Manga Review: 20th Century Boys

Manga Review: 20th Century Boys20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa
Published by VIZ Media on November 30, 2006
Genres: Dystopian, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
Format: eBook
Source: Scanlation

Could this new death be related to the rise of a bizarre new cult that's been implicated in several other murders and disappearances?

Failed rock musician Kenji's memories of his past come rushing back when one of his childhood friends mysteriously commits suicide. Could this new death be related to the rise of a bizarre new cult that's been implicated in several other murders and disappearances? Determined to dig deeper, Kenji reunites with some of his old buddies in the hope of learning the truth behind it all. 

Humanity, having faced extinction at the end of the 20th century, would not have entered the new millennium if it weren't for them. In 1969, during their youth, they created a symbol. In 1997, as the coming disaster slowly starts to unfold, that symbol returns. This is the story of a gang of boys who try to save the world.

A good friend recommended this manga to me about two years ago. I made a half-hearted attempt to read it, but swiftly gave up. That was definitely my loss. Now, having read through the whole thing, I can honestly avow that this rather length series is definitely worth the time to read, although I can see why I had a couple of false starts with it before getting through.

20th Century Boys did not grab me right off, and, given the construction of the story, I don’t think that’s particularly surprising. For many people, you may need to tough it out through a volume or two before becoming completely enraptured by the complicated and terrifying story. The reason it’s difficult to get into is primarily the shifts in time. There are a lot of characters to get to know in several different time periods. At first, the constant jumps from the past to the present are exceedingly confusing and startling. Eventually, you do get used to them though.

Urasawa does some really interesting things in the way he built the story. There were a number of plot turns I did not see coming. At points where it felt like the story might end, you suddenly realize that the story goes so much deeper and gets so much more intense. Nor did they feel like off-the-wall changes, made only so that he can keep the story going. Urasawa definitely knew what he was doing; you have to in order to pull of so much interweaving and such a complicated tale.

Earlier, I mentioned that this manga was terrifying. To clarify, it’s not a horror story so much as a dystopia, and a vision of just how evil young kids can be. This whole, incredibly successful scheme for world domination was created by a group of young boys, bored during the summer. Plus, there’s the cultishness of the “Friend” group to add to the general horror.

For those who enjoy dystopias or shocking, twist-turning story lines that span generations, you will not want to miss this. Do not give up on it; trust the recommendation that my friend gave me better than I did.


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