6.15.2011

20th Century Boys: 11

Man, I can’t believe how quickly I’ve taken in so many volumes of 20th Century Boys. As always, here are some of my random reactions as we keep moving forward. There’s an early shot in this volume that I just love. It’s Kanna in the rain desperate to hear Uncle Kenji’s voice again. Urasawa really sells it visually, so that you can almost feel the cold damp rain on your skin. It’s interesting to see how Kenji responds to his failure with the band. It would be easy for him to point fingers and blame others to assuage his ego, but he just takes responsibility and moves forward. I like seeing how Kenji’s words shape Kanna’s decision-making for years to come. Amid the flashbacks to Bloody New Year’s Eve, we’re left wondering if she’ll get it together in time to save Koizumi. Of course we learn that the main Dream Navigator has a larger role to play – why else would she have been moved onto the board? – she’s Manjome Inshu’s mistress. In typical fashion, we pick up a thread previously mentioned, that Friend will be made “President of the World.” The awakening of Kanna’s powers is played fairly subtly, but it does remind me of the way mutant powers are slowly revealed during adolescence in things like Brian Wood’s Demo or the X-Men, particularly the latter as a reaction to atomic paranoia, and the corollary that represents. Another big piece of the puzzle seems to be Mon-Chan’s “Memo of 1970.” There seems to be some possible misdirection afoot in the use of the term “Holy Mother.” We assume it refers to Kanna’s mom, but might it also refer to the Dream Navigator mistress as a possible surrogate? More and more, “rejection” is a term that keeps popping up and is slowly explained. As a child, I’m thinking Friend probably felt social rejection, so his use of the term now exacts revenge on what he perceives as a cold society. Sadakiyo kills Mon-Chan over the memo, but not before he was able to give it to Koizumi. Space aliens are referred to again! I just know that’s going to turn into something. One of the things I’ve been noticing is the repetitive formula Urasawa uses, but he does still keep us guessing within that structure. It’s never predictable in the specifics. It’s like the narrative tools he uses are common and formulaic, but certainly not the specific plot developments. I appreciate the way that Sadakiyo sacrifices himself to save Yoshitsune and the girls as redemption for killing Mon-Chan. The other major story thread is Kanna attempting to locate her mother, who was a bacteriologist working at a Friend compound. We also learn that in this small town there were early outbreaks of the virus that largely went unreported. It does make me wonder why the FDP would not have destroyed the town and the remains of the hospital to cover their tracks(?), though the naming convention of the “Amicus Foundation” is nice. It seems like Dr. Yamane becomes the latest character MacGuffin, with Otcho and the manga artist on his trail too. The cliffhanger reveal here confirms something we already suspected, via a mysterious message in a film clip, that Kanna’s mom helped develop the virus (or failed to develop a vaccine in tandem at least), indicating “I am Godzilla,” responsible for 150,000 deaths, and that history will end in 2015.

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