Past mistakes are fixed, by both the characters and the director, in an epic conclusion to the trilogy
When we left our heroes, they were trying unsuccessfully to stop Tomodachi from killing two billion people. Kanna (Airi Taira), now a hotheaded teen, is staunchly defending her disgraced uncle, looked after by Yukiji. Yoshitsune (Teruyuki Kagawa) has created an underground resistance team. Otcho (Etsushi Toyokawa) is running around, being bad ass. After Tomodachi’s assassination and godlike resurrection, he calls for his agents to release a killer virus onto the world, eliminating a third of the entire population. Masquerading as a hero who will deliver the world from evil, Tomodachi fulfils his dream of ruling the world.
Things look bleak right off the bat in this final film. Tokyo now has a massive, impenetrable wall surrounding it (breechable by none but Otcho and his manga artist friend of course) and the rest of Japan – and maybe the world – is left fighting for vaccines of the virus that still lingers. Maruo (Hidehiko Ishizuka) is now the manager to enka singer Haru (Arata Furuta), and comes across Keroyon(Hiroyuki Miyasako), who brings them to Kenji’s sister Kiriko (Hitomi Kuroki) who is working on a vaccine. Like Yoshitsune, Kanna now leads her own underground rebellion under the name Ice Queen and calls for an armed insurgence. Otcho, recently returned to Tokyo, seeks out Kanna to plan their next move, and Yukiji (Takako Tokiwa) acts as a mediator between all parties.
Meanwhile, Tomodachi is setting into action his final plan – the annihilation of most of the world as foretold in his New Book of Prophecies. He hires twins Yanbo and Manbo, as well as professor Shikishima, who designed the robot in part 1, to create a new robot and two flying saucers, which will spray yet another virus, and kill everyone on the planet. Not much stands in his way, save the promise of hope, and a guitar-wielding traveller on a motorcycle.
The biggest selling point of part 3 is that Kenji returns, having not been killed in Part 1. Toshiaki Karasawa brings both a bit of comedy relief and world –weariness to the role that was not there in Part 1. Kenji doesn’t exactly do a lot here, though. For the majority of the film he’s just riding around on his motorcycle, making the long trip from Hokkaido to Tokyo. However, at this point, Kenji has become a fully-fledged icon of resistance and rebellion. Kanna looks to him as a guiding spirit. Otcho and Yukiji hold out hope that he will return. Maruo plans to reunite Kenji’s old band The Million Dollars. Yoshitsune claims his underground resistance is named after the famous tribe, but the Genji Faction sure sounds like the name of his old best friend. Kenji’s importance in the series is expanded upon here, revealing him not only as our hapless hero, but as a character whose actions in the past, and not just in the creation of the Book of Prophecies, have essentially helped shape the Tomodachi of today. The ending and some of the reveals in the film are different from that in the manga, to keep those who knew guessing, but it doesn’t change the effect it has on Kenji.
His limited presence and his complete absence from part 2 help solidify him as something close to a mythical hero. In part 2, no one knew he was alive, but the spirit he embodied with his music helped stoke the anti-Tomodachi fire. The result is that we get to centre in on the important characters, all the while not forgetting about him. Part 3 cuts out more storylines, streamlining the plot further, which becomes a massive asset when Yukihiko Tsutsumi tries to stick the landing. Even with some of the weirder twists and more confusing story paths, this is probably the most cohesive of the three (well, maybe the first one is, but only watching it a second time, after you’re more familiar with the characters). The paths are more defined and even though they criss-cross through one another often, we’re never following more than 3 big stories at once.
Everyone still alive makes an appearance in this film, whether it’s assassin Number 13, detective Chono from part 2, or even Kanna’s completely useless friend whose name escapes me – who just sort of stands in the background of various scenes. OK, while she does close to nothing, everyone from the pervy manga artists to Kenji’s oft-forgotten friend Keroyon has their part to play in the taking down of Tomodachi. Naoki Urasawa’s comics are never short of characters but his ability to make them lasting and important is second to none. Because we’ve spent a lot of time with these people, their endings become important and meaningful: the characters who died do not feel wasted, and the ones who lived did so because they had a purpose.
Because of this – because seeing these people finally see the results they fought so hard to achieve – getting to the end of the trilogy is more satisfying than you’d originally think: the series has never been very strong with how it paces itself, after all. Hell, the film carries on for 15 minutes after the credits have finished rolling, but rather than feel like it was tacked on to extend the running time even more, the epilogue is actually a cooling down process. It answers a couple of unanswered questions, and gives us one more taste of who Kenji is, how his actions have defined both the past and the future, and what the music has meant to him and to the oppressed masses of Japan.
Music is a major player here, and is the key to keeping Kenji’s spirit alive as we wait for him to return to Tokyo. There are several scenes throughout the trilogy where Kenji, usually at a pivotal point in his fight against Tomodachi, picks up a guitar and plays. He sees music as the true liberator, as a way to fight against oppression without resulting in violence. Kanna was planning an armed uprising, Yamane straight up shot Tomodachi, and Otcho has been kicking throats since 2000, but none of those actions have nearly as much effect as Kenji’s Bob Lennon playing on the airwaves. With two nonsense words Kenji took down a dictatorship and saved the world.
It’s a far cry from the simple, home-grown mystery that dominated the first few minutes of Beginning of the End, but 20th Century Boys never loses sight of the past events that led to the current state of affairs. Seventeen years after Bloody New Year’s Eve, and in the third year of Tomodachi, it’s still about a group of friends who came together when the world needed them most.
Verdict: While still suffering from pacing and timing issues, Our Flag is a fitting and exciting end to the trilogy
20 Century Boys 3: Our Flag (2009)
Also known as: 20世紀少年 最終章／ぼくらの旗, 20th Century Boys: Redemption, 20th Century Boys: the Last Chapter
Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Writer: Naoki Urasawa, Yasushi Fukuda, Yusuke Watanabe, Takashi Nagasaki
Toshiaki Karasawa – Kenji Endo
Airi Taira – Kanna Endo
Etsushi Toyokawa – Otcho
Takako Tokiwa – Yukiji
Teruyuki Kagawa – Yoshitsune
Hidehiko Ishizuka – Maruo
Hiroyuki Miyasako – Keroyon
Hitomi Kuroki – Kiriko Endo
Renji Ishibashi – Manjome
Ryunosuke Kamiki – Teenage Katsumata
Arata Furuta – Haru Namio
Koichi Yamadera – DJ Konchi
Mirai Moriyama – Comic Artist
Haruka Kinami – Kyoko Koizumi
Arata Iura – Masao Tamur
Naohito Fujiki – Chono