Monster (Scott’s Horror Corner!)
I feel like I’ve got a nice pattern going, do a review, give a recommendation. So I thought I’d take a look at something else near and dear to my heart. There have been anime recommendations in this blog before, and I definitely think there’s some crossover between the horror fans and anime fans. Wes reviewed the show Another and so I thought I would throw another hat in the anime horror ring with the show Monster.
Monster is an anime about, well, a monster. Dr. Tenma is a brilliant surgeon in Germany, just married to a wealthy wife. It becomes apparent quickly that the corruption of the hospital he is working at runs deep. As he preps for surgery on a Turkish man, he’s pulled just before to instead go work on a famous opera singer. The impoverished Turkish man dies, while the opera singer’s recovery is well documented on tv and in the papers. Tenma becomes very torn between the idea of acquiring wealth and status and doing what is right.
Over the course of the first two episodes Monster completes this parable by introducing a small family, a mother and father who adopted twins (brother and sister) and moved to Germany. Tenma is called in in the middle of the night as the family is massacred by an unknown assailant, the sister is alive but in shock, the brother has a bullet in his head. As he’s washing up to work on the young boy he’s again told to work on an important patient; the Mayor will be arriving shortly by helicopter and they want Tenma working on him. Not wanting to make another mistake, he works on the young boy and saves his life. Of course, doing the right thing doesn’t always work out the best for everyone.
As he sits beside the young boy, Johan, who is still in a coma, he talks about his situation. He no longer has the flourishing future he was promised after disobeying his superiors (and in effect letting the Mayor die) and his wife also wants nothing to do with him now. “They’d all be better off dead!” He says before calming down and leaving. The young girl seems terrified of Johan as she’s brought in for a photo op, she faints in terror. That night, two of Tenma’s superior’s were shot, one poisoned.
From there, Tenma realizes that he made the wrong choice. What he did out of compassion actually brought about something much more evil than he could’ve imagined. I suppose this review has a lot in common with my write up with Dr. Loomis, as Tenma gives off some of those same vibes. Tenma’s case is a bit more literal as he’s the only reason Johan is walking around still. It becomes his only duty to stop Johan, a task easier said than done. The show is a real page turner, or I guess now it might be called a mouse clicker. In fact, when I finished the show I watched the last 20 episodes consecutively; I wasn’t even in college at the time! It’s full of deep characters, (Inspector Runge for example who shows up in episode 3) plot twists and really just great storytelling.
If I had to find faults with it, I would say that the length of the series leaves it meandering at times. I think you could tighten up the show and still have it be just as good. That said, it stays true to the manga it comes from, but obviously there are episode number requirements for tv and it stretches itself a bit thin because of it. Another fault, and this one falls on distributors, is that it’s still not available in North America beyond episode 15. Viz Entertainment released a box set of the first 15 episodes and then promptly decided to just can the rest. It is apparently available online from retailers, but it would be nice to have a definitive box set for all 74 episodes.
If you have any passing interest in suspense/thriller/horror as an animated genre then watch this. I would say this is the apex of the genre(s) thus far. It’s not the goriest thing I’ve seen by a long shot, but it remains the creepiest anime I’ve watched. In fact, one of the central points of the anime is this book about a ‘monster’ which has a cameo in the end credits and it never failed to get under my skin paired with the haunting end theme. Monster is still near the very top of my best anime list (if I had such a thing). You really need to watch it.