Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Manga Introduction: 20th CENTURY BOYS 20世紀少年

Manga Introduction

Welcome to another 'Manga Introduction' where I just basically ramble for a bit about a manga that I think other people should read. This time its 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa/ Urasawa Naoki. The slash is there because I always have trouble deciding whether to order names the English way (Given name then Surname) or the Japanese way (Surname first). (-。-;)
........Anyway....I happened to come by this manga 'sort of' by chance. About 2-3 years ago I was in Japan and had accidentally not reserved a room to stay at a place for one night. Being stingy and not wanting to pay much for accommodation somewhere else, the best option was to stay overnight at a Manga Kissa (漫画喫茶), or manga cafe. Hmm..I'll probably make a post about Manga kissa later on ...Anyway, these places have just about every manga you could wish for to read, is stacks of shelves. Yes....indeed a paradise for manga fans. It's pretty hard to decide what to read when there's such a large selection, so I was just randomly looking around these shelves since I didn't have anything in particular that I wanted to read. Then, on one of the books covers, this weird masked guy caught my eye...
Creepy huh? And to top it of the name of the manga was 20th Century Boys. What the hell is this manga about?? I picked it up started reading.....and didn't stop till I finished the whole series. I didn't close my eyes to sleep once (well maybe a few times) the whole night I was at the manga kissa. It is without a doubt one of the most intriguing manga I've read.

The story first Kenji Endo a washed up thirty something male convenient store clerk. Failing at his dream to be a rock star, he now lives with his mother while looking after the daughter of his missing elder sister. Kenji one day attends a school reunion where he meets his gang of friends from childhood.  It is there that things start to be put to the mix. One of his friends tells Kenji about a cult group that has started using a logo that is similar to the logo that the gang of friends had created for their group around some 20 or so years ago. Not only that but the strange predictions that the prophetic leader for this cult, named "Tomodachi" (Friend) makes, are the same as plots from a dooms day story that they made up as kids. Suspicious that one of the former gang members is cult leader, they begin to remember who was part of their group and/or may have known about the story to decipher who this 'Friend' is. 

Although Kenji thinks this is strange he still doesn't think too much of it. That is until he finds a letter from a former member of their group 'Donkey' who had recently reportedly committed suicide. He goes his house and there, on of the walls, he finds a small mark of the logo that they made as a kids        

Kenji gets suspicious that this cult group may have something to do with Donkey's death, and begins to investigate just what this mysterious cult is and who the leader is. Furthermore, his baby niece that he is looking after gets branded as 'The Chosen One' by the crazy cult, and the situation for Kenji just gets even more drastic from then on....

Its interesting to see how the influence of the cult on the world grows throughout the story, and how Kenji and co. work to shine the light on the identity of their "Friend" and stop his plots of world destruction that are methods that they themselves devised but can't completely remember. The strange obsession that 'Friend' has with toying with Kenji makes the story even more mysterious and creepy, and increases the curiosity as to who the hell this sicko is. Its interesting how even the minor characters (even though theres heeaaaps of characters) introduced are connected to the plot of the story. There are an incredible number of the plot twisting and turning and its really a showcases of Naoki Urasawa's talent to still allow the story to make sense on not seem overly ridiculous (well mangawise), despite its increasing complexity as the it progresses.  

It's also been adapted to a trilogy of live feature films which are okay. I recommend the manga though, or that you read the manga first at least.
Music also has a 'sort of' central part in the plot, and the manga's name is from T.Rex's song 20the Century Boy...... This is also a very cool song. If you've never heard of it, you should.

High schooler Kenji dancing to T.Rex 20th Century Boy

Overall this manga is an incredible mystery story, and is a must read for any manga/ comic fan. Even if you're not you should read it. Even if its for free on the internet or you buy it. Just read it. You won't regret it. 


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