Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review: 21st CENTURY BOYS Volume 1


WRITER: Naoki Urasawa with Takashi Nagasaki
ARTIST: Naoki Urasawa
LETTERS: Freeman Wong
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4326-0; paperback; Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
200pp, B&W, $12.99 U.S., $14.99 CAN, £8.99 UK

20th Century Boys is a science fiction and mystery manga from creator Naoki Urasawa. The series was originally serialized from 1999 to 2006 in the Japanese manga magazine, Big Comic Spirits. The series, a seinen manga (comics for adult men), was collected in 22 graphic novels (called tankobon in Japan). The series also has a 16-chapter sequel (of sorts), entitled 21st Century Boys.

20th Century Boys is concluded. The war is over. The “Friend,” leader of the worldwide cult known as the “Friends,” is dead. But has peace really come to Tokyo, after the world was on the brink of destruction? Many mysteries concerning the Friend remain, such as the Friend’s true identity. Are any of his diabolical plans still in motion? The answers may be in the memories of Kenji Endo, the returning hero and the Friend’s sworn enemy. Welcome to 21st Century Boys.

Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys, Vol. 1 (entitled Death of the Friend) picks up after the end of the Eisner Award-winning Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys. The Friend dies, but not before speaking cryptically to Kenji. The Friend’s stand-in, Sadakiyo, lies in a hospital. He is watched over by Kenji’s niece, Kanna, as she tries to understand what Sadakiyo is trying to tell her. United Nations Forces move into Tokyo, and Kenji prepares to makes a dangerous trip into the mind games of the Friends.

This first volume of the 21st Century Boys manga, the sort of sequel to the 20th Century Boys manga, offers more of the same, but not quite. The first series pitted a large cast of characters against a primary adversary, the Friend. In this new series, it seems as if the heroes are chasing ghosts and confronting a vaguely outlined adversary, so the series strikes an odd tone. It is as if creator Naoki Urasawa wants the characters to discover things about their pasts that are better left alone and unknown.

Comic book readers who loved 20th Century Boys will want the follow-up, VIZ Signature’s Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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