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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Manga: 20th CENTURY BOYS, VOLUME 11

20th Century Boys 11

Rating: “T+ for Older Teen”

Story & Art: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

Review:

In the previous volume of 20th Century Boys, readers were left to grapple with the huge bombshell that Friend, the evil mastermind pulling the strings of a vast conspiracy, may actually be the father of Kanna Endo, our plucky female protagonist. Holy Vader at Bespin, Batman!

On a more positive note, Kanna also discovers crucial information about her missing mother, Kiriko Endo, who disappeared when she was just a little girl. If Kanna thought learning her father’s identity was bad, wait’ll she finds out her mom is Godzilla! Okay, it’s a metaphor, but still…

Meanwhile, teen Koizumi Kyoko has tracked down Sadakiyo, the creepy kid-turned-creepier teacher who, for the longest time, was the most likely suspect in the search to uncover Friend’s true identity. Although deeply entangled in the Friend’s cult of personality, Sadakiyo actually wants to help Koizumi, although he may not get the chance. It seems the evil cult leader’s relentless henchmen are hot on their heels — with orders to kill!

And it wouldn’t be 20th Century Boys without a flashback, now would it? In addition to detailing the events of present day 2014, the manga gives us a flashback to a time in 2002 when Mon-Chan, a character who featured heavily in the initial volumes of the series, actually found Sadakiyo and got him to spill his guts about Friend — in writing, no less! But what happened to that supposedly earth-shattering memo about Friend’s true identity anyway?

In reviewing a serialized, largely convoluted sci-fi epic like 20th Century Boys, I realize that the preceding paragraphs might sound like so much gibberish. And even for regular readers of the manga, the number of threads that have to be remembered can be a little daunting at times. In truth, the manga feels a lot like the television show, Lost, especially in the way that the earlier volumes held so much promise, while the later ones felt increasingly like Urusawa is just spinning his wheels, adding elements that don’t add up in the final tally, or just giving us stuff that’s so ludicrous that it no longer feels even remotely reality-based. Lost perked up prior to its final season, although the jury’s still out on that ending (Personally, I felt it emotionally satisfying considering what they chose to do, but not at all what it should have or could have been), so I’m hoping 20th Century Boys can stick the landing. The manga runs in excess of 22 volumes, so at least I’m halfway to the finish line. Whatever my problems with the manga, I’m a fan of Urasawa’s Monster, so I’m eager to see what the man has up his sleeve.

Content-wise, the insights into Kiriko Endo’s life were most welcome and a long-time in coming, as she’d been absent for most of the manga’s duration. Still, newer fans of the manga — like me — who skipped ahead and watched the film will not at all be surprised by the revelations revealed herein. In addition, there are a few juicy tidbits in store for readers (watch out for a brief mention of a creepy messianic heir subplot), but I have to admit the current arc is not even remotely as exciting as the first arc of the manga. Ultimately, I found Vol. 11 to be just so-so, although I wonder if it reads better (or worse) if you have the events of previous volumes fresh in your mind.

Grade: C+/B-


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