5.31.2011

20th Century Boys: 09

There’s certainly a part of me that feels like the “new wave” of characters in this book are going to form a new group for their own generation to carry on Kenji’s fight. I’m talking about characters like Kanna (Kenji’s niece), Kakuta (manga artist, Shogun’s partner), and Koizumi (student being re-educated @ Friend Land, Yoshitsune’s partner). This volume is split into two basic “chunks” like the previous couple of volumes have been. The first section focuses on Yoshitsune trying to prevent Koizumi from seeing the face of (maybe) Friend under the Teru Teru Bozu within the Bonus Stage of the virtual world at Friend Land. It looks like some interesting foreshadowing with the masked individuals supposedly sending signals to space aliens from the rooftops. On the roof we see another masked character along with Friend. It seems clear that Koizumi sees Friend’s face before Yoshitsune force-quits the program elsewhere, but we’ve been told repeatedly that ending the session in this manner will result in brain damage, so who knows if Koizumi will be able to recall what she saw. From there, we cut away to the second chunk of the book which sees Kanna, Chono (cop), and Mariah (transvestite prostitute) fleeing The Cop With The Mole Friend Agent, and her engaging her precognitive telekinetic powers of luck. I love the Rabbit Nabokov sequence in the organized crime casino, where Kanna plays a very dangerous card game. If you lose, well basically you owe such an exorbitant amount of money that you get killed when you can’t pay up, and it culminates with a crazy Mexican standoff. In the end, she’s able to literally buy an army with her winnings and then cement their support with her powers of influence. Along with a sympathetic Yakuza member turned Catholic priest (great character), they set up an unlikely force comprised of Thai Mafia, Chinese Mafia, and homeless people in order to prevent The Pope’s assassination. At the same time, Mon-Chan reveals the existence of The New Book of Prophecy, which essentially tells of Kanna doing all of this at the church, right as we see it occurring. It’s a great culmination of story threads, as Kanna and her group, Yukiji and her group, Shogun and his group, Friend Agents, the mobsters, the homeless, and the cops, all descend on the church at once. It’s absolutely an intense scene, something this sprawling epic does well, making individual threads that have been building for some time all coalesce in such an intense fashion. Visually, Naoki Urasawa uses very quick cuts and nice panel editing to make the attempt on Kanna’s life very disturbing. I won’t spoil the specifics, but I wasn’t expecting #13 to show up, or the suggested re-entry of Kanna’s mom. As usual, there are plenty of twists and turns that keep the audience guessing. 20th Century Boys is mentally challenging, visually arresting, and a supremely entertaining tale. It’s an interesting side note that while the eponymous title revolves around a group of boys, the figures driving so much of the plot right now are women. Kanna (Kenji’s niece) is the final hope, her protector is Yukiji (the only girl in the childhood group), Koizumi is now a central figure tightly wound in events with Yoshitsune right at Friend Land, and we’ve just been teased with the entry of Kanna’s mom. It’s an interesting bit of traditional gender roles in a mystery/action/adventure being subverted.

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