20th Century Boys is a Japanese scifi film trilogy based on a hugely popular manga series by Naoki Urasawa. The trilogy was directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi and starred Toshiaki Karasawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Takako Tokiwa, Teruyuki Kagawa and Airi Taira etc. Trailer below is for the first instalment.
All the three films (released in 2008-2009) have topped the box office in Japan.
Official Synopsis (Chapter I)
It all begins in 1969 when a young boy named Kenji and his friends get together in their secret fort and write “The Book of Prophecy.” In their book, they write about a future where they fight against an evil organisation trying to take over the world and bring about Doomsday.
Years later in 1997, Kenji has given up his dream of becoming a rock star and is leading a simple life as the manager of a convenience store, raising his sister’s baby girl Kanna after the mysterious disappearance of his sister.
At the same time, a mysterious cult being led by a man only known as “Friend” has emerged and gained a strong influence over society. A series of catastrophic events begin to occur, mirroring the prophecies made up by the young Kenji.
The greatest fear is that the climax of The Book of Prophecy will become a reality: on December 31, 2000, a terrifying giant virus-spreading robot will attack the entire city of Tokyo, leading to the end of mankind.
The only people who know about The Book are Kenji and his childhood friends. Who is Friend? Will Kenji and his “real” friends be able to save mankind and live to see the 21st Century?
Japanese has a distinctive way to make scifi movies – contrary to Hollywood which tries to make the scenes as real as possible, the Japanese will let you know that it’s a fiction straight away with their old school settings, which makes me wonder whether it’s done on purpose or if there’s serious lack of capability.
Not that I seriously mind… it brings nostalgia (for a person who grew up under heavy influence of the Japanese pop culture in 1980’s, like yours truly), and I tend to focus on the storytelling side of a film than other matters.
The verdict – The best thing about the movie (I’ve never read the manga before) is the suspense, with series of answer-seeking from early onwards… wondering what’s happening, and who’s behind all that as the situation became more apparent (that it’s based on the book).
The movies also boost a decent cast – lots of “real” actors instead of good looking idols like many other dramas/movies. Their acting is sometimes comical – which again is another trait in Japanese films – but overall has led their roles well.
The plot is a bit too short to be made into a trilogy though – I can understand the need to cut the film into three because of the distinctive timeline, and the first two chapters are fine; but the third instalment became quite dull… there’s really nothing much to tell any more (simply about retaliation, good guys vs bad), and Japanese aren’t great in making pure action stuff these days.
The team – Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi ~ Screenwriters: Yasushi Fukuda, Takashi Nagasaki, Naoki Urasawa, Yusuke Watanabe ~ Cast: Toshiaki Karasawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Takako Tokiwa, Airi Taira, Teruyuki Kagawa, Takashi Ukaji, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Renji Ishibashi, Katsuo Nakamura and Hitomi Kuroki etc.