Monday, March 30, 2009

Manga Monday: 20th Century Boys

20th Century Boys (Volume 1)
Naoki Urasawa
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20th Century Boys was released in America pretty much simultaneously with the creator's other big work Pluto. 20th Century Boys has won many awards in Japan, and if Urasawa's work on Monster is any indication, it will attract critical acclaim state-side as well, that is if it isn't overshadowed by Pluto, which many feel is Urasawa's opus. While Pluto and 20th Century Boys are both suspenseful mysteries, the latter probably has more in common with Monster, although it is a much stranger story, jumping through time to slowly unravel what is a more character-driven mystery. And while I am certainly curious as to what's going on behind the scenes of the story's mysterious cult (and the identity of its shadowy leader), I am much more interested in the men this book focuses on. When one of their childhood friends commits suicide, it seems odd, and it causes the characters to reminisce about their childhood: what they were like as kids, the sorts of adventures they had, and their relationships with one another. Of course part of the mystery is hidden in their past as well, that of a curious symbol that shows up around strange deaths and missing persons' residences, a symbol used by them as children in their secret fort. It's interesting to see where these children have ended up as adults and all of the little stories they have as adults and children are completely riveting. It certainly helps that Urasawa is a master cartoonist - particularly in the scenes of the characters' childhood, he paints a full picture of the summer days the kids spend together riding around on their bikes and listening to the radio in their hideout, complete with tall grasses in meadows with telephone poles on the horizon, and roadside fences with weeds growing wild just passed its borders. This book has a way of invading your senses and transporting you to the world of these characters, and I, for one, am really enjoying the ride.

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