Great review! Makes me want to give this series a second chance. ( i have this thing about watching horror things... As in I don't, but if this were a manga or novel i'd be all over this series)
Monster tv Review
Dr. Kenzo Tenma was a brilliant Japanese surgeon in Germany who had a beautiful fiancee and great career. Believing that all human life is equal, he refused chose to save the life of a young boy who had been shot in the head instead of the city mayor.
The boy miraculously survived, but the mayor died, and so Tenma's career ended. His position was taken over and his fiancee left him. But suddenly & mysteriously the director and anyone connected to Tenma's demotion were murdered. Tenma finally worked his way back to a higher position than before, but remained the main police suspect for the murders.
Nine years later, Tenma learned the horrible truth that the young boy he saved, Johan, was the culprit of the serial murders. He sets out to find the truth about the monster he had brought back to life, and this time to kill him.
Written by steffic.
Story & Characters
In any form of entertainment almost any critic will tell you that just because something is popular doesn't necessarily mean its good (I.E Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Sword Art Online, K-On and the list goes on...) In terms of truly GREAT shows I've stumbled upon in all my years of watching anime I'm often left disappointed at just how easily overlooked they can be in favor of something like the second season of High School DXD, the new Bleach or Naruto Movies, or the hype over the second season of Ore no Imoto Ga Konna Ni Kawaii Wake Ga Nai...
(Not that I outright hate these shows, it's just in terms of quality they're kind of meh shows with really good moments in them.)
Now I go on this short, cantankerous exposition of what can be considered an anime of high quality because there's simply no better way than to describe a show like Monster otherwise. It's one of those shows that in terms of story and character development, stands at the top of its class. Sadly, because of its adult demographic this isn't an anime I could show to younger, newer members of the anime community and expect them to like it the way I do.
If you're lured into this anime by it's title and go into the show expecting Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires that don't sparkle or some sort of Lovecraftian supernatural force hovering over an entire town somehow pitting friends against one another in a gory, disturbing fest of insanity and murder then prepare to be thoroughly disappointed. Monster has none of that.
Don't get me wrong though, Monster is a spooky show, in its own right. Especially when you consider that the real monsters, in Naoki Urasawa's Monster can be and normally are your everyday person, no supernatural strings attached. Yes, everything in the show is disturbingly human. Monster does well to re-iterate and flesh out the concept of how you can never truly take a person at face value since you never know what kind of person is lurking beneath the charming facade you are presented with.
With all that said though, I could never recommend this anime to a younger audience, and this isn't because of the tid-bits of gore, foul language, and/or slight suggestive themes, but because I don't think as a critic this would be a show a younger audience could appreciate in terms of concepts. I myself tried to watch this anime at a young age and quickly became bored with it before picking it up again years later.
Another thing to appreciate in the story is how well it ties into the actual history of the time it's set in. The setting of Monster is Germany of 1986 a little after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of socialism. Naoki Urasawa had his history homework down pat and watching how much of an impact this realistic time period and place had on the plot as a whole never failed to command my attention.
Racisim, Conspiracy theory, Politics, Religion, Corruption, Human Experimentation, Murder, and more, in terms of plot, Monster is one of those rare shows that can transcend the typical young adult demographics and expand the definitions of what anime is and what it can be as a whole. This is a show I could sit my mother in front of and expect her to thoroughly enjoy the show despite the fact its a cartoon. Sadly though, as much as this level of appeal is one of the show's greatest attributes it's also one of its pitfalls since there are few anime fans of this generation that I could recommend this show to, and expect them to completely enjoy it without wondering "hey why is something like this an anime again?" especially with the turn the medium has taken in the past few years.
Hands down, Monster has got the most realistic and intriguing cast of characters I have ever seen in an anime. There. I said it. Even more so than other iconic anime in its demographic like Fate/Zero or Ghost in the Shell. And like I mentioned before this is mainly because there's not a lot of characters in this series you can completely take at face value.Who would've guessed that the kind and generous owner of the Italian restaurant turned out to be a former hit man?
