Genre: Mystery, Drama, Horror, Police, Psychological, Thriller, Seinen
Personal Rating: 8/10
Don´t let yourself be fooled by my personal rating. This is an anime I would gladly rate a 10/10, but unfortunately, the ending prevented me from doing so. Anyway, here we have a pretty long anime. Monster is a psychological thriller show written by Naoki Urasawa, and as such, it has a pretty dark theme going on. I was a little afraid to watch this anime, first because the art seemed VERY bad from the AMVs and the previews I watched, and then the fact that the show is very long. After returning from my vacations, I finally decided to check it out. And I sure am glad I did. While the first episodes may seem a little boring at first, you´ll quickly see why they are so slow-paced. Character Development is without a doubt Monster´s strongest point, and you have to pay attention to the anime, otherwise, you wont understand anything of what´s going on. Anyway, enough talking, let´s get down to it, shall we?
Story (9/10): The story is about a young and promising brain surgeon called Dr. Kenzo Tenma, who works at a renown hospital. Not only was he a brilliant neurosurgeon, as his comrades all thought that his research might have revolutionized the medical field. However, one day a singer needs to have an operation as soon as possible, and the director of the hospital orders Tenma to abandon his initial patient (who was a turkish guy), and Tenma has no choice but to do it. Tenma manages to save the singer´s life, but his initial patient dies, and his wife screams at Tenma for not being able to save her husband. Of course, this shakes Tenma to the core, and makes him doubt of the director´s morals. Some time later, a similar incident happens: a boy is shot on the head, and is barely alive, but the Major of the city also needs an emergency procedure, however this time, Tenma decides to ignore the director´s orders, and saves the boy´s life. This time, the Major dies, and the director demotes Tenma for refusing to listen to his orders. Little did Tenma know that he would regret saving this boy´s life.
Some weeks after this incident, however, the director and two of Tenma´s comrades are found dead, and tenma becomes the prime suspect of the autorities. For nine years, Tenma lived as a suspect, working on the hospital, but then he founds evidence that lead to Johan (the boy he saved 9 years ago) having killed his former comrades. This makes Tenma question his own ideals, and after some stuff happens, Tenma embarks on a journey to find and kill Johan, who he considers to be a Monster. Throughout his journey, Tenma will visit several places in Europe, mainly in Germany and the Czech Republic. He will meet several characters along the way, some important, others not as much, but they are some of the most realistic and brilliantly written characters I have ever seen in an anime.
Of course, the main reason why so many people give up on Monster has to do with the fact that the pacing is VERY slow (after all, its 74 episodes long), and there were some parts that seemed to stretch out the anime as much as possible, it almost felt like they were trying to force as many episodes as possible. I know many people who gave up on the anime after about 20 episodes, and I can´t really blame them. Monster´s story develops very slowly, but that´s what makes it so good. 74 episodes is more than enough to have a good and complete story, so I understand they needed to take their time developing all the characters and plot twists. Another thing to mention is that this anime in particular has NO filler episodes, all arcs are connected by some character or another, and all the arcs are important to learn more about Johan and the reason as to why he´s going around killing people. Many characters are connected to the “511 Kinderheim”, and others are directly connected to Johan. All in all, Monster´s story may seem a little boring and repetitive at first, but give it a chance, and after episode 30 you will be so addicted to this anime that you won´t even be annoyed by the slow pacing. I give it a 9/10 for consistency and the awesome plot twists of course. The last arc is also the best, so look forward to that.
Art (6/10): This is more of a personal opinion than a general one, but I found the art unappealing. This feeling decayed as I kept on watching episodes, after 20 episodes I was actually starting to get used to it, but I´m still not a huge fan. Of course, this doesn´t mean the art isn´t fitting. After all, Monster is mainly a Psychological Thriller, so of course the art needs to be dark, and since Monster was made to be realistic, the art actually fits well. The sceneries, however, are beautiful. The anime shows sceneries from all over Europe, and it really gives you the feeling that you´re there. This anime was made in 2004, so it´s understandable the art is subpar with some other shows too. The character designs were, as stated before, very realistic, and no two characters looked alike. Nowadays, most shows have character designs that have basically different hair and that´s all, but Monster felt like each one was unique, the attention to detail was superb aswell.
About the animation, it was decent enough, but it´s surely not the best I have ever seen. The action scenes were good enough, but I felt a lack of quality in every other scene. there´s not much else to say here, I´ll rate the Art section a 6, not horrible, but unappealing for the most part.
Soundtracks (8/10): Now, I wasn´t expecting anything sound-related from Monster when I started the series. I was stunned when I heard some of the soundtracks though. The “slice-of-life” OSTs are amazing, and give a feeling of relaxation. The action OSTs were also good, but I find them mediocre when comparing them to other Psychological Thrillers, like Death Note. This doesn´t mean they are bad though: they were very fitting, and believe it or not, much like Bakemonogatari, Monster has all kinds of soundtracks. Slice-of-Life, Action, Drama, you name it, you hear it. Another great thing Monster has going for it is the amazing opening. This opening lasts for all 74 episodes, but it´s so good that it didn´t bother me at all. The ending themes also fit the dark-themed anime, though it´s nowhere near as good as the opening one. The problem I had with this section was the repetitive nature of the soundtracks. While they were surely fitting for every scene, hearing the same OSTs for over 70 episodes became sometimes annoying.
