Natsume's Book of Friends

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Review: 20th Century Boys (Vol. 04)

Reviewer: Lissa Pattillo

Manga-ka: Naoki Urusawa
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2009

Synopsis: “Kenji wrote “The Book of Prophecy” in his boyhood. Now this childish fantasy has become the scenario for the Friend’s fiendish plot to destroy mankind. Kenji goes underground and waits for a chance to fight back. Meanwhile, the evil organization is closing in on a man called Shogun in the ganglands of Bangkok. The mystery grows deeper, the fear more intense, as we near the final battle at the turn of the century… Is there really any way to save the world from annihilation?”

The story takes a flying leap forward in this fourth volume of 20th Century Boys, a flying leap in both plot advancement and timeline as two years pass from where we last watched Kenji forced to embark on a mission to stop the ‘Friends’ and save the world.

Much of the book follows Otcho, a man previously introduced to readers but whose relevant identity was never fully explored until now. Living under a forged Visa in Bangkok, he takes on jobs that see him offering aid to those who find themselves in the most unfortunate of situations. Otcho’s morality is chivalrous in its own right, his tenacity admirable and his tactics never short of compelling. A fair share of time is given to flashbacks of his life, from his quick-to-do marriage to a tragic loss in his life that saw him seeking strength at the tutelage of a wise monk deep in the mountains.

As a definite pillar of strength in his own particular way, Otcho’s inevitable connection to Kenj coming full-circle is keenly anticipated. As the Friends continue to advance their hold on Japan, and Kenji is forced underground in his continued attempts to thwart a plan he inadvertently set into motion, it’s both exciting and suspenseful to finally have such an ally by his side. The reach of the Friends is almost impossible to grasp in its scope, layering the story with more reasons to see the duo fail but all the more reasons to have readers wish to see them succeed.

With the final prophecy soon coming to pass, the story is preparing to take its sharpest turn yet. With so much yet to be revealed, and only a fraction of the story released, there’s no way to predict where things are going to go from here and thus it garners all the more cause to continue. Naoki Urusawa’s continues to deftly balance suspense and intrigue into this potently character-driven story that puts a whole new spin on the notion that one man truly can save the world.

Review written July 28, 2009 by Lissa Pattillo
Book purchased from Viz Media at SDCC’09

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

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