20th Century Boys continues with the manga’s 9th volume, as things manage to find an even higher gear to kick into.
Title: 20th Century Boys, Volume 9
Written & Illustrated by Naoki Urasawa
Adaptation by Akemi Wegmuller
Lettering & Touch-Up by Freeman Wong
In the virtual reality simulation within Friend Land, Kyoko continues to try and catch a glimpse of the Friend’s face. Meanwhile, Kanna sets in motion a plan to get the Triads and Thai mob to work together to keep the Friends from killing the Pope during his upcoming visit to Japan, and framing Japan’s immigrant population.
Kanna’s insanely gutsy game of Rabbit Nabokov, and her encore performance with Chai-Pong and Wang Xiaofeng.
The only real clue we get to the identity of the Friend this volume is – that he’s a totally new character we haven’t seen in any of the previous flashback sequences. It’s kind of frustrating, as earlier flashback sequences had set up the main character’s social circle, along with the Book of Prophecy. I’d been operating from the assumption that the Friend was someone that we’d encountered in the past., but it turns out he wasn’t, which means I’m operating from square one again, when it comes to figuring out who he is.
Speaking of which, a second Book of Prophecy? I don’t know if I should be pleased with the execution of the twist, or annoyed with the lack of foreshadowing.
Originality: On the one-hand, this volume does a good job of bringing up earlier plot-beats – Kanna’s mother, the power struggles, in Tokyo’s underworld, and other beats. On the other hand, the twists feel derivative – the Friend, in the past, was indeed a Kid-In-A-Mask, but not the already established kid-in-a-mask, but a completely new one instead. The Friends are expanding on the plans in the Book of Prophecy… with a new Book of Prophecy. 3/6
Artwork: The art is still fantastic. 6/6
Story: Aside from the elements that are rehashes of earlier plot points, the story for this volume is excellent. 5/6
Emotional Response: My initial reaction to the twists was a significant “Holy $*&@!” However, my response to those sequences was lessened when I revisited those passages for this review. 5/6
Characterization: Kanna’s plan is in keeping with her rebellious streak, and the responses of the mob bosses also make sense. 5/6
Overall: In spite of a re-use of some earlier plot points, this volume works really well. 5/6
In total, 20th Century Boys: Volume 9, gets 35 out of 42.