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A Reader of Fictions: 20th Century Boy -T-Rex

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Saturday, October 15, 2011

20th Century Boy -T-Rex

20th Century Boys

Author: Naoki Urasawa
Volumes: 22
Publisher: VIZ Media

Brief Summary:
A new political party/religious cult has arisen in Japan, worshiping the mysterious "Friend," who wears a mask and can bend spoons with his mind. He can even beat death. One day, Kenji, a dreamer and rock-and-roller stuck taking care of his missing sister's daughter and running the family store, realizes that "Friend" has been using a childhood symbol made up by himself and his close friends when they were kids. Not only that, but "Friend" plans to unleash destruction on the world and take over what remains, following a plot devised in their childhood secret fort. Only they, much older now, can stop him and only if they all band together. Who is "Friend" and can he be stopped?

A good friend recommended this manga to me about two years ago. I made a half-hearted attempt to read it, but swiftly gave up. That was definitely my loss. Now, having read through the whole thing, I can honestly avow that this rather length series is definitely worth the time to read, although I can see why I had a couple of false starts with it before getting through.

20th Century Boys did not grab me right off, and, given the construction of the story, I don't think that's particularly surprising. For many people, you may need to tough it out through a volume or two before becoming completely enraptured by the complicated and terrifying story. The reason it's difficult to get into is primarily the shifts in time. There are a lot of characters to get to know in several different time periods. At first, the constant jumps from the past to the present are exceedingly confusing and startling. Eventually, you do get used to them though.

Urasawa does some really interesting things in the way he built the story. There were a number of plot turns I did not see coming. At points where it felt like the story might end, you suddenly realize that the story goes so much deeper and gets so much more intense. Nor did they feel like off-the-wall changes, made only so that he can keep the story going. Urasawa definitely knew what he was doing; you have to in order to pull of so much interweaving and such a complicated tale.

Earlier, I mentioned that this manga was terrifying. To clarify, it's not a horror story so much as a dystopia, and a vision of just how evil young kids can be. This whole, incredibly successful scheme for world domination was created by a group of young boys, bored during the summer. Plus, there's the cultishness of the "Friend" group to add to the general horror.

For those who enjoy dystopias or shocking, twist-turning story lines that span generations, you will not want to miss this. Do not give up on it; trust the recommendation that my friend gave me better than I did.

"Friends say it's fine, friends say it's good"

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