What about the former child psychiatrist who professed his love for children and fostered them into successful adults, when in fact he was abusing them physically and psychologically, depriving them of the childhood he claimed they needed.
Even if all of the side characters aren't necessarily likable they're still as interesting to watch as the main characters themselves. From the spoiled Eva to the traumatized Deter to the hilariously suave pickpocket to the quirky L-from-Death-Note-Prototype inspector Lunge.
Another aspect of Characterization Monster deserves recognition for, is the level of interest the main villain of the series, Johann Liebert, maintains from start to finish.
For the first part of the series he remains more or less a shadow constantly hovering over Dr. Tenma's head and over the events of the story, but after seeing a little more of him in the later episodes, I can definitely see why he's touted as a Monster, or in his twin sister Anna's words "An absolute evil" despite the fact of how corny that description sounds. If I had to equate him to other iconic anime characters that could step into the shadow of his archetype I would akin him to Light Yagami from Death Note or Lelouch Lamperouge. In terms of intelligence he more than fits the criteria. But if many of you Death Note and Code Geass fans would consider Light and Lelouch to be the undisputed masters of manipulation then I'd say Johann would be the undisputed god, because as good as Light and Lelouch were, they still had their supernatural abilities be it a Magical Notebook or set of Magical Eyes. Johann had his words. The most powerful weapon a person could possess. This even more evident when he got fifty people to kill each other with his words and his words alone.
Yes Johann Liebert is something akin to the Charles Manson of anime and has earned a place on my list of anime characters right next to Alucard from Hellsing that I never want to run into in a dark alley or any corners of this earth, as a walking angel of death in anime.
Additionally another aspect of characterization in Monster is its impressive development of its main characters and just watching how they deal with whatever chaos thrown at them next by the wholly elusive Johann. Particularly with Dr Tenma, the quite likable protagonist. As someone who generally sees the villains of a show to be far more notable than their good-guy counterparts I never felt that Dr. Tenma in any way was eclipsed by Johann in terms of development and in the level of interest garnered by watching him from episode to episode.
Overall in terms of realism in story, setting and characters Monster stands at the top of the anime medium and this helps the show as much as it hurts it in terms of its popularity and appeal to a younger audience.
It's worth mentioning that Monster was produced by Studio Madhouse, and some more astute readers would recognize the name attached to other iconic, decidedly more adult anime like Death Note or Black Lagoon.
Though when speaking of Monster in terms of art, it looks more like the latter show than the former. (Especially considering how Monster lacks Studio Madhouse's trademark technique of coloring iconic or important scenes of their recent shows in shades of red and blue...you can thank Death Note for that.) Yes, like Black Lagoon, Monster isn't one of those anime I would label as "pretty" or aesthetically appealing and sadly that fact alone may drive many viewers away.
Additionally Monster's art style is quite far from what can be seen in a typical anime. You're not going to see any comical cartoonish expressions associated with surprise or shock or depression like you would in a more anime show like Naruto. If I had to describe the art and character designs in a phrase or two I'd say Monster's art would be akin to a very western outtake on anime in its realism, from the thick faces of the characters to their eyes (which by no means cover two thirds of their heads) and even in their expressions.
Yes Monster is a very adult, very "realistic" show and the artwork shows it.
Color Palette and Lighting:
I had mentioned before Studio Madhouse's penchant for red and blue (as per their hit series Death note and pretty much everything after). Considering that Monster aired some time before Death Note I can say for certainty you're not going to find any of that. Monster, has a very pastel array of colors that match well with the realism of the anime and its decidedly more mature undertones.
Oddly enough, I wouldn't have minded it so much had they done that, especially when you take into consideration how dully realistic the artwork comes off sometimes. While it does well to fit Monster to the T, I wouldn't have minded a richer color palette with more lavish lighting. At the very least it would've given the anime much more atmosphere in its more serious moments.
It's not as though the color and lighting don't have their moments of clarity in the series, because they certainly do. From the soft light and warm colors that so brutally clashed with Anna's first encounter with Johann to the dank greens a pitch black shadows that encompassed Dr. Tenma and Johann during their first confrontation, Monster can set the mood with its art, and it can leave an impression on its audience when it does so.
