Tag Archives: Naoki Urasawa

20th Century Boys (vol. 14) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

It’s 2015 … do you know where your 20th Century Boys (and Girls!) are? Well, of course, they’re trying to save the world from death and destruction!

The Friend might be dead, but his Friendship and Democracy Party (FDP) seems stronger than ever. Now that their latest bloody virus has been unleashed all over the world, no one is safe. The death toll keeps exponentially rising …

Yoshitsune realizes the only way to determine the extent of FDP’s ultimate plot is to travel back to the fateful summer of 1971 when Kenji and all the buddies began to grow up and scatter, busy with their increasingly committed lives. To get into the Virtual World at Friend Land, Yoshitsune needs Kanna’s schoolmate Koizumi to guide the way – kicking and screaming or not.

With Kanna watching closely, Yoshitsune and Koizumu embark on a creepy game of life and death … and when things get too dangerous, Kanna forces her way into the other side. The trouble is, a couple of unexpected others are about to join the hair-raising excitement. Friends they may be, but they’re anything but friendly!

So what really happened that night? And how will Kanna and crew ever get out to find the good guys?

To check out the previous volumes of 20th Century Boys, be sure to click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2011 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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20th Century Boys (vol. 13) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

The announcement is over a week old, but better late than never, especially when it’s such well-deserved fabulous news: … and the 2011 Eisner Award (the Oscar of graphic novels!) for “Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia” goes to Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys!

Well, of course it does! And what a perfect-timing glorious little break I had catching up on the three latest volumes.

Volume 13 opens with confirmation that The Friend is dead! Otcho himself confirms his non-existent pulse. He also announces that the newly unmasked ÜberBuddy was none other than childhood classmate Fukube. And while he’s definitely dead, Otcho knows that the world is hardly the safe place it should be. Something about Number 13 (this is volume 13, after all!) has Otcho all worked up!

Without the saintly leadership of The Friend (cough, cough), his executive committee starts to flounder … and splinter. Manjome, the unFriendly top henchman, is devastated (and disoriented) by the boss’s death, but will soon figure out that the New Book of Prophecy must be carried out. World domination waits for no (dead) man!

While Kanna continues to search for clues about her mother Kiriko (Kenji’s still-missing sister), Kiriko’s involvement with the Friend’s insane plans is further revealed, but she’s working hard to stay one step ahead. More of Kenji’s devoted childhood posse appear (some were there all along), including The Friend’s favorite musical mouthpiece who’s got quite a story to confess.

On the other side of the world, a Japanese soba-selling food truck proprietor and his skeptical son driving through New Mexico (“I told you a thousand times, places like New York, LA, they got food from all over the world”), discover the final survivor of a sudden plague that wiped out his entire town … that tiny little boy just might be the link back to the vaccine that could save the world. Just beware the salted salmon!

To check out the previous volumes of 20th Century Boys, be sure to click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2011 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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20th Century Boys (vol. 12) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

It’s New Year’s Eve 2014 … do you know where the 20th Century Boys are …?

Out on Friendship Plaza, thousands have gathered to commemorate the 14th anniversary of Bloody New Year’s Eve, the fateful final night of the 20th century; they’ve come to pray “that the world will never again see such terrifying, tragic events.” In the revisionist history since propagated by the all-controlling Friends, the massive attack is now attributed to the “terrorist group ‘Kenji Faction’”; although Kenji died that night, his childhood friends have gone underground and scattered, hard at work at trying to stay alive … and save the world!

While Kanna wanders the old neighborhood looking for clues about the mother she never knew, she starts to recall long-suppressed memories of her father. Missing since Bloody New Year’s Eve, Maruo resurfaces as the chief bodyguard to Haru Namio, the national (singing) treasure; both know more than they appear and Maruo is doing all he possibly can to stop evil, but has to draw the line at taking innocent lives in his personal battle of redemption.

Meanwhile, Yoshitsune and Yukiji are insisting yet again on a bit more information from schoolgirl Koizumi who is going stir-crazy while trapped in hiding. Otcho and his manga artist sidekick Kakuta are out searching for mysterious Dr. Yamane who apparently created the deadly viruses; the elusive doc’s trail leads the pair back to the boys’ elementary school, as they work throughout the eerie night rifling through all the library books in search of certain secret messages.

Every one of these characters is ultimately on the same hunt … to finally learn the true identity of The Friend!

Heart thumping yet? Apparently, we’ve got another 10 volumes to go! And yet, the boys have very little time left to save the world … as 2015 dawns, the Friend is planning to cull the world’s population to a mere three million true friends. What now …? Ack! We’ll have to wait until February to find out, egads!

To check out the previous volumes of 20th Century Boys, be sure to click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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20th Century Boys (vol. 11) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

Most teenagers seem to go through that ‘I-hate-my-parents’-phase … but what happens when your own father turns out to be Public Enemy #1? While everyone else staunchly believes the “Friend” will bring world peace, young Kanna and the now-aging 20th Century Boys know that the Friend is pure evil. With her Uncle Kenji still presumed dead, no matter how defeated she’s feeling, Kanna has to take charge NOW.

