20th Century Boys

20th Century Boys Wiki
Wiki founding: May 22, 2009
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20th Century Boys (20世紀少年, Nijusseiki Shōnen) is a manga written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. It won the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award in the General category, an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival, and the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category. The last two volumes of the story were serialized under the name 21st Century Boys (21世紀少年, Nijūisseiki Shōnen). The series makes many references to rock music as well as a number of 1960's-70's anime; its title is based on T.Rex's famous song, "20th Century Boy".

Urasawa wrote 20th Century Boys along with another popular title, Monster, for two years (Monster ended in 2001). It was licensed by VIZ Media in 2005; however, at Urasawa's request, it has been rescheduled for release after Monster finishes its English serialization due to a change in art style over time.

A live action movie adaption, directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi, was released in Japan on August 30, 2008, as the first part of a trilogy of films. The second film was released on January 30, 2009, with the final part being released August 2009 (Both the USA and Japan shared the same premiere date of the final film, with the USA's premiere exclusively being at the VIZ Cinema in San Francisco).


20th Century Boys Kenji and friends

Kenji and his friends

In 1969, young boys Kenji, Otcho, Yoshitsune and Maruo build, in an empty field, a hideout they call their secret base, in which they and their friends can get together to share manga and stolen porn magazines and listen to a radio. To celebrate the event, Otcho draws a symbol for the base that would represent their friendship. After their friends Yukiji and Donkey join the gang, they imagine a future scenario where villains would try to destroy the world, and in which the boys would stand up and fight; this scenario is transcribed and labeled Book of Prophecy (よげんの書, Yogen no sho).

The series itself opens in the late 1990s, where Kenji is a convenience store owner, finding solace in his childhood adventures as he takes care of his baby niece Kanna and his mother. After Donkey is reported to have committed suicide, Kenji stumbles upon a large cult led by a man known only as "Friend". The cult has a plan to destroy the world on New Year's Eve of 2000, (referred to in the latter half of the story as the Bloody New Year's Eve,) and the events that are currently unfolding are suspiciously close to the plan documented in the Book of Prophecy. Kenji begins to recruit some of his older friends, including Otcho and Yoshitsune, in an attempt to stop Friend.

The series spans several decades, from 1969 to 2017, which in the chronology of the series, becomes 3FE (3rd Year of the Friend Era). The series makes two distinct timeline cuts during the story; one from 2000 to 2014, and one from 2014 to 3FE. Several parts of the series are also told in flashbacks to previous events as the characters attempt to unravel the mystery of who Friend is and how to stop his plans of world destruction; most of the children's backstories through the 70s and 80s are told in this fashion.

20th Century Boys symbol

The Symbol

Overall, the plot follows the friends as they initially try to piece together what the Book of Prophecy contained, and eventually attempt to predict the next attack, which begins with biological attacks on San Francisco and London, followed by a series of bombings at a major Japanese airport. The attack on the eve of 2000 involves a "robot", which is revealed to be a giant balloon with robotic appendages. Fukubei, one of the group members, who actually is Friend, attacks the controller of the robot and throws him from a skyscraper, using his floating illusion to survive and fake his own death. During this, Kenji disappears and is presumed killed when a time bomb used as a last ditch effort to destroy the robot explodes. From this event, in which Friend uses a monument to destroy the robot, Friend and the Friendship Democratic Party (友民党, Yuumintō), his titular political group, gain widespread political and even religious power, as Friend is slowly beginning to be viewed as a religious icon. After Friend reveals a new plan, a continuation of the Book of Prophecy, in which he plans to kill every human being on Earth except for 3 million of his friends, Fukubei is murdered by his chief scientist. Following this, Friend's funeral becomes a worldwide spectacle, held in a stadium, with the funeral rites performed by the Pope. Partway through the service, Friend appears to rise from the dead, and jumps in front of a bullet fired at the Pope, saving his life. This event catapults Friend, who is later revealed to not be Fukubei, who really was murdered earlier, to worldwide acclaim and power.
20th Century Boys Friend

Friend controlling the world

The final portion of the story takes place in a newly remodeled Japan, under the Era of Friend, who has instituted numerous bizarre changes, including the establishment of an Earth Defense Force, reputedly to protect Earth from an imminent alien invasion. During this time frame, Kanna, Fukubei's daughter, leads an insurgency against Friend's government, enlisting the aid of numerous groups, including the survivors of rival gangs and mafia organizations. During this, Kenji, apparently also risen from the dead and carrying his trademark guitar, reappears.

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