We’re only halfway through the series, so much has happened and the revelations keep piling up. Do I want it to end? Hell no!
Writer/Artist: Naoki Urasawa
What They Say
Will 2015 bring an end to human history?! An urgent but mysterious messsage left by her mother Kiriko in 2002 finally reaches Kanna. But where is Kiriko, who developed the germ warfare weapons used on Bloody New Year's Eve, and what is she doing now? Memories of New Years past flood the minds of Kenji's friends and family. Will Yoshitsune's clandestine actions eventually prove fruitful, or are they doomed to repeat the tragedies of the year 2000?
Meanwhile, Otcho and Kakuta are busily trying to track down Kiriko's former colleague, Dr. Yamane. Unexpectedly, their search leads them to the very neighborhood that Otcho, Kenji, Maruo and the rest of their childhood pals grew up in. Can a visit to their old school shed new light on a bizarre incident that happened when they were all in the sixth grade?
What is there to be expected from a new volume of 20th Century Boys? High levels of suspense and added intrigue that deepens the world to obsessive levels, that’s what! In all honestly there isn’t a whole lot that happens in this volume. But the pacing, oh the pacing, with each new development and event that happens Urasawa continues to draw me in with every panel. Series of average to terrible quality would have me wishing the story to ‘get on with it!’ but everything is so meticulously planned that I blow through each volume of 200+ pages to where I am satisfied and hungry for more!
This volume brings another member of the ‘Kenji Faction’ back from the grave, Maruo. A lot of time is spent with what he has been up to recently and how passionately he feels about the events that have happened. Maruo has been playing concierge to the famous Haru Namio, the guy who sings that horribly annoying yet incredibly popular 2015 Expo Hello song. It turns out that Namio knows all about the events of Bloody New Years and seeks to help Maruo solve the mystery of the Friends and save the world. We meet up with Maruo just as Namio gets to have a private meeting with the Friend and a whole chapter is spent on Maruo sitting in the lobby strapped to the gills with explosives contemplating his suicide mission to defeat the Friend. With inner monologues and flashbacks to Maruo and Kenji as children (I love how each of these flashbacks are always new and adds increasing depth to the story and characters) I was really placed in Maruo’s shoes. Sympathetic, empathetic, it doesn’t matter; you are involved with these characters and understand them all too well.
After the revelations about Kanna’s mother in the last volume, we begin to bounce between both Kanna and the Otcho/Kakuta team as they search for Dr. Yamane. Dr. Yamane seems to be a huge clue in discovering the Friend’s motives and identity and the realization that Yamane was another classmate adds to the mystery. The trail to Yamane leads back to their old elementary school where Otcho realizes that the incident that caused Donkey to leap from the second story window when he saw something ‘horrible’ in the science lab is connected to Yamane and the Friend.
Yoshitsune and Yukiji are having their hands full with Koizumi while she is trying to identify the Friend from some old yearbook photos. This interweaving story is what I mean about pacing in terms of Urasawa. Whole chapters are spent with them and slowly the clues about ‘the lie of 1970’ and what Koizumi experienced in the virtual simulator start to come together. These events directly tie in with what Kanna is discovering and what Otcho is realizing and the alternation between story lines gives us, the reader, so much more information and suspense than any of the individuals character have amassed at this point. Yes we are still left in the dark about some things, but that is intentional and just keeps me hungry!
Funnily enough, the volume ends with the Friend being shot and Otcho removing his mask! But but, we’re only halfway through! Something must be up and I am hoping it continues to be as fascinating as the first half has been!
To steal a theme from The Social Network; if anyone asks me why this series is one of my favorites, I can give them vague responses to try and keep the mystery and attempt to inject excitement or I can just say it out point blank, “It’s 20th Century Boys, Bitch!” In the meantime, please excuse me while I go brush up on my 20thCB mythology so I can gain greater context on the revelation at the end of this book!