7.01.2011

20th Century Boys: 15

This is another “jump” issue, where new information is introduced, and the narrative is dramatically pushed forward. Brother Luciano, a Vatican priest, is moved onto the board to discover a Book of Prophecy planted to look like an ancient tome, which opens up another thread. Meanwhile, Kanna, Otcho, and Yoshitsune get together as people claim to have seen Friend on the streets of Tokyo. Sometimes it hits me; this astounding realization of what an achievement this book is for a mangaka. It’s a 24 volume story, at 200+ pages each. Name another creator who could produce a 4,800 page epic that’s so riveting. We keep hearing the scary prediction that “History Ends in 2015” while Detective Chono has some Italian guy in custody that keeps saying “Il Papa verra assassinato in Giappone.” You don’t have to be a master linguist to figure out what that means. Father Nitani and Kanna are still trying to protect the Pope with the assistance of the local Thai and Chinese Mafia crew. We learn Father Nitani’s history with the current Pope, and it’s such a wonderful tool Urasawa uses, where every character introduced eventually gets a cool back story that links them to current events and characters we’re already familiar with. Tension continues to mount with the Pope’s visit to Shinjuku, the involvement of #13, and the misdirection that the Pope addressing the Friend body at the Expo creates. With Chono helping Kanna, Otcho, and Yoshitsune infiltrate the proceedings dressed as cops, it’s full of excitement. Otcho screaming for Chono to shoot 13 before the Pope is assassinated literally gave me chills. Ultimately, we see that 13 is just a patsy as Friend is resurrected to save the Pope, another example of Hero Complex. Far, far away, we see that the Frogdoom Empire of Evil is spreading the virus on foot, and Kanna’s mom is The Holy Mother because she’s spreading the vaccine. This volume is certainly one of the more exciting ones, and if all the world-extending that Urasawa is doing wasn’t enough, he really teases us cruelly with a preview of volume 16, which isn’t out in the US for a couple of month. While I’m happy to have caught up to the current publication schedule with my reading, it was perhaps the absolute worst moment to do it. Volume 16 contains Kenji (thought dead!) solemnly riding a motorcycle with a guitar strapped to his back. ARGH! I can’t stand it!

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