According to Wiki, this manga is a science fiction / mystery. 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.

Sounded impressive so I checked it out.

Story overview:

We find ourselves moving between 1969 and 1997 (and perhaps the future?) The story follows the man-version and boy-version of Kenji, along with his friends from the present and the past. In the present, Kenji takes care of his sister’s infant, Kanna, whom she abandoned before disappearing. Along with this he has taken over the family liquor store and turned it into a convenience store.

One day Kenji stumbles across a strange symbol of an eye in the center of a hand pointing upwards. He vaguely remembers this symbol from somewhere, but gives it little thought until one of his old childhood pals (Donkey) commits suicide. Shortly after receiving news of his friend, a letter from Donkey (apparently written shortly before his death) arrives asking Kenji if he remembered the symbol.

It appears as if a mysterious cult is using it as their logo. The man in charge is only ever seen in shadows, and is oddly known as “Friend.” Kenji goes on a hunt to discover the meaning behind the symbol and find answers to Donkey’s mysterious suicide. In the process he reunites with some of his childhood buddies (who came for the funeral) as they try and recall the past.

My thoughts:

At first I didn’t care for the artwork, obnoxious characters, and the jumping back and forth between present and past, but by the end I saw the brilliance in it. The story is real. No, not real as in it really happened, but as in the situations, people, and dialog all being believable. In one sense this is a coming of age story; in another it is for adults to remember what it was like to be a child. The plot has intrigued me enough to make me want to check out the next volume.

Things to consider:

I have a hard time seeing this as being appropriate for children. Later teens perhaps, or young adult, but it just doesn’t settle right for anyone younger. The age rating from Viz Media is: “TEEN PLUS. May be suitable for older teens and adults. For example, may contain intense and/or gory violence, sexual content, frequent strong language, alcohol, tobacco and/or other substance use.” This does indeed contain most of those elements, except for gory violence and perhaps tobacco use (I can’t remember). That said, strangely enough, these elements contributed well to the realism of the story rather than just being there for poor taste. This I’m willing to forgive as long as the audience is the right age group.

Opportunities for discussion:

There is a suggestion and mention of cults. I would use this opportunity to discuss with your teen the deceiving nature of cults and for them to be wary of them. Tell them the signs to watch for and the deceiving nature behind cults as they contort and twist truths for their own gain.

  1. Cadig Branch says:

    If this is your first Naoki Urasawa’s manga, you might want to try his other completed works first: Monsters. The reason being, when I was reading 20th CB, I could not stop! AFAIK, 20thCB, though it’s ended in Japan, has not been completely published in the states. I like Urasawa’s works because of the complex stories. Cheers.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. Actually, I just recently finished the completed work of 20th CB (and 21st CB). It was pretty addicting, though I was totally confused by the ending, and somewhat disappointed by the holes left in the plot. Still, it was totally worth the read. Got much better past the first book IMHOP.

    I’ve heard good things about Monsters, but haven’t tried reading it myself. Was pondering reading it vs. watching the anime. Which did you like better?

  3. Cadig Branch says:

    Well, I haven’t watched the anime yet. I prefer reading the manga cuz it stays true to the mangaka’s art style. As a matter of fact, i stopped watching manga-based anime long ago. They’re just not the same anymore.

    Full of holes, eh? Lol, maybe you’re reading to fast.

    Anyway, I hope you ll like Monsters.

    Also try his Pluto. It’s kinda a mature version of Astro Boy.

    I am currently reading his latest work, Billy Bat. Oh the wait…

  4. Now I can’t even remember all the holes, lol. I just remembered being like, “what happened to so and so?” and “What happened with such and such?” Two of the things I do remember wondering is: did Kenji live or die in the end? Did he ever marry Yukiji? I wanted to see that last battle and felt robbed! 😉

    I know what you mean about the difference between Manga and Anime. I got tired of the fillers for Bleach and Naruto. Some of them were so . . . horrible. I do still like watching them though–when they get back to the story/plot.

    Currently, I’m reading Claymore. Seems good so far. Now you got me interested in Pluto and Billy Bat. Will have to check them out in the near future.

  5. Key says:

    I’ve read three of them, monster, 20th CB, and Pluto (the latest I know from Naoki-sama). They’re just GREAT! You should try them. 🙂
    Every Naoki’s work is a masterpiece. You can find complex ideas, briliant plot, as well as believeable story and characters.

    Anyway, I just knew about 21th CB from here. Is that a new series from Naoki? If so, then it hasn’t been published yet here in Indonesia. Where did you find it? E-book?

  6. Hi, Key. 21st Century Boys was a sequel, which ran for 16 chapters. As I understand it, the author meant to end the story with 20th CB, but there were too many loose ends and fans wanted more. I was actually more confused by the ending in the sequel than the first series, but I think it’s definitely worth a read. It’s been awhile so I don’t exactly remember where I came across it, but I know it was on some online manga site (fan translated). I have yet to read any more of his works, but plan to in the future. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

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