I think I’ve said “Now where the hell is all this going?” about thirty times — a couple of times for each volume, on the balance of it — ever since Berserk’s “Golden Age” arc ended and we were returned to what amounted to Guts’s struggles in present time. The story has come a long way since, and jumped through more (flaming) hoops than originally seemed possible or necessary.
And yet, I have never felt that Kentaro Miura didn’t have some sense of how everything was ultimately going to fit together. Each piece of the story does have its place — it’s just that when you’re in the process of watching it unfold, it can become a test of patience. What I’ve discovered works best is just to take each volume on its own terms first — as a story about a man’s adventures, nothing more than that — and then only after about every six or seven volumes have gone by attempt to snap everything together. Trying to figure out how it all snaps into place while you’re reading it is a sure formula for frustration. Read more
My favorite movie of the last decade or so is Oldboy, and when I watch it with friends who haven’t seen it before I find myself not so much looking at the movie as I do their faces. I watch them most intently during the scene with the photo album. (You’ve seen it? You know what I’m talking about.) They usually have their hands steepled over their mouth, which is by then open wide enough to serve as a landing bay for the Spruce Goose.
Take a picture of yourself while you’re reading the last couple of pages of the fifth volume of 20th Century Boys, because odds are you’re going to look exactly like that. File that photo in the dictionary next to the word gobsmacked. The stunt that Naoki Urasawa pulls in this volume is very nearly up into the Oldboy stratosphere as far as emotional impact goes: he doesn’t so much mislead us as he allows us to mislead ourselves. This whole time we’ve been allowed to think this story would have a happy ending, and now he not only pulls the rug out from under us but the floor along with it. Read more
His name is “Shogun” — he’s Japanese, after all — and most people in the Thai underworld run when they hear his name. He’s an enforcer for various underworld concerns, tough enough to get any number of girls to drape themselves over him at the snap of a finger, but strangely indifferent to female flesh — maybe because he lives in a town where girls, and human life in general, are as cheap as water. He’s also ostensibly a man of the moment, but from time to time he feels the faint gravitational tug of nostalgia drawing him back home. Then he remembers he came to Thailand to forget himself, to forget the son he killed through his own neglect and self-importance, and to tackle problems that he can solve by beating with his bare fists.
He is also one of Kenji’s childhood friends, and so as you can imagine he’s more important than he realizes in the 20th Century Boys universe. One day Shogun rescues a dying man from a hotel room — a cop, a Japanese cop — and hears him babble a few too many things before he chokes on his own vomit. Drug overdose? No, murder — he’s seen a few too many such things with his own eyes to be fooled. But what did this guy mean when he said “the Friends have taken over Japan”? Before he knows it he’s run afoul of men who make the local gang bosses and drug syndicates look like rank amateurs — but the Friends have never met anyone like Shogun before, either. Irresistible force meets immovable object, and everyone heads for shelter. Read more
In many ways this is the volume of Claymore that every fan of this series has been waiting for. For one, it’ll be the last release for the series until the middle of next year, so if you were holding off getting into the series, now’s the perfect time to do it without worrying about falling behind. (You have been saving your pennies to fill the gaps in this series, right?)
It’s also the volume were us lucky fans receive two major story milestones. The first is the Big Reveal about why the Claymores, the yoma, the Awakened Beings, the Organization — the whole tamale with the rice and the sour cream on the side — all exist. And it is a doozy and a half, even if you could see at least some of it coming as far back as volume 7 or 8. Nobody has doubted that the Organization wasn’t in this with anything less than their own best interests at heart, there’s a lot more beyond that, and I would sooner lie down in front of moving traffic than reveal any of it here. Read more