Review by: Eduardo Zacarias
Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $59.90 US
Running Time: 330 minutes
Rating: M (Mature)
Release Date: Available Now
Smart, complex and utterly brilliant … just what you can ask in a suspense/mystery.
All Doctor Kenzo Tenma wanted out of life is to save lives as a surgeon and – as a result – he was considered a young genius in the field of medicine. Unfortunately, fate is not a kind mistress and the events that unfold in this story leads the Doctor to a dark and startling truth about the monster he helped save. Welcome to the DVD Box Set 1 of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster … an extraordinary anime suspense tale by one of the talented mind of Naoki Urasawa.
This first box set covers the first 15 episodes of the anime version of Urasawa’s powerful manga and faithfully recreates the intricate story. Taking place in Dusseldorf – circa 1986 – just three years before the fall of the wall in Berlin in a Germany that still feels the painful sting of the aftermath of World War II, Dr. Tenma is living a good life working in a prestigious hospital. He might be a Japanese transplant but he’s a brilliant surgeon who also happens to be dating the beautiful daughter of hospital’s director.
Still, despite being treated well by the Director and his daughter, Eva Heinemann, Tenma feels he is simply being used by the Director who only cares about making his hospital famous. When a Turkish farmer’s wife confronts Tenma for having – under the orders of the Director – treated a famous opera singer instead of her husband who arrived to the hospital first, Tenma feels that the hospital doesn’t care about helping the little people.
So when an opportunity arrives to aid a child who was shot in the head and disobey the Director’s orders of tending to the city’s major who had a stroke, Tenma chooses to aid the child. Yes, he commits professional suicide but he felt the child’s life comes first. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that something is not right about the child. You see, the boy was found shot near the bodies of his foster parents and standing before the boy is his twin sister who is in a state of shock. Her only words to Tenma are “kill.”
Having been taken off the twins’ case, being overlooked as Chief of Surgery and being dumped by his fiancé, Tenma’s life is in ruin until – mysterious – the two doctors that replaced him and the hospital Director are found dead. On top of that, the boy he saved – know as Johan – and his sister go missing. Nine years pass and Tenma’s career is doing a lot better but Germany is being terrorized by a serial killer murdering elderly couples. It isn’t until Tenma follows a strange patient to an abandoned building that he comes face-to-face with the young serial killer who recognizes the Doctor. It’s Johan who kills the man right in front of Tenma and walks away.
Several miles away, a young university student named Nina is receiving anonymous e-mails from a person she thinks might be a secret admirer. She’s a lovely young woman who vaguely remembers her past until one day, waiting for a person she thinks is her admirer, she catches a glimpse of a young man that fills her with dread. Meanwhile, back in Dusseldorf, a hardboiled cop named Inspector Lunge suspects Tenma of having murdered his rivals and the hospital Director. Worst yet, he’s being implicated in the murder of the patient Johan had killed right in front of him.
So, on the run, Tenma decides to look for Johan on his own and stop the monster’s killing spree as well as find out the mystery behind his lost twin sister. When he does find the girl he had known as Anna and is now called Nina, people begin to die again. Seeing no other way of stopping the violence but to kill him, both Tenma and Nina go their separate way to find Johan.
The closer Tenma gets to finding Johan, though, the more pieces of the puzzle begin to reveal themselves including the discovery of an orphanage with a very dark and disturbing secret that is connected to Johan. While Tenma saves an orphan and continues the journey with the boy, Anna/Nina is searching for John posing as a prostitute in order to meet the city’s notorious gangster nicknamed “the Baby.” Meanwhile, Inspector Lunge is pushed by Tenma’s miserably and lonely ex, Eva, to find and arrest Tenma … the man she feels ruined her life.
Monster is certainly not your average suspense tale since it spins a very intricate web of political and historical conspiracies set in a background and time period that makes the story so credible. Secondly, the characters are fleshed out to the point that you won’t help but be drawn into their lives whether the episode takes a closer look into Inspector Lunge’s personal life or the self-destructive life of Eva Heinmann. Thankfully, the series never goes too dark, such as the episode where Tenma trains to use a gun with a mercenary and the little girl he watches over.
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Box Set 1, is wonderfully crafted and intense anime series that pushes the genre forward in a way that makes it just too damn hard to want to stop watching. If you read the source material you already know how brilliant the story is but thanks to director Masayuki Kojima you can expect the anime series to be just as compelling and rightfully disturbing.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Doctor Kenzo Tenma is a brilliant physician who makes a judgment call that saved the life of a boy who turns out to be a killer of monstrous proportions. In order to redeem himself, Tenma begins his own investigation while being pursued by the police as a suspect. Who is Johan and what turned him into a vicious serial killer and what is his twin sister’s dark secret?
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series looks great on DVD and this is great news considering the fact that the animation manages to capture the look of Urasawa-sensei’s original art.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Both the original Japanese voices and the English dub talent make the brilliant dialogue work beautifully. On top of that, Kuniaki Haishima’s score is simply spectacular … and often appropriately creepy.
There are trailers for Naoki Urasawa’s manga titles as well as the trailer for Monster but the best extra comes in the form of Digital Guide of the Official Monster File with background info on characters, locales and historical facts about Germany.
A groundbreaking, complex and intelligent suspense story, the DVD Box Set 1 of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster will not fail to hook you from the very start. It weaves an intricate web of mysteries that slowly unravels to reveal a shocking picture worthy of the genre. If this is the first part we certainly can’t wait for Box Set 2.