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)