Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Monster (2004-2005)

Monster (2004-2005) is a Japanese mystery animated series about a Japanese man who is determined to find the true identity of a young boy who later turned into a Monster (serial killer and psychopath) in Germany. Filled with intense mystery and lauded with praise, it contains a breath-taking 74 episodes.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma was a highly-acclaimed Japanese neurosurgeon in Germany that had it all in the 1980s: a rich and beautiful German fiancee and a promising career at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf. However, after becoming disenchanted by hospital politics for treating patients, he choose to save the life of a young boy who got shot in the head over the life of the mayor. His twin sister, Anna Liebert, keeps muttering about killing, and Tenma decides to operate on Johan instead of the mayor of Düsseldorf who arrived afterwards. Johan is saved, but Mayor Roedecker dies. This decision would change his life forever: he lost the support of the hospital director as well as his position in the hospital and his fiance. After his dismissal, the hospital director and the doctors that replaced him were mysteriously murdered. Both children disappear from the hospital soon after. The police suspect Tenma, as he benefits greatly from this turn of events, but they have no evidence and do not further question him.

These events placed Tenma back onto the top of his career. Nine years later, Dr. Tenma is now the Chief of Surgery at Eisler Memorial Hospital. After saving a known criminal named Adolf Junkers after being hit by a car, he hears him muttering about a "monster". Tenma extends kindness to Junkers. But Tenma did not get a easy life. Then one evening, when Dr. Tenma comes back with a clock as a gift for Junkers, he finds the guard in front of Junkers's room dead, and Junkers himself gone. Following the trail to the construction site of a half-finished building near the hospital, Tenma finds Junkers being held at gunpoint. An unknown man warns Tenma against coming closer, and pleads with him to run away. Tenma refuses, however, and the man holding the gun is revealed to be the boy whose life Tenma had saved nine years ago, Johan Liebert. Despite Dr. Tenma's attempt to reason with him, Johan shoots the criminal, tells Tenma that he could never kill the man who had saved his life, and then walks off into the night while Tenma is still too shocked to stop him.

After this incident, Tenma is again suspected by the police, particularly Inspector Runge, and he tries to find more information about this "Johan". He soon discovers that the boy's sister, now named Nina, is happily living the life of an adopted daughter to two caring parents. Tenma discovers her and manages to prevent her from meeting her brother, but comes too late to stop Johan from murdering her foster parents. As the story progresses, the origins of this monster emerge in the former East Germany, using a secret orphanage called 511 Kinderheim (where Johan came from) to create the "perfect soldiers" through "psychological reprogramming." It seems that the boy Tenma saved was much more than he had appeared to be. After learning the scope of the atrocities committed by the Monster, Tenma must clear his name and correct his past mistake: he must investigate the truth of the Monster and end it once and for all.

Monster is one of the few gems in Japanese anime history that is worthy of every praise and excellence. I didn't know what to expect when I watched the first episode, but the suspenseful and puzzling plot drew me closer to the characters. I sympathized with Tenma and Anna Liebert for wanting to end the Monster. I had to know how this series would end. Taking place in Germany and the Czech Republic, this superb investigative drama felt so real that it kept me curious each time. Although it took over a year to finish (74 episodes!), I am grateful that I took a chance on this series. I highly recommend it because it was very entertaining and well-done for the adult mystery genre. I also loved the symbolism in the opening and ending music.

There are discussions in remaking this anime into a live-action Hollywood film. Hopefully, it receives the green light for production.

Ending Song #1: "For The Love of Life" by David Sylvian (eps 1-32)

Ending Song #2: "Make It Home" by Fujiko Heming (eps 33-74)

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