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Jason Thompson's House of 1000 Manga - 20th Century Boys


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Shay Guy



Joined: 03 Jul 2009
Posts: 1275
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:46 pm Reply with quote
I just finished reading the first volume of 21st Century Boys the other day, leaving me with just one volume to go. Possibly my all-time favorite manga.

A few notes:

Quote:
Something like a religious cult, the Friends are spreading rapidly, propelled by Friend, their charismatic, mysterious leader. ... Who is the faceless man named "Friend"?


This is one point where the Viz translation differs from the fan translations, and I think for the better: "Friend" isn't treated as his name. The cultists refer to him as "our Friend" or "my Friend"; the main characters and the covers etc. call him "the Friend" or suchlike.

Quote:
Naoku Urasawa


Typo.

Quote:
This is an intricate, 20-volume seinen manga (22 volumes if you count the sequel


22 and 24, respectively.

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Twisted villains, giant robots, a nihilistic plan for total destruction—can these things exist in the same reality as rundown convenience stores and college radio stations?


This division is key to what makes 20th Century Boys tick, and it could be a whole essay in itself.

Quote:
20th Century Boys is the manga equivalent of a Stephen King novel, pretty openly, since the characters even talk about King at one point ("His novels are really long, aren't they?").


Not being very familiar with King, this is news to me.

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In their own ways, both Kenji and Friend are trying to recreate the past.


Kenji tries to recreate his past self. The Friend tries to force the world into its past self.

Quote:
Satisfying as a climactic psychic battle or giant-robot throwdown might have been, 20th Century Boys never becomes a science fiction manga; evidently that angle didn't interest Urasawa or his core readers.


Arguably, it is a science fiction manga, just a different kind.
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dm
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Joined: 24 Sep 2010
Posts: 751
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:00 pm Reply with quote
If Jason's review intrigued you, but like me, you shudder at the thought of buying a 20-volume manga series, RightStuf is having a sale on bundles of 20th Century Boys manga right now.
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pachy_boy



Joined: 09 Mar 2006
Posts: 1238
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:21 pm Reply with quote
I saw the film trilogy first before reading this manga. To be honest, I was almost put off by the first movie, due to ridiculously condensed narrative, overacting, and just plain silliness in too many areas. But a part of me was still intrigued to see where the story would go, so I stuck with it, and I ultimately enjoyed myself.

Then I read the manga, and it made a great difference in appreciating the film version (I'll state here and now that, yes, the manga is superior). There was so much story to cover in 22 volumes, so apparently it was a challenge to try to squeeze as much in into 3 feature-length films and try making it coherent (enough). As for the silly overacting in the movies, my best guess is that the director wanted them to match the over-the-top expressions of the manga characters. Of course, what works for illustrations doesn't necessarily work for live-action acting, but that's besides the point. Everything about the story in the film trilogy, Friend gathering followers and conquering the world and the like, was flat-out felt far-fetched. It's still far-fetched even in the manga, the only difference is that there's more room to breathe and you're not quite forced to take everything in at once, thus you're better able to suspend disbelief.

As flawed as the film trilogy is, reading the manga made me realize they made a truly ambitious effort creating as faithful an adaptation as they coud. It's easier to still prefer the original manga, and one thing I certainly liked better was that Kanna was able to do more as a heroine, even though in both versions she was still pretty much spoiler[just holding the fort down before Kenji returned as the main hero]. But one thing I liked about the movie more that was different from the manga was the very ending itself, where spoiler[Friend and Kenji actually become friends in their childhood, thus avoiding the chaos and future tragedies in another world], leaving something of a feel-good payoff.
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Snomaster1
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Joined: 31 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:55 pm Reply with quote
I haven't seen "20th Century Boys" but I think it's a weird manga. It borrows a bit from American comics or those that are published in Japan liked the masked villain Friend. He could be a supervillain from DC or Marvel instead of a manga villain.
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here-and-faraway



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
Posts: 1502
Location: Sunny California
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:55 pm Reply with quote
dm wrote:
If Jason's review intrigued you, but like me, you shudder at the thought of buying a 20-volume manga series, RightStuf is having a sale on bundles of 20th Century Boys manga right now.


Yeah. It's 48% off until April 4. Pretty good deal. If I hadn't bought so many gosh darn figures lately I'd totally complete my set right now.
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kpk



Joined: 05 Apr 2009
Posts: 484
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:06 pm Reply with quote
Why wasn't there ever an anime adaptation?

Or one for Pluto for that matter?

Why only Monster got one?
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Shay Guy



Joined: 03 Jul 2009
Posts: 1275
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:27 pm Reply with quote
kpk wrote:
Why wasn't there ever an anime adaptation?


Live-action movies are more lucrative, I suppose. Pluto... I dunno, maybe "Ultimate Astro Boy, starring a bit character from the original" is just too niche a concept.
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penguintruth



Joined: 08 Dec 2004
Posts: 8091
Location: Penguinopolis
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:56 pm Reply with quote
20th Century Boys is, without a doubt, my favorite manga of all time. I found it compelling from chapter 1 on. Sometimes it stumbles a bit in its sheer scope, and it always bothered me that a lot of the people in that world lack natural skepiticism, but I find it completely spellbinding in its intricacies, with its memorable characters, distinct but not outlandish art, and lived-in setting. I also appreciate how things are such a struggle for our heroes. Many times they're playing right into the hands of the Friends, their victories being pyrrhic at best.