Kanna’s wake-up call brings her to the rooftop of an old folks’ home, where she finds Sadakiyo and Kyoko trapped with the Dream Navigators surrounding the building and determined on annihilation of everyone inside. Sadakiyo hands over the bloodied notes to Kanna that Mon-chan wrote just before he was murdered; the brittle, smeared paper reveals “The Big Lie of 1970″ … but also might contain Kanna’s long-missing mother’s whereabouts, too.

Since Dream Navigator Director Takasu Mitsuyo has agreed to spawn the Friend’s offspring, Kanna is about to become expendable. Of course, Kenji’s childhood friends can’t let that happen … and they’re not going anywhere without a world-altering fight! While Yoshitsune and Yukiji take to deciphering Mon-chan’s bloody notes, Otcho goes on the hunt for a not-so-good doc who might have a few more answers …

That “To be continued” always comes waaaay too soon … how long must we wait for volume 12?

While we wait (no patience!), do check out the previous volumes of 20th Century Boys by clicking here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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20th Century Boys (vol. 10) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

Never mind the series title, it’s girl power all the way: locked up in church with a bursting audience as witnesses, young Kanna manages to get the biggest gangster bosses to call a truce and band together to protect the imminently-visiting Pope.

Meanwhile, Koizumi Kyoko has survived the virtual horrors of Friend Land and is back to her so-called real-life, but she can’t forget the eerie face behind the mask and knows that her only chance at holding on to her sanity is to get Kanna to notice her before Kyoko gets shipped off to the ever-more frightening Friend World next!

When the new English teacher turns out be straight out of Kyoko’s nightmares, she finally gets Kanna’s attention … but maybe not soon enough. Kyoko comes face-to-face with the frightening figure, journeys through his past, and ultimately learns he is hardly who he seems …

With Kyoko missing, Kanna gives immediate chase;  but in her haste, Kanna doesn’t realize that the school principal is the wrong companion to take along for the ride … can anyone ever be trusted again?

More heart-thumping fun will keep you flipping those pages way too fast, although I will freely admit that I got all choked up twice (!): when Kanna and her de-facto mother Yukiji share a bonding moment over char siu ramen (“Kenji’s sister is your mother, Kanna. But now … you are my daughter. My precious daughter, whom Kenji entrusted to me …”), and when an ancient teacher in an old folks’ home remembers his troubled student more than half a century later, whom he’s been waiting to give the one clear picture of the student as a young boy. Hey, the manga characters were crying, too. Don’t be surprised if you start sniffling. This one has all the just-right schmaltz in it for sure!

To check out the other volumes of 20th Century Boys, click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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20th Century Boys (vol. 09) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

Stuck in a virtual version of 1971, Koizumi Kyoko knows that unmasking the Friend will have irrevocable consequences. Past and present, both the 1971 and 2014 versions of the Chief try desperately to save her …

Out in Neo Tokyo, Kanna has no more patience left. She’s willing to literally gamble anything and everything she has. She decides now is the time to put those inexplicable childhood gifts to use – you’ll have to read to find out just how powerful our young Kanna really is.

With Uncle Kenji’s Book of Prophecy (written circa 1969) in hand, Kanna’s got a plan. She claims a Catholic Church as her battleground (see what going to confession can get you?!), and manages to gather thousands, including the mafia leaders that terrorize the streets of Neo Tokyo. She doesn’t yet know about The New Book of Prophecy, nor just who the next sacrificial victim will be. The eerie stage is set, complete with an oversized crucifix looming above the altar as Kanna’s backdrop. And the promise of the Holy Mother seals the deal …

Catholics of the lapsed/recovering/in denial variety will certainly share a shudder or two or three … you can take a kid out of CCD, but you certainly can’t ever take that CCD out of the frightened kid, egads! I oughta know, ahem!

To check out the other volumes of 20th Century Boys, click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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20th Century Boys (vol. 08) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

It’s 2014 and just-escaped-against-all-odds Otcho and his manga artist sidekick Kakuta are finally back in Tokyo … and Otcho’s got a totally different version of fin-de-siècle history to share from the revisionist textbooks being taught as the truth. What happened to Kenji on that fateful Bloody New Year’s Eve 1999 remains a mystery … except the only trace left of him is a cassette tape of some pretty awful singing that his niece Kanna can never let go.

Meanwhile, careless curiosity about said Bloody New Year’s Eve has gotten Kanna’s schoolmate, Koizumi Kyoko, a one-way ticket to Friend Land, where only the chosen few get to go … to be brainwashed or worse. But Koizumi is one smart, contradictory, spirited teenager and she’s not willing to play by the rules.

When she tries to break out, she’s befriended by the “Chief” – get ready for a delightfully surprising twist. He escorts her to the underground “secret headquarters” where she’s briefed on what she must do to help save the world. She goes from being almost the worst student to one of the top three … which then earns her the chance to get to the final level. Koizumi goes back to 1971, when Kenji and crew were just young kids, where she plays part in the ultimate adventure. The Chief must know what happens there … but will Koizumi survive to tell?

