5.19.2011

20th Century Boys: 06

It’s interesting that the jump from the turn of the century to 2014 is now referred to as “Bloody New Year’s Eve” without any explanation to date. It’s such a fantastically intriguing hook. All of the scenes in Chin Po Ro Chinese Restaurant are highly entertaining thanks to Kanna’s crazy boss, you can almost imagine someone like Ken Jeong playing him in that high-pitched screaming style. This volume essentially breaks down into two tracks, the first involves Kanna and a do-gooder young detective named Chono looking for a cross-dressing prostitute named Britney, who may have something to do with uncovering a plot to assassinate the Pope! Chono wishes to rise to the level of his legendary cop grandfather Cho-San, and ends up encountering some familiar faces of corruption. The second track concerns the Orwellian arrest of a young manga artist and his induction into Umihotaru Prison, which is a Riker’s Island style environment in the middle of Tokyo Bay. He’s unceremoniously marched in, probed anally, sent to solitary, and meets up with a prisoner initially known only as “the monster.” Urasawa really seems fascinated with the notion of dual identities, in a reflexive bit of exposition, the young manga artist reveals that in his book about a plot to take over the world and its savior (the reason he was arrested), the savior actually is revealed to be the bad guy plotting. This only fuels the suspicion that Kenji (who we know now is missing, not dead necessarily) might be Friend. It reminds me of the protagonist’s portrayal in Urasawa’s own book Monster, suggesting that perhaps the serial killer and the doctor hunting him are split personalities of the same person. Definitely seems to be a theme that Naoki Urasawa is fascinated with. In a nice reveal, we learn that the “monster” prisoner is none other than “Shogun,”’ aka: Otcho. His view is that Kanna is the last hope, and he and the young manga artist must escape the prison at all costs to save her. There are a lot of twists and turns in this issue, and it gave me a vibe like I felt in Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects, that some unseen force is manipulating events, pulling strings, to get people like this even in the same room as each other. Another thematic thread, like the dual identity concept, that keeps popping up is one of anti-authoritarianism. It seems that anyone in a position of authority can’t be trusted, whether they’re cops, low-level bureaucrats, or even elected officials, corruption and hidden agendas run rampant, all the way to the top. Even young detective Chono seems trustworthy, yet he is so naïve and gullible, that makes him a liability, so he also can’t be trusted. Overall, the anti-establishment ideals suggest, once again, that Naoki Urasawa is deeply fascinated by self-determination and a generation of Japanese youngsters who must learn to make their own future and be in charge of their own destiny without reliance on external influences. People are now getting introduced and killed in very little turn around time, there’s plenty of betrayal, mystery, action, and humor, all escalating… proving that the series has it all and plays it well. And of course, who is “Number 13?”

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