Dr. Kenzou Tenma is a renowned brain surgeon of Japanese descent working in Europe. Highly lauded by his peers as one of the great young minds that will revolutionize the field, he is blessed with a beautiful fiancée and is on the cusp of a big promotion in the hospital he works at. But all of that is about to change with a grave dilemma that Kenzou faces one night—whether to save the life of a small boy or that of the town's mayor. Despite being pressured by his superiors to perform surgery on the mayor, his morals force him to perform the surgery on the other critical patient, saving his life and forfeiting the mayor's. A doctor is taught to believe that all life is equal; however, when a series of murders occur in the surgeon's vicinity, all of the evidence pointing to the boy he saved, Kenzou's beliefs are shaken. Along his journey to unravel the true identity of his little patient, Kenzou discovers that the fate of the world may be intertwined with the mysterious child.
Monster won the Grand Prize at the 3rd annual Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 1999, as well as the 46th Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category in 2000.
The series was published in English by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint from February 21, 2006 to December 16, 2008, and again in 2-in-1 omnibuses (subtitled The Perfect Edition) from July 15, 2014 to July 19, 2016. The manga was also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Panini Comics/Planet Manga from June 2012 to April 2015, in Polish by Hanami from March 2014 to February 2017, in Spain by Planeta Cómic from June 16, 2009 to September 21, 2010, and in Argentina by LARP Editores.
I rarely give tens to mangas. But this one just deserves it! Why? I'm going to tell you:
Monster isn't a tradional manga. It isn't about fighting. I even dare to say it is a 'Love it or hate it'-manga. If you are the type of Naruto and Bleach and looking for that kind of manga, this isn't the manga for you. If you are looking for an intense, well-written manga, I would recommend this certainly for you.
The story is complex and long. Altough it's long, there isn't one single filler. It is all part of the same story. The story is about several characters, whom
all have their own background and story. All the characters, you could just find them in real-life. And that is awesome. It all feels real and the flow of the story is... perfect.
The art was fine, although it isn't traditional drawn. Sometimes I thought the art was too unrealistic for the story. Some of the guys had way too big noses and stuff, but it wasn't really bothering though.
I think it is hard to explain what is so perfect about this manga. The story is excellent, I think that is the main thing why I just like it so much. It is complex and intense, just like I said before. You will like the characters and follow their lives troughout the story. Tenma, the main character, goes from place to place and you get a peek into lives of other people. That is done so fantastic and real that you'll just start loving all those good people.
The story is so complex, it left me with quite some questions. It is a manga in which not everything will be explained. You will have to live with that and make conclusion for your own. I didn't like that first, but now I realise it perhaps is just fine. The actions of humans aren't always explained in real-life either....
My conclusion: This manga is perfect for everyone who loves thrillers and tension! The 10 it has gotten from me, well, it just deserves it!
"Look at me! Look at me! The monster inside of me has grown this big!".
Is the righteous path always the right path to take? Is it possible to regret doing the right thing and standing for justice? Is a righteous choice with a bad effect a good choice or a bad choice? How far is anyone prepared to go to correct what wasn't wrong in the first place? In these questions we find the basic premise of Monster.
Monster is a brilliant piece. A thriller with a story so unified, steady, complex and without plot holes that puts 99% of all thrillers (be them books, movies
or TV shows) to shame easily. It is very well thought out by its creator and manages to keep you interested even in its most calm scenes. I do have to say I haven't watched the anime, so I won't be making any comparisons, nor will I tell you which one you should watch. I decided to review this after seeing that it had just a few reviews, which surprised me since it ranks 4th.
