With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Sunday, February 14, 2010

ACF 476: 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope


The Region 1 North American DVD of the second film in the 20th Century Boys trilogy is scheduled to come out tomorrow, Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 from VIZ Pictures. The single disc release will have an MSRP of $24.92 U.S. and $35.99 CAN.

The first film, 20th Century Boys 1: The Beginning of the End, was set at the end of the 20th Century as a bizarre cult let by a mysterious masked individual name "Friend" has emerged in Japan. At the same time, catastrophes that were described in "The Book of Prophecy," which was written by a young boy named Kenji in 1969, begin to occur. The film ends on New Year's Eve, December 31st 2000, as a giant virus -spreading robot walks the streets of Tokyo, wreaking havoc like a latter-day mechanical Godzilla. A giant explosion destroys buildings and kills the grown-up Kenji, who was trying to prevent the disaster, and some of his friends. Or at least that's the way things seem.

The Last Hope takes up the story fifteen years later in 2015 and focus's on Kenji's niece, Kanna. She denies the official story that her uncle was a terrorist who caused the explosion, and that Friend was mankind's savor. Her "anti-Friend" behavior earns her a stint in Friend Land, a re-education center for those with rebellious behavior. Along with her classmate Kyoko Koizumi, she is sent to the Bonus Stage, a virtual reconstruction of 1971 where each of them learn about Friend's identity.

Meanwhile, another book, The New Book of Prophecy, has emerged. It prophesies the assassination at a church in Shinjuku of a savior who will rise to uphold justice. Does this prophesy refer to Kanna, to Friend, or to someone else entirely?

The first film clocked in at 142 minutes. This second installment, at 140 minutes, is only slightly shorter, but it's much more dense and complex. Personally, I found it a bit difficult to recognize and keep track of all the secondary characters, but even so, this didn't really mar the film for me. Other viewers, especially those familiar with the manga series by Naoki Urasawa upon which the films are based, probably will not be fazed in the slightest. (Eight volumes of the manga are available from VIZ. For info at VIZ, click here.)

The DVD's soundtrack is available in Japanese 5.1 or 2.0, with optional English subtitles; there is no English-dubbed soundtrack. The extras on the DVD are pretty lean. There are trailers of the 20th Century Boys films with English-dubbed dialogue, and the original Japanese with no subtitles. Also included are two promotional trailers for other VIZ Pictures releases: Maiko Haaan!!! and Ping Pong. both of which are pretty terrific films in their own right.

On its own, I'd give 20th Century Boys 2 a 3 out of 4 start ACF rating (solidly recommended). Of course, you can't really separate it from the entire trilogy, and I've got to say I'm really looking forward to the final installment. There are some scenes from it at the end of the credits, as well as in the separate trailers, and it looks awesome. No word on when that final DVD will be out, but rest assured I'll be passing on that info as soon as I get it.

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