Now, about the voice acting, I watched the first 5 episodes with english subs, and I was very disappointed with the voice acting. It seemed kinda outplace for an anime like this. However, I noticed that I had downloaded a Dual Audio version, meaning that I could choose between the English Dub and the Japanese one. So, for the first time, I tried the English Dub, and I was actually quite surprised. This time around, the VAs were serious, and their voices were magnificent to hear throughout the anime. Johan´s voice was AMAZING in the Dub, far exceeding my expectations. Tenma´s voice was also pretty convincing, as his VA did a wonderful job at conveying tenma´s emotions through his speeches. I can´t really talk about the Japanese version, but the Dub sure seemed amazing, and this is one of the few anime that i would pick the Dub over the Sub version anyday.
To close the Soundtrack section, let´s talk about the sound effects. Mostly were just explosions and gunshots, but the “recollection” sound effects were amazing and they gave a feeling of confusing that I hadn´t yet felt in an anime. This just strengthened the Sound section of Monster, which really played a big part in the later episodes. This said, I´ll give it an 8/10, obviously not the best of the best, but still pretty good, and you´ll probably like them alot more than I did, the reason being that I´m very picky when it comes to soundtracks.
Characters (8/10): I wont talk about each character, because if I did, I would be here writting for at least 5 days. However, the main character (Kenzo Tenma) is a brain surgeon, who cares more about helping other people than having lots of fame and money. He´s also the kind of person who doesn´t give up: if he sets his eyes on something, he WILL put his life and career on the line in order to get it. This is shown when he puts everything at stake in order to find Johan. Not only is he a superb character, as most characters that he meets and helps along the way are beautifully written, and they all have exceptional personalities. This isn´t to say that there aren´t annoying characters, As a matter of fact, there are MANY annoying characters, but the anime makes up for it by having realistic and humane characters, so it didn´t really become a huge issue in the long run. Johan is obviously the antagonist of the anime, he has a very calm and quiet personality, and it seems he likes to kill and manipulate people to do his bidding. At first, it seems he just kills with no reason, but it´s later revealed that he DOES actually have a reason. That´s not to say it´s a good reason, after all, killing is the ultimate sin, and there aren´t really good reasons to kill right?
Another character I want to talk about is Anna, who is often refered to as Nina, she´s Johan´s twin sister, and she´s also trying to find and kill him, much like Tenma, but she doesn´t work with Tenma for the sole reason that she regrets not having killed Johan when she had the chance, so she wasnt to finish him off by herself. Ironically, Tenma´s reason for pursuing Johan also has to do with regret. Eva Heinemann was Tenma´s fiancee, and also the daughter of the director that was killed nine years ago. She despises Tenma for ruining her life, and she´s trying to do anything in her power to make him seem guilty. She cooperates with the police and some detectives in order to find him, and make him suffer the same way she did. Then, we have Inspector Lunge, the main detective in charge of Tenma´s case, he truly believes Tenma is the culrpit in the killings, and also thinks “Johan” is the second personality of Tenma, hence not believing that Johan truly exists. He travels all around Europe to try and find evidence of Tenma being the culprit, and he gets so caught up on work that he often ignores his family.
As stated before, I won´t go very in-depth as far as characters go, because Monster has a HUGE cast of characters, but I can say my favorite ones were Kenzo Tenma, Anna Liebert and Grimmer, who is a traveler and ex-student of the 511 Kinderheim, the same orphanage Johan went to. He wants to find the truth about what happened so many years ago, and truly believes Tenma to be innocent, as shown when he saved Tenma from the police. I´ll rate this section an 8/10, there were some amazing characters, some annoying ones, some plot twists that completely changed my view on certain characters. All in all, Monster has a good cast of characters, and especially a superb main character, which is very important for an anime to succeed.
Entretainment (9/10): The rewatch value is high for me, which means I really liked the anime. While there were some episodes that didn´t have that much action, there weren´t useless arcs or episodes, and I was always at the edge of my seat when I saw Johan and his crazy plans. All the mystery solving going around in this anime is pretty cool aswell, and you´ll have a lot of fun figuring out why Johan does that he does, and why certain characters support him. The art may be subpar, but it was never a thorn in the way of my entretainment, I especially liked how they made each episode seem cool and worth of the time spent on it, there weren´t any recaps to skip, or any annoying episodes. Monster also didn´t need to rely on moe or fanservice in order to be good (though there were some obcene scenes, they only added up to the realism of the show). No panty shots, no moe girls, no anything annoying. Just how I like them. You´ll find yourself craving for more episodes after you watch 20 of them, and you´ll probably be very sad after it ends, whether you end up liking or not the ending.
Overall (8/10): I would really like to give this show a 9 or a 10, but the ending kinda defeated the purpose of the anime itself, so I was a little disappointed. The art being below average didn´t help, and it took me some weeks to finish the anime. However, don´t let these small issues get to you, Monster is still a superb anime worthy of all its praise, it´s not overrated at all, and if you manage to finish it, you will be glad you did. Don´t give up on it just because you found one arc annoying: keep watching it and complete it. You won´t regret giving it another chance.
74 episodes of pure gold character development and a superbly written dark story are definitely worthy of praise. The moral values of this anime are stunning, and I wouldn´t recommend it to beginners, but to more advanced anime fans, as it may seem unapealling to younger audiences and unexperienced anime fans. Another thing I have to add is that this anime was made by Madhouse Studios, a studio that is well known for some great adaptations like the Chihayafuru series, and Death Note. Monster was one of their best, and they really delivered on every level except the art. So, if you haven´t finished Monster yet, stop reading this review, download the episodes and start watching it! Thanks for reading.