Friday, March 29, 2013

20th Century Boys Vol. 3

by Naoki Urasawa, with Takashi Nagasaki

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys is a very addictive manga series.  I pretty much burned through the entire third volume in one sitting, despite my intention to make it last a little while.  I just find, once I start reading the book, I am faced with a great number of compelling reasons to not put it down again.

This volume has Kenji continuing to work to discover the identity of The Friend, a leader of a cult that has been showing up all over Japan.  Kenji has evidence that The Friend is behind some biological attacks on San Francisco and London, and that the group is plotting some attacks against Japan.  Kenji knows this, because The Friend is basing his actions on a story that Kenji and his friends made up while they were children, although none of them remember all of the details now.

The central concept of this book is pretty preposterous, and some of the scenes that show Kenji trying to figure out The Friend's identity come off as a little amateurish (like when, at a class reunion, he and his classmates have their former teacher ask them who bent spoons one day years earlier, but they all close their eyes during this investigation, so no one knows who was responsible).

What makes this book work so well are a couple of things.  First, the characters feel very realistic, and are pretty believable.  Second is the notion that who we were and what we did as children is important to our character later in life.  Urasawa shows that the course of living one's life causes them to lose touch with the things that were once important to them, but that people's true identity changes very little.

I know there are about twenty volumes of this thing left for me to read, and that feels very daunting (how long can a mystery like this be drawn out?), but I also look forward to the next volume I can sink my teeth into.

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