08 Oct / 20th Century Boys (vols. 01-04) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller
Once upon a time, Kenji wanted to be a rock star guitarist. But somehow, in 1997, he’s ended up managing a convenience store with his cranky mother and his missing sister’s baby usually strapped on his back. Then he gets word that Donkey, one of his childhood friends, has suddenly committed suicide. Things just don’t add up … could Donkey really have off-ed himself? Flashback to 1969 when Kenji, Donkey, and the best of the neighborhood boys had a secret club, with a secret hideout and secret symbols and all. Out of nowhere, that suddenly-not-so-secret symbol keeps popping up in the most unexpected places. Meanwhile, a strange plague is making people spontaneously bleed to death in Africa and the mysterious ‘friend’ continues to gain power with too many willing followers.
In vol. 02, the “friend” reveals himself as anything but, when more and more violence gets attached to his followers. Kenji remembers that childhood friend Otcho was the one who invented the secret symbol, but he’s all but disappeared. Kenji starts to piece together what might have happened to his missing older sister Kiriko. A detective gets too close to finding out the friend’s true identity and an old homeless man nicknamed Kamisama (“honorable god” for his eerie abilities to “just know”) predicts tough times ahead for Kenji. Nothing like a bit of understatement …
Kenji tries to talk to his friends in vol. 03, hoping they might remember more of their childhood club secrets. He checks out a “friend” gathering for himself, confronts the levitating masked man who still won’t reveal himself but is willing to announce all sorts of disturbing secrets that affect Kenji directly. The plague is spreading – and Kenji can only watch in horror because he knows which cities will fall next. He digs up the long-buried “Book of Prophecy,” something the young boys dreamed up playing bad guys and good guys. In it, he’s got the blueprint for the end of the world and somehow he’s got to figure out how to save mankind.
Kenji’s disappeared, literally living underground by vol. 04, trying to stay one step ahead of the friend, who now heads the most powerful political party throughout Japan. Since the friend can’t control him, Kenji’s now a wanted criminal. In Thailand, a long-haired man does good deeds for desperate people, and uncovers a dangerous friend operation even there. He returns to Japan, where Kenji (working above ground as a giant stuffed rabbit) finds him, recognizing him as long-lost Otcho. Now something out there is watching them both … and ready or not, here it comes …
Urasawa is clearly a genius suspense creator. Have I mentioned addiction? Monster? Pluto? Even with all that endless heart thumping, you can’t turn the pages fast enough, because you really really need to know what happens! Stay tuned. More volumes are forthcoming. Hurry up, hurry up!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.