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February 4, 2013

Bento Bako Weekly: 21st Century Boys volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
Tags: , , , , ,

Title: 21st Century Boys
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 1 (of 2), $12.99
Vintage: 2007 by Shogakukan,  January 2013 by Viz Media
Genre: Science fiction

[Volume 22 review.]

When last we left off, Friend (the second version, and after this I’ll just call him Friend 2 if you don’t mind) was killed when Thirteen crashed a helicopter into the last of the flying saucers and the debris fell on Friend 2, Sadakiyo, and Kenji. With all three saucers destroyed and humanity saved (mostly), that should have been the end of things. Unfortunately, Friend 2 added his own part to the New Book of Prophecy (written by Fukube, the original Friend, in response to the book written by Kenji and his friends), which has recently been discovered. Kenji’s reunion with his friends is short-lived as this new revelation weighs on him. Everyone is thrilled to see their old friend alive and well, but Kenji knows his job isn’t over yet. While old friends try to relax after the battle of their lives, the UN moves into Japan and takes over cleanup and recovery duties. This includes putting a stop to Friend 2’s final plan – an anti-proton bomb. To discover the meaning behind this final prophecy, the UN plans to send troops into Friend’s “Virtual World” game. Kenji, however, explains that they won’t know what they’re doing, but that he will because it’s a recreation of his own past, so in he goes to discover the last of Friend 2’s secrets. Including just who exactly he was, since no one seems to know. No one except a dead detective. Apparently Chono’s grandfather no only discovered who the original Friend was long before anyone else, but he also managed to figure out who the other man at his side was. The copy of the copy (the original Friend copied Kenji). Unfortunately, Chono’s grandfather was killed before he could reveal anything, and his journal hidden away. It’s inside the Tower of the Sun at the Expo, along with another little secret – the anti-proton bomb. Kenji manages to find out that much himself, and he also discovers something, or rather someone, else inside “Virtual World.” The trapped and wandering consciousness of the dead Manjome, who has some secrets of his own. While the majority of the story has  now switched to Kenji, Kanna isn’t out of the game yet, as she has a piece of crucial information of her own, passed to her from Sadakiyo.

Well, if you thought things were finally setting down, prepare for another plot twist. Just as it seemed the series might come to a peaceful conclusion, Friend 2’s final trick comes into play. An anti-proton bomb to destroy the world. It’s just an idea from a manga, of course, but so were the giant robot and probably the killer virus, and he managed to bring both of those into reality. All that’s missing is the remote to control it, and I have a feeling about the form it will take after the fuss the kids were making about it this volume. Even with all that going on (the bomb, the trip into “Virtual World”), there’s some lovely downtime where Kenji sort of makes the rounds and visits his old friends who thought him dead all these years. All the guilt and the grief melts away, at least temporarily. Everyone’s happy to see Kenji, but Kenji is still consumed by the past. He sort of has to be, since he and Friend were at the root of everything going on. Friend (both versions) lived in the past, and to understand Friend, Kenji has to live in the past, as well. That’s where everything started, and that’s where all the answers lie. He’s been running away from it for a long time, but it’s time to face the music and bring this child’s game to an end once and for all. Unfortunately the UN keeps trying to interfere, not understanding the complexities of the situation. In their mind, Friend is probably just a typical terrorist, dictator sort of figure. He’s not someone they can defeat, however, which was made pretty obvious by the way Kenji’s friends took care of everything. Remember that Yoshitsune and his little army marched right into Friendship Tower and took it over without a single bullet fired. By the time the UN tanks started rolling in, there wasn’t anything left to quell. There doesn’t even seem to be much disorder among the populace. Kanna pretty much took care of that. So they’re seen more as occupation forces than liberators, and really they’re just kind of in the way. I’m not sure why these last two volumes are split off from the main series with the slight title change. They’ve been in the 21st century for some time now. It doesn’t feel like there’s been a major shift; it’s just two volumes to wrap up the loose ends. Solve the last remaining mysteries buried in the past. If anyone out there knows the technical reason for the title shift, do let me know.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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