21st Century Boys 2

April 21, 2013

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2013 – 24 volumes
this is the second and final volume of the coda series to 20th Century Boys, for all intents and purposes volume 24

This is mostly going to be short and cryptic, since I don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say, I enjoyed every page of this strange series, much more than I thought I would. It’s my favorite by Urasawa, which is saying something. I liked Pluto when I read it, but it seems a bit dark and slow lately, and I never really cared for Monster. But 20th Century Boys was different. It was ten times stranger than both of those series combined, yet without getting so out-of-hand that it was difficult to follow from volume to volume, let alone with a month or so between readings of said volumes. The character map in the front always made it easy to remember what was going on, and with who. And man. A lot of parts were just shocking, or triumphant, or awesome, or all of those combined. Usually something about every volume threw me for a loop. Reading this series was a ride, and it made me happy to pick up the volumes and keep up during a time when I haven’t been reading as much manga. Easily recommended to anyone looking for a good comic story. It’s a bit long for some, but it really is worth it. Great stuff.

I was so sad when my prediction didn’t pan out. Honestly, it would violate the theme of the series. But come on. It would have been so awesome.

There is a subplot about a last-minute bomb being a threat. Honestly, at this point I was done with the Friend’s surprises, but what the hell. One last time isn’t going to hurt anything. This sort of combines all the best points about the previous scares, including the fact that Kenji has to travel back into the past to find out what’s going on, the grass hideout, and a giant robot. The latter is always a treat in this series.

Extraneous bad guys are also still milling around. One of my favorites was an absolutely creepy nurse that was stalking Takasu. That nurse will give me nightmares for a long time.

I was wondering if it would end with a scene similar to the cryptic first few pages. It totally did. I love when that happens.

Also, the Friend’s identity still doesn’t matter. I also adored that about the series.

Oh, Kenji. Always the hero.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

21st Century Boys 1

April 6, 2013

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2012 – 2 volumes
this is the last two volumes of 20th Century Boys

So… I read this a couple weeks ago, then re-read it again for pleasure and to brace myself for the 2nd volume, which would be the real end of the series.

The thing that struck me the most when I first started reading this was that everyone seemed so unconcerned with the true identity of the Friend. Or, the second Friend, I suppose. They pull his mask off to reveal that he’s had plastic surgery, then nobody knows or remembers who he is. I loved that anticlimax, especially after so much work went into hiding the identity throughout the course of the series.

Then… I started taking the last parts into consideration. That there were two kids in masks. That someone vanished occasionally in the past. That one person claims not to be who anyone thinks. Normally, I would scoff and not care at this point, both because 20th Century Boys has been doing this the whole time, and also because the series is over and it doesn’t matter. But this is the only time it does matter, actually. And I also looked at the cover to volume two. I’m… a little concerned. It can’t be, can it? That would be one of the wildest flips of all time. Also, it would break my heart.

The rest of this… I was a bit ambivalent. After the epic concert last volume that simply ended with Kanna in Kenji’s arms, loose ends and all, I thought that was an appropriate way to end the series. I didn’t really care about the identity of the 2nd Friend, or why Kenji wasn’t playing the right song, or about explaining the weirdness. Then this volume kept the story going, with one last page of the New Book of Prophecy sending everyone scrambling to find one last booby trap. We’d been through all this before. I wasn’t sure I wanted more. But if my suspicions are correct, all of that stuff will make sense and wrap up in a fairly interesting way. I’m not too sure where the… control part is going, but I am very interested in what a copy of a copy can do, and how that may make the original feel.

In other words, this is sort of a coda for the series, and I’m shocked to find that it truly is keeping me guessing all the way to the end. Way to go, Naoki Urasawa.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

20th Century Boys 22

October 11, 2012

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2012 – 24 volumes

WHAT.

Just. What.

I don’t even.

I… can’t really say anything about it, because I absolutely don’t want to spoil what goes on here. But for a series that made for such a crazy ride as 20th Century Boys, I was expecting only the most insane of conclusions. There was so much craziness going on. Disease. The eradication of humanity. UFOs. Vaccinations. Murder. Psychic power. Childhood vendettas.

Ah, that last one. That was glorious. I mean, I guess we know who the friend is, right? I think? Maybe we don’t. When the big reveal came, and it was a fringe member of Kenji’s group, I was a little disappointed. So maybe it was revealed to be a different fringe member, I don’t know, it’s not a detail I focused on. But there’s a flashback in this volume. He saw Kenji do something. He saw Kenji be a villain.

He demands an apology.

I LOVED THAT.

I also love that the people demand a concert, that Kenji’s music brought everyone together, that it moved them in a way that an offer of survival could not.

There was definitely a lot to like about this volume.

