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Monster Anime Cover

Score: 8.72/10

Synopsis

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, an elite neurosurgeon recently engaged to his hospital director's daughter, is well on his way to ascending the hospital hierarchy. That is until one night, a seemingly small event changes Dr. Tenma's life forever. While preparing to perform surgery on someone, he gets a call from the hospital director telling him to switch patients and instead perform life-saving brain surgery on a famous performer. His fellow doctors, fiancée, and the hospital director applaud his accomplishment; but because of the switch, a poor immigrant worker is dead, causing Dr. Tenma to have a crisis of conscience. So when a similar situation arises, Dr. Tenma stands his ground and chooses to perform surgery on the young boy Johan Liebert instead of the town's mayor. Unfortunately, this choice leads to serious ramifications for Dr. Tenma—losing his social standing being one of them. However, with the mysterious death of the director and two other doctors, Dr. Tenma's position is restored. With no evidence to convict him, he is released and goes on to attain the position of hospital director. Nine years later when Dr. Tenma saves the life of a criminal, his past comes back to haunt him—once again, he comes face to face with the monster he operated on. He must now embark on a quest of pursuit to make amends for the havoc spread by the one he saved. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

Monster is an anime that I used to scoff at every time I saw high ratings for it. I was never really into long plot driven anime and I couldn’t understand how so many people loved it, but seeing the ratings, I couldn’t help but be interested. I downloaded this anime over a year ago and burned it on to 3 DVDs, never really intending to watch it. Maybe I did it because of the hype, decided that a highly acclaimed series like this was something every anime fan needed in his/her collection. Or maybe I just did it so I would have something to watch on a rainy day. I don’t even remember.

Anyhow, curiosity and boredom got the better of me one day and I plopped it into my dvd drive to check it out. The story was promising: A brilliant neurosurgeon with everything to gain, loses it all for doing the right thing. I was entranced by the complexity of the story and the moral debate presented by it: are lives equal? It was interesting, but I began to lose interest as my life got busy. This probably (based on my experience) isn’t a series you’ll want to watch in one go, especially if your new to this type of mystery / thriller genre in anime. It’s a good series I recommend for watching a few episodes here and there in the beginning, and eventually, you’ll fall for it. It’ll work its magic and you’ll be lost in the unravelling plot of Dr.Tenma and his journey.

Story: Monster is focused on telling a story, a story that presents many, many themes to its viewers, insights into the world and the way people work. It takes a good look at the human condition, particularly on the subject of the Monster that every individual carries within. It strongly portrays through Tenma and other characters, human nature to be consumed by hate and resorting to succumbing our savage brutalities, or inner Monsters, only to end up committing horrific acts that we can’t take back, acts and emotions that often consume us. It presents to us, the need for identity, and the need for love, trust and equality. These themes are all woven together into a complex story that kept me on the edge of my seat as I progressed through the series, and unlike most long series, Monster didn’t get too repetitive. It managed to continue strong through its 74 episodes and finally hand us an ending that – will disappoint some and make others love the series even more. Another thing I would like to take note of, was the children’s stories found in the anime, the stories written by the character Franz Bonaparta. I don’t know if they are real or not, but they geniusly (is that a word?) complimented the story. They were masterpieces in themselves, and conveyed moods of unease through the almost disturbing feel of the way the such dark and mature themes were represented in children’s books for the use of brainwashing. Its things like this that makes Monster great. Its plot is deep, complex, interesting and to some, a masterpiece.

Characters: The characters were developed very, very well, and this is one of Monster’s strongest points. A change occurs in every character you’ll see in this anime, every major character overcomes some sort of trial in their lives and adapts. I could give examples, but like I said, I would be listing every character, from Eva who starts off as a selfish, idiotic *#$%@ to someone a little more proper by the end of the series, and Nina and Dieter who overcome their dark pasts. Tenma’s change throughout the series is also quite interesting; its difficult to say whether or not he really changed. We know for certain that he stayed true to his morals and managed to suppress the monster within, but he does have difficulty with accepting his decision at the beginning of the series, and goes so far as to call it his sin. He goes from a happy individual into a depressing one, bent on tracking down Johan and attempting to kill him as his single goal in life. Johan too, was an interesting character, with a troubled and complicated past, it was difficult to judge him as a villain. It’s this complexity that’s found in every main character of Monster that makes this series such a success; the characters are real, and they change.

Art / Animation: I found the art quite unique; it was one of the things that drew my attention to this anime. The faces aren’t your typical anime faces with the huge eyes and characters with multicoloured eyes. Instead, the characters are quite realistically drawn, which adds to the seriousness of this anime. They also did a good job with the backgrounds, the cities and scenery generally looked very good. In terms of animation, it wasn’t something I can really comment on, there are few scenes involving rapid action, explosions and the like, and most of the time the characters are simply walking and talking. But the animation is quite nicely done in the few gun fights seen in the anime, and I never really came across choppy panning or anything really badly animated. The art and animations is consistently well done throughout the anime.

Sound: I really enjoyed the first opening; it set the mood for this anime beautifully. The endings aren’t really songs you would like to listen to, but they fit the anime well, the lyrics represented major themes and the storyline of Monster. BG music wasn’t too notable at times, but they had a few tracks that complimented the mood very well. Voice acting was also done very well, a lot of the crying sounded very realistic, and the voices matched the characters well, especially Johan’s kind of quiet but calm, smooth and charismatic voice.

