I read all of mangaka Naoki Urasawa's Monster a few years ago. At the time I thought it was probably the greatest comic book storyline I'd ever stumbled upon. At the end of my initial review for Monster I wondered if the amazing author and illustrator could ever hope to top this work in anything he did in the future. Well, 20th Century Boys (and the two tankouban that make up the final chapters of the series, titled 21st Century Boys for whatever reason) is truly more insanely huge than any of his other works (including Yawara and Pluto) combined, the art is some of the best I've ever seen, and the way in which the story is told and the manner in which the many, many, many, many, many mysteries are revealed (through flashbacks that put the first 2 seasons of Lost to shame) make it something absolutely breathtakingly incredible to behold... But that ending.
Jesus Christ, Urasawa-san, what the FUCK is up with that ending? Whose ass did you pull that out of? 24 volumes of intense real, imagined, and psychological threats and fears keeping us going for probably close to 20 full hours of actual reading time, and THAT'S how you end it with these characters we've grown to love or hate or want to take a nasty shit on? Never since the original Death Note manga has such a brilliant series been fucked up its ass by the final, final outcome. For shaaaaaame, Urasawa...
You might think I'm being unfair in my initial take here, but I'm one of those people who thinks that the ending of something is usually the most important part of the whole thing. If the beginning or middle of a story is great, but the last 1/10th of it (hell, even the last 1/1,000th of it) is crap, you're left with a bad taste in your mouth by the finished product, and THAT'S what sticks in your mind when you think back on it (which reminds me, GODDAMN YOU, Jin Kobayashi, and your diseased afterbirth of an ending to the [up till then] brilliant School Rumble!). Like, you can pay for a $10,000 per night whore, have her blow your tiny little mind with her amazing abilities and attributes, but then, just as the sun is coming up, have her inexplicably stick about a hundred needles into your little soldier while you're still strapped down to the bed. What part of that night will you remember when you reminisce of your time with that whore? That goddamn whore...
Not that the whole of this thing (20th Century Boys) sucked. As I've stated above, my opinion about the story and everything up until the very end were that this was the greatest manga ever written, with some of the strongest visuals I've ever seen drawn by man. Urasawa has proved many times over that he can make any two dimensional character more real than most of the phonies you see walking around on the real streets today. Not only that, but there are well over two dozen main players in 20th Century Boys running around at one point or another, and each and every one of them is fully realized and completely distinct from anybody else. AND we see each of them grow considerably from the year 1969 all the way until 2018. That's almost 50 goddamn years. Also, when most of the characters are children in 1969, they act like actual children (something that is apparently extremely hard to do for most retarded writers out there, mostly because they all believe that 9 year-olds think and talk like 30 year-olds... Well, they start believing this after they did too much coke off the erect dicks of they Hollywood he-bitches after getting their first work published).
What's probably most impressive with 20th Century Boys though is just how absolutely titty-suckingly amazing Urasawa's natural drawing ability is. Yes, each and every character in this series looks completely different from everybody else, and everybody's able to show the most miniscule amount of any emotion in any given panel, but Urasawa ages each character up to 50 years throughout the course of this thing. And you can still tell which character is which while the story flips between the past and present. If you don't understand just how awesome and incredible that fact is then you've never once tried to draw a realistic-looking made-up person, let alone drawn that realistic person from many angles, many times over, and then tried to age or de-age them and still keep them recognizable. And no, Urasawa doesn't draw BIG-EYED, cookie-cutter "anime people" either; he draws slightly exaggerated, realistic people. And you are a complete fucking moron.
Okay, whatever... "*Snore* So he can draw, and the ending is lame," you state like a gimp who's grown accustomed and bored of his "Big Daddy's" spankings and whippings. "What else?" Well, I'll TELL you what else, you castrated man-child. Hold on to your ball---... Oh... Sorry, I forgot.
I guess it's time for me to tell you what exactly this story's all about. Well, at least what it's somewhat about (I'm telling you, this thing is HUGE). 20th Century Boys is about a group of kids who (in the late 60s and early 70s) made a secret base in an empty lot in their neighborhood, fought two giant, bulbous, twin bullies, and came up with a plan in which they'd save the world from evil people far in the future after some "bad guys" used a specific course of evil action to try and take over the world. You know, typical, over-imaginative adolescent stuff. 20th Century Boys is also about the same group of friends many years later, as they start to notice that some strange (but powerful) organization is using their blueprints that they laid out decades before to seemingly cause mass destruction and, well, to take over the world.
One of the leaders of the kids, Kenji, has kind of had a (self-imposed) shitty life after his great childhood. He's the first to notice this strange organization that's not only using the "bad guys' plan" to conquer the globe that his group of amigos imagined when they were 9 years-old, but also that the enigmatic leader of this underground fraternity (some strange man who never shows his face and simply calls himself "Friend") is exploiting the strange logo that Kenji's crew created as a flag and identifier in their youth as his own emblem (a strange mixture of an eye and a hand pointing through the iris).
