20th Century Boys Volume 1 Review
I've said it before and I'll say it again; Naoki Urasawa is the greatest living manga creator. In my earlier review of Pluto volume 1 I praised the series for its sense of pace and the way in which it speeds along due in no small part due to its brevity. At three times the length of Pluto, if you include the 2 issue sequel, you'd think that the story would have a lesser sense of urgency. You'd think, but you'd be wrong. Even with a total of 24 volumes at it's disposal, 20th Century Boys moves along at a cracking pace, offering an incredibly immersive and multi-faceted universe in the very first volume.
Mankind would not have made the new age, encountering the crisis at the end of the last century, that almost wiped them out... if it weren't for "them". In 1969, "they" who were still in their youth, created a symbol. In 1997, as the footsteps of the disaster slowly starts to show out, the symbol revives. This is the story about several boys, that save the world. - Madman
With the passage of time comparisons between the pseudo-religious cult featured in 20th Century Boys and the infamous real-life cult Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks of 1995, doesn't seem to be quite so prominent. That said, this series premiered in "Big Comic Spirits" in 1999 with Aum Shinrikyo having already plagued Japan since the 1980's. The sarin gas attack was just the final performance in what the group hoped would be a forcible reformation of humankind. Sound familiar? Well, that's kind of the backbone of 20th Century Boys. The enigmatic leader "Friend" could be seen as a representation of Aum leader Asahara with both leading pseudo-religious cults filled with blind faithful, all willing to kill on their masters command. Whether or not you see or even care about the parallels, this series is filled with intrigue, mystery and constant menace.
At its core, this story is about one mans journey from youth to adulthood and beyond. After years of forcible responsibility, Kenji finds that he can be more than he ever thought possible. He can be a hero. But how can one man possibly take on an entire doomsday cult? With the power of rock 'n' roll.