Naoki Urasawa’s Master Keaton is fascinating to read alongside his later series Monster. If Monster is an HBO prestige television series, Master Keaton feels much more like a syndicated TV series. Both are mysteries, but Monster pushes forward on a tightly plotted course toward its conclusion. At the same time, Master Keaton is willing to tell a collection of more episodic stories, often moving back to a particular status quo at the end of each episode. That’s not bad, it’s just a different approach.
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Naoki Urasawa’s Monster was the series that got him on my radar when I learned (10 years ago) that Guillermo Del Toro was trying to get a live-action adaptation of the series made for HBO (which ultimately fell through). That was enough to get me to hunt down the manga and slowly, over time, read it through my local library system (impacted by books falling out of and then back into print). Well, at long last, I’ve finished reading it.
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If I was going to describe 20th Century Boys in a high concept manner to someone in an elevator, I’d describe it as It meets The Stand. It’s a story that takes place over a vast scope of time, almost 30-40 years, with multiple time skips, and an apocalypse in-between, with a fundamental premise of a group of childhood friends being forced to face a great evil as adults. The difference is, the evil in It is a clearly supernatural, unearthly evil. The evil in 20th Century Boys is very, very human.
There are some spoilers below the cut.
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