Sunday, February 08, 2009

Jmovie review: 20th Century Boys

Easiest cosplay ever, except you probably can't see where you're going.

This is the first of my most anticipated movies of the year besides Watchmen. Actually, its very similar to Alan Moore's masterpiece because both movies are based on incredible comics which IMHO are classic literature. I remember reading the manga years ago and becoming so hooked on it and waiting every week for the next chapter. To me, 20th Century Boys is the greatest mystery manga I ever read. Its so good that it makes many other mangas pale in comparison. When the manga ended, there was a sense of relief that the mangaka did not milk it too much and sense of loss that I could never look forward to the next chapter again.


20th Century Boys is the tale of the everyman, Kenji and his childhood friends. Kenji & Co are characters that most people who grew up in the 20th century can relate to. Playing make believe games with friends during childhood. Having a secret base and having problems and adventures that seem trivial once you grow up, except in the case of 20th Century Boys, their childhood stories have huge repercussion in the future.

At long last, we get to hear Kenji's guitar!

20th Century Boys is a tale of childhood fantasies brought to life. Of the everyman who became a hero because he had to. Most of all, its a fucking well written mystery manga. I'll not spoil the plot since its more fun to watch it without knowing anything. I actually recommend watching the movie before reading the manga because there are a lot of details left out of the movie and make the manga more enjoyable. As to whether to finish reading the manga and spoil part two of the movie, I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of part 1 despite knowing everything.

Hhhmm, I wish I had a child hood friend who looked like Tokiwa Takako.

There's no way they could have screwed up the movie storyline wise. They rearranged a few bits, cut out small stuff but generally everything is word for word very similar to the manga. The casting is spot on. I wasn't sure about Karasawa Toshiaki (Love Complex) but he has made the important role of Kenji his own. Toyokawa Etsushi (Aoi Tori) is probably the perfect casting call as Shogun. There's lot of cameos from famous faces and good actors just playing bit parts but they really made a lot of effort to get it as close to the manga as possible instead of trying to 'interpret' it.

Hello nurse!

Its hard for me to judge the movie because I'm looking it from the perspective as a fan. All I want is that it is faithful to the source material because the source material should not be altered unless absolutely necessary. In the realm of comic book adaptations like LXG and V for Vendetta, it just pisses me off when they change stuff for no reason at all. Fingers crossed that Watchmen is the same as the comic. Happy to report that 20th Century Boys is exactly the same as the manga. The only downside is that the CG can be bad and the final sequence of events did not flow well. Its very forgivable to me because Japan can't afford to spend 100 million on a movie. It doesn't harm the story much or the emotions. Tomodachi is still scary as hell and I got goosebumps when Kenji & gang were going to face the villain.

Shogun! Too bad they had to leave out his back story.

If there's one major complaint about the movie, its the casting of older Kana. Its going to affect part two more since she's the major character there. Ever since I saw the picture of the actress Taira Airi, I was worried. Nothing about her looks like Kana except she's got two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. Frankly, she looks like a brat especially in that running scene at the end of the movie and Kana is not a brat. She is a girl who has to shoulder a huge responsibility. Whoever plays her has to have an air of maturity. She has to have those sad eyes that look like she is always deep in thought.

Ready to face Tomodachi.

If Fukuda Mayuko (Jyoou no Kyoushitsu) were older, she'd be perfect for the role. She would be able to show the burden that Kana carries in her acting. In the manga, fans care more about Kenji than Kana and miscasting her in the movie will make it even worse. I have a feeling that I would not even care about her at all in part 2 but as long as Shogun's prominently in the story, my attention span will be fine. I'm looking forward to see how they're going to do Tomodachi-land.


hl said...

i know where to get jdramas, but where to get jmovies?

Anonymous said...

If you can read Chinese, there're traditional Chinese hadsub torrents in the usual places.

I've downloaded it but haven't watched it yet (I'm more interested in the parts that involve the grown-up Kana). As to the manga itself, even though it won numerous awards, I don't think it's a very well written mystery at all (and I've read/watched thousands of mysteries novels/drama/movies). It does sort of have a scifi spin to it, but the overuse of non-linear narratives, red herrings, and character arcs that went nowhere just make it feel very pretentious and confusing (similar to the same author's previous work 'Monster' but magnified 10 times). And the ending IMO was a total cop out, so much so that I didn't bother reading the 2 volume 21st Century Boys (which I heard is suppose to wrap up some loose ends).

Anonymous said...

Having said the above, I felt I need to say that the manga is not a total dud, or I woundn't have read/purchased it until the end (unlike some that I've already given up such as Hunter x Hunter and D Gray Man). First it's actually billed as a SciFi Adventure story (in the HK Chinese version) so the comments about the mystery part isn't entirely fair, and I really enjoyed the parts with the grown-up Kana. Some of the frame composition is so movie/drama like that I felt like watching a live action sequence(prime example being the girl in the noodle shop trying to find and give Kana a msg). Just make sure your tolerance level is high for the excessive (and sometimes totally unnecessary) use of non-linear narratives which can drive you crazy because you just want to skip or get the gist of it to get back to the exciting part.

Jung said...

I knew nothing about the manga and the storyline, but I went ahead and watched it anyway. The first half of the movie was spent explaining a lot of background information, so non-manga readers wouldn't feel left out. Frankly, I felt it was very draggy in some parts, and it definitely could've been made shorter.

*spolier warning*

However, the second half of the movie was pretty entertaining to watch. The special FX is definitely the best I've seen in Japanese movies. And the fact that I knew nothing about the manga allowed me to enjoy more, because I wasn't expecting such large scale explosions and destruction. It was avenging my disappointment from watching years of all those nuclear/biological terrorism shows in which villains are always thwarted at the end and nothing happens. Here, something actually happens. yeah! Burn baby burn! lol j/k... Just for the destruction sequences, I think the movie is worth watching.

Akiramike said...

Monster is more thriller than mystery. I made the mistake of reading 20thCB before monster and expected lots of twists.

As a manga fan, I feel that there's not enough back story. They really needed to tell Shogun's story to show why he's such a cool character.

If only they shot extra stuff to put in the dvd to flesh out the characters even more.