Meanwhile, Kenji's older sister dumps her infant daughter on her brother and their mother as she then runs off and enigmatically disappears from society. Then the bizarre (yet very cool) mysteries start to pile up as Kenji tries to gather his old friends together to "take back their symbol" and stop Friend's plans. The storytelling jumps ahead, and then back, and then sideways many times from its beginning to end, but not once are you left scratching your head like a suffering sack of shit with scabies at all the twists and turns... Well, unless Urasawa wants you to. There are life-ending viruses, giant robots, history-changing global events, assassinations, prophecies, spoon-bending, conspiracies, new beginnings, and bowling trophies that all make up the grand scheme of this tale. There are characters you'll love, some you'll loathe, some you'll miss when they die really shitty deaths, and some that will just make you smile when they show up for any amount of time. I'm telling you, the good parts of this story are GOOD. They're fun (watching the grown-up friends reuniting and remembering their past), they're addictive (there are so many questions asked [and eventually answered] that you always think "I can read one more tankouban before bed, even if it's already 5AM"), and they're so cohesive (the amount of time that must have gone into the layout of the story before even the first official drawing must have been months)... And thankfully they make up about 95% of the whole.
Unfortunately there's that other 5% that we have to deal with. Things start to unravel in the last two volumes (what Urasawa labels as 21st Century Boys). Without giving too much away, (SPOILERS) the good guys have triumphed, and the baddies have been vanquished... but then the final prophecy (that Friend was keeping hidden from all but his closest Helpy McHelpersons) (SPOILERS DONE) starts to come to pass... And even in the confines of a comic book this last bit was just too far, too retarded, and characters that we've known for over 20 volumes already start saying and doing things that completely contradict who they are. And Friend's final, final threat?.... Dumb. Totally out of place in this super constructed narrative.
SPOILERS, BOYS AND GIRLS
Every threat that had come before these final chapters was realistic and extremely well played out. The viruses and the "giant robots" up till then were explained well enough in the tale that you fully accept them as true threats. Real characters made them. Through the course of the story we see how much energy and thought was put into creating them and how much damage they'd really do to the world at large... But then the last threat came... And it was pulled from out of the Overfiend's grungy ass. An "anti-proton bomb"?! What the hell?! There was nothing to build up to this threat, nothing to make anybody even think that such a thing could exist, and after all the giant realistic terrors of the past that everybody's lived through in this thing, it just seemed so tacked on... Like it was added just to pad the manga on for oh, I don't know, another 2 volumes...
We saw how the other Friend Threats were made before this last one (the robots, the viruses, the prophecies), but this anti-proton bomb just reeked of bullshit and last-minute additions. And even if Friend got a big bomb made (even if it was nuclear), the way it was to be triggered was like it was thought up by a drunk 5 year-old. Not to mention that all even a nuclear bomb would do is level the one city it was in, NOT destroy the world. Once again, even in the confines of this story, an "anti-proton bomb" is bullshit. Nobody has made one before, and we've never heard of Friend hiring people who COULD make a weapon that could vaporize the world... It's just such a pathetic ending to such a fantastic tale. Oh, and the lead protagonist's reactions and interactions with his friends and family in the very very very end.... Christ, how disappointing. With 24 volumes in which to tell this thing, Urasawa sure fumbled the ball on the 1 yard line. Pathetic.
This is some weird ass shit here, holmes. Quite enticing, yeah, bitch, but still, way too little story for the paper they used to tell this shit up. Way too much talky-talky 'bout shit they done just talked about. Yo, manga dude, if yo publisher say "make me 24 volumes of this shit, bitch," yet you only gots 14 or so in ya, fuckin' tell him to shove it up his ass with a glock.
All said, my brothas, not too bad. Still, like the Rossman said, that ending was absolute cunt shit.
Yes! This is perfect! This Japanese man came up with the perfect plan to eradicate all the filthy hu-mans from this planet, and then leave us robots in peace.
Firstly, we must release a virus. Not the bird flu, or the pig flu, but the PEOPLE flu! It will sicken the people. When they are sickened, I will step on them with my metal cleats! That is the second part right there: a robot that terrorizes everyone! My cleats are made out of hu-man fear and very sharp metal. I will then bend spoons to strike fear into the remaining hu-mans that I did not step on or kill with the virus.
Then, I will send out UFOs, and then more viruses, and then set a bomb to blow everyone up just because. I hate this hu-man infested planet. Even if I kill all the fleshbags it will still smell of hu-man, and that sickens me. My last act will be to blow up the planet after I upload my persona into the Matrix and spend the rest of my days having robot intercourse with that blonde robot chick from Battlestar Galactica. SHE IS A ROBOT, so I am allowed to stick my robocock into her. It is in the rules. Fuck you, portly hu-mans!