I just finished Monster! It took me a few days because the story was decent and heavy, nothing you could swallow easily. It’s a story you must enjoy, every page of the agonizing tension. Monster, or, if you like Monsuta. Which is, I suppose a Japanisation of Monster. Dah. All the images are copyright of Naoki Urasawa, used to educate you on this tense and wonderful story.
Mr. Towelhead reivews:
Monster is a manga series of 18 volumes written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa between 1994 and 2001. Its Japanese genre is seinen, mangas for young adults ages 18 to 30 with up to really serious content. The western genre is psychological thriller, drama, horror, and detective fiction. And for once, yes that is a very accurate depiction of the story. In a towelhead resume its a semi historical detective drama with brushes of medical jargon.
The whole thing relies on a criminal investigation, that was born out of the question: Are all lives equal?, that is: Should a doctor save a criminal? Life takes a crazy turn as an act of good will has the protagonist all over Eastern Europe searching amidst the remains of a crumbled communist system for the darkest secrets of ëvol experiments on children.
Basically a doctor framed with a series of murders leads the story (our protagonist), as he goes on to prove his innocence. This leads to our protagonist uncovering nasty secrets of the old communist regime. Social experiments, experiments on children, and so on.
The story has a very obvious message of Tolerance, as the Japanese doctor is committed to save fellow humans regardless of social status, money, creed and/or race. Whereas the baddies are neo-nazis, power corrupt people and extremists. So you’ll see the protagonist saving minorities all over the place, and giving good heart-felt advice to everyone around him… And also you’ll have the typical manga/Japanese part of the manga where EVERY ONE gathers up to cheer the protagonist.
“We believe in you GOKU!” “I mean Dr. Tenma!”
Even though you look like a creepy recovering drug addict…
On the one hand what I really liked is that the protagonist is not a stupid victim of circumstances, but he goes training and takes the investigation heads on. On the other hand, the manga suffers from the cliché of: “The protagonist must remain pure”, and so he hardly ever harms a fly.
So far, it sounds like a typical story. BUT. Its a tense one, the more you read the more attached you’ll get with the search of the antagonist. The more chaos and destruction the antagonist leaves behind, the fervent you’ll stick with the pursuers. Also, the author exposes, critiques the abuse of orphans and political corruption. Everything adds to the historic flair.
The manga is located in Germany for the most, and accurately depicted (illustrated and dialogued) in the years before and after the Wall of Berlin fell. The story is also located in several Easter European countries after the fall of communism. I am no history teacher, but for an amateur it does convey a very convincing atmosphere.
My complains. The story could have ended on several occasions, the protagonist and several of the main characters had plenty of opportunities to kill the antagonist. AND THEY JUST DIDN’T. That was asking too much of the reader. The whole point of the story was to capture/kill/stop or what ever the antagonist and even at gunpoint the “heros” are just F* unable to do it. I mean REALLY. I understand the author wanted the story to go forward and what not, but that should have been handled better, in a more believable way.
No matter how many times they could have killed the antagonist…
… they just COULDN’T!!! I mean for crying out loud!
My other complaint is that during large parts of the story you’ll follow main and new characters instead of the protagonist… But really, REALLY long parts of the story, and you’ll be asking, where the hell is Dr. Tenma? (whom you may even forget, is the protagonist… or so the author says).
The author is also the illustrator, but he does a very neat job. Mr. Urasawa has a unique style, somewhat manga, somewhat real. But at least no giant eyes. The illustrations get better with each volume. At the beginning they are almost cartoony, at the end they get a tiny bit darker, with some nudity and nasty situations, and also better in quality. My only complain is that Naoki Urasawa is not so good at drawing fire :P
But that’s it, the rest is perfect for the story. And you’ll notice that objects and buildings around are magnificent. Bare in mind that the illustrations are giving you the feeling of the time (around the 80’s), and the social situation of many people of the time. Poverty, slums, hunger, prostitution, etc.
The protagonist is a doctor, but unlike other stories, its not a whim of the beginning of the story. Through and through the protagonist will be performing as a doctor, saving lives and giving emergency treatment. On the other hand, most of the main characters are psychologists and detectives. Dialogues are well matched to the professions of the characters.
Criminals be criminals. Detectives be detectives.
And annoying characters be that, but fortunately there are only a very few of those, with the exception of a silly kid who follows the main characters :/
Monster is a heart pounding ride, a detective story with big parts of the investigation seen through the eyes of a doctor on the run. What I particularly didn’t like was that at several points in the story, new “villain-super-minds-behind-it-all” were introduced and when their story arc was “resolved” just new EVEN MORE EVIL-master-minds appeared. So, what I’m trying to say is that a few story-arcs could have been skipped entirely.
I, never the less, even with all my complaints, loved every bit of the manga and would gladly give it a 10. However, being a tiny bit more objective. Mr. Towelhead is happy he didn’t get a heart-attack from the tension of the story.
9 / 10
If you like a REALLY tense fiction-detective story and can take a bit of a cliché hero-situations and a bit of cliché bad buys, Monster is definitelly for you. There is not a lot of graphic content, nor graphic situations, or just plain messed up situations. There is a little bit of nudity.
If you get the chance to shoot the monster, better not think about it! Blow his brains out!