The giant robot has already been built and now awaits the Great Awakening… With the Friend’s identity still a mystery, the countdown to the apocalypse continues, day by day, minute by minute–for on December 31, 2000, humanity will meet its final hour. Hoping to get as many people who knew about their group’s emblem involved in their clandestine efforts, Kenji’s crew reaches out to their childhood antagonists: the twins Mabo and Yanbo. Back when they were kids, Yanbo and Mabo terrorized Kenji and company to no end. As adults, and with a crisis looming, will the evilest brothers in history now fight on the side of good?
20th Century Boys has been an engrossing read from the very beginning, as Naoki Urasawa is great at feeding readers just enough information to keep them guessing. However, in the more recent volumes things seemed to be unraveling too fast. Volume 5 fixes this problem, as Urasawa throws a wrench into his story that changes its entire scope.
As the fateful 31st of December rapidly approaches, Kenji is gathering his friends in preparation for their climatic encounter with the Friends. There is a small problem, however. The “Book of Prophecy” states that nine warriors will fight the league of evil, but there are only seven of them including Kenji. In a last-ditch effort, Kenji reaches out to Yanbo and Manbo, but with no luck. This, along with him being unable to decipher one of the pages of The Book (and numerous pages being torn out), causes him to reconsider everything. However, these feelings are short-lived, as the meaning behind the mysterious page soon reveals itself and the countdown to Apocalypse begins.
Sounds like a great volume, right? Well, that quite literally is not even the half of it. Just when Kenji and his friends are about to take on the Friends, Urasawa abruptly shifts his focus to the year 2014. Of course, their story cannot end there, as there are far, far too many loose ends to be tied up. Even so, in the second half the focus is on the now teenaged Kanna and her current lifestyle. This portion of the book does drag its feet a little and will certainly cause many readers to yearn for Kenji, but it still gives way for some entertaining moments and also some new characters. Not to mention Urasawa saves his trump card for the very end. What a cruel little twist indeed.
The great moments just keep on coming in volume 5. The introduction of the adult Yanbo and Manbo is both creepy and funny at the same time, and the moment in which Kenji, Otcho, and Kamisama simultaneously realize the meaning of “the signal went up” at the precise moment it actually happens is well done (though to the reader the meaning is already obvious by that point). Otcho’s reasoning behind his original design for the Friends’ symbol is laugh-out-loud funny, as is Kanna’s boss at the restaurant. Kanna also single-handedly (and successfully) mediates a mob feud, which is quite amusing to see take place. The list goes on.
Though being forced to wait and see what happens to Kenji is an unfortunate annoyance, Urasawa continues to prove his storytelling prowess all the same with another very good volume. Volume 5 answers some questions while bringing to light many more, bring the series to a significant turning point. In addition, now that he is telling two stories at once, all doubts one might have had regarding the pacing of 20th Century Boys can be cast aside for now.