Another heart-thumping, too-quick read that will leave you wanting more, more, more!

To check out the other volumes of 20th Century Boys, click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka 008 by Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka, co-authored by Takashi Nagasaki, with the cooperation of Tezuka Productions

Oh, tell me it ain’t so … Can this REALLY be the final volume of Urasawa’s fabulous Pluto series? B-b-b-but … Urasawa’s Monster went on for 17 volumes, and 20th Century Boys is still going strong at volume 7 … how could Pluto already be finished with 008, boo hooo??!!

So read and weep, dear fans … even if they’re tears of bittersweet joy …

Final volume 008 opens with a newly reawakened Atom – with eyes so gorgeously haunting – as he finally solves the formula for the antiproton bomb, “a recipe for world destruction.” Atom’s been inserted with the late great p0lice-robot’s Gesicht’s memory chip, whose brutal final moments were marked by something robots aren’t supposed to feel – hatred. But as one of the world’s seven great super-robots, Gesicht’s capabilities went far beyond his actual programming. So, too, Atom’s abilities are limitless … even as he is the very last hope for the human race.

“Do you think we’ll ever live in a world free from hate?” he asks for us all. Urasawa’s thinly disguised treatise against the so-called ‘war on terror’ – the United States of Thracia vs. Persia – proves to be a remarkable, memorable eight-volume prayer for peace.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
PLUTO © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts, Takashi Nagasaki, and Tezuka Productions
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.
Based on Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka

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20th Century Boys (vol. 07) by Naoki Urasawa, with the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki, English adaptation by Akemi Wegmüller

Even as he is pulling his body – mid-escape! – out of the tiny hole that will release him from the infamous Umihotaru Prison, manga artist Kakuta momentarily gets distracted: “Whenever I run into anything that would make good material for a manga, I get totally absorbed” … spoken like a true artist! And great material this proves to be! Fellow escapee Otcho (also known as Shogun) has to snap Kakuta out of his reverie to continue their dangerous journey out. Despite impossible circumstances, they manage to traverse the 10 kilometers to temporary safety in Tokyo.

While Otcho’s been locked away for 14 years, Kamisama (literally ‘honorable god’) who was once the leader of Tokyo’s homeless community (and helpful collaborator/friend to Kenji and his fellow 20th-century boys), has become fabulously wealthy. Being able to tell the future makes stock markets quite predictable. In spite of his many mansions, he’s still most at home, no irony intended, at the homeless shelter among his familiar cronies.

Between Otcho’s explanations to Kakuta, and Kamisama’s reveries to an insistent high school student researching a history project, the truth about what really happened on that fateful last night of the 20th century comes to light. Textbooks often get facts wrong, after all … whatever happens now, Kanna is truly the last and final hope. Can our world be saved?

To check out the other volumes of 20th Century Boys, click here.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2009 (United States)
20 SEIKI SHONEN © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka 007 by Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka, co-authored by Takashi Nagasaki, with the cooperation of Tezuka Productions

Six out of the seven greatest robots in the world are gone, destroyed by the evil force called Pluto. Professor Tenma watches over the body of Atom, who’s now been programmed “with as many personalities as there are people on earth” – six billion, in case you’re counting. In the high-security laboratory, Tenma admits to Professor Abullah, fellow genius scientist, that he might be creating a new monster with Atom’s reprogramming. Tit for tat, Dr. Abullah confesses to Tenma he’s “trying to develop yet another remarkable robot.” But Abullah is soon thereafter killed by UN Forces, but not before he leaves a message (and tiny package) to be delivered posthumously to Tenma.

For now, only super-robot Epsilon, who has the power to harness photon energy, lives. He’s also a pacifist, living in Australia surrounded by rescued orphans who love and adore him … maybe that’s where his true energy comes from. But the world is anything but safe, and Pluto must somehow be stopped. When Wassily, one of the orphans, is bought by a mysterious stranger for a “substantial donation” while Epsilon is away, Epsilon races to rescue him, and comes face-to-face with Pluto. In the struggle, Pluto’s true identity is revealed. As Epsilon begs, “Someone must stand in my place … to save earth,” Uran witnesses Atom’s awakening …

Of the seven volumes thus far (click here to see the previous six), I have to say this one proved most memorable for me. The now-happy kids, Epsilon’s love for and devotion to them, sad sad Uran trying make sense of the too-many tragedies around her … but most entertaining of all (rather like a wink-wink inside joke) were this volume’s opening pages which offer a sampling of some of the six billion personalities coursing through Atom’s circuits, including characters from Urasawa’s phenomenal 18-volume Monster and the still on-going 20th Century Boys. I admit it … I felt somehow rewarded for being such a Urasawa groupie-junkie!

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
PLUTO © Naoki Urasawa/Studio Nuts, Takashi Nagasaki, and Tezuka Productions
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.
Based on Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Translation, Japanese