort out some of the deep mysteries of the story right along with the characters, who are desperate to solve them before the world ends. A lot happens in this volume…but not a lot happens in this volume. The book covers a time span of about 24 linear hours, from New Year’s Eve 2014 to just after midnight on January 1, 2015 (so, the early hours of January 2). In that respect, the story isn’t moving very far since few things really happen within that 24 hours. But those few things are big things, and also result in some past memories resurfacing.
The New Book of Prophecy states that history will end in 2015, so it’s a race against time as the friends Kenji left behind rack their brains trying to remember important key events from their past. Who is Kanna’s father? Where is Kanna’s mother? Who was behind the Bloody New Year’s Eve virus? What is Friend’s true identity? Where is Dr. Yamane? The group splits up to try and answer these questions. Koizumi Kyoko, free from Friend Land and hiding out with the resistance group, is still being continually grilled by Yoshitsune and Yukiji, who believe Kyoko saw Friend’s real face in a simulation. As Kyoko tries to pick Friend’s face out of old photographs, Yoshitsune and Yukiji begin to realize that Friend has been rewriting the past to cover up his identity. Meanwhile, as the truth slowly begins to dawn on Yoshitsune back at the resistance base, Otcho and Kakuta continue to search for Dr. Yamane, looking for clues on Kiriko’s whereabouts. They get more than they bargained for when Otcho realizes Dr. Yamane is actually a former schoolmate. As he recalls the strange words spoken to him in the past, Otcho solves a puzzle that leads him and Kakuta into a dangerous situation, and puts them right into Friend’s hands. While all this is going on, Kanna is doing her own search to find Dr. Yamane and discover the truth about her mother and her father. Maruo, one of Kenji’s group missing since Bloody New Year’s Eve, resurfaces, still fighting the fight they began years ago, keeping Kenji’s memory and words in his heart as he attempts to assassinate Friend. Kanna, Maruo, Otcho, and Kakuta are all led to the grounds of the school where they all share memories…where Dr. Yamane awaits them. And Friend isn’t far behind.
Hooooly crap. Are you reading this? You should be. Everyone should be. There aren’t many series out there as well made as 20th Century Boys. Time ceases to exist when you dive into a volume and become absorbed in every word and every panel on every page. Urasawa’s expert weaving of the same story being told in different places by different people simultaneously is flawless and creates additional suspense as it jumps back and forth, revealing the truth piece by piece. The characters all come to the same conclusions at nearly the same time, but in different ways and in different locations. The reader is able to easily follow the paths taken, but the suspense is carried through to the final pages. Kenji’s presence continues to be felt in everyone’s life, guiding them even in death. As Maruo waits for the opportunity to assassinate Friend, he is reminded by Kenji’s words not to involve innocent people, and sacrifices a perfect opportunity to stay true to his ideals. Kanna spends time listening to a sidewalk musician play an original song as she remembers her uncle and tries to calm down and focus her mind. The memories of Kenji are pleasant, but some memories resurfacing might be better off forgotten.
We’re only halfway through the series here, and there’s been some huge revelations recently, with one of the biggest occurring on the final page of this volume (so make sure you don’t open the back of the book!). I’m anxious to see where Urasawa will continue to take us after such a big turning point for the series. Another compelling volume from this master of manga.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.