Overall: I don’t think Monster is a series for everyone, but for those who try it, don’t toss it away if the first few episodes failed to please you. The pacing may seem somewhat slow at times, but I can truly say that this anime isn’t overrated as I first thought. It’s a realistic series with an excellent plot, complimented by its unique art and soundtracks. There is a Monster within us all. I urge you to learn about it – before you are consumed by it. (Lame I know I was trying to think of a witty way to end this long review =p)

Monster plays out like a macabre game of cat and mouse in a world that is frighteningly similar to real life. Uncomfortable subjects such as coercive human conditioning and the psychology of the sociopath, morality issues regarding the origin of evil and the value of human life, are horrifyingly, yet engagingly, realized. The protagonist, Dr. Tenma, struggles to fix that which is so remorsefully broken in his world. Monster is a chilling tale rooted in reality, a far cry from the superpowers and supernatural forces found in more detached fantasy series. Story: 10 The writing in Monster is exceptional. The pace is a slow burn that smartly captivates the viewer with moments of shock, awe, and depravity, which are masterfully combined with well executed moments of anticipation and proper denouement. Once the show has established the setting and many of the players, the series begins a thrilling, rollercoaster of action, suspense and character development. Viewer will rarely feel as though they have missed an important piece of information, and will instead find themselves riveted to the screen as the overarching mystery unfurls. Dialogue is not wasted in frivolity for Monster. The anxious atmosphere is enhanced with carefully crafted lines that provide insight into characters' personalities and cast shadows of suspicion. The intelligent interconnectedness of all the characters, especially towards the climax of the show, speaks volumes about the care given to crafting living individuals in appropriate circumstances. Animation: 9 The art both augments tone and adds layers of character to the series. The dynamic use of light and shadow often creates red-herrings, skewing the faces of particular characters into unforgiving masks. Character designs stand out for their realism and attention to facial structure, especially regarding emotions. Variety in body type distinguishes characters, allowing viewers to immediately recognize someone from their visage, or even their silhouette, without hesitation. Characters who are old look old, with age lines harrowed into sagging skin. There are distinct differences given to dissimilar nationalities, so much so that the viewer can easily determine whether a character is of Asian, Slavic, or Middle-Eastern decent. The background art is a feat in and of itself. There is a wonderful variety spreading from pastoral vineyards to dilapidated cities. German towns and districts such as Düsseldorf, Bavaria, and Hamburg are executed to a near photorealistic quality that extends into the Czech Republic and France. Sound: 9 Everyone in the voice acting crew does well. They suit their characters perfectly and never falter, even in the more dramatic scenes. Sasaki, Isobe, and Kiuchi (Johan, Lunge, and Tenma respectively), give outstanding performances that express the complexity of the emotions, personalities, and experiences of their characters. The sound effects used throughout the series serve to add an additional layer of realism. As a testament to Monster's focus on being accurate even in minute details, each gunshot correctly reflects the weapon which was used to fire it. The OP gives you a hint of what to expect and the ED, "For the Love of Life" by David Sylvian, is one of the spookiest ending themes in anime. The soundtrack should also be commended for its spectacular use of subtlety. It truly fits the idea of "background music," often setting the tone of the scene with a simple phrase. Additionally, whilst the series has a relatively limited tracklist, the music never feels repetitive. Character: 10 Perhaps Monster's greatest strength lies in the depth of its characters, with the main cast representing some of the strongest leads in the genre, whilst those in the supporting roles are often defined far better than the regular cast in many other series. The show manages to bring its characters to life with extraordinary clarity, and although viewers will be “dazzled” by the quality of the lead roles, they may often find themselves growing attached to the minor characters over the course of the series. The centrepiece of the series is the complex relationship between the Tenma and Johann. Tenma’s emotional, physical, and psychological transitions lead the audience through a complex maze of issues regarding personal and social morality. This is remarkably achieved without losing Tenma’s basic humanity or resorting to didacticism, and contrasts sharply with Johan’s manipulations and calculations which strike a cold, appallingly realistic note with the audience. The supporting ensemble does a great job of adding intensity and gravity to the relationship between Tenma and Johan. They are all well crafted and executed, and often have their own demons and battles that remind the audience of what precisely lies in the balance between good and evil. Discovering why these people are the way they are and how they relate to each other is half the journey as a viewer. Enjoyment: 10 From its brilliant characters with outstanding development, to its well-paced story and realistic setting, Monster will leave you on the edge of your seat. Finding a show like this is a real treat, and whilst 74 episodes may seem daunting, it is utterly worthwhile in light of the great journey taken. The show’s dramatic storyline and intrigue filled atmosphere will keep you guessing, thinking, and feeling. The complex issues and relationships addressed throughout mark this as one of the most unique anime to appear in many years, and the questions it asks should be confronted by everyone at least once. Monster is a true rarity in anime. The quality of its story, cast and production have earned it widespread acclaim, even garnering it plaudits from the “hate what’s popular” clique. It is both entertaining and enlightening, and the sheer depth of the series has led to it being widely regarded as a modern classic of anime.

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