Friday, February 21, 2014

Manga Review: 20th Century Boys (volumes 15-18)

My new library has a few more volumes of 20th Century Boys which I was pretty thrilled to discover. True I'm still six volumes from the end but I think it'll be a lot easier for me to bug them and convince them to buy six volumes of manga for me to read instead of 10....

20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa

The year is now 2013 and it seems as if no matter what the main characters do they cannot stop our Friend. The more they fight him and seek to circumnavigate his plans the deeper this conspiracy seems to go and the more strange it gets.

I'll admit it, when I started this series I was a bit worried about the number of volumes not because I thought it was a lot to read but became a 20+ volume story really is a long one, how do you manage to fill that all up? Somehow Urasawa has done it, he has taken the very simple premise of "what if a villain in the real world really did things the way a kid would tell a story" and drawn it out into a long, complicated story. I have joked that with as many timeskips as they story has had I'm expecting it to end in the 22nd century by now but that's the thing, while this story has gone on far longer than I could have expected it (he keeps writing scenarios where you think "oh this must be the end!" and then it, well, simply doesn't happen) I feel like we're ultimately headed towards a more satisfying end because of it. If the heros won now it wouldn't feel right, it wouldn't feel like they had finally outwitted the Friend, even though this chunk shows that he truly isn't infallible, even though their situation has gotten so painful that you expect them to pull off a scrappy, underdog like victory any minute. Urasawa has rather great grip on how reality works, that there aren't underdog victories at the last minute all that often, and he uses it to mix the idea of reality and fantasy in a work of fiction and it's been a long time since I've seen someone pull that off so well. 

I am starting to wonder however if he has a serious beef with the government however, some of the characters get to talking and mention how even though their world is clearly unnaturally strange by this point (like, does anyone SERIOUSLY think that aliens are going to invade) there are people who put their heads down and follow it (it being a government order) anyway. I don't like to immediately point and say "this person wrote that so they must believe it!" but there was something in the tone of it here that made me wonder....

Regardless of that, this was a very satisfying installment and while Urasawa is still introducing more characters he's thankfully slowed down so there aren't half a dozen new faces to learn each time. I do feel at times as if there are too many, I couldn't tell if half the cast had died or simply weren't important enough to appear in this part of the story, but since I mentioned it last time I am glad that he is still introducing a couple of new female characters along with the male ones and that they're all well-defined, interesting people no matter who they are.


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