Naoki Urasawa, the master manga creator of Yawara! and Monster drew 20th Century Boys for 8 years from 1999 to 2007. It's become a national phenomenon. 20th Century Boys consists of 22 volumes with an extra 2 volumes entitled 21st Century Boys, altogether making 24 volumes.
It was serialized in Shogakukan Big Comic Spirits magazine from issue number 44 in 1999 to issue number 33 in 2007.
Approximately 25 million copies of all these volumes have been printed to date. It has been translated for 13 countries; Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the United States of America. It is due for release in the UK this year.
Everybody had said, "It would be impossible to adapt it to the screen," because of the unusually large scale and complexity of the story spanning 50 years and involving the whole world. To make the impossible possible, an unprecedented budget of 6 billion yen was put into the trilogy project. This was unprecedented in Japanese film industry conventions. The story that covers the world demanded location shootings in New York, London, Paris, Beijing and Bangkok.
When production was announced in 2007, the Internet community had a heated debate as to who would be cast to play certain characters. There are some 300 major roles throughout the trilogy. When the cast for the first movie of the trilogy was announced with Toshiaki Karasawa, Etsushi Toyokawa and Takako Tokiwa to play Kenji, Otcho and Yukiji respectably, the media treated it like page-one news. It was obvious that the movie was to become an all-star movie on a scale that no one had ever been able to pull off previously.
"It's like making a movie out of the Holy Bible!" is how the director Tsutsumi reflected on his monstrous undertaking. The half-a-century long saga of 20th Century Boys with hundreds of characters is beyond any conventional manga. It's the kind of manga that you can't put down until you've finished it. From the early stages of production, Naoki Urasawa, the creator of the original manga, helped supervise the whole story and co-write the first movie, giving a different twist to the trilogy. FRIEND, the antagonist of the trilogy is newly interpreted for the movie.
The original manga begins its long story with a scene in which Kenji hijacks his junior high school P.A. room to play 20th Century Boy by T.Rex. The song is not only the namesake of the manga but is also significant to the story. The movie adaptation uses it as theme music, bringing back the 35-year-old rock classic to audiences today.
© 1999, 2006 Naoki Urasawa, Studio Nuts, Shogakukan © 2008-2009 “20th Century Boys” Film Partners © 2008-2010 4Digital Media