In Japan, they have this line of comics they call Manga. Manga will either spawn into Anime, TV, and a few will even venture into film. When they commit these Manga to film, you can expect most to have multiple releases. With the multiple releases most particularly the trilogies there seems to be a trend to go from strong and enthralling to uncaring and just let it end. I must admit the live action Manga films like Death Note, Gantz and now 20th Century Boys have one thing in common, they spared no expense and really captured the spirit of the Manga the best it could. Well, I am not a fan of the 3rd Death Note, and can put that right beside the 3rd Matrix as a very misunderstood and confusing film that should never have seen the light of day. Going into this film, I was told by my comic book friend that this is supposedly like the Watchmen, which I will admit the first time I saw it at the theater, I hated it, but I was talked into buying the $40.00 4 hour version, which I broke down and watched with friends and I liked it a lot more that it was not cut to shreds like the version that people know. The first thing you know from the get-go a lot of care and heart were put into this trilogy, and they shelled out a lot of yen as well.
The first entry into this trilogy is called The Beginning of the End, and in the special features they tell you this covers volumes 1-5 of the comic book. This is basically about a group of outcast kids, some boys and one girl who have this secret club in school where they all hang out and play with each other. We also learn that these kids worked on a science fiction adventure story called The Book of Prophecy. This story foretold the destruction of the world as they knew it, by an evil villain and that the evil would be combated by the kids who would be a super hero squad. So, the story continues now that they are all grown up and getting old the former kids all meet again at a class reunion and start to wonder about a mysterious cult that has been getting stronger and stronger and led by a leader named Friend. So why would they care, it seems that the symbol of this cult is the same symbol they had for their group when they were kids, an eyeball inside a pointing hand. And they start to realize that the events that were written in their book of Prophecy are starting to happen.
20th Century Boys begins in 1969, and focuses on the main character Kenji and jumps around from 69 to 1997 when he is the manager of a convenience store and he gave up his dream of being a musician. And the film builds up the characters and story fairly well, his life has a few turns here and there, one is watching his niece after his sister goes missing. The film starts to take off on the next incident and that is when his old classmate Donkey just one day dies and then a family in their neighborhood just disappears. This film I am not familiar with the comic books or manga, but like Gantz this film goes backwards and forwards to get the story across. The storytelling in this film is very detailed but at times very confusing that I felt I needed to read the manga to understand it a little more. That being said though, this is an amazing film that while I was confused for maybe a tenth of it, the rest of this film entertained me and had me stoked about watching the other two to see how this will all play out.
So as the second film kicks off we learn it is now 2015 and Friend has taken over a new world that is very chaos reigned. Kenji has been missing since the Bloody New Yearâ€™s Eve of 2000 and his niece Kanna is now in high school. She learns in school that Kenji and his friends are the so called terrorists behind the events that made 2000 so bloody. Kanna knows this is crap and when she does not go along with the propaganda she is sent to a place they call Friend Land, which is for people who have Anti-Friend stands and beliefs. Friend-Land is a place that troubled rebels go to get straightened out and re-educated. When Kanna and her classmate achieve high marks they are sent to an advanced stage of this Friend-Land called the Bonus, where they get to be a part of a virtual representation of 1971, when Kenji and his friends were kids and part of their club. I really loved the storytelling in this one, even though Friend felt like a side note and this film was more about Kanna and her future. I thought the storytelling in this second one was just as good as the first one, if not better. The best thing about this film, is that the way it ended, I have the third one ready to kick in because this one ends with a lot of things to think about and a lot of questions that I really need to see answered. I am really being blown away by this film series so far, and god I have to see how this will all play out.
As the story continues in the final sequel, it is now the year 2017 and the deadly virus that was unleashed on Tokyo has spread throughout. A wall has been built around the city and the people are now prisoners to the new President Friend. When he tells Tokyo that on August 20th, aliens will kill them all and those who worship and believe in him will be spared. I am trying not to tell you guys all the fun of this film; because I try to let you guys go into a movie and have fun with it. But, Kanna who is now older leads a group that is more radical and out of control and is out to stop Friend. And along the way, they find Kenjiâ€™s lost sister. The final chapter does so much right, it brings Kenji back to the heart of the film and even though Kanna is playing second banana, I was just happy to see Kenji featured so much in this one. This film is confusing, and at times baffling, but if the other two are still close by you can always go back and recap. The questions are answered, and there is nothing quite like watching Giant Robots going on attack mode. And we get that. The 20th Century Boys is an amazing trio of films that go hand in hand, and you cannot really watch one without the other two. Like most of the live action films based off Manga, the first two are going to blow you away and the third one is going to be a mess or a minor miss, but you know this was not the case all three were strong and very well done. I will say right now the holidays are coming up very soon, whatever you celebrate this would be an awesome present for that teenager in your family. This is highly recommended to fans of both Manga and the films they spawn.
9 out of 10