The mystery behind Friend is somewhat solved midway, but at that point it's not as important as the world Friend has left the protagonists to deal with and the fallout of their pasts. Then a new threat emerges that renergizes the mystery. The ultimate resolution has been said to be somewhat unsatisfactory (since it refers to a person not even really seen up until that point), and I can see that perspective, but I enjoyed what the answer ended up being. Most importantly, who Friend (spoiler[or the second Friend]) is isn't as vital as seeing the characters reunite and finally put to rest their excess baggage. To be sure, the second and third portions drag a bit, but I felt it more than redeemed itself in the end.

My favorite character was Kyoko Koizumi, the schoolgirl with the rotten luck, who makes all those wonderful exasperated expressions (in both manga and live-action movie). As much as she tries to avoid being entangled in the fight between Kenji's group and the Friends, she ends up more entrenched in it by sheer coincidence, and it's both comical and tragic how she ends up getting wrangled back into things.

On the live-action movies, I enjoyed them on the whole. They were flawed, to be sure, with some hammy acting and oversimplifying some portions of the narrative. In some ways, though, I actually preferred the way the movies ended to the manga, because it combined the end of 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys in a seamless way. I only wish that they had chosen to do an animated series to capture more of the subtleties of the relationships and some of the outlying bits of story.

I cherish every chapter of Naoki's genius work.

Banpaku Banzai!
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One-Eye



Joined: 08 Mar 2011
Posts: 2187
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:01 pm Reply with quote
I agree with several things in the article but...I don't know, when I read it I was intrigued at first but by the end I was disappointed for various reasons. I thought that the story "depowered" Kanna in order to make room for spoiler[Kenji coming back from the dead]. She started off as a bright, charismatic albeit impulsive young girl and turned into an immature despairing adult in need of saving. It didn't feel genuine to me and a bit out of character. It had its cheesy moments that were sometimes hard to swallow which the author acknowledged within the story--rock and roll will save the world, but it might not stop a bullet. This self awareness felt at odds with the general tone of the story. We have another case of amnesia which if you read manga makes you think its like an epidemic in Japan. The ending and the identity of "friend" felt a bit tacked on and frankly a bit weak.

This is not to say that I think it was awful as I found the first half or so of the story very entertaining. However, I was not as impressed with it as others might be.
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No Comment



Joined: 19 Jun 2012
Posts: 83
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 7:07 pm Reply with quote
dm wrote:
If Jason's review intrigued you, but like me, you shudder at the thought of buying a 20-volume manga series, RightStuf is having a sale on bundles of 20th Century Boys manga right now.
That's not too bad of an idea. I've always considered reading this, but the series definitely falls under "Would be x10 better if released in omnibus manga" for me, so I've held off. Maybe it would feel less ridiculous if I bought all +20 volumes at once.
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grooven



Joined: 16 Aug 2006
Posts: 1383
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 1:57 am Reply with quote
After I had seen and read Monster I was blown away by everything it had to offer. Amazing story telling, art that appeals to non anime/manga fans and great character depth. I want more than anything for Madhouse to adapt this work too!
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Mr Adventure



Joined: 14 Jul 2008
Posts: 1598
PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 2:10 am Reply with quote
Man, I remember finding the first volume of 20th Century Boys Vol.1 on the shelf of the local Border's Express back in 2008. I didn't know anything about it or anything about the creator when I picked it up. But 24 hours latter I was on the internet raving about what I had just read, and tracking down every bit of information I could on Naoku Urasawa (which would quickly lead me to Pluto, and would get me wise to the genius of Osamu Tezuka).

Something about 20th Century Boys just transcended everything to do with comics. It didn't matter if it was manga or not, it was just damn fine comics. Its magic was in making me nostalgic for a time and place I never experienced, and juxtapositioned it against our contemporary times.

And though over its 24 volumes it sometimes wandered, and rambled it never ceased to entertain and amaze.

I've still yet to read the final volume, part of me is dreading the end of the journey. But I'll never forget the journey I took to get there.

Snomaster1 wrote:
I haven't seen "20th Century Boys" but I think it's a weird manga. It borrows a bit from American comics or those that are published in Japan liked the masked villain Friend. He could be a supervillain from DC or Marvel instead of a manga villain.

Uh. Japanese sentai manga/anime/shows have had masked villains for as long as they've existed. Its not exclusive to American super-heroes.
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belvadeer





PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 3:44 am Reply with quote
I've heard so much about this manga series, both from ANN and others. It's got to be worth a read. Is it getting rarer on the market?
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Juhachi



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
Posts: 228
PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:01 am Reply with quote
I've always heard about this series but never really looked into it. Reading a bit of the summary from Jason's article, it seems pretty intriguing, and I must echo a previous poster:

How is it that a series like this, which seems to get more or less universal critical acclaim, does not have an anime adaptation? Is the current anime market too overrun with moe and otaku fodder that a series like this doesn't have a chance in hell in getting adapted?
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Gilles Poitras



Joined: 05 Apr 2008
Posts: 447
Location: Oakland California
PostPosted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:51 am Reply with quote
Regarding the movies, Naoku Urasawa was one of the scriptwriters.

I have read that some of the changes in the story were placed by him to make the movies less predictable to the readers of the manga.
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