Would you believe me if I told you this anime aired from 2004-2005? For those who've actually seen the show it certainly doesn't look that way. If anything it's something I would've expected to see in the 90's. There's nothing truly spectacular about the animation save for its opening sequence, which is by far one of my favorite openings and one of the few openings to not only invest me into a show, but leave me a lasting impression of it and once again this is because of how well it fits the series.
Ultimately if there's anything to take out of Monster in terms of Art, its how well it's suited to it's story. From an artists perspective it certainly puts the show above average in the artistic department, I really feel like Studio Madhouse could've done more with the anime in terms of aesthetic appeal . Not only to give the series as a whole more atmosphere, but to give the show a little more aesthetic appeal as to not ward away some of its audience.
Once again I talk about the opening of Monster because in terms of sound the opening song GRAIN is not only beautiful but it leaves a lasting impression of the series, what it's about and what sort of somber twists and turns it entails. And it doesn't help how much of a sucker I am when it comes to choirs.
Sadly aside from the opening, there's nothing truly spectacular about Monster's musical score save for some eerie sound effects that are pretty typical of most anime associated with the horror murder mystery genre. And while once again this does fit the semi-realistic nature of the series, a soundtrack with a little more "Omfph!!" could've helped so much more with setting an atmosphere in the series in addition to leaving a lasting impression on its audience. Especially when taking into consideration how much a good soundtrack can really deliver key scenes in an anime.
Overall watching Monster is an experience and as I'm very bitter to say, not one your everyday anime fan will be able to appreciate. Not only does Monster demand a mature audience with its adult content, but in terms of concepts as well, this is anime that will generally fly right over the heads of younger viewers or those newer to the anime community. Assuming that they can first look past its unconventional aesthetics in terms of art and music. And if you can get past all that then I can say for certainty as both an anime critic and avid anime fan this show will leave you with a lasting impression.
One of the deterrents to watching Monster with a group of friends on a late Friday night is the fact that this isn't a series you can marathon in one night. It's a long. 74 episodes to be exact. And while that does promise many days and nights of enjoyment with plenty of twists and turns you will find episodes where the plot will stumble and drag its ass along the way. To a more savvy audience I would equate this anime with Death Note. (Yes, Death Note. You heard it from me fanboys!!) And no that's not just because they were both done by the same production studio.
However in terms of pacing Monster could've learned a thing or two from Death Note, despite the fact that the Monster is two years its senior. There were moments in Monster, where I was on the edge of my seat as I watched episodes back to back and there were others I was half tempted to skip over since they really had no bearing on the plot as a whole. On a personal note I'm glad that I didn't because not only can the one episode of filler act as a light break from the intensity of the story but it also does well to contribute to the development of its major and minor characters in addition to adding onto the novelty of the story as a whole.
As a whole Naoki Urasawa's Monster is what I would call a classic anime in disguise and I say in disguise because of how easily underrated and overlooked the show is due to its target age demographic and the realism of the show overall. As I mentioned before, I feel like most anime fans will watch Monster and go "It's great and all, but why is this an anime again?"
Yes I know, Monster is far cry from what we can call a typical anime and this may ward many a viewer away, but whoever said that anime had to stick to teenagers, high school, supernatural powers, giant robots smashing each other to bits, magical school girls and character designs involving exaggerated eyes, hair color, tits and expressions not even someone on bath salts could make?
Not that I don't appreciate all the typical genres mentioned above and more you can find in Japanese anime, but I'm old.
I've seen it all and its nice to see shows like Monster come around and further expound upon what the medium of anime
can con-notate as a whole.
8.67 (very good)
Reviewed by animefreak114, Jun 12, 2013
fireflywishes Retired Moderator Jun 13, 2013
animefreak114 Jun 13, 2013
Actually Monster is an anime adaptation of its manga counterpart so if you'd be better at reading it then i'd recommend doing so :D It's actually the opposite with me. I could watch something like Monster or Death Note but for some reason its harder for me to read them.
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