Series Name: 20th Century Boys 20世紀少年 (Followed by 21st Century Boys)
Year of Serialization: 1999
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Genres: Science fiction, Mystery, Seinen
Current Status: Completed
Moment of Reviewing: Completed both 20th and 21st Century Boys
Other Formats: Live-Action Movie
Kenji Endō is a simple man living a simple life. He has no love life and no major dreams. He goes by the days working at his own convenience store with his mother and baby niece, who his sister entrusted with him one day before abruptly leaving the next. Ah, but his childhood was filled with adventure. He had his own group; anybody who was anybody would have loved to be among them! His biggest desire was to buy a guitar and play some rock'n roll for the world to admire. That was his childhood. But... things were strange lately. As one of his childhood friends gets married, he notices two strange things: individuals seem to be be dying in abnormal ways, and he notices a strange symbol that he vaguely remembers...
A Symbol of Friendship
Foreshadowing of the Present
Friend, this mysterious cult leader, is using the old symbol of Kenji's childhood group of friends. His charisma is second to none, almost as if he had supernatural abilities. A countless amount of followers are at his command. As the plot thickens and the number of corpses pile up, Kenji must descend back into his past to discover the essence behind this nefarious foe! But who could possibly know about his past, and why is he so determined to face off against Kenji himself? Who is this man!?
Naoki Urasawa is known for some of his other manga: Billy Bat, Monster, Pluto... these are all made by this amazing mangaka. Some argue that this is perhaps Urasawa's greatest work. Quite frankly, I have to say that this series has the best usage of characters that I've experienced yet. It seems that anybody with a name has some sort of role to play later on. Given that this is a Sci-Fi mystery story, these are very good traits to have. One of my favorite characters in particular is our main antagonist, Friend. He's the type of character that only directly gets involved once in a while. But the reader knows better; they know that he's the center of it all.
Something else that ties in very well here is the parallels between the youth and current age of the main characters. 20th Century Boys dives in with the whole Friend mystery, and the first thing that draws the readers' attention is his obvious connection to the past. No, I'd say it's more about how Friend uses their past.
A Childhood Game
The Man Named Friend
I cannot say that I liked every twist and turn, because I truly didn't (more towards the end). Still, this is the best manga of its genre that I have yet to be blessed with. It's not for everybody; some readers will have trouble reading this series if they're not used to the style of writing.
21st Century Boys is just a small sequel to 20th Century Boys. It's the true epilogue. I don't really think of them as separate series..