Today I have for you another anime by Studio Madhouse. However, this time the director chosen was out of character for the powerhouse studio. This director had mostly done child shows like Azuki-chan (1995) or was mostly a storyboard worker on shows like Chobits. Maybe Madhouse went with the right guy since the anime Monster has an incredibly deep written story. The director chosen to put creator Naoki Urasawa’s Monster on screen was Masayuki Kojima. To say the writing is something other than a masterpiece would not do the show justice. After 74 episodes and to have only the final one somehow able to put a nail in the metaphorical coffin speaks volumes to how amazing Monster is.
Monster’s plot is super complex and detailed, but was also able to have uniform themes and ideas from start to finish. All of the various plot twists and events that drive character motivation can be overly complicated on the surface. Yet, once a bit of thought and interpretation is done, then everything seems to make sense as the series progresses. Monster is not simply a show, but a well thought out time investment for the story and all of the characters involved. Our main protagonist is the brilliant Japanese neurosurgeon Dr. Tenma who works at a hospital in Dusseldorf, Germany. Yes, the majority of the anime takes place in Germany. One fateful day, Tenma decided to operate on a young boy over a political figure not knowing what event this unknown child would bring. Unaware that this boy is the “monster,” Tenma sets out on a journey to right his wrong and slowly unravel a terrible serial murder case across Germany and more.
The fact that Madhouse even animated Urasawa’s Monster in its entirety given that most studios do not to stray from a “sure thing.” Regardless, Monster stays true to its source material. No, it is not a great looking anime, but it does adapt the character designs extremely well, if not better. Everything from colour to shading simply adds to the feeling that the viewer is truly experiencing the story being unfolded. Breath-taking recreations of scenes throughout Germany (mostly) ranging from the detail of characters sitting in a train station to the cars on the road all represent what the country and lifestyle was like in the 80s and 90s. Given the series length, the animation remained strong the entire way through. It gives chills to the production value this must have cost. To put it in laments terms, an anime adaptation could not get any better than Monster.
This is a show for a more mature audience. It is a show that rewards patience and attention to detail from the environment to the written dialogue. When the show may seem like it is straying off from the path of the main story, it actually does not. Slowly and surely each event and character does have a specific reason and value to the overall story. Let us take how the story begins as an example. Dr. Tenma saves a young boy from death and gets punished for it by the higher ups. However, Tenma believes he did the right thing in valuing all life equally. There were a couple mysterious deaths once that same boy suddenly disappeared from the hospital. Tenma was the only suspect since he benefited from those deaths, yet the police never found any evidence. Cut to years down the line and due to certain events reunites with this boy, now older. After a powerful scene and another death, Tenma is now on the run as a fugitive and the prime suspect. This all occurs within the first 30 episodes. There simply is not enough that can possibly be said without spoiling anything. Characters and events are so important, nothing can be missed. Every character does in fact have a place. Even if the main character Tenma, goes episodes without being in it. All is rewarded with time.
In some eyes, Monster may not be the best anime of all time. Perhaps spending 74 episodes is too much of an investment. That is not a good enough excuse to not watch Monster. Maybe nothing moving in the background at times annoys the modern anime fan. Come on, it is 74 episodes from Madhouse in 2004. This does not even matter because the dialogue is so interesting. Plus, in the anime world, nothing comes close to Monster. This masterpiece of an anime has crazy intricate storytelling, complex plot twists and turns, incredible characters, and excellent pacing. There is nothing more to be said about how amazing Monster is.
TL;DR: Monster is an anime unlike anything seen before and since its release. It is possibly one of the greatest written manga of all time and the incredible anime adaptation does no wrong. The plot is masterfully woven like a spider web. Everything on the outside seems out of place and can get stuck putting the strings together, but everything ends up at the center when all said and done.
Recommended Audience: This is definitely for a mature and patient audience. At times, the anime can be disturbing and make the viewer uncomfortable with its content. From the surface to the your imagination it can event be brutal. The story starts simple enough, but becomes extremely detailed and meticulous in a hurry. It is for the fan of mystery and psychological thriller including those who have the drive to watch a 74 episode journey.
It is so scary how much Monster is a 5/5
Director: Masayuki Kojima
Premiered: Spring 2004
Episode Count: 74
Rating: R Mystery Drama
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller, Psychological
Streaming: N/A (this is a travesty!)
Price: Amazon/Ebay Not available, limited release $500+ for only the first season
I am also a big gamer from the retro NES days to modern PS4 greatness. More fun facts about myself include: Job as an engineer with a degree in Geological Engineering, speak fluent German as a second language, ex-Pro current Amateur level Bowler.