First things first … or, rather, 21st first: Yes, this is volume 1 of 21st Century Boys, but it’s also sort of volume 23 – and the penultimate installment, oh no! – of the heart-thumping, high-octane 22-volume 20th Century Boys series. Different century, same Kenji (well … ‘sort of’ same Kenji, actually), same friends (uhh … ‘sort of’ there, too), but definitely the same series (for sure).
While the huge survivor crowd in Expo Park starts breaking out with strains of “gutala-laaaa … sudala-laaaa,” the recently-returned Kenji refuses to join in: “I ain’t singing it.” But before the audience can even get restless, a flying saucer comes crashing out of the sky wreaking total havoc … and Kenji ends up singing for a dying audience of one. The Friend is dead again, but this time for real. We think.
Kenji is an international hero, even if he disagrees. The war finally seems to be over: “Humanity won.” The United Nations has moved into a newly liberated Tokyo, asking everyone to “remain calm and peaceful.” People are planning and dreaming and living their lives again. Except for Kenji’s and friends: Kanna sits alone with Sadakiyo who drifts in and out of consciousness in a hospital room, utterly uncertain of her relationship with the uncle for whom she waited almost her entire life; Yukiji and Kenji are still fighting over the same misunderstandings because some things never change; and maybe Kenji’s gotten too used to his solitary life out there to really be part of the group again.
Reunion proves bittersweet, not to mention the world just isn’t safe yet. The Friend might be gone, but his death-note is chilling: “An anti-proton bomb will destroy the world.” So Kenji’s going solo all over again … virtually running back in time to see who his real friends are, once and for all! The looming ultimate question, though: will he be able to return to the real world?
My own real world is gonna be in for some serious shock when that final volume pubs mid-March. Ai-yahhhh and ai-gooooo … I see many, many 21st-century days of withdrawal ahead, egads!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2013 (United States)
21 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.