Tag Archives: Naoki Urasawa

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 7: The Truth by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 7: The Truth     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: Feb 16, 2010

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Otcho and Kakuta struggle to escape from the island prison of Umihotaru. Kakuta is determined to become a famous manga artist, while Otcho’s desire is to get revenge for a friend. Once they reach the water, Kakuta is sure he can’t possibly swim the distance required to get to freedom, but Otcho tells him the story of his friend who beat him in a swimming competition, and the friend couldn’t even swim! Meanwhile, the warden has learned of the escapes and while he is not concerned with the manga artist, he is upset about Prisoner #3, and wants him back as soon as possible, or else…

Back in 1970, Kenji and his friends are planning to see the Exposition in Osaka. Since time will be at a premium, and lines long, they have to carefully arrange their time to see as much as they can. Donkey confesses to Kenji that his parents can’t afford for him to take the bullet train to Osaka, and asks to borrow Kenji’s bike, to which he agrees. When Otcho and Kakuta reach the mainland,  years later, they find, to Otcho’s amazement, a recreation of that very Expo, with one important exception.

In 2014, a class in a Tokyo high school is given an assignment to write an essay on the Japanese history topic of their choice. Koizumi, caught trying to sneak out of class, chooses to write about Hitler, but her teacher won’t allow that, so she picks up a book at random and points to her “choice” for her subject, which turns out to be Endo Kenji, leader of the Kenji terrorist group that unleashed Bloody New Years Eve in 2000. The teacher objects, but Koizumi insists, claims she always found the official story of that night suspicious, including the iconic photograph of the group who was supposedly controlling the giant monster threatening to destroy Japan. Koizumi isn’t doing well in class because she constantly skips school in order to follow bands that she loves. A classmate of Koizumi’s tells her about another student who went berserk during a discussion of Bloody New Year’s Eve. Her name was Endo Kanna! Koizumi has some research to do!

When Koizumi runs into Kamisama and learns he knew Kenji, she has to learn more!  Back in 2000, Kenji and his friends prepare to save the world from the Friends. They need to find the remote that controls the monster that is destroying Japan!

On top of worrying about Kenji and what has happened to him and the others, we have to deal with Otcho and Kakuta and their ordeal in the current situation, still not knowing exactly what happened in the past. Plus we have a new character, Koizumi, who I feel is going to play a part in revealing the truth about the so-called Kenji terrorist group. I have to hope and believe that Kenji and the others survived whatever put Otcho in prison, and that they will yet emerge to save the day and defeat the evil Friends. Also, Kenji and Yukiji will finally get together!

Another great volume, can’t wait to read the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 6: Final Hope by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 6: Final Hope   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 20, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Business is way down at the tiny restaurant where Kanna works, thanks to the tight security surrounding the Papal visit to Japan. A young detective named Chono stops by and Kanna, who hates the cops, bites his head off. But he is there on official business, looking for a drag queen named Britney.  Once the detective leaves, Kanna’s boss sends her to look for Britney, as she owes him money. It turns out that Britney saw something she shouldn’t, ie a murder, and that is why she is being sought, as a witness. Kanna and Mariah persuade Britney to go to the police station to turn herself in, but while waiting in line, she recognizes the killer… and he’s a cop!

Detective Chono Shohei is the grandson of a legendary detective, and he wants to be the policeman his grandfather was, to be called Cho-san too. But so far, that isn’t happening. Cho is also rather gullible. When he goes to Britney’s home, he catches Kanna coming out and confronts her. Kanna tells him that she knows Britney witnessed a cop killing someone, and she describes the cop before fleeing the scene. Cho can’t believe his ears. That can’t be true, can it?

Meanwhile, new prisoners are being taken to the island prison of Umihotaru. The bridge to the island was destroyed fourteen years before, as was the tunnel, so there is no way off this hellish place. Kakuta has been sent there, his only crime being he’s a manga artist. His new roommate scares him with stories of this place, and the last roommate who died in the bed that now belongs to Kakuta. Also, there is talk of the Monster, a man who has been in this place for fourteen years, and is housed in the Punishment Block. Supposedly he is more monster than human, and is kept chained at all times. Unfortunately for Kakuta, he is caught with the pencil his roommate loaned him to draw with and he is sent to the Punishment Block!

Kakuta is in a terrible pickle with the guards in the Punishment Block and they are about to hurt him when the Monster intervenes and saves him from a terrible fate. He begins to talk to the man and learns he is not what they make him out to be at all. And he plans to escape this place. Meanwhile, Kanna is frustrated, hiding out with Britney and Mariah to keep them safe. She pens a letter to her uncle, who is in Umihotaru Prison, knowing it will never reach him. But she badly wants his advice.