But it had the most normal freaking ending I’ve ever seen. Everything simply finishes, and that’s it. It does exactly what it ought to at this point, which is never something 20th Century Boys has done.

Perhaps the insanity came all the way back around to normal, and I just don’t realize it. I was disappointed everything was so normal. But man, there was still so much awesome stuff going on.

Mainly, at the very end, where Kenji said no. That’s what I’ll always remember about 20th Century Boys. Seriously, Kenji is so awesome.

So I think I’ve gushed vaguely for long enough. You just have to read it. Absolutely. It is fantastic, if you’re looking for an action/adventure manga, or a good comic, or anything at all, really. I’m sure that the number of characters will lose people, but I found it easier to keep track of everyone, even while reading a volume every two months, than reading volumes of Monster consecutively. And there are those who will think that this is just a smidge too crazy for their tastes, and I can’t blame them.

But seriously. This series rocks so hard. I’m waiting for 21st Century Boys to wrap up all the loose ends, and then I’m going to start over from the beginning knowing what I know. It’s so fantastic.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

20th Century Boys 21

August 28, 2012

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2012 – 23 volumes

Really, I should save the last couple volumes of this and read them together. I’m going to be left in a similar situation to the one I’m in now. I tore through these, and they’re packed with equal parts action and cryptic hints. I can see this is all going somewhere, and it will be somewhere fantastic. After all, part of the plot here is that the Friend has UFOs going all over the city splashing citizens with red paint that looks like blood. And this becomes routine. But the problem is that I still have absolutely no clue where or how this will conclude. There’s… not really a fight that’s going to happen. I can see that. I don’t even know if things will be solved with a conversation from Kenji. It doesn’t seem like he’s the type that will just kill the Friend for all the awful things he’s done.

So… what? How? What does the comeback of the bowling boom have to do with any of this? What about T.Rex? And those last pages!

Those last pages.

I really can’t offer any additional insight or commentary on this. Kanna and Kenji are still separated, and still fighting the good fight. As is the Pope. We are still getting plentiful flashbacks, though I’m not quite sure where those are going.

But really, all the crazy stuff that’s happened before is turning into something here. Really, it’s been an amazingly cohesive story the whole time. And now it’s going to end with something great. I literally cannot wait.

But. Those last pages. What was he thinking?

20th Century Boys 20

May 10, 2012

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2012 – 22 volumes

THIS VOLUME. I should have known the ending would be ridiculously epic. It’s just hard to imagine, because I have no idea where it’s going. My best and most recent prediction was that Yabuki Joe was going to lead the people in some sort of rock revolution, except that doesn’t appear to be the case. This volume re-introduces a lot of characters that have long been out of the picture, and even one whose been a major player without ever having been in the story. That’s quite interesting. But all these people have their own plots to foil the Friend, who is set up to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth because he’s bored. The Friend’s plan has something to do with making it look like a flying saucer is destroying humanity, and somehow giving people a fake option to settle on Mars enters into the picture. The counter-measures range from simple grenades to violent internal revolutions to… well, a repeat. A fantastic repeat.

There were a couple show-stoppers here, though. One of them was seeing Kanna and the Friend meet face to face for the first time. I’m not really going to say anything about this. Parts of it were confusing. The ending was baffling. But all of it had me flipping the pages as fast as I possibly could. Again, one of the absolute best things about 20th Century Boys is that it keeps me guessing, something which few manga can do now. I had no idea where any of this was going.

The other was when Maruo ran an errand to find a long-lost… brother in the struggle, so to speak. The story leading up to how this person was found is fantastic. The place where this person is being held is fantastic. And this person’s story fills in a lot of gaps. Well, some gaps. There are still a lot of strange things about 20th Century Boys, but I wonder how logical the explanations can be for some of them.

Two other very small shocks in this volume, though, then I’m finished.

The first was when Otcho and Yukiji walk in on Manjome. That was crazy. Just… crazy. There are a lot of things that come as unexpected here, but that was literally from left field. It will haunt me.

The second was… the 20th Century Boy. That was also incredibly creepy. He’s always creepy, but that was especially so.

I am so excited to figure out what that’s about. To be fair, I’ve been waiting for the story to tie back in to the first few pages of volume 1 for some time. I’m pretty sure this is it. It will have to be, because there are only two volumes left to… resolve all this. I don’t know how that will be possible. Perhaps that’s why we need the 2-volume epilogue of 21st Century Boys.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

20th Century Boys 19

May 9, 2012

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2011 – 22 volumes

Well! It looks like 21st Century Boys will be a separate series. I had been including it in the volume counts with these, but I guess it counts separately.

