20th Century Boys

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From the 22 volume manga series by Naoki Urasawa

Okay, I have a confession to make: I love manga and anime.

I know, I know, you’ve all been reading my reviews all these years thinking I was just an ordinary boring otter who only watches movies…but you’re wrong.

I’m an ordinary boring otter who watches movies, reads graphic novels and recently has been converted to manga, and once you’re on that primrose path, anime is not far behind.

Yes, I too used to turn my nose up at those Japanese comics. Like you, I would describe Ranma 1/2: Throw water on boy, he turns into girl. Throw water on girl, she turns back into boy. Shenanigans! and I’d sniff superciliously.

Then (because I am a Teen Librarian) I started a manga discussion group in my library…and becuase I did, I had to start reading the stuff.

And you know what? like any other literature, there’s good and bad and stupid. And the stupid and bad are really stupid and bad…but the good is VERY VERY GOOD.

Which leads me (the long way round) to 20th Century Boys, which is VERY VERY GOOD INDEED.

A group of kids (mostly boys) are friends in the late 60s-early 70s. They have a secret hideout and try to avoid the local bullies and get on with their lives. We see many of the same people (and a bunch of new ones, including the Friend and his cult) around the turn of the year 2000, and also fifteen years later.

All of these time periods are brilliantly braided together with global epidemic death, the end of civilization, and giant robots attacking Tokyo.

And it’s WONDERFUL. This is one of the best SF series ever, beautifully written and illustrated, with great characters, an intricate and fascinating plot, and I can’t wait for the next issue (as I type this in August of 2011, there are 15 in English.)

But wait! you might say. This is a movie review…why are you blathering about a manga series?

Because, like most manga, there is also a film version…but instead of a whole lot of chapters of anime (the cartoons they usually make out of manga), this one is a LIVE ACTION FILM.

It’s a three-parter, and each part is 2 1/2 hours. A serious investment of time, and TOTALLY WORTH IT. They got actors who are PERFECT in their parts, all of them looking JUST like they do in the manga, which I loved. They cut out some unneeded plot elements, but the major points are all there, and are well written. And then I had to decide what to do…because the second DVD ended at the same place as I have read up to in the books.

Watch it? and find out the ending? or wait a year til the rest of the books come out before watching the last DVD?

No contest. I watched it. The ending was great.*

A very enjoyable SF movie/series, find it and watch it, you won’t be sorry.

*Note: there is an easter egg at the end, about a 15 minute “what might have happened” bit tacked on, and until I figured out that that was what was happening, I was all, Huh? and Mr. Otter decided that it just went too long and he didn’t like it, I think becaues of this bit. Not that it was bad, it was just jarring because it was a rewrite of part of the movie we had just seen.

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