Title: Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 15 (of 22), $12.99
Vintage: 2003 by Shogakukan in Japan, June 21, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Science fiction, drama
When we last left off, Friend had died, and Kanna and Co. were trying to uncover Friend’s plans for the future. As a deadly virus began ravaging the globe, someone looking like Friend began appearing to certain people around Japan, confusing everyone, particularly those who saw him die in person. With the Pope’s upcoming visit, the race is on to prevent the New Book of Prophecy from coming true. In Rome, a priest named Luciano, combing through the material left behind after his mentor Father Perrin’s recent death, comes across some interesting information. With a copy of a mysterious book and a secret message from Father Perrin, Luciano uncovers the plot to assassinate the Pope. Realizing that the pieces aren’t adding up correctly, Luciano attempts to bring the issue up with his superior, but is immediately shut down. His life now in danger, Luciano escapes to Japan to stop the assassination of the Pope himself. In a remarkable coincidence, he soon crosses paths with Detective Chono, who takes the priest straight to Kanna. For help, Kanna once again goes to the local mafia bosses and convinces them to aid her in tracking down and stopping Number 13 from assassinating the Pope. With the arrival of the Pope in Japan, Kanna’s ally and the priest at the Kabuki-cho Catholic Church, Father Nitani, remembers the time in his past when he was saved by the man who is now the Pope. As Number 13 makes his way to the location of the 2015 World Expo, Kanna’s group goes on a wild goose chase trying to track him down. However, when the Pope leaves his speech and then a local church safely, their confusion about the assassination plan grows rather than diminishes. That is, until it’s announced that the Pope will be giving a speech at the Exo, facing the corpse of the Friend. It becomes a race against the clock to stop the events that have been set in motion, and as the minutes remaining turn into mere seconds, the Friend’s true plans start to reveal themselves, and are more horrifying than they had imagined. In America, Keroyon continues his journey to find Kanna’s mother, leading him to a rumor of a gas mask-wearing salesman who seems to be spreading the virus across the country. A ray of hope arrives as a group of road warriors arrives claiming to have come into contact with Kiriko. Yet just as suddenly, this hope is destroyed, and perhaps with it, any hope of stopping the virus’s spread.
The last volume was pretty confusing, but volume 15 is more straightforward and far less cryptic. It becomes clear that the conspiracy runs very deep, and has even infested the Church. Poor Luciano, whose faith is pure and strong, is quite shaken by the corruption he uncovers in Rome. He follows the pieces left behind for him by Father Perrin, and just barely escapes the older priest’s fate himself. His relief is so great when Chono at last realizes what he’s trying to convey, that you can feel it through the page. Tears well up in his eyes at finally being understood, having journeyed far, fleeing for his life in order to save the life of another. I just want to wrap him up in my arms and tell him everything’s going to be OK. Of course, it’s not, unfortunately. The Pope may live, but who’s to say that wasn’t the real plan all along? The Friend has seen his plan through for over 14 years now, and nothing (or no one) has been able to stop him thus far. His power only grows and grows, and attempts to stop him only seem to make his power grow even more. Not even death has stopped him. With the entire world falling into rapturous worship at his feet, can he even be stopped? All that stands in his way are Kanna and her small group of friends, those left behind by Kenji when he died. The world is changing, spiraling out of control. How much has been planned from the beginning by Friend? Kanna, Otcho, and Yoshitsune desperately try to answer that question even as they try to uncover the plans yet to come. The last few pages of this volume provide a glimpse at an upcoming surprise twist. If you aren’t able to figure out what it means on your own, take note: Avoid reading the translation notes provided by Viz at the back of the book, or the surprise will be ruined for you.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.