He made his professional manga debut with Return in 1981. Three of his series have been adapted into anime: Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl(1986–1993), Master Keaton (1988–1994), and Monster (1994–2001). Arguably his most notable work, 20th Century Boys (2000–2006), was made into a three-part live-action movie series, which were released in 2008 and 2009. He has received the Shogakukan Manga Award three times, the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize twice, and the Kodansha Manga Award once. As a storyteller, his most distinctive characteristics are his dense, multi-layered, interconnecting narratives, his mastery of suspense, clever homages to classic manga & anime and a frequent use of German characters and settings.
In 2008, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Junot Diaz praised Monster, adding that "Urasawa is a national treasure in Japan." Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki, whom he's previously worked with on Monster, Pluto and Billy Bat, will begin writing a sequel to Master Keaton titled Master Keaton Remaster.