Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Box Set 1 (VIZ Media, M for Mature)

A young surgeon saves the wrong life and his own life becomes a deadly game of cat-and-mouse in this thoughtful new anime thriller.

 

 

 

In Monster, based on Naoki Urasawa’s popular manga series (also published in English by VIZ Media), we are introduced to a young Japanese doctor, Kenzo Tenma. By all appearances, Dr. Tenma is primed to not only enjoy a stellar career as a neurosurgeon at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Germany, but he is also happily preparing to marry Eva, the beautiful daughter of the hospital’s director. When we first meet Kenzo, he is accosted by the mother of a child who had died while waiting for surgery. Growing increasingly tired of hospital politics and the shaky moral foundation on which the director and his upper management prioritizes its patients, Kenzo makes a decision that alters the course of his life forever.
 
On the same evening, a boy who had been shot in the head is brought to him for emergency surgery. Named Johan, he is the older twin from a family of East German defectors who were slain earlier that night. On the very same night, the mayor collapses, and is also brought to Eisler Memorial for surgery. Tenma is ordered by the director to give the mayor’s case his full attention. Tired of dragging his conscience thorough the sturm und drang of ethical ambiguity, he decides to go against the wishes of his superiors and treats the boy, saving him. The mayor, operated on by a group of less-talented surgeons, is not quite as lucky.
 
Ultimately, Kenzo’s decision to save Johan, made with the best of intentions, turns into something as dark and disturbing as evil itself. From this point on, the plot spider-webs and tumbles into a tense and thoughtful narrative, with enough conspiratorial plot twists and fascinating character arcs to keep us guessing every step of the way. In many ways, Monster is very much like a Jim Jarmusch film in that it’s not the destination, but the journey that keeps us invested in these characters and the scruples that guide them. Behind every betrayal of innocence and surprising revelation lies the bitter truth of human relationships and the thin distorted line between living and dying.
 
The first 15 episodes of the 74-episode series (currently airing Monday nights on SyFy) are available uncut in Boxset 1, and you can enjoy the story in Japanese with English subtitles or dubbed in English. Either way, the voice actors are top-notch and the direction by Masayuki Kojima keeps the story cracking with the pace of a nervous heartbeat, while the art direction by Yuji Ikeda gives us the appropriate amount of bone-chilling atmosphere. Even the packaging is stellar, keeping right in line with VIZ Media’s five-star track record.
 
Mr. Urasawa’s creation puts a new coat of paint on what we’ve come to expect from the genre. So, whether you’re a big anime fan, or you’ve simply grown tired of it, give Monster a shot. You’ll not only be happy you did, you’ll be eager to know what happens next to Kenzo and company when all is said and done. | Jim Ousley

 

Watch the first 46 episodes of Monster via free, legal streaming at www.manga.com/titles/monster.

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