In this volume, we learn the awful truth of what is referred to as Bloody New Year’s Eve. Up until now, we assumed that Kenji and his friends were victorious, saved the world and rid it of the evil Friend. Quite the contrary. Something else happened, the Friends emerged on top and Kenji and the others are nowhere to be seen. The only one I know the whereabouts of is the one in the prison. I have to admit I am very anxious about Kenji and will be very upset if something bad has happened to him.

Kanna is every bit her uncle’s niece, with a strong sense of right and wrong. Completely suspicious of the young detective, I think with time she will come to trust him, and perhaps more. He needs to lose some of his naivete, and I think that will happen. Unfortunately, not in time to save someone he inadvertently puts in danger.

A lot going on in this volume, what with Kanna trying to save her friends, and with the escape from the prison in order to continue the fight begun so many years ago. Mixed in with all that is the visit of the Pope, and a plot to assassinate him. So many questions, so much I want to know. And there is also an appearance by an old friend of Kenji, who has become unexpectedly successful thanks to a particular gift he has, the same gift which told him of the importance of Kenji to the world.

Great volume, can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 5 by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 5: Reunion     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 20, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji summons all his friends who knew of the clubhouse and the book to a secret meeting. Well, almost all. But she shows up anyway, thanks to a map carelessly left behind by one of the group, and dares them to deny she is as strong as they are, maybe even stronger. Kenji tells them he was told they would need nine people to accomplish their task, but only have seven have assembled. Luckily, as he tells them, he has contacted two others.

Yanbo and Mabo were twin terrors who made the lives of Kenji and his friends living Hell back in the day. Grown now, they own their own IT company and seem the antithesis of what they once were. Yoshitsune goes to see them on Kenji’s behalf and is amazed at the change in them. They seem to understand what Kenji is asking of them… but then they take a meeting with Inshu, the smarmy FDP politician. Are they deluded as to what is going on, and do they really not remember how awful they once were?

Kenji disguises himself in order to take his niece Kanna out for ramen before he sends her and his mom off in order to keep them safe. Yukiji tells him he’s doing the right thing, and also not to worry about her. She’ll be fine, and she wants to be a part of what’s going on. Consulting their book of Doom, they see that a giant robot is due to make an appearance, but aren’t sure what the picture before that means.

Kenji begins to doubt himself, doubt their theories. Everything is quiet. Is he just being paranoid? Is he causing trouble for his friends for no good reason? And then Ocho remembers what the picture means, and that too comes to pass… all around the world.

In the year 2014, a young woman named Kanna Endo has her own apartment…

In this volume of Twentieth Century Boys, the plot definitely thickens. There are so many questions, and few answers as of now. What about the twins? Are they going to be a help or a hindrance to Kenji and his friends? Do they not really remember what bullies they were when they speak of having played with these guys as kids? Is Kenji really blind to the fact that Yukiji likes him? Can they really take on the Friends and do they have any hope of defeating them? Will they ever find out the true identity of their mysterious leader?

Is this future written in stone? Can it end in some other way? Prepare to be shocked at the ending. What the hell happened? And is everything we assumed totally wrong?

Another great volume, looking forward to the next one.

 

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, VOl 4: Love and Peace

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 4: Love and Peace   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 18, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

A man from Japan who lives in Bangkok, Thailand, and goes by the name of Shogun, is being sought by a dangerous element. Mostly because he helps girls in slippery situations out of those situations and sends them home, thus putting himself on the radar of some very bad people. But there is more to his being wanted than just that, as a business associate tells him, it has to do with the drugs he destroyed. A valuable new street drug called Rainbow Kid. The associate has a new job for Shogun. He’s to go to a hotel and remove some low-life drug user before he dies and ruins the reputation of the place. Shogun goes to the room, and the druggie tells him a story involving the police, and the military, and cabinet members… and he’s a cop himself. Nothing is making sense. Friends? What friends? And then Shogun finds a pin, a symbol long forgotten from his childhood….

Shogun learns the last girl he saved has been captured again, and so of course he goes to free her.  Once they get out of the place she is being held, she asks him why he is helping her, and Shogun replies, “ (because) I wasn’t there when my own kid died.” On the verge of being attacked, Shogun and the girl are assisted by a group of men, the leader of which introduces himself as a member of the house of representatives, and a member of the FDP—the Friendship and Democracy Party.

Shogun takes the girl to safety then returns to his business associate at the travel agency. But the girl suddenly turns up, much the worse for wear, with an important message about the politician they just met, where she’s seen him before. And an unexpected phone call from an old friend in Japan brings Shogun to the realization that it’s time to go back to Japan. But first, there’s something he’s gotta do…

This volume of Twentieth Century Boys is primarily about Shogun, a character we’ve been long awaiting to take his place on this particular stage. In filling in the blanks of his life, past and present, we get a more cohesive picture of our heroes, and what they’re about, and what they are capable of.

