In its third volume 20th Century Boys has gone all in. The stage was set in volumes 1 and 2 and now the show has truly begun. After all the build up and moving pieces into place, this explosive volume brings us more closer than ever to the cult of Friends and their enigmatic figurehead. As Kenji dives deeper into this mystery he finds himself more and more deeply entangled within it. So much so that a childhood story created by the boys winds up being a prophecy of sorts, leaving Kenji racking his brain to remember what comes next.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Naoki Urasawa is a special kind of genius. The way he adds layer upon layer to this tale all the while peeling layers back is a work of art. In only three volumes this is undoubtedly one of the most complex intellectual manga series I have ever read. The detail and incredible story-telling structure of the series is bar none an is a testament to why Urasawa is so highly acclaimed.
As I previously mentioned this is the volume where 20th Century Boys goes all in. After meeting with all his closest confidantes, Kenji realizes this is something he must do alone. He can’t bring those he cares about into this mess. Choosing to go it alone, he heads right into the heart of the cult and attends one of the meeting of friends. After confronting the mystery shrouded ‘Friend’, Kenji learns something he never expected. The stakes only get higher from here as the Friend slips away and Kenji is now a hunted man.
Being the only man who can prevent the end of the world is a tough burden to bare but Kenji’s top priority isn’t so much the world at large but to protect the people who live within it that he holds dear. Whether it be Kanna, his sisters baby, or his band of friends, Kenji has plenty of reasons to fight. Part of what makes this series so endearing is Kenji’s relatability. He is a man who dreamed big but fell short of fulfilling those dreams, but that is okay, because a normal life ain’t so bad. It’s a relatable scenario for many and it resonates all the more as we see how far Kenji will go to protect those he loves and the life he has.
It only makes it all the more tragic when Kenji’s store is invaded by members of the cult in an attempt to kidnap Kanna (now revealed to be the daughter of Friend and Kenji’s sister). All of this ultimately ends in the King Mart burned to the ground leaving Kenji to dig through the rubble for any sense of the life of his that has been turned to ash.
Urasawa’s magnum opus epic is on a collision course with destiny and is quickly growing into one of manga’s greatest stories. It is an absolute must-read and only gets better with each and every volume. Like the roaring of the guitar, 20th Century Boys howls into the void, baring its soul filled with rage and passion, perfectly raw. As it should be.
You can pick up a copy of 20th Century Boys Volume 2 and witness the wild world of Urasawa over at Madman’s Online Store.