Today, 20th Century Boys, Part 2 – The Last Hope.
A brief rundown for those who didn’t read yesterday – in part one of 20th Century Boys, a cult lead by the mysterious and charismatic Friend sprung up and basically took over Japan. As the cult’s symbol and actions were created by Kenji and his friends when they were children, they took it upon themselves to try and stop the cult – they failed. At the end of the millennium, the cult, now the ruling political party of Japan, launched a huge virus attack that killed millions, including Kenji. A more detailed rundown can be found here.
After flashing back to 1969, showing that Sadakiyo and another boy knew about the Book of Prophecies (with the other boy writing a totally new book himself, in which a saviour will rise at a church), we jump to 2015 to show that the mysterious other prisoner is Otcho. And that Japan is totally under the thumb of the FDP with the new plan being to make Friend into a god. Soon enough, we get reintroduced to Kanna, now working in a noodle shop and able to kick the asses of two groups of warring mafia (looks like she IS the last hope after all), yet still finding time to be a high school student. After offending her artist neighbours by playing Kenji’s song too loud, she and “Auntie” Yukiji influence them to create the comic that tells the tale of a hero out to save the world (no, they are different artists to The Artist).
Friend (given that he had at least something to do with the New Book of Prophecies) plans to visit a church and put his plan of becoming a new god into action. However, to a lot of people, he already is a god, having seemingly bought Japan into a new golden age of peace –he is also gearing up for his most wonderful stamp: Expo 2015. Well, except for a huge Chinese/Thai mafia turf war that threatens to consume Shinjuku, causing the police to raid the entire area, to remove illegals (but really to arrest everyone, Kanna included). One officer, Chono, the grandson of one of the officers who originally investigated the Friend cult in ’97, finds out Kanna’s relationship to Kenji and is introduced to the Book of Prophecies and Kenji’s song. From this, he pledges his help in getting the truth out. Meanwhile, Kanna and her classmate, Koizumi, get signed up for the Friend Land program, for reprogramming – but that will be revisited soon enough.
At the church Friend plans to visit, Kanna has managed to accidentally enlist the Thai and Chinese mafia as bodyguards as well as the head priest, Father Nitani. Unfortunately, Chono ends up selling out Kanna’s location to his “uncle Yamazaki”, the now chief of police (and ex-partner to, and killer of, Cho-san) leading to Kanna’s friend being killed and Kanna making the decision to go and investigate Friend Land. Meanwhile, Otcho and his artist friend bust out of prison, digging and swimming for their lives.
Meanwhile, at Friend Land (the most brainwashy place on Earth), Kanna and various others are lead to believe that Kenji (who is still believed to be alive) and the other survivors of his group are the most evil terrorists ever due to their actions on Bloody New Year’s Eve. So much propaganda is laid on them, including the Expo official song – The Hello Hello Expo Song and its creator, Naimo Haru. Friend Land really is a Disneyland of “Destroy The Terrorists”, which does not sit well with Kanna, especially when Koizumi gets kidnapped. It turns out that Yoshitsune is working undercover at Friend Land and is a commander of the resistance and tells her that to leave she must complete the Bonus Stage, so she and Koizumi become seemingly model students to do so.
Bonus Stage is a VR version of 1971 (the night Donkey witnessed Katsumata hanging from the science lab rafters), in which the players act out roles in the creation of Friend in one of three way – someone who is totally devoted to Friend, someone who doesn’t question or someone who endures harassment. Koizumi talks with young Yoshitsune and Sadakiyo, while Kanna finds out much more about the history of not only Kenji , the gang and what Donkey saw that night, but also her own clues as to who Friend actually may be, as another witness to the hanging was revealed – a classmate named Yamane. And finds out a lot more about her own existence than she wanted to know. While in the real world, Yoshitsune shuts down Bonus Stage before anything else can happen.
Meanwhile, Otcho and The Artist meet up with Kamisama, the prophet from the first film, who fills them in on the changes since they were locked away. Kamisama is now a rich man, having profited on stocks in a company that sold virus protection, a company owned by Yamane. Kanna finds out that, through Mon-chan, Yukiji already knew about The New Book of Prophecies. Back in the real world, Koizumi and Kanna have a new teacher at school – the same face that Koizumi saw behind Sadakiyo’s mask, Kiyoshi Sada, who kidnaps Koizumi and reveals that as a child, Friend pretended to be him. During their time together, Sadakiyo shows Koizumi Friend’s childhood room and eventually gives her the memo that he was going to give to Mon-chan.
As Sada kills himself in penance, he tells Kanna where her mother was in the year 2000 and tells her to go find her. On her search, Kanna finds out that her mother was in part, responsible for the creation of the virus, working under Yamane. Meanwhile, at Yamane’s house, Otcho and the artist are “invited” to a meeting at the school lab where he reveals that a second virus, even deadlier, has been made, and that Kiriko helped him to see the the truth in Friend’s lies. It’s here that Otcho learns of Friend’s upcoming church visit and vows to assassinate him.
Upon finding out the location of the church and that Kanna is alive, Otcho, the artist, Yoshitsune and Koizumi head to meet them. Just in time to help stop an assassination attempt on Kanna, however, in the throng of people wanting to see “their leader and Friend”, Otcho is able to meet face to mask with Friend, who reveals yet more about his past – goading Otcho with stories of his own deceased child. From there, Friend is assassinated by Yamane, who in turn is killed by Kanna’s would be assassin. From there, we move to a random performance by Naimo Haru and quickly cut to his manager, being told about a virus attack by men in suits and gas masks, showing that (at the least) the manager (who looks a little bit like a grown up Maruo) seems to be tied into everyone more than first thought.
At the location of Friend’s funeral, Manjome, now Friend’s second-in-command visits with the body and realises that Friend’s plan is not yet complete – with the open ceremony of Expo 2015 now being Friend’s funeral. During the world wide broadcast of the funeral, Friend’s plan to be made a god comes to fruition and “rises” from the dead – thus forcibly installing himself as a new god in the eyes of pretty much everyone. From there, there is worldwide virus attacks made much the same as those said to Haru’s manager – much in the line with the major prophecy, “satanic salesmen will destroy the world”.
Jumping forward in time to 2017, the 3rd year of Friend – an underground radio station (run by the most Anime looking character in the whole series) is broadcasting Kenji’s song to nobody. And the final scene of part 2, Kenji is alive.
To be concluded...
Now, you would think that since part two is the middle section of our journey, that it would be somehow slower or sparser than the set up or conclusion chapters, but no. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, behaving more like a sequel than a straight up continuance – ramping up the stakes, the danger, the interplay between characters and all stops in between; even going so far as to totally introduce a number of characters (and reintroduce previously established characters in new and different ways). I think this is because 20th Century Boys, rather than be taken as 3 films in a trilogy, should ultimately be taken as one giant story, split into three.