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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