I love Yabuki Joe. He’s completely unconcerned with everything. He’s… sort of a hero? But not really? More of a rallying point. The same thing can be said about the Friend. I also love that the rallying point is music, as if an adolescent dream of being a rock star is being fulfilled. An interesting counter-measure to the Friend’s madness, since his world domination ploy was also based around the fantasies of children. Also also interesting, as much as Yabuki Joe is using his music for good, he states in this volume that it’s not going to save the world. Even though… it kind of is. So, in that, he’s unlike the friend with his childhood dream. Perhaps the fact he’s still succeeding at being a popular musician is some sort of commentary on the dangerous weakness in crowd mentality? Hmm.

I guess I either didn’t realize or forgot that the currency in this post-apocalyptic world was the buddy. If you’re buying a forged permit, it’s going to cost you a lot of buddies. I can’t make this stuff up.

Basically, in this volume, Yabuki Joe and Chono (whose name I can’t read without thinking of the French artist CHOMO, a hermit that lived in Fontainebleau forest for 50 years) reach a checkpoint that they need to cross to get into the Kanto region and Tokyo. The problem is that you need a legit pass to get through the checkpoint, and on the non-Kanto side, there’s a booming business in forgeries that will get you shot in the head should you present them to the checkpoint guards. But Yabuki Joe convinces the lost half of the Ujiko Ujio artist duo to draw permits for every person in the border town. Madness ensues. Chono is caught for a bounty. Yabuki Joe faces off against the ruler of the checkpoint forest, a man who is obsessed with the idea of being a bad guy and who, long ago, chose Kenji to be his good guy nemesis. Well, now there’s only Yabuki Joe.

Guys. The end of this book is absolutely EPIC. The identity of the Friend is once again in question. The identity of the leader of the checkpoint is also in question, though I wonder if he actually is anyone important. Probably. He’ll be something insane, like Kanna’s father. Yabuki Joe, though. Yabuki Joe steals the scene. He tells all.

So… I’m just gonna go ahead and read volume 20 now.

20th Century Boys 18

April 12, 2012

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2011 – 24 volumes

Oh, Yabuki Joe. You’ve got to get up.

I love every single volume of this series. I probably start every review that way, but it’s absolutely true. There hasn’t been a single volume of 20th Century Boys that hasn’t offered a completely unique reading experience. It sounds like trite overpraise when I say it, but it’s rare that I can’t see where a story is going a mile away. 20th Century Boys is all sorts of absolute insanity, and it is dead serious about it. I literally have no idea what’s going to happen next, and somehow, all the crazy is absolutely acceptable in context. Sometimes it throws me an intentional curveball, too.

There’s one truly epic scene in this volume. Yabuki Joe manages to enter the base where Chono is stationed. He and a group of other officers are ordered to shoot “the alien” on sight. When they swarm him, Yabuki Joe simply strolls out of the house he was in and begins singing a nonsense song with his guitar. The officers are at a standstill, utterly entranced. Nobody knows what to make of this. One of the officers does manage to follow orders, and shoots him. Yabuki Joe falls, then calls Officer Chono over to cheer him on with “Get up, Joe!” (a line from Joe of Tomorrow, which is where the alias Yabuki Joe comes from). He then stands up, wanders over to the officer that shot him, and faces him down, insisting that you can’t shoot a man who is singing a song. This scene is really intense and triumphant, and because Yabuki Joe says it, every officer there believes it.

Officer Chono uses this excuse later when his superior officer shows up to shoot Yabuki Joe. He then starts singing so that the officer doesn’t shoot him. Later, when Yabuki Joe rides off on a motorcycle, Chono thanks him for that particular bit of wisdom. Yabuki Joe turns to him in disbelief, explaining that he was indeed shot, and you can shoot a man singing a song if you damn well please. Then he leaves.

This is why 20th Century Boys is great. It may have several triumphant moments buried in absolute and utter nonsense. There’s a lot of other totally awesome things going on in that scene, too. But the best is the line about how you can’t shoot a man singing a song. And then it turns around and just throws that away completely.

Yabuki Joe is a newcomer to the story, but his coming has been foreshadowed for several volumes, and we’re only now getting to see his face. We still don’t know very much about him, or what exactly he’s doing, but he has a huge crazy following, and seems completely unconcerned with all the Friend stuff going on. I am curious to see how he’ll waltz in and change the world with his concerts. I’d love to see that work in a world where kid logic rules and military tactics fail.

There’s more about Kanna’s group, and her split from Yoshitsune. Otcho meets back up with her and talks some sense into her.

More interesting, though, is the ever-present flashback. This time, we see history through the eyes of Manjome Inshu. How he met the Friend, and his role in everything that the Friend has been so far. Interestingly, in his previous life he was what Otcho calls a “snake oil salesman,” and I like how his skills come in handy, or not, as the case may be.

I’ve got two more volumes to read, and there are two more volumes to the conclusion (then another two volume follow-up, which I assume will be published here as well). I cannot wait. I have absolutely no idea how all this could end.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

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