8 Books/Manga Like 20th Century Boys
20th Century Boys is a sci-fi mystery manga written by Naoki Urasawa. This manga contains an engrossing narrative, a well-written cast, and enough entertaining twists to keep you invested. It was serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen manga magazine Big Comic Spirits between 1999 to 2006. The series received a slight continuation titled 21st Century Boys which ran in the same magazine between 2006 to 2007. It’s a brilliant follow-up to the original series.
If you’re in the mood for more thought-provoking manga that offers a similar vibe, fear not! We’ve gathered together 8 books/manga to check out when you’ve completed 20th Century Boys. Of course, if you feel we’ve missed any of your favorites, do comment below and let us know!
Monster – Naoki Urasawa
Similarities – Drama & Mystery
20th Century isn’t the only well-acclaimed work written and drawn by Naoki Urasawa. Monster is regarded as his best work because of its well-written cast, mature storytelling, and enjoyable tension. From its countless mind games to its shocking twists, Monster’s a must-read manga for fans of the thriller and crime genre.
It follows a troubled doctor named Dr. Kenzou Tenma. He’s constantly being reminded of his most terrifying mistake. This involves choosing to save a child’s life over his town’s mayor. The child goes on to become a criminal mastermind named Johan Liebert. To rid himself of regret and guilt, Tenma plans to bring Johan to justice.
Like 20th Century Boys, Monster will keep readers engaged with its multiple cliffhangers, dark turns, and alluring atmosphere. This story features a smaller cast than 20th Century Boys, allowing Urasawa to spend time developing characters like Johan and Tenma. The ways Johan strikes fear in his victims’ eyes will astound many readers. If you’re looking for an exhilarating crime series with wonderful pacing, fleshed-out characters, and countless mind-numbing outcomes, give Monster a read.
Pluto – Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka
Similarities – Clever Plot Twists & Characters
Pluto is a retelling of Osamu Tezuka’s beloved classic Astro Boy. Where Tezuka’s work felt charming and whimsical, Urusawa’s manga offers a more darker and mature storyline. Regardless, this manga’s jam-packed with impressive characters, a delightful sci-fi setting, and wonderfully-drawn action scenes.
Pluto takes place in a world where humans and robots mourn the death of a famed Swiss robot named Montblanc. He was cherished for his lovely personality and dedication to nature conservation. Gesicht, a detective and war veteran investigates Montblanc’s demise and learns about a mysterious being called Pluto.
Further investigation points Gesicht toward a plot to dismantle the eight specialized robots who participated in the war Montblanc fought in. In a race against time to save everyone, Gesicht must defend the coexistence between man and machine before another terrifying development occurs. Pluto merges Tezuka and Urasawa’s different approaches to storytelling to create something that is unique and jaw-dropping. If you were a fan of Urasawa’s work in 20th Century Boys, you’ll get a kick out of Pluto.
Bokurano: Ours – Mohiro Kito
Similarities – Conspiracies & Sci-Fi
Bokurano: Ours is a well-drawn manga that delves into human psychosis. Despite taking place in a virtual environment, readers will enjoy Mohiro Kito’s deep dive into the stressors that plague our characters’ minds. You can expect our characters to undergo intense psychological trauma as they try to survive a world unfamiliar to them.
Our story follows fifteen children who attend a summer camp. During one of their outings, they stumble upon a mysterious grotto and meet Kokopelli in a strange computer room. He shows the kids his progress on a robot and alien-themed video game he’s developing. He asks them if they’d like to test it out. Everyone but one child accepts his offer.
Things don’t turn out well for our kids as they’re sent into the video game world. Kokopelli informs them that they have to pilot the giant robot to defeat the alien threat. The robot requires the pilot’s life energy. With no hope of escaping, the children must devise a way to defeat the alien menace as death looms over them like a hawk.
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful tale. Kito does a fine job of fleshing out the cast to help readers grow more attached to them. You’ll appreciate the thought that went into each of their backgrounds and clashing personalities. The manga contains some stellar designs from the aliens to the robot our children pilot. If you’re looking for a soul-crushing sci-fi manga to read with well-rounded characters, give Bokurano: Ours a shot.
Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo
Similarities – Sci-Fi & Psychological
Despite the film being an all-time classic, there were snippets from the manga that didn’t make the cut. The manga gives readers more insight into Tetsuo and Kaneda’s characters and fills in some blanks that the film skipped over. That said, the manga’s narrative is well-written, fleshes out its protagonists more, and has enough twists to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Akira takes place in 2019, 31 years after a dreadful explosion decimated Tokyo. In this newly established city of Neo-Tokyo, we follow two bikers named Tetsuo Shima and Shoutarou Kaneda, who are best friends and fierce rivals. To prove himself as Kaneda’s equal, Tetsuo pulls a stunt that leads to the awakening of a government secret called Akira.
This manga tackles wonderful themes of power, social collapse, and rebellion. It features some fabulous gun fights like the beloved-film adaptation. Its artwork bodes a similar awe-inspiring atmosphere as 20th Century Boys. If you were underwhelmed by the anime’s lack of characterization for Kaneda and Tetsuo’s characters, I’d recommend giving Akira’s manga a shot.
Eden: It’s an Endless World! – Hiroki Endo
Similarities – Mystery & Themes
Eden: It’s an Endless World (Eden) is another sci-fi drama full of suspense and mystery. The plot revolves around a similar idea of humans locating means of surviving after a catastrophic event. In the manga, readers will be delighted to see how Eden’s society grows and changes from the terrifying phenomenon.
Like 20th Century Boys, Eden’s cast will embark on mini-quests to unravel the hidden lore behind the event that changed their world. Hiroko Endo spends an immense amount of time developing his characters during their expedition. Fans will enjoy how their distinct personalities and ideals clash with each other.
If you enjoyed 20th Century Boys’ thought-provoking aspects, you’ll love the world Endo created. This tale takes place during a worldwide pandemic that kills 15% of the population. A secret organization called the Propater seizes control of the world. At the center of it all is a boy and girl who find themselves immune to the virus. They get ambushed by the Propater but escape.
Flash forward twenty years and the boy has become a powerful drug lord in South America. He teams up with his son and several mercenaries to fight the Propater. However, this story doesn’t always center on the boy. The plot breaks up into various sub-plots dedicated to terrorism, human improvement, and power battles between drug cartels and Propater.
Dead Dead Demon’s Dededededestruction – Inio Asano
Similarities – Doomed World & Characters
Inio Asano is a well-beloved manga author known for creating one of the most gut-wrenching stories ever created called Oyasumi Punpun. This manga sought mixed reception due to it not carrying over familiar characteristics from Punpun. Despite this work serving Asano’s more experimental work, he tells a deeply rich narrative with fun characters who traverse a doomed society.
Our story takes place in a world where aliens called Invaders arrived on Earth to wage war against humanity. The Japanese government try fighting back, but their efforts were futile. In the present, nothing changed. At the center of this conflict lies our protagonists Kadode Koyama and Ouran Nakagawa, who live their remaining days as usual.
As readers continue reading, they’ll witness Kadode and Ouran grow into mature adults and develop ill thoughts toward humanity. Although this story has its joyful moments, Asano sprinkles in some essence of hopelessness and despair that was present in his earlier works. Asano’s artwork is absolutely breathtaking and rivals Urasawa’s stellar penmanship for 20th Century Boys. With its relevant concepts and heartwrenching tale, this is a must-read for manga fans.
Liar Game – Shinobu Kaitani
Similarities – Psychological & Characters
Who doesn’t love characters with cunning personalities? Shinobu Kaitani’s Liar Game is filled with incredible portrayals of psychological warfare. Like 20th Century Boys, the characters in Liar Game must combat an evil organization run by an unknown figurehead. Although the battle is on a smaller scale than 20th Century Boys, it harbors similar degrees of angst and suspense.
It follows Nao Kanzaki, who participates in the Liar Game tournament. He and the other players are tasked with doing whatever means necessary to deceive their opponents. The winners receive a boatload of cash while the losers will suffer a taxing lifetime debt. Nao will receive assistance from a former prisoner named Shinichi Akiyama.
This game will push Shinichi and Nao to their limits and help them uncover the darkness hidden within Liar Game and humanity. Nao, Shinichi, and others have incredible intellect and personalities. Readers will enjoy seeing our characters conjure up ways to avoid traumatizing situations. With its grand mystery and fun mind games, this is a series worth binging.
Believers – Naoki Yamamoto
Similarities – Psychological Mysteries
Believes is one of those stories that’ll leave you questioning what you read. Despite having layers upon layers of complex subjects, Naoki Yamamoto knows how to gradually unravel the mysteries he presents to his readers. Like 20th Century Boys, this manga leans heavily into psychological concepts and conflicts. It wonderfully develops its cast but offers slight adult-centric interactions and erotic imagery.
Our protagonists must put an end to a hierarchy established by an esteemed cult. The cults and their figureheads are responsible for the boatload of deaths, accidents, and disappearances that occur between 20th Century B0ys and Believers. The protagonists share a deep connection with the cults that are incredibly explained over time.
Believers take place on a tiny island where three cultists devote themselves to the Deserted Island Program. They refer to each other by their rank and have been chosen to purify themselves of humanity’s bogus modernized ideals. Although they’re all for doing so, two members start giving in to their humane desires. Fans looking for a short and phenomenal manga that displays the dark sides of human nature should give Believers a shot.
So there we have it, our 8 books/manga to read after you finished 20th Century Boys.
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!