20TH CENUTRY BOYS by Naoki Urasawa
English Edition – Viz Media
Japanese Edition – Shogakukan
Today I finished reading 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa. I’m afraid I got tired of waiting around for the volume by volume releases, so I borrowed someone else’s translations. Frankly, I wanted to get to the point already. This is a wonderful series, but after a while, the complete lack of clues as to the identify of Friend gets absolutely maddening.
Of course, having already read the series isn’t going to stop me from buying all the volumes as they come out. But it was all I could do short of reading spoilers which, you know, I wouldn’t.
So, having gotten to the end of 20th Century Boys, all I really know is…Urasawa has a twisty turny mind. I have serious doubts as to whether I could create such a complex story. In fact I doubt that most people could and still have it come out coherently.
So, the two obvious questions:
Was it good?
Yes, it was quite good. Of course it was good. We are talking about Urasawa. His stories are epic. This one spans almost 20 years in 22 volumes (plus however many volumes are in 21st Century Boys, which functions as the conclusion of the series).
Did I like it better than Monster?
Actually, no. I still like Monster best. This has nothing to do with the quality of one story over the other. It’s just a personal preference.
You’re still my favorite, Johan!
So, here are a few things I’ve noticed about Urasawa stories based solely on Monster and 20th Century Boys (sadly, Pluto doesn’t really fall into this same pattern, but then Pluto isn’t solely an Urasawa work):
1 – Everything is about your childhood. If you turn out to be the most evil person on the planet, it’s because someone did something to you in your childhood that probably made you feel unwanted or unloved. And oh…you remember. You remember for a loooonnggg time. And you get your world takeover plans started early. If you don’t have it worked out by 6th grade, you’re slacking. In fact, you’re not even a proper Urasawa villain. Get out.
2 – Even if we start out with a male protagonist, there’s going to be a formidable female protagonist coming along anytime….
3 – Regular old bad guys can be turned into good guys. They’re not really bad if they don’t have Questionable Childhood Memories.
4 – Ordinary dark-haired protagonists get a power-up halfway through the story and become UBER.
And that’s about the gist of it.
Well, no, not really. That would be giving 20th Century Boys WAY too little credit. So much happens in this story that it’s near impossible to summarize in a reasonable length. It, along with Monster, would make great fodder for some kind of analysis paper. If only I felt like writing one….