Some time has passed, with Kenji in hiding, blamed for the death of the homeless man. But he’s managed to eluded capture and fly under the rader, and his niece, Kanna, is now three, and cute as can be. Kenji, his mom, and Kanna, have all found shelter with the group of homeless men who insist they need his help, that he is the one who will save the world. Not that Kenji believes that, but at this point, he has few options.

Having learned in the previous volume who the baby daddy is, it’s not hard to extrapolate that at some point, Kanna will become a target for his group. Things are really happening. I love all the back story, as more and more things begin to make sense, and we get a lot of omg and wtf moments.  From the beginning of the series, we know that a group of men saves the world, and we can kindof guess who they are, but how they do it definitely remains to be seen. One can surmise that the how involves music in some way, but against this growing group of crazies who are hell-bent on achieving the destruction of the world, that doesn’t seem like a very strong defense.

With every volume, I think I love this series more and more. Can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 3: Hero With a Guitar by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 3: Hero With a Guitar     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 16, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji is baffled as to why the dying homeless man proclaimed him to be the one who has to save the world? Who is he but a lowly shop owner, and what can he do to save anyone when he’s clearly made a mess of his own life?

Things are starting to come back to him, though, as Kenji begins to connect the dots, as he realizes that what is happening mirrors the story he wrote so long ago, as a child. A tale told among friends about super heroes saving the world from a deadly menace. How can it be coming true now? And why?

Kenji tries to talk to each of his friends, but after they unload their tales of woe on him, he doesn’t have the heart to involve them in what is going on. In pursuing Donkey’s student, whom he is unable to find, he learns about a concert being given by The Friends, and his blood runs cold. He knows he has to be there, so tells his mother to watch Kanna and heads to the concert. There he ends up on stage and comes face to face with Friend. Well, relatively speaking, as Friend is hiding behind a mask. But his words are clear and strike distinct fear in Kenji.

Kenji almost forgets about his class reunion. Maybe he’ll recognize Friend among the attendees. Or at least gain some clues as to which kid wore a mask. But he doesn’t recognize a lot of his former classmates after so many years. Yukiji doesn’t make the reunion because she has to work at the airport. But someone else shows up who recognizes Kenji, and as they catch up, Kenji remembers things he’d forgotten, such as who the kid in the mask was, and what the next target in the story was. But can he stop the next disaster from taking place?

He has a sudden premonition that his niece Kanna is in trouble, and races to save her, but from what… or who…

Things are really happening in this volume of Twentieth Century Boys! When I read what Kenji learned at the Friend concert, I literally gasped! Imagine how he must feel, wondering if he is crazy or is there someone out there following the plot of a story written when Kenji was just a child? But if he’s right, and that’s what happening, then the fate of the world could very well be at stake.

This volume is action packed and exciting. I love the artwork a lot, as well as the story. Kenji is not your typical hero, in that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary job and an ordinary life, who thinks he’s accomplished nothing of note in that life. He fails to realize how special he really is, what a good man he is, but I have the feeling a lot of people will know about him before this tale is through.

Seeing Friend for the first time, albeit behind a mask, was very interesting, his surprise announcement even more so. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 2 by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 2: The Prophet     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 21, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

As children, Kenji and his friends were terrorized by Yanbo and Manbo, the “evilest twins in history”.  There was only one person who could put them in their place, a scrawny looking girl who would knock the stuffing out of the two boys. And they’ve just run into her at the airport, none other than Yukiji!  Apparently she’s a customs officer who has a dog for a partner. The boys are thrilled to see her, although she seems less enthusiastic about the chance meeting.

Two attorneys approach a man named Manjome Inshu regarding complaints from parents about their children being involved in an organization this man is part of. They want their children back. However, he is very evasive, and won’t give the name of the organization or of its leader, known simply as friend. Strangely, after Manjome’s departure, the attorneys notice something odd—all the spoons on the table are bent!

Yukiji shows up unexpectedly at Kenji’s convenience mart, and tells him she remembers the symbol they were asking about, and also who came up with it—their friend Otcho. When Kenji tries to question her, the franchise district manager chooses that unfortunate time to come in and demands Kenji’s time. She invites Kenji to the victims’ meeting, and he says he’ll try to make it.

Cho is a long-time policeman whose dedication to his job has caused problems in his personal life, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He buys his grandson a Pikachu for his birthday, because apparently that’s what he wants and it’s all the rage.  Cho is investigating the disappearance of the Shikishima family. He runs into his colleague, Yama, who is working on the death of the professor’s student, but learns that the case was taken out of police hands. Cho is concerned about being late to his grandson’s party. His daughter, who hasn’t spoken to him in years, has personally invited him, so he can’t mess this up. He shares the details of his investigation with Yama before leaving for the party.

Kamisama is a homeless man who sometimes has nightmares. But his dreams aren’t like that of other people—his are often prescient. He shows up at Kenji’s store to check the stock prices and tells him things are going to get hard for him, but doesn’t explain why. Sometimes he tells his friends about his dreams, but this last one, he’s keeping that to himself.

While rooting around in his absent sister’s desk, Kenji finds a hidden envelope containing a strange message… and the same mysterious symbol he’s been asking about! He asks his mother about the symbol and it’s then he learns why his sister has always taken such good care of him, even before he was born. Which is why he won’t give up on raising her only child for anything. He also learns about the rich man who once courted her and what became of him.

Kamisama and his friends find an injured man in their midst. He won’t leave, no matter what they say, and insists on seeing the Great Kenji. Kamisama devises a plan to get Kenji to come to them. Hopefully he’ll understand what the man wants and will be able to do something about it.

Things are certainly getting strange and mysterious in this second volume of Twentieth Century Boys. Unexplained deaths are occurring, and we are getting more of a glimpse into the organization led by Friend. Not so friendly, are they? Is their leader one of Kenji’s old group of friends, who came up with the symbol originally, and had a plan to save the world… if only they could remember what that was. How will Kenji’s band figure into this? Could Friend be the missing Otcho, or did he disappear for a more sinister reason?

Also, am I wrong in thinking there’s an attraction between Kenji and Yukiji? If so, will they ever act on it? And who the heck is Kanna’s father? So many questions, so few answers. All we know for sure is the fate of the entire world depends on the answers!

Looking forward to volume 3!

 

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 1: Friends by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 1: Friends

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 17, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Mystery/Sci-fi/160 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Kenji once dreamed of being a hero and doing big things, but middle-age finds him the co-owner of a former liquor store, along with his mother. And he’s raising the niece his sister dumped off on them before she ran away to who knows where. He loves Kanna with all his heart and wouldn’t have it any other way. What do long ago foolish dreams matter in the face of reality?

Kenji is annoyed to learn the police are investigating the disappearance of the entire Shikishima family, mostly because they owe him money. Hopefully if the police stake out the place, they’ll want to buy snacks from his convenience store, he reasons. In the meantime, his childhood friend Keroyon, aka Froggie, is getting married. Whodathunk it? He did get his nickname for a reason, after all.  While retrieving empty bottles from the missing family’s home, Kenji finds a strange symbol  by the door. Something seems awfully familiar about that symbol, but he just can’t place it. Kenji quizzes some of his childhood friends about it, but no one remembers anything.

The morning paper brings horrible news. Another of his old friends, Donkey, a science teacher, has jumped from the roof of the high school where he taught… to his death. Kenji doesn’t think Donkey would ever do something like that. A strange boy they befriended long ago, he was particularly known for being a fast runner who told them that you can run faster with your shoes off. Kenji receives a letter from Donkey to him written just a few days previously, although he’d not talked to him in a good long while. The letter contains a drawing and asks if Kenji remembers this symbol… the same symbol Kenji’s been wondering about himself! Could it be a coincidence, or something much more? And Donkey ends with talk soon… does this sound like someone who’s about to kill himself?

Kenji talks to Donkey’s widow, and she mentions that her husband told her that one of his former students was in trouble, but she only remembered his first name and where he went to school.  Through good detective work, and a little luck, Kenji finds the student, who seems to be on his way somewhere. The man is secretive and mysterious and tells Kenji if he’s reached the symbol, he’s only one step away from true friendship. What the heck does that mean?

Kenji and some of his old group of friends meet to toast the late Donkey, and he continues to grill them about the symbol.  Still no one recalls anything. Until Mon-chan remembers that when they were young, they buried something, but can’t remember exactly what that was. Not sure if that means anything or not, they decide to hunt it down, which isn’t easy as much has changed over the years. They’re surprised to find… (no spoilers here, gotta read it)

This is the first volume in a series about a group of young men who did something that helped to save the world. Kenji is the main character, through whose eyes we see most of the action. The story takes place across different time frames, so we see what’s going on at different points in the boys’ lives, 1969, 1997, and the present. The first volume lays the groundwork for everything and asks questions which need to be answered. Such as who are the Twentieth Century Boys? What did they do? Who is Friend? Is he friend or foe? And is/was he one of them?

I like the writing (I’ll have to read Monster too, which is by the same author), as well as the artwork. Kenji is a good character, just a simple normal guy, living out his life, even if it wasn’t the one he dreamed of. He’s unwilling to accept the truth that appears to lie on the surface of things, and insists on delving further down, to clear Donkey’s name, and to solve the mystery of the symbol. All the characters are well-drawn, including the horrible twins whom they refer to as “the evilest twins in history.” I really enjoyed reading this, although sometimes I had to re-read to keep things clear in my head because of the time jumps. But in the end it all made sense, and I look forward to reading the next volume.