Out in the middle of Tokyo Bay, a man called Shogun is trying to break out of Umihotaru Prison, a maximum-security island fortress, so he can save the world. Accompanied by a frightened young manga artist, these two men are prepared to risk everything as their daring escape plan grows deadlier by the minute. However, the prison authorities will do whatever it takes to return Shogun and his reluctant companion to custody.

Shogun’s ultimate goal: Tokyo, where a girl he calls the “final hope” lives, but a murder in Kabuki-cho has triggered a chain reaction of terror. Can Shogun reveal the truth about the false peace created by the Friends? And what are the facts behind the disaster that took place in the final moments of the 20th century?!

20th Century Boys 7
20th Century Boys Volume 7
By Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen Plus
Genre: Drama/Mystery
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

 

What happened December 31, 1999?  The events of that night start to unfold as both Shogun and Kami tell the tale to two young people who want to know the truth.  But will learning these facts bring us any closer to the truth?  Once again, Urasawa poses more questions than he answers in this volume.  Why are the Friends rebuilding the 1970 Exhibition?  What exactly happened on December 31, 1999?  Even as we delve further into those events, answers are not forthcoming.

There are three distinct time lines in this volume.  1970, 1999, and 2014 are all used to answer few questions and ask more.  The stories from 1970 once again imply the connection between The Friends and Kenji’s past.  Through Otcho, we see how important going to the 1970 Exhibition was to Kenji.  The US pavilion was supposed to have pieces from the moon landing, something he and his friends were really excited about.  Is this why The Friends are trying to recreate it?

What happened in 1999 is of course what readers have been waiting for since being left in the lurch in volume 5.  We see things mostly from Shogun/Otcho’s perspective.  There’s some from Kami’s near the end, but, Shogun was there with Kenji, and has more of the details.  Kenji’s group run headlong into the fray, believing that the robot is being remotely controlled, because that’s what Kenji would have thought of as a kid.  They chase down someone in the Friend’s mask, and Fukube believes it’s Sadakiyo taking revenge for him not being his friend.  But things don’t turn out to be so simple, and now Kenji, Shogun and Marino must go up against the robot to stop it.

While all the clues keep pointing to the Friend being someone from Kenji’s past, lingering doubts remain as to who the Friend really is and what he really wants.  Is he really a friend from the past that they just can’t remember?  If he isn’t, then how can he know so much about Kenji’s past, and why is his childhood so important?  These are really the core questions to the mystery, and finding the answers are what keeps the story so intriguing.

This volume shows the real strength of Urasawa’s story telling.  He keeps the mystery going by giving answers to the little questions while leaving the bigger ones, the ones that hooked you in, going.  The time jumps in this volume are clean and their relationship to the story makes sense.  No new characters are introduced without a reason, even if it isn’t immediately obvious in that chapter.  And the characters as we see them in this volume don’t feel quite so “blah”.  Shogun/Otcho is the center of this volume as he both escapes from the prison and tells Kakuta what happened in 1999.  He is an awesome character, and it really shows through in the 1999 and 2014 time periods.  I’d be happy to just keep reading about Shogun.  With more Shogun and the continuation of the December 31, 1999 tale, I could be pulled back into this series.

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