Thursday, April 12, 2007

Monster Review

deja vu, originally uploaded by jabberer.

Often times we find ourselves being dazzled by some fresh hot graphics in some sort of sci-fi, magical girl, or just all too unrealistic anime, and that’s cool. In fact, this is easily most anime, or at least what they attempt. However, the anime I chose to review (yes, not the manga), titled Monster doesn’t have those flashy, Gonzo style graphics that we so often love/ Instead, Monster has 74 episodes of great character, and story driven excitement, with an element of mystery that is sure to keep you watching. I believe it may be truly said that this would have been Agatha Christie’s favorite manga (aside from Detective Conan).

The story begins with Dr. Tenma, a brilliant neurosurgeon whose timid demeanor has allowed up to rise up in life with little conflict. In fact, he may have it essentially ‘made’, since he’s happily engaged to the hospital director’s daughter, and is in line for a significant promotion, as long as he does what he’s told of course. However, one day Tenma is told by the hospital director to abandon a surgery he’s about to begin on a “nobody”, to go operate on a famous opera singer just brought into the hospital. The operation is a success, however the man Tenma’s told to leave in other hands dies, and with the wife’s blame hits Tenma hard. Yet, when Tenma shares his thoughts, he’s met with disdain from his co-workers and fiancée, and is told essentially to comply.

However, soon after, a boy, Johan, and his twin sister Anna, are admitted into the hospital. The child has a critical injury to the brain, and only Tenma can save him, yet again the director tells him to take the case of another, this time the mayor who is also critically injured. Tenma disobeys, and saves the boy. The death of the mayor, plus Tenma’s non-compliance leaves Tenma alone, as his co-workers disavow themselves of him, and his fiancée leaves him. Shortly thereafter, the two colleagues jostling for Tenma’s place and the hospital director are killed, leaving Tenma to rise up in position, and thus become an initial, although dismissed suspect in the murder case. At the same time, the twins have disappeared.

Nine years later, Tenma finds himself taking care of a patient that fears for his life, and utters that he’s trying to avoid a monster. After the prisoner runs off, Tenma finds him the now grown up Johan, and witnesses his patient’s murder by Johan. With a fresh murder, Tenma is now heavily suspected, and he has to flee to protect his life, but more importantly, find and stop Johann, the monster he saved.

(Whew… that was a lot.)

First off, believe it or not, but that is very little of the plot, and that’s what is so great, because the beginning is already so exciting, and I promise the rest only gets better. The creator of the manga, Naoki Urasawa, designed the story full of twists and turns, and from what I understand the anime sticks extremely close to the manga. Even more interesting than the suspense, are the characters themselves which, with 74 episodes, are flushed out gradually, and appropriately. Each character has their own mysteries, so while we may not learn every item about their life early, you still, as one viewer commented, “love the characters, or love to hate them,” as opposed to just not caring.

Truly, very little seems to be left behind in detail, and what is especially impressive in this regard is the amount of information, fiction or non-fiction, that is discussed regarding the various settings, in Czechoslovakia, Germany, and elsewhere.

In terms of technical quality, as I mentioned the anime does not have the greatest graphics, but for what this anime is, which is character driven, it is indeed enough. All in all, I strongly recommend this anime, realizing that this is an investment. However, this is well worth the time, and depending on the pricing, well worth the money if this is licensed in the U.S.

Lastly, and I don’t get to say this often, but there may be an American made movie based on Monster, as Josh Olson is already supposed to be working on adapting the script. Hopefully it’ll be as awesome as the show, but we’ll have to see on that when it comes out.

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