[Story] - 10 - The best thing of this manga, in my opinion. First of all let's talk about the style of the narration and story-telling in general. For those familiar with Naoki Urasawa, you are probably aware of his particular style of story-telling, which isn't anything short of amazing. He moves the story along at his own pace, slowly introducing more and more characters, more plot points, which answer some previous questions by providing additional questions and mysteries. He also makes a great use of the manipulation of time, adding a lot of flashbacks and time leaps all the way through the story. Those flashbacks are like small puzzle pieces that slowly build a bigger picture that enable you to understand certain situations and certain actions of the main antagonist. This author’s style meets its peak in Monster, in my opinion. The flashbacks complement each other wonderfully in a way that leaves nothing unexplained. A lot of complex stories fail when they try to set up more mysteries than what they can handle, thus not giving a satisfying solution to some or even most of those mysteries, that is highly frustrating. But Monster doesn't have any of that. Even though it feels like the story takes epic proportions with more and more stuff being thrown together, slowly but surely everything comes to make sense. The perfect metaphor for Monster is definitely a puzzle. A very complex puzzle with a big number pieces to use. In the beginning you can't really tell anything of the picture, you merely see the outlines and get a general idea of it by looking at the scattered pieces. But slowly, as you piece one upon the other, everything seems to fall into place. There are no pieces missing and in the end you look over the picture as a whole and see that you have an extremely concise, completed puzzle. But I have to say there are a few extra pieces. Monster has some arcs that aren't completely vital to the main storyline and end up being used merely to build up the characters and their experiences. That is good and bad. It's good because it makes for a more complete and filled story, but bad since it takes a bit of a toll on the overall pace of the series.
Another thing that is very good about the story is the way the author managed to wonderfully present the story in several different angles. Even though Tenma is the main character, we don't always see things through his point of view. This helps us envision the situation as a whole by understanding the several sides and forces colliding here. Some of the most interesting scenes for me were the scenes with Lunge as he pursues Tenma. Those really gave us an overlook of Tenma's situation in a whole different perspective.
To sum it up, the story is great and manages to be complex without plot holes, also presenting us several characters’ points of view which only build up the reach of the story itself.
[Art] - 8 - The art is good. It's not amazing, but still good. Not much to say here. It portrayed the emotions of the characters in a subtle but clear enough way which was nice. Also, the characters actually aged and changed throughout the years, which was a nice touch.
[Characters] - 9 - Like I said before, the story isn't limited to Tenma's POV, but actually shows several other characters' too. This actually helped the character development of those characters significantly. The characters change a bit throughout the story and their goals and actions are constantly changing with the new information they're uncovering. Johan, the main antagonist, is a very interesting and quite intriguing character. In fact he's one of the best villains I've seen, managing not to fall in any of the villain stereotypes, creating a unique character that expresses so much. As we get to know him better our idea of him slightly changes, but it also becomes more and more intriguing and by the end I think that out of five different people you'd get five different descriptions of him. That just goes to show how complex he is and how well he was developed throughout the story.
[Enjoyment] - 9 - Before I started reading I honestly thought it'd be a boring manga. You know the type. Those mangas that are very well done, they have lots of details, but all in all, you just can't have fun reading them, they're just not alluring enough. Well thankfully Monster isn't one of those. As I read in a review before I started, Monster's a real page-turner. As the mysteries start getting deeper and the plot develops and gets larger and larger, you can't help but get sucked into the story. You have to keep reading because you have to understand what's going on, what lead to this situation and what's going to happen next. Though there are some parts where the pace tones down a bit, most of the manga is a great ride that'll make you want to keep reading all the way until the end.
[Overall] - 9 - Overall it's a great read that I can safely recommend to anyone. It's a bit long, but trust me it's worth your time and after a couple of volumes you'll stop worrying about how long it is since you'll start getting into the story for real.
What makes a great psychological thriller? An intelligent plot? Unpredictable plot twists? Memorable, deep characters? Or is it the overall atmosphere of the series? If you're looking for a manga that can give you all of the above, Naoki Urasawa's got your back. Chances are that you have probably heard of Monster before and was wondering if it's as good as some people make it out to be, and to be quite honest, it deserves every bit of praise it gets and lives up to the hype surrounding it. Securing a position at the top of almost every manga ranking site, Monster is a critically
acclaimed manga that is often regarded as the manga that came closest to being flawless, whether you want to believe that or not is up to you, but one thing is for sure, it's a gem that shouldn't be missed and a must-read for mystery enthusiasts.
Monster's story is the aspect that it excels the most in. it features a long, intellectual and complex story with zero plot holes despite its lengh, and somehow manages to be relatively slow paced yet engaging and captivating. Set in Germany, it's centered around Kenzo Tenma, a brilliant brain surgeon, who -out of his own sense of justice- saves a mysterious kid from certain death, not realizing he had just revived a monster, which leads to a series of events that will forever change his life. He then sets out on a journey to fix the mistake he made and restore his normal life that he lost.
The story delves into the characteristics of human nature and explores the origins of evil. The story is told from the point of view of several characters, which helps providing a more in-depth view on the occurring events. The pacing of the story is simply amazing, a slow burn which suits the manga's theme perfectly. Of course, with the pacing being slow and all, this manga isn't really for everyone, but the fact that it can keep you interested all the way is something I can guarantee. There are no real "fillers", most of the backgrounds of the side characters are either related to the story one way or another, or help explain the actions of those characters in an effort to flesh out the characters, they were enjoyable as well and didn't derail the main plot.
Plot twists are around every corner, the mysteries are solved in a way that builds the suspense and tension towards the climax. It's like a jigsaw puzzle in the sense that it starts out slow and obscure and in time you start to see the big picture.
The end poses lots of questions, most of the answers are there for you to find if you put enough thought into it.
Urasawa has demonstrated his solid writing capabilities in other occasions, but for me Monster is his best work. In short, one of the best stories you'll ever find in a manga.
It was the complaint of some critics that Monster has a wide cast of characters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike what we're used to see, the side characters of Monster aren't just there to push the plot forward. Each of them has a role to play in the main plot, with their own stories and motives, stories that reinforce the message this manga delivers, humans are the real monsters.
Most of the characters are fleshed out well-developed too, which is something most manga fail at. I don't think there was a single character that was bland and uninteresting. Urasawa pulling that off with that many characters is an accomplishment on its own.
The main character, Tenma, is your good-hearted person who believes all humans are equal and cares deeply for his friends. Although he's a very good character, Tenma is outshined by the rest of the main cast.
Johan, the main villain (And my personal pick for the greatest anime/manga villain), is a genius, cold-blooded serial killer and a master manipulator, he's the embodiment of pure evil and the kind of villain who would make Hannibal Lecter look like a little girl in comparison. Johan doesn't need a death note or an eye that can control people, all what he has is his wits and charisma, and his innocent features and calm nature make him even more terrifying.
Lunge is a character I liked throughout the series. A smart and very successful detective who's in charge of solving the serial killings case, dedicating himself to that to the point of obsession. One of his most memorable habits is how he taps his finger to memorize all what he hears.
As for the art, there isn't much for me to say. It was very good, not the best you could find but still great for a 90s manga. Urasawa's art style is unique, he dishes out simple, yet great, character designs, and his talent at drawing facial expressions is pretty evident.
The backgrounds were so beautiful and detailed it feels like the characters were just cropped in there, in a good way.
I was surprised at how well-written this manga is, it maintained a constant level of quality throughout the 18 volumes. Whenever I read it I just couldn't stop. Monster's atmosphere and cliff hangers left me at the edge of my seat every time, always leaving me waiting for more, that's how a thriller is supposed to be.
All in all, Monster is one of the best psychological dramas in manga history, it sets the standards to all other manga of the same genre. If you haven't read it yet, do give it a shot, it's certainly a worthwhile read.
Not an overrated masterpiece but clearly a hollow one.
When the MAL user oOoOoOo wrote this in his MW review:
"While an interesting character sketch, I cannot say much for the story itself. Machinations and dramatic events often seem forced and unrealistic, compared to the more carefully plotted mysteries of "Monster"."
I have to admit I couldn't remove my bias even before I completed the first arc/chapter/plot event. (The way the story is told is via one huge epic. This could just have easily been a Resident Evil type of game, a film directed by Kubrick or a crime thriller novel and thus normal manga reviewing aren't as
relevant to grasping the quality of this series)
In that initial bias, I so wanted to shout "overrated" and how this was another fake Hollywood made serial killer story and I dearly wanted to write a counter rebuttal to the above reviewer stating scene for scene why Monster's plots are more unrealistic, unlikely and forget forced - the characters literally are supermen who don't die and how reviewer keasty was right.
Truth of the matter is though, it does hold a certain charm. A certain finesse. It's probably even a better researched or recreated world than your average quality manga. The artist or the writer isn't very shy in creating the type of epics that would sell well towards those seeking a more defined taste of entertainment in their medium. In that sense it's very high quality work in the sense that the locations and the places are all different and the characters literally move everywhere in the world and they were able to avoid the repetitiveness of focusing on only one or two generic characters. In that sense, keasty might have undersold the idea of a mature Ash Ketchum hovering around the world. This is not your typical rpg or battle manga setting, every new location contains detailed minor characters.
I do however disagree with his review when he says this is more mature. No, the good doctor doesn't help solve anything. Your typical dark Batman strip or even Pokemon attempts to solve more mature problems than the main character in this series. Where it's able to disguise itself as a mature manga is by utilizing many of the same caricatures Award-winning Hollywood films utilize when creating a dark tortured character. Maybe slightly more original but not too much. Think Rambo + Jason Bourne + a doctor that's on par with Black Jack or House but dealing with less mature medical events and mostly involving him using his skills to win over common friends (who happen to be not so common)
It's this element that makes Monster a disappointing manga for those who are looking for a mature themed manga. The Emperor's New Clothes are there but in the end the main protagonist could just have easily disguised himself as the antagonist and the only difference in their heroics is his medical ability. (Which believe it or not is his trump card even at the end. You could even consider this manga a how to guide on how to conquer the world via reciprocity. It's all very Hollywood propaganda-ish like that - although I'm not claiming this manga is maliciously made - it's just cheap like that. The type of pseudo-intellectual inducing scenario that makes it sound original until you realize the lack of depth/strategy or actual background behind any of the events)
What makes this "un-overrated" though is that despite my complaints above, the middle point of this manga is mostly revolving around a conspiracy theory and in that aspect it's very good at playing with the whole Hollywood scenario. Think of it like a dual paradox. What I just wrote above complaining about is at the same time what the plot is addressing on the mystery side of the issue. It's very "plot within a plot/complaint within a complaint" like that and for that it is able to paint an epic semi-realistic dark fantasy that is only broken by the overall merging of all the elements.
In the end, read this manga only if you are planning to complete it. Regardless whether you hate the beginning or the middle or found this to be too long - you've just wasted your time if you don't do this. Treat this like a movie - if you're not willing to watch it till the end - you'll miss out on why you truly hate or love this and all you get is just one whole filler manga. Not because the ending ties things all up but because like a movie the first two stages are worthless unless you reach that 3rd stage of the plot. If you're not able to do this, well I'm not saying the manga couldn't be better in your eyes as the final product does take away many charming elements but suffice to say you won't really be able to fully understand the "canon" of this manga. (although honestly I was bored to tears by the whole series that I didn't bother to check out the novel with the epilogue interviews)
For those still unsure, my hint for why the latter parts of Monster are necessary revolves around a certain dark fairy tale artwork. If you like puppet master types of conspiracy - Monster doesn't have the detailed bite but it does possess one of the better barks. A bark that's good enough to judge this as a whole regardless of how silly/immature/disappointed you are with the series so far. Think of it as finally witnessing the "Monster" although not in a scary but interesting manner.
All the rest? Well, here's a summary of what makes Monster fake and Hollywood only:
-bad psychologists (not even if you don't know anything about psychology)
-super doctor (with little to no medical drama scenes to justify this)
-unrealistic mystery (literally it's one whole chase scene - the mystery revolves around the antagonist already being established in the seedy underground even though it's very unlikely that he should have gotten that far already even by fantasy standards)
-Hollywood minor characters (if you thought Hollywood protagonists were bad enough, the minor characters often edge them via doing some of the most ludicrous ways of surviving and I'm not even referring to those who get lots of return cameo scenes. Even those who died, you can't help but feel after the first couple murder scene every death becomes more and more stupid)
-It could have been way way better and more and more mature if only... (Again going back to MW, part of why it seemed realistic in MW despite it being fantasy was the viciousness and unpredictability of the deaths. Anyone who knows anything about serial killing knows it's the unlikely candidates that make the killings that much hard to locate. Even in terms of fantasy morality, Light Yagami of Death Note fame for example had more caution and strategy than the antagonist of this series even though there's barely any fictional super-weapon in this series and yet the antagonist is able to survive this far and this long. Finally characters are too sensitive despite their hardened background. If MW was preachy because of Tezuka trying to hone in on the severity of the events happening on the characters, Monster is preachy in the opposite manner. Guys have life changing moments despite the scenes being generic and yet they shit on their own revolutions one arc later once the plot doesn't call them to be relevant towards that previous scene anymore. It's like three dimensional fictional characters becoming two dimensional because instead of fully continuing character development - it's all this arc - growth - stop - next arc - growth and then stop and there's no rinse or repeat. It's all intended canon ending up being fillers not because it took too long but because it kept resetting the character's development.)