Tag Archives: Twentieth Century Boys

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.