The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

20th Century Boys 3

Title: 20th Century Boys 3 aka 20 Seiki Shōnen Saishū Shō Bokura no Hata
Genre: Drama
Director: Tsutsumi Yukihiko
Format: Movie, 155 minutes.
Date: 29 Aug 2009

Synopsis: The year is 2017 and Friend has finally gained world dominance. After an event that saw almost the entire world population wiped out by an unknown virus, Friend has ordered Tokyo to be placed under quarantine and has the city surrounded by massive walls. He also prophesies the end of mankind to an alien invasion to take place at noon, August 12. Outside of Tokyo, a haggard man makes his way to the heavily-guarded Tokyo borders to gain entry. That man is none other than Kenji, the one thought to have died on the eve of the year 2000.

The Highlights
Ambiance: Suspenseful but a tad underwhelming; not as riveting as the sequel.
Protagonists: Kanna and Kenji equally share the limelight.
Plot: Generally coherent; some scenes require suspension of disbelief.
Characters: Each has done their respective purpose in the trilogy.
“Friend”: His true identity is a curve ball, his true motives are a revelation.
Entire trilogy: Urasawa Naoki‘s extensive project done right.

20th Century Boys 3 marks the final instalment of Japan’s most costly manga-to-live action movie trilogy to date, and as expected, it ends in grand fashion. As the movie that ends a trilogy, it’s only right to say that it should leave the longest-lasting impression to the trilogy, although past cases have shown that this isn’t necessarily the case. 20th Century Boys 3 claims that it contains key events not adapted from the original manga, and that should serve as the critical incentive to watch it for both viewers who have been following the trilogy and fans of arguably Urasawa Naoki‘s most well-known work. Truth be told, the movie doesn’t disappoint; it has its generous fare of plot twists and climactic curve balls, but it also lacks the element of surprise that makes the previous movies a better watch.

The story begins straight from the end of 20th Century Boys 2, and the mysterious Friend resumes his path of destruction for an unknown cause. As viewers continue to follow Friend’s quest in world domination, one can’t help but think that his direction and means in achieving his ultimate goal aren’t as riveting as they used to be. 20th Century Boys 2 is particularly a suspense-laced psychological thriller because viewers initially have no idea what Friend has in mind and how he shall go about achieving it. His goal is only revealed at the end of the second instalment and because this serves as the foundation for 20th Century Boys 3, there isn’t much anything unpredictable about this movie, rendering it a tad dull and underwhelming. The thought of “where’s the heart-thumping suspense that made 20th Century Boys 2 great?” lingers throughout the movie and eventually, I become convinced that in this final installment, what’s going to happen next doesn’t matter as much; it’s simply about how things are going to end. The plot is another important aspect worth discussing, as writing intricate plots is one of Urasawa‘s forte. Though it has been the winning factor of the trilogy aside from character depth, there are a number of events that just require suspension of disbelief. These events aren’t important intrinsically, but they are trigger events to those that do matter in the plot development. The dubiousness of these events challenge common sense, making it look like a half-baked attempt to tell the viewers to just watch what takes place rather than questioning plausibility.

Speaking of a change in focus, the attention has also shifted in relation to another main motif of the trilogy: Friend’s true identity itself. In the first two movies, the question of who Friend really is keeps viewers glued to the screen. This time however, the attention doesn’t seem to focus on who the man behind the iconic white mask is anymore. It concentrates more on what drives him to do what he does: the mass murders, the realization of events pre-written in a picture book, and the link between his actions and his motives. This change of direction isn’t a bad move by director Tsutsumi Yukihiko per se; in contrast, it’s a smart one because not only does he intentionally divert the viewers’ attention, in a way he also throws a drastic curve ball right at the end (i.e. after the credits) by revealing Friend’s identity with climactic finesse. Simply put, viewers are in for a surprise and it’s not the surprise that’s noteworthy, it’s the style of delivering that surprise itself.

If I have a few things I’m glad about 20th Century Boys 3, it’s the acting quality by the same cast. Tremendous amounts of effort have been put into replicating the same characters from the original manga right down to the smallest trait, and each has his/her own agenda that becomes the catalyst to their goals, be it common or individualistic. None of the characters are brushed aside conveniently once they’ve made their mark in the story, and implicitly, every character plays a significant role in driving the plot the moment they first make their appearance. Although this isn’t something new to the trilogy, it’s a relief to see how the characters’ reappearances eventually render the story full circle.

As the high-budgeted trilogy draws to an end, one can’t shake off the feeling that 20th Century Boys 3 would’ve been better if it is just as (or in fact, more) riveting as 20th Century Boys 2. Personally, the second instalment is the best movie in the trilogy because the plot development is highly unpredictable and though the final instalment isn’t as thrilling as its sequel, it nevertheless doesn’t compromise its level of entertainment. Is it a great movie? Maybe not; it’s good entertainment, though. Is it a great grand finale? It sure is, by properly tying the knot to an extensive storyline. Is it a great trilogy? I think it’s Urasawa‘s most daring achievement yet.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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