The 21st Century may not be ready for 20th Century Boys, a manga that is so far ahead of its time that it may take another century for the world to truly get it’s brilliance. Naoki Urasawa is the brains behind the work and with a rich history of intelligent, ground-breaking manga, it isn’t any surprise that 20th Century Boys proves to be unlike anything else in manga today.
The manga series originally began serialization at the turn of the century, a time of momentous change in the world, but what 20th Century Boys offers is more than just a change from the norm, it reinvents the norm, this is Urasawa’s world and we are all bearing witness to it.
From the very first few pages of 20th Century Boys Volume 1 it becomes abundantly clear that this is not your average manga. The framing, the detail, the angles, the fine touches that add immeasurably to the visual messages that Urasawa is trying to convey. There are machinations at work in this volume that would likely go over the head of many but with a few reads through it’s clear there is so much more to this series than you could possibly imagine.
The volume opens with a look into a junior high school in which an unnamed character takes the PA girl hostage and decides to blare a record over the announcement system during lunch. What record might that be? None other than T. Rex’s ’20th Century Boy’ the namesake of the series. We quickly jump away to a young girl stirring at night only to discover out her window stands a monstrous silhouette overlooking the city. What all this means however is anyone’s guess at this point because Urasawa decides to refocus on Kenji, a hapless liquor store owner, who over the course of the volume comes to find himself deeply connected to a mystery surrounding a cult that worships a figure known simply as ‘Friend’.
‘Friend’ and his mysterious cult appears the be at the center of the series and chapter by chapter layers are pulled back revealing that there are more layers to this story than you ever thought. The unraveling makes 20th Century Boys all the more interesting and with it’s detailed characterization it is easy to find yourself feeling deeply involved with this compelling tale.
By jumping about through different time-zones Urasawa allows us a look into these character’s lives from different perspectives and angles. We see how they grew to become the people they did as well as coming to understand their intertwining fates entangled across several decades of their lives. The fact that Urasawa pulls off such a complex and multi-layered narrative such as this is impressive enough but the fact that he makes it look so effortless is a testament to his creative brilliance.
20th Century Boys Volume 1 is an incredibly journey into the unhinged world of Naoki Urasawa, it ends all too soon leaving readers salivating for more pages in this book. Urasawa’s work honestly speaks for itself. If you have never read an Urasawa manga, 20th Century Boys proves to be an excellent place to start. 20th Century Boys is a manga that leaves nothing to be desired, with the exception of more of it. This is must-read stuff, whether the world is ready for it or not.
You can pick up a copy of 20th Century Boys Volume 1 and witness the wild world of Urasawa over at Madman’s Online Store.