Story: Naoki Urasawa's name on the cover is a seal of quality. You know the series you're about to read is some of the best in the genre, if not the entire damn medium. He's just that good, and 20th Century Boys is no different. A tale of heroism and heroics, childhood dreams and growing up, good vs evil and confrontation, it spans a nice set of volumes and with detail, loads of dialogue and for here, the power of music, driven by T.Rex's 20th Century Boys.
While the tale is a long one, it has the Urasawa style of taking it's time. It doesn't rush and for better or worse, it gives you all of what you need to know in it's own time. It does a nice job of creating plot threads, sub-plots, wrapping up plots to create new ones and branching off into other threads, delving deeper into the mystery of Friend and all it holds. It's no easy read, meaning you should be keeping up with it (Even with a plot recap per volume and a character sheet) and at times hard to put down. Felt myself reading more than I wanted for the day just to see what would come next.
I don't normally go into plot for grand epics like this and for this one, it wouldn't be proper. Something like this should not be spoiled. Should not be hinted at. If I somehow blurb out a plot point three volumes in I would be sentenced to hang until dead. But it spans time periods; switching from the childhood past to adulthood, Urasawa does it masterfully, weaving threads through one era into the next and back again, making connections through different view points and it all clicks together.
I guess the only fault I can find is in the final few volumes of the series. Didn't entirely like the route it took but I can't deny that I enjoyed it. Hard to wrap up everything nicely but there's the additional 3 volumes of 21st Century Boys, something I held off on until I wrote this little review. Can't have it muddling my thoughts now, can I?
And the plot, twisty and filled with turns, to go along with how gripping it is. Not conventional and breaks a few rules but that's what I love about it. It's pretty unpredictable and an engrossing read.
Art: Yup. That's Urasawa alright. The art style hasn't changed a bit and I love it. It's comforting how it's so consistent and have no qualms on it.
Characters: Oh god. Loads of them. There is no way in hell am I talking about a few specifically. I'll just... skip the details and give you some brief praise on it.
Characters. Like God creating life, so does Urasawa breathe life into the characters on the page. You feel a whole slew of emotions for them and simply wish them the best. Symphasize for others, weep for the fallen and admire the brilliance of others. At the helm of the last one is Friend, the face of the series. The most brillant of villains since Johan in his orgasm-inducing amazing series Monster, he is just beyond words. That, is a villain, a worthy villain to combat the righteous heroes of the Kenji group.
The characters will stay with you after the final pages turn and they're memorable, from the past to the present, the trials they face together and obstacles they strive to overcome, they're just amazing. They aren't one-dimensional, they're human on an inked page and half the reason one would continue reading.
Overall: Once again, I could just say "It's made by Naoki Urasawa" and call it a day, but noooo, I had to write and write, because some people are dense enough to need "reason" when the author is all the reason they need. But if you read this far, know that this is as good as it gets. It's near perfection and if you want a good- nay, excellent story, read some Urasawa today!