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  Publicity Stills of
"20th Century Boys"
(Courtesy of Encore Films)

In Japanese with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Cast: Toshiaki Karasawa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Takako Tokiwa
RunTime: 2 hrs 21 mins
Released By: Encore Films & GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.encorefilms.com/20thboys

Opening Day: 16 October 2008


In 1969, Kenji, an elementary school kid and his friends built a secret base during their summer holidays. They fantasized that they had to fight villains who were out to conquer the world and wrote them in the "Book of Prophecies".

Years later in 1997, Kenji becomes a convenience store manager and leads a regular life after giving up his dreams to become a rock star. His boring life is suddenly turned upside down when his old classmate dies mysteriously and an entire family in the neighbourhood disappears. At the same time, a religious cult and its mysterious leader, "Friend" emerges and a strange chain of events duplicating exactly the events described in the "Book of Prophecies" follow.
Is this the beginning of the end of the world? Who is 'Friend'?

Movie Review:

Stayed till the end of credits for a trailer

Disclaimer: This reviewer had never read the original Manga that this movie is based upon.

20th Century Boys is one bizarrely confusing and yet highly entertaining movie. It’s not easy to follow but it’s rewarding for those who are able to understand and enjoy the complexity of this quirky little tale.

The first difficulties that were presented to someone had not read the Manga was the numerous characters (main and supporting) and their various interacting subplots. The manner that the different segments were introduced could leave some viewers puzzled at it’s linkage or the characters’ identity. Personally, it didn’t leave me detached from the story as these characters and events were vibrant, likeable, distinctive and full of surprises. It’s fun to see what outrageous (and often comedic) event will happen next and through that process, the characters could leave an endearing mark in the viewer’s mind.

Then there are people who complained about the non chronological story telling method that aggravated the frustration of following the events that going on. The non chronological manner also had it’s effectiveness as it helps create the sense of discovery which the protagonist (Kenji) is going through in the movie. It allows us to understand Kenji’s bewilderedness as he start remembering his childhood. It also provided us a stark contrast of how things had changed between the past and present, especially Kenji’s transformation from a charismatic idealistic leader of the pack to a store manger that had his ambition grinded out of him.

The other problem that viewers might have with 20th Century Boys could be the direction that this movie is heading. During this movie, I often ponder why does a resourceful terrorist like “Friend” had to follow the blueprints for terrors that had been created by kids. The motivation of this story felt rather childish and unfathomable. But a Japanese cult classic, Battle Royale had once shown how absurd events could be used as a reflection to reality and subtly point out issues that’s happening in our society.

In this movie, one of the metaphor that stood out amidst the silliness was how we easily give up our dreams, whether it was made during childhoods or during out youth. It contrasts the differences between Kenji and “Friend” on their respective take on ideas that had been fabricated during their childhood and how things turned out. It shows how “Friend” became more powerful as he pursed his dreams while we witness Kenji becoming helpless and cowardice. In a way, it’s saying that to achieve great things, one must persist on his or her dreams, no matter how difficult or unfeasible it seems to be.

With it’s bleak prophesy on the future, 20th Century Boys came at a right time when our daily news are filled with prediction of the impending downturn of the economy. With all the dread around, this film provided an underlying positive message that even during an insurmountable calamity; one must be strong, face the problem straight on and never give up.

Movie Rating:

(Bizarrely confusing in a highly entertaining way)

Review by Richard Lim Jr


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