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20th Century Boys Vol. #22 Manga Review

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20th Century Boys Volume 22
20th Century Boys Volume 22

The saga is over but the story is still yet to come.

Creative Staff
Story: Naoki Urasawa
Art: Naoki Urasawa
Translation/Adaptation: Akemi Wegmuller

What They Say
The time has come. The Friend reveals all about his conspiracy and declares that he shall destroy the world within seven days. Kanna plans a music festival to evacuate people to the Expo venue, which is the only place the dictator holds sacred and the only place safe from destruction. While the 20th Century Boys race toward the final battle, Kenji is coming back to Tokyo!!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Well Ladies and Gentlemen, here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the end of the 20th Century Boys saga. What a roller coaster it has been! After 21 volumes of revelations, dangers, deaths and rebirths, beginnings and endings, we finally get to see the journey end. This volume moves at a ridiculously fast pace, but it was mostly my excitement and involvement that made the pages breeze by in a flurry of suspense.

With the Friend announcing to the world that he is in fact the organizer behind Bloody New Years and the Apocalypse of 2015 and that he will end the world within a week just as God created it in one week, all the final plans of our heroes get put into motion. We follow Kanna as she attempts to get as many residents into the Expo Center as possible, Otcho as he finishes getting the new giant robot ready for the final battle, and Kenji still just moving forward to his destiny. Each of these storylines cross and intersect numerous times and have enough twists and turns to make you think the series has jumped the shark. But it hasn’t! Not in the least!

As we’ve seen over the last four years, nothing is ever simply explained in this manga. Sure it may ultimately be a simple thing at the root of a particular plot thread or mystery but the journey of how that revelation is made or how that answer came to be is what is so ultimately satisfying about this manga. In this volume multiple threads start getting tied up and it is only because of the amount of twists and endings to various plot threads we start to feel as if the series has finally become ridiculous and lost its focus. However, we must remember the journey we have taken with each of these characters, how each of them has made us feel (either in a positive or negative manner) and realize that this is how things should turn out.

However, the biggest troll of all is the ending to this book. Just as the final showdown between Friend and Kenji is about to begin, just as we feel like we will finally get the answers we’ve longed for…there is a time skip and we see the outcome without ever seeing the showdown, without the answers, and without the true end. However, I applaud this ending to the volume. As we have seen throughout the three main timelines of the series and the characters’ past, everything is circular. There is a common flow to how events unfold. The ending to this book embodies that ideal perfectly as it mimics the ending of volume 5 in pacing and tone perfectly. Volume 5 was the ending to the first arc but really the beginning of the main story that followed; that kind of impact is incredibly fitting for volume 22 as well.

In Summary
Why is it fitting? Because this is NOT the end of the series!! That’s right. There are still two volumes left to go which will be released as 21st Century Boys. So please to not read this review and quit the series, do not read this volume and proclaim it a failure and a non-ending. As I mentioned, this ending mirrors volume five’s ending. As with volume 5 we didn’t see the details, we didn’t learn the secrets, and the two page epilogue shows us that while we know how the saga ends, we still do not know the full story, the real story. The volume has so much urgency in each and every page that you cannot help but be completely absorbed in the action and suspense. This is true mastery of a genre on display and is a near perfect entry to the series. The only thing preventing it from being perfect is that it is a faux ending. While I greatly appreciate the parallels and circular nature of this book, and even the series as a whole, after 22 volumes we need the series to end with its final pages. The end of volume 22 is a pitch perfect ending in my opinion because it continues to look at music as a truly defining element in our lives. But because we have two books left that will (hopefully) fill in the gaps and properly close out the series, we don’t get the scene during the festival to be the final scene, and it really should. A terrific book and one of the best long running series I have ever read; with the saga over it is time to close out the story.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: September 18th, 2012
MSRP: $12.99

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