Side Note: I was going to post another figure review soon but the images I took are sub par in terms of the lighting. I JUST ordered an awesome lighting set last Friday, I was inspired by Meronpan’s improvement in lighting when he bought a set. So until that arrives I’m afraid I want to put my figure review posts on hold, should probably only be another week at most. But in the meantime…a manga review!
Humanity is facing extinction at the end of the 20th Century for reasons yet to be fully known/understood to the reader. In 1969 a group of boys created a symbol for their friendship and played games of world dominantion and war…however…28 years later the symbol they created is appearing in seemingly random places. These symbols slowly start to string together dark dealings and mysterious deaths of alarming severity. The main character Kenji was a member of this group of boys. Kenji is now an adult and he long ago gave up on all his dreams and currently runs a convenience store with his mother, and watches his missing sister’s child. When Kenji’s old friend is reported to have committed suicide he begins to get involved in a real life version of the game he played as a child.
This manga…is awesome! I can hardly remember the last time I felt THIS confident about the merit of a manga series only 2 volumes in. Besides just my gut feeling, I expect it to continue to be awesome due to the fact that it’s already completed its run in Japan and has won the Kodansha, Japan Media Arts, and Shogakukan Manga awards. Not to mention that Naoki Urasawa is one of the rare and few manga artists in Japan that has the power and ability to pull off a series like this.
I read about this series a bit in Otaku USA and they talked about how he is one of the few manga artists that can state his own terms when he starts a new series. And a series of this complexity needs to be lengthy and well planned out. Do you think if a newbie manga artist sat down and said his series was going to be 22 volumes that people would immediately accomodate him? Probably not. Most manga artists are incredibly lucky to make it past 2 volumes, and as a result sometimes they put a lot more into the first few volumes in order to draw in the readers quicker. I think that if you build the foundation of a series too quickly the shakiness that existed in the beginning will be able to perceived as the series goes on, and overall it will be a lesser series as a result.
The first two volumes are jam packed with so many characters, memories, and stories you won’t be bored. I can’t believe how well this manga-ka strings together so much without confusing the reader. I had been getting into too much of a rut lately with the manga I read (typical shonen/shoujo titles) and this series was a perfect wakeup call. This is a series that is complex and deep and it’s not read to drool over bishies or to see gravity defying fight scenes (that I know of).
The art is realistic and detailed. The people all have depth, their weaknesses, strengths, and overall personalities that seem to correctly embody someone who might actually exist. I see these characters burdened by the same selfish and weak characteristics that I possess. When the main character is thrust into the position of trying to be the “hero” he played in his childhood games you’re fully aware of the fact that he is someone who has become an every day average joe as an adult. He doesn’t have any powers or connections…and he is going to be tasked with an undertaking so large that I’m anxious to see how the hell it can be done.
The way that the past stories of all these characters are portrayed makes you sympathize with them and begin to care for them. Urasawa shows their past memories and even though most are sad ones they pull on your heartsrings in a very real way, it’s not like it’s some past that some person threw together just to try and milk some tears out of the reader. I’m moved by this series and its characters and I anxiously watch them dance their story across each panel knowing that death is a very real possibility and I already get the clear impression from the manga-ka that ANYONE from this series has the potential to die. Oftentimes I’ll watch a series where characters go against death but…lets face it in the back of your mind you know they’re safe.
This series is going to be a masterpiece that falls together little piece by piece. I can’t help but admire series where almost every action has a meaning that plays in the background and eventually all these separate actions fall together to reveal a grand finale. I admire the intelligence of this series so much, to be honest I’m probably not good enough of a writer to be able to portray what this series is and what I expect it to become.
The only negative…the retail price is $12.99 whereas Monster (another series by the author) sold at $9.99 a volume. Once again, I suggest buying from Amazon because they sell it at less then retail and you get free shipping at the $25 mark. But like I said before, I pinch pennies when I can.
My next series will be Monster, I plan on devouring this series while I wait for more 20th Century Boys. I would buy it all right now if I could, but I need to wait.