Monster - Reviews

Monster
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thor123's avatar
Nov 24, 2014

Naoki Urasawa's Monster is a series that is widely know in anime and manga communities, and thus probably doesn't really need an introduction. After all, it is one of the highest rated manga on this site (while the anime right now is in 128th place, the manga places 3rd in A-P's ratings). But what is it about?

Story

Put very, very simply: Monster is about a fight of good versus evil. Of course, that doesn't really help much, since 98.7% of stories are about that kind of fight. But still, it tells the story of Doctor Kenzo Tenma, a brain surgeon in post-Cold War Germany, in his pursuit of Johan. 

It all starts when Dr. Tenma decides to choose his principles over his career, by saving a litte boy instead of a VIP - because the boy came in first, and Tenma thinks of all lives as equal so the boy gets to go first. Of course, defying authority like that comes at a price: Tenma's career is ruined, and he loses his fiancée too. All he's left with is the knowledge that he did the right thing. Until he learns that maybe what he did wasn't so right after all...

It's very interesting to see the chain reaction caused by a kinda "ordinary" decision - the deaths of tons of people, and the misery of an equal amount of others. And thus starts Tenma's venture, trying to stop the madness he caused. The story is always high on tension, and the "side stories" - which all tie in into the main plot - always deliver something fresh: new characters, information, a storyline that's interesting on it's own, and some more development for established characters.

Which brings me to one of the greatest things about this manga: the characters. While the cast is huge, almost every character gets fleshed out in one way or another. They're all important to the plot, and feel very much alive - which makes it really hard to see bad things happen to them. Special shout-outs should go to Inspector Lunge - always an intriguing and mysterious guy - , Eva Heinemann - for not being just another nagging ex-fiancée - , and even more so to Johan. Johan is after all the Monster, the titular character, for a reason. (Or at least that's how interpret it) Representing everything that could make a human "evil" is a hard task, but Johan fulfills it wonderfully and he is definitely one of the most memorable manga-characters I know.

The characters drive the story further, until we get to a climax that gave me the chills. Everything got wrapped up neatly, which left me satisfied like a rich person who just went to some high-class restaurant.

After the content, I should probably also briefly talk about the presentation, aka the artwork. While not spectacular for the most part, it was consistently "good" to "very good", with some pages that were just great - mostly for nice scenery or depictions of scenes with heavy impact on the characters. The art worked nicely to create the atmosphere, and even out of context there are some pages that could be used as wallpapers.

Overall

Do you like thrillers, good stories and great characters? Then just go read this already!

9.5/10 story
8.5/10 art
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
funnyfishman's avatar
Sep 27, 2014

 Monster (モンスター Monsutā) sometimes referred to as "Naoki Urasawa's Monster" is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. It was published by Shogakukan in their Big Comic Original magazine between 1994 and 2001, with the chapters collected and reprinted into 18 tankōbon volumes.

Plot: 10/10

When a Doctor makes the highly controversial decision to save a boy's life over the mayor's, it leads to the loss of almost everything he holds dear. His fiance, his career, his social standing. The only thing he keeps is his own feeling of self worth, knowing that he did the right thing in saving the boy, who came in first. Yet even that is threatened when he begins to learn that nothing is as it originally appeared. A trail of bloodshed pointing to the seemingly innocent child leaves him questioning even his beliefs. Whether, in the end, all lives are ever truly equal.

As you can see from the synopsis above, Monster has a original, intriquing plot that sucks you straight in from the first chapter and never let's you go. However, mind you, this isn't some Shonen shluck (as much as I love those too), Monster never tries to capture the viewer with explosions or fanservice. Instead, it captures the viewer with the story's high tension, as well as emotional moments.

Some people say that the series beggins to drabble after Vol. 9. I personally think that the serie's is fresh and crisp from first page to the last. And speaking of the last page, several people say to have found the ending dissapointing, however I think that the ending gave the perfect emotional ending I was hoping for. It really shines off the more complex moral's of the story. Johan really isn't important, or evil, he's just an ordinary person who was push over due to certian events. The series true message is that a monster just as evil, or even moreso, than Johan's hides within us all, and with the right push, we could become just as bad as him. However, we still have a choice to make in the choice.

Art: 8/10

The art wasn't very special or even that memorable but it didn't really need to be. It served the story and served it well. The entire point of a manga is to tell a story, and the art did just that. It never hindered the story, or confused the reader, but it never amazed them either. It just did what is was meant to do.  You can't really fault something for doing what it was meant to do, so I guess that gives it a 8/10.

Characters: 10/10


This I am sure deserved this grade. Monster brings a wide variety of characters that each are important to the story in their own way. No matter the screen time, none of the characters are two-dimensional. There is a chapter that introdduces two new characters that never appear again in the series. One of them is a Lawyer and the other is a Seceretary (readers of the series will know who I'm talking about.) Both of these characters are fully developed and go through the changes. Sure, they couldn't be the main character, but they are still relatable.

The main character, Tenma, is slightly a weak link, as I said early in the plot section how it show that all the characters could become monsters, well unlike the other characters this concept is barely explored in Tenma's character. In fact, I can only think of one instance where this is happens. Tenma's strongest feature is his interactions with other characters. The story decides to take much more focus on how other character's change through there interactions with Tenma, then it focuses on how Tenma channges through his interactions with others.

Overall: 9.25/10

Monster is a great manga, if not the best, definitely one of them. Yes, it has flaws but everything does. This is definitely a must-read.

10/10 story
8/10 art
10/10 characters
9.3/10 overall
rilaxrila's avatar
May 9, 2020

I found out about Monster some time ago, but simply didn't get the chance to read it through properly. And now that I have done so, I understand why this series continues to reign as one of the greatest masterpieces of Japanese manga. The storyline is extremely suspenseful, with the titular 'Monster' Johan shrouded in mystery; as we move along, the unfolding of events one at a time really keeps one on one's toes for what might occur next as part of Johan's grand plan.

There were some instances during which I felt a little confused at where the story would go, but I think this was primarily due to Johan's change in ambitions. However, all the sceptism I had dissipated as I reached the concluding arc, which no doubt tied everything up in a very satisfying manner. Not only did Dr. Tenma have to make a final morally-grounded decision which brings the storyline back round to a circle; Inspector Lunge from the BKA also finally acknowledges his flawed(?) logical thinking process. 

The characters were very endearing, and Johan himself terrifying. I especially liked the portrayals of Dr. Tenma, Mr. Grimmer and Eva Heinemann's character development. The art was good, but I had issues distinguishing between many side characters as the story progressed. The non-linear storytelling can also be confusing so that might be something to watch out for. But otherwise, it was a great read and I think I will check out the anime very soon.

?/10 story
?/10 art
?/10 characters
9/10 overall
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BlameSaiki's avatar
Apr 5, 2020

*Warning: This may contain minor spoilers*

“Boku o mitte. Boku o mitte. Boku no nakano kaibutsu ga konnani o kikunata yo.”

“Look at me. Look at me. The monster inside me has already grown this large.”

SynopsisDr. Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese brain surgeon working at a hospital in Düseldorf, Germany, operates on a young gunshot victim and saves his life. This is the story of how a doctor must terminate the life that he once saved in order to stop the serial murders that are plaguing Germany.

Story/PlotThis is the pinnacle of the psychological literature genre. We start off by meeting a young Tenma, who sees the world as a place where everyone can belong. It isn’t until his fianceé, Eva Heinneman, says that “all lives aren’t created equal” that his black and white world starts to turn gray. That’s where his mental and emotional struggles begin.

To many people, this story may have an extremely slow pace with a rather unattractive beginning sequence. However, those people must understand that this story thrives on setting a much slower pace than other anime and manga. This story is about the mental fortitude of characters, not the physical one. Its realistic setting and events almost made me feel a bit scared, in response to me putting myself in many of their shoes.

I was immediately hooked from the first episode (I watched the anime before reading the manga), but I believe it’s safe to say that it normally takes others a lot longer than that. As I mentioned, it’s a very slow-paced story that takes place throughout many years, and it doesn’t start to pick up speed until around episodes 25-30 (there are 74 episodes in all), so it is a bit of an ordeal for those who prefer faster stories.

The main aspect of the story is the uncomfortable and complex relationship between Tenma and Johan. I saw them as foils for one another; while one did one thing, the other did the opposite. Tenma is shown to make much more emotional and humane choices, while Johan, on the other hand, is often depicted as pursuing more cruel and implacable options. This essential ‘mouse chase’ between the two of them is what helps unfold the truth of everything, something that Tenma never realized he would need to pursue.

Throughout the entire story, a question continuously seems to pop up: Who is the monster? The answer is something that is explored the more we learn about past and present events and how everyone is tangled together in the web of fate. It’s a question that seems to get more convoluted and difficult to answer the more intertwined you become with the characters and story. It’s also what helped me devour the story within days, both anime and manga. I’m particularly fond of stories that aren’t black and white when it comes to who’s good and who’s bad, and this one did a magnificent job with that.

The ending is something that is often discussed among fans. Was it good? Was it bad? If you ask me, it was brilliant. The final scene is actually my favorite scene in the entire story. I got goosebumps just watching it and then reading it again right after. However, many people might have problems with it. Without giving too much away, I can at least say that it is an open-ended finale. It’s meant to give the watchers/readers that freedom to choose how it ends, which many people seem to have problems with. I’ve noticed many prefer definitive ends, but I think there’s also a type of charm with these types of conclusions. Maybe I’m alone in that way of thinking?

I feel that I must also add, because I know this is a major concern for many people (including myself), that this was probably the most well-adapted anime I’ve seen to date. Everything that happened in the manga was included in the anime and nothing was added or embellished at all, meaning that partaking in only one of the forms won’t deprive you of any details or events.

CharactersI am not ashamed to admit that aside from one other anime/manga character, I have never felt so anxious and terrified at seeing a person appear on-screen as I did with Monster. I watched the anime before reading the manga, as I’ve previously stated. From the very beginning, I was familiar with the fact that Johan Liebert was supposed to be the main antagonist. Apart from the events of the first episode, I refused to be spoiled to anything more. So, for a self-declared character enthusiast, I could not wait until he appeared on-screen. I kept thinking to myself, “When will they show him? What scene will he first appear in? When’s the next time he’ll be showing up?” However, little did I know that I would be teetering back and forth throughout the story with all kinds of emotions toward him. That excitement I felt over finally seeing him would instantly turn into anxiety and fear as soon as he did appear. Why did I feel that way about a fictional character, you may ask? Well, let me tell you. Johan is perhaps one of the most beautiful, cunning, charismatic, unpredictable, and manipulative characters I’ve ever come across. I genuinely never knew what he was up to or what he could possibly be thinking. If he was on-screen with another character, I actually found myself fearing for that other person’s life. Funny, right? But, I love Urasawa-sensei for creating a character that could make me feel this way. Too many characters nowadays are excruciatingly bland and predictable, which in turn, sucks the life out of me while trying to watch/read the story.

Along those same lines, the other main characters (even those that I love to hate, which is another accomplishment on its own), including Tenma, Dieter, Nina/Anna, Eva, Lunge, etc. all progress through the story without successfully masking their glaring flaws. That’s one of my favorite aspects of everything. In his own twisted and disturbing way, Johan is perhaps the only person I consider to essentially be “perfect” within the story. Everyone else, although they try to desperately disguise it at times, are imperfect human beings that you can find just about anywhere in our world; and this is exactly why nearly every character is relatable in some way, shape, or form. Not a single one was created to be that perfect character that many of us, either knowingly or unknowingly, sometimes look for. They’re all struggling forward and trying their hardest to overcome their own obstacles, as we all do in our daily lives. The mental and emotional development for each of these characters, as well, is one of the biggest appeals of the story.

There are also a large number of side characters that we are introduced to throughout the story that each brings about their own set of issues to light. Nonetheless, each and every one of these characters and problems serves to further enhance the plot in a beautifully woven way. Nothing and no one seems out of place when looking at the big picture.

Favorite CharacterFor those who might know me, it is of no surprise that I consider Johan to be one of the greatest and most beautifully created characters in all of literature. However, he was not my favorite character in the story. That title solely belongs to Mr. Wolfgang Grimmer. Without going into too many details for the sake of avoiding heavy spoilers, his personality and way of thinking fascinated me the most. He always had a warm smile on his face that would relieve any tension from whatever was occurring at the moment, even if the world was burning around him. He was kind and gentle while trying to live his life learning of the past events that brought about inhumane results. He continuously stumbled but would get right back up to face what was in front of him.

Overall ScoreThis is not a story that I recommend to just anyone. I fully understand that this type of anime/manga won’t satisfy those that actively search for lots of action and fast-paced stories, or even just romance. However, for any that enjoy psychological thrillers, amazing character development, a strong plot with minor problems, and an antagonist who has the potential to chill you to the bone, then I couldn’t recommend this one enough. I don’t consider any one story to be flawless and perfect, but this one is very darn close to it. This is the type of story that anime/manga and non-anime/manga lovers would equally enjoy. I give this one an A+, a solid 10/10.

BlameSaiki

10/10 story
?/10 art
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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nathandouglasdavis's avatar
Sep 5, 2020

The moral of the story is that everyone is capable of suicide and murder. The aura of the story is unraveling a conspiracy. It builds up tension and maintains a high level of suspense and intrigue throughout, though that does lead to some problems. First of all, even though it's exciting, when you step back and look at it, the plot feels a bit pointless. Why should I care about Johan's past? Why are such convoluted methods being used for what is essentially a very simplistic goal? Possibly related to this, I found myself a bit reluctant to begin each reading session. Though once I did begin reading, I would always quickly find myself hooked and not wanting to put it down. And I've read it at least three times at this point and have still found it generally enthralling. Though each time I've read it, I've always found the final confrontation in Ruhenheim to suck. It's not that it's necessarily bad per se, though it does feel like it's just recycling previous ideas and it exentuates the high-intensity/low-purpose problem I referred to earlier. However, with how much the suspense has been built up over the course of the manga, I'm not sure if there's any way the story could've ended that wouldn't have felt anticlimactic. I also feel like I noticed at least one plothole during their constant weaving and retelling of past events (compare chs. 142 and 159): why did Bonaparta bring the child out to witness the scene, or if he didn't, who did?

There are many great characters. Tenma is a righteous and moral brain surgeon who has been framed for several murders by Johan. Johan, or Michael, or Franz, or Erich is a beautiful and charismatic young boy is able to connect with people on the deepest level and manipulate them into doing what fe wants. For example, fe is able to recognize serial killers and convince them to kill for fem. Lunge is a BKA detective who has perfect recall of past encounters and doesn't believe that Johan exists, partially because Johan has been systematically destroying all connections to feir past. Grimmer is a wanderer with a large backpack and a buddha smile who has lost all of feir emotions after going through Kinderheim 511. Those four are my favorites, but even the supporting cast often have compelling personalities and understandable motives.

A major theme is identity, with past connections and names being especially important. One could argue that the message of the story is that without a strong sense of identity, a person's moral code, and emotions, and even desire to live will disappear. One of the ways that Tenma and others talk people off of the ledge is by instilling in them the idea that they have a "reason to live." As a nihilist myself, I find it incorrect for them to imply that acknowledging the meaninglessness of life will inevitably lead to suicidal thoughts, but it's still an interesting look into how brainwashing can have massive consequences. We learn of two loosely connected groups (Kinderheim 511 and the Red Rose Mansion reading seminars) that Johan had been part of which were built around brainwashing and raising kids to lead the new world. A storybook author who went by many names (though I liked Emil the most) ends up becoming a central figure in this conspiracy. Some of the chapters actually consist of just showing off this guy's storybooks, and I liked those chapters. Though I will say that it takes some suspension of disbelief to accept that these stories were effective at brainwashing. The author of this manga may enjoy taking innocuous childhood items like storybooks and turning them into the core of massive, world-altering conspiracies, because fe also did something similar with 20th Century Boys.

8/10 story
10/10 art
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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