Desperation is a Monster
"Monster ... showcases the repercussions of our actions and the struggle of holding on to morals when the world is crumbling about you"
There is a monster in this world. To everyone but Doctor Tenma, he is faceless, an evil that moves from violent crime to violent crime, with no motive and no evidence. To Doctor Tenma, this evil has a face, and a name: Johann. Nine years ago, Tenma risked his entire future to save the boy's life from a gunshot wound to the head. Now, couples are being murdered and the suspects are disappearing, but only Tenma knows what is happening, and it seems that only he can stop it.
A mystery anime title is rare. Most are magical, or action-packed, or full of sentimentality and romance. Monster has none of that. Instead, it showcases the repercussions of our actions and the struggle of holding on to morals when the world is crumbling about you.
Originally a manga, Monster is the story about a doctor who makes the decision to view all lives as equal, and as a result, he unleashes an epidemic of murder and terror. Tenma must