I am a massive fan of Naoki Urasawa and his works, whether it be Monster, Pluto, and beyond, but 20th Century Boys has a special place in my heart. I’m hard-pressed to choose between those three in particular, because he never ceases to amaze me time and time again, but 20th Century Boys is one of my favorites of his.
Naoki Urasawa is known for making series that keep you guessing, but he also knows how to build an incredible cast of characters. You really delve into the lives of everyone in his series and everyone plays a part in the story. Time skips and flashbacks are something he’s a master at. The story jumps from one timeline to another flawlessly as well.
Given the nature of how he tells his stories, there’s a lot of reveals and mystery involved, but 20th Century Boys is a unique entry in his catalog, especially given that it’s a thrilling sci-fi story that follows a group of everyday kids, who due to certain events, now have to prevent the end of the world. It’s one of the best manga to ever release, but what’s the best way to collect the series?
As it currently stands, you can collect 20th Century Boys with English translation via the singles and the 20th Century Boys Perfect Editions. Both were released by Viz under their Sig imprint. The latest to release is the Perfect Editions and they are 2-in-1 editions. They collect 20th Century Boys in 11 Perfect Editions and the 2 volumes of 21st Century Boys are collected in 1 Perfect Edition, so there are 12 Perfect Editions to collect in total.
The Perfect Editions retail for $19.99 USD a piece, so you can pick up the full set for around $240 USD. The Perfect Editions are the cheapest way to collect the series, especially given that many of the individual volumes of 20th Century Boys are out of print right now. These prices are all at full price, but they are priced lower on sites like Amazon and you can often find the Perfect Editions on sale on sites like Amazon too.
The front covers of the Perfect Editions feature completely new cover art and they are character-centric. Volume 1 has art of Kenji on the front cover and they all are drawn in a portrait style. The colors are bright and punchy in comparison to the singles, which feature mostly black, white, and red color palettes, which I also enjoy.
It’s the details they added on the Perfect Editions that set them apart though. The front cover has a glossy text overlay that says 20th Century Boys presented by Naoki Urasawa. All of the text is raised except for the volume number featured on the front cover. The spine features a pop art-like graphic with the 20th Century Boys logo running down the spine. The text is raised on the spine as well. All in all, they are beautifully designed.
Another notable difference between the Perfect Editions and the singles is that the Perfect Editions have new lettering and original hand-drawn sound effects. The singles translated all of the sound effects and redrew them in English. The lettering definitely fits the style of the series and is more readable in the Perfect Editions.
The text in the bubbles has been reformatted in the Perfect Editions and they look better as well. In the singles, some text, especially sound effects, run vertically, whereas they run horizontally now in the Perfect Editions. Viz included sound effects glossaries for the sound effects that were left untranslated in the back of the Perfect Editions.
The real kicker for me, though, is the color pages in the Perfect Editions. The singles do not have any color pages, whereas the Perfect Editions do. I’ve read both editions and the color pages are beautiful to witness. Naoki Urasawa is a master in black and white, but there’s just something about seeing those pops of color throughout that makes it even more enjoyable to read.
Now that we’ve gone over everything, are the 20th Century Boys Perfect Editions worth picking up? Yes, I can’t recommend them enough. If you are looking for the truest edition to the original release, the edition with the best formatting and lettering, the most convenient and cheapest way to collect the series, and the edition with the overall best quality, you’ll want to check out the 20th Century Boys Perfect Editions. They also come with some color pages, which are beautiful additions, and they left the hand-drawn sound effects untranslated, which I appreciate as well.
You can check out my full review of the 20th Century Boys Perfect Editions on YouTube and you can pick up the box set now at one of the retailers listed below!
Want to get into more of Naoki Urasawa’s works or enjoy psychological thrillers? Check out our spoiler-free review of Monster!