5.26.2011

20th Century Boys: 08

When Kenji discovers that the menacing “robot” has been cobbled together with a balloon, cables, and some tank treads in a rather low tech fashion, he blurts out “This thing is not the future we envisioned! Not even close.” I think in some ways that line could be emblematic of the entire series. The story of 20th Century Boys is really that of a post-WWII generation trying to reconcile their nostalgic dreams with their perceived reality. That’s the book in a nutshell. In psychological terms, Friend, Manjome Inshu, and the FDP are engaged in one large act of Hero Syndrome, wherein they’ve fabricated a crisis that only they can resolve, seeking recognition and political manipulation. There’s an interesting bit of parallel story threading, as Friend supposedly sacrifices himself on Bloody New Year’s Eve and Kenji is last seen in a big explosion supposedly doing the same, making you think that Kenji is potentially Friend, or, something I’ve long questioned, is the FDP really a grown up version of “The Kenji Faction?” Anyway, the guy with the mask shows up again and there’s a glorious double page spread of the robot facing off with the monument, strange mirror images of each other, the dread of the futuristic robot with the Expo 1970’s hope of the future, Friend opposed to Kenji, and then… BOOM. We can’t help but think of Kenji’s song “Night Falls On Planet Earth.” That’s the first act of this volume, the realization that the robot is staged as much of the Bloody New Year’s Eve action is finally filled in with dual flashbacks by Kamisama/Koizumi and Otcho/Kakuta. The second act involved Koizumi being shipped off to “Friend Land” for showing interest in “The Kenji Faction.” It’s a wonderful bit of Orwellian intrigue that reminded me of Patrick McGoohan’s time on The Island during The Prisoner. It’s all about government suppression of the truth, fabrication of their “official story” into the culture, and no contact with the outside world. I enjoyed the Dream Navigator acting as Thought Police as the kids enter their virtual worlds, able to travel back to the 1971 Kenji Faction and investigate Kanda Hari and Haunted Hill. Koizumi’s devotion to Elloim Essaim and one of their songs acting as an anchor during her virtual experiences once again exhibits the power of music to the group. In fine 20th Century Boys cliffhanger fashion, we cut away and fade to black as Koizumi is (maybe) about to see Friend’s face. To some extent, I’m growing tired of the constant teases regarding the identity of Friend, but since it fuels so much of the narrative, we just have to surrender to it and enjoy the ride.

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