SciFi Japan


    Sci-Fi Movie Trilogy Ends on a Strong Note Author: Elliot Gay Official Movie Site: (US), 20th Boys (Japanese) SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details for a new movie.

    For those of you who would rather avoid any and all spoilers concerning the third film in the 20TH CENTURY BOYS series, let me state here and now: if you at all enjoyed the first two movies you will enjoy the third and final film just as much as-- if not more than-- the previous. Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi provides a satisfying and all-encompassing finale to a trilogy that had a great deal of sub-plots and loose ends to tie up. Against all odds, Tsutsumi manages to provide the sort of closure that few manga adaptations are granted. So let out a big sigh of relief; 20Th CENTURY BOYS 3: REDEMPTION (20-Seiki Shonen: Saishusho-Bokura no Hata, 2009) does not disappoint. For those who crave details but not spoilers, I’ll try to be as vague as possible when discussing certain twists and turns; in particular the big reveal of just who the mysterious villain Friend really is.

    Much like 20TH CENTURY BOYS 2: THE LAST HOPE (20-Seiki Shonen: Dai 2 Sho- Saigo no Kibo, 2009) did previously, REDEMPTION does not start off immediately following the events of the previous film. Rather, it takes places two years after the fact, bringing us into yet another age of Friend’s rule. After the world-wide viral epidemic started by Friend and his minions, he has instituted a sort of retro science fiction world into place; he has developed an "Earth Defense Force" army of soldiers (with uniforms remarkably close to those worn by the Science Patrol in the original ULTRAMAN) trained to battle space aliens who will reportedly soon come to destroy the world. In reality, however, his final plan is to use the threat of aliens as a guise to spread the virus further, effectively eradicating humanity in the process. Friend has grown tired of simply ruling, and wishes to end it all. The only ones who can stop Friend then are the group of friends who have battled him time and time again, as well as Kenji’s rebellious niece Kana, who now leads her own rebel movement, the Ice Queen Faction. Yet there is one thing even Friend may not be aware of: a mysterious man with nothing but a guitar on his back and a moped slowly makes his way toward the capital where Friend awaits.

    As far as manga adaptations are concerned, REDEMPTION covers an absolutely huge amount of material, reflective in its lengthy running time of approximately 156 minutes. Yet there is no baggage here. There is no aimless wandering. Rather, every scene is essential to the progression of the plot toward its final destination. I can definitely see the long run time not sitting well with some viewers who are more accustomed to high paced films, but if they’ve made it this far it’s more than likely that they are more than willing to sit through to the end. Speaking of the end, the conclusion that the film reaches is natural and a reflection of all the hints that have been laid out since the first film in the series. In that sense then I would recommend that if possible one should watch all three films in close succession so as to keep the small details fresh in your mind. It becomes extremely important as the movie pushes forward. Before the film was released theatrically, it was advertised that REDEMPTION would have a different ending from the Naoki Urasawa’s original manga. This was a little bit jarring for me but I saw it as a potential opportunity to improve what I felt to be a solid, if not slightly confusing ending. In my opinion, the film has done just that. Many elements of it remain the same, including even Friend’s identity to some extent. The difference here is that it’s all been clarified, and some of needless details that only served to confuse readers have been erased entirely. I definitely think these were all improvements, allowing the ending some breathing space and leaving space for discussion of Friend.

    There isn’t much to say in the way of the performances. All previous characters continue to be played by their respective actors, allowing for a nice sense of familiarity. It’s been a lot of fun watching these actors grow into their roles and in many ways it has been like watching the characters themselves develop over three films. In particular, it was a pleasure watching actor Toshiaki Karasawa as main character Kenji Endo: he brought a warmth and reality to the character that I didn’t think would be possible. Seeing him return for REDEMPTION really allowed the whole trilogy to come full circle. The consistency has truly been astounding and I take off my imaginary hat to director Yukihiko Tsutsumi. The score by Ryomei Shirai continues to be subtle through most of the film, allowing for the viewer to calmly associate the sounds they are hearing with the film itself. An unobtrusive score is a welcome score in my opinion, and like all elements of the trilogy, the music has been consistently great. Really, there isn’t a whole lot of convincing to be done here. If you’ve watched the first two films, I would find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t be compelled to watch the final entry, even if only to find answers to the many questions asked. As a huge fan of the 20th Century Boys manga, I’ve been very pleased to follow this trilogy to its completion, and even more pleased to be able to say that it has been a resounding success in my opinion. I’m incredibly glad that VIZ Pictures picked up all three films for speedy release in North America, and I highly recommend that if you haven’t already, you pick up all three films on DVD, in stores now.

    For more information on 20TH CENTURY BOYS please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:

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