Disenchanting the End: Secular Apocalyptic Visions in 20th Century Boys

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Bancha Rattanamathuwong


Employing the concepts of disenchantment and secularism, this paper explores the depiction of apocalyptic scenarios in 20th Century Boys, a Japanese dystopian manga written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. My argument is informed by the analysis of the manga offered by Jolyon Baraka Thomas in Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (2012). I shall argue that the story in 20th Century Boys promotes secularist values with its emphasis on the necessity of disenchantment and the representation of science as a new secular savior for mankind. The first part of this article offers a synopsis of the story as well as the information regarding the author’s background. In the following section, the definitions of apocalypse in various contexts are discussed. The analyses offered in the third section will revolve around the characterization of some characters in the manga. A close examination of these characters reveals that, despite their mythic roles, they can caution the readers against their own fascination with fatalistic and soteriological motifs commonly found in popular apocalyptic worldviews. In the fourth section of the article, I will mainly examine the thematization of science and technology in the manga in order to contend how they can embody secularist values.


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