MANGA: 20th Century Boys: Nostalgia, Destiny, Conspiracies and Friend

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys is an odd and interesting manga. It’s about a group of men who formed a club when they were kids and now find the symbol they used for their club appearing in their adult lives.

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As Kenji and his friends come together for the funeral of one of their old gang, Kenji receives a letter from the deceased – a letter that includes the symbol [which the others in the gang have long since forgotten]. At the same time, there is a mysterious fellow who calls himself Friend, who performs feats, like levitation, above a stage floor on which is inscribed the circle. There’s also a mysterious girl who is troubled by unusual noises that emanate from something big in the night.

Disappearing families, deaths made to appear to be suicides, seeming supermen – and the evilest twins in history – make for an exciting read. Urasawa balances the mundane and the unusual with deftness. He has a gift for delineating a solid character with a minimum of information, and his layouts are fresh and frequently subtle. The story’s complexities – it frequently moves between time periods and groups of characters – are intriguing, and Urasawa builds layers of mystery which each shift.

I finished the two hundred-pages of Volume One: Friends in almost no time at all. Indeed, 20th Century Boys practically read itself to me – Urasawa’s storytelling skills are that sharp. If this isn’t classic storytelling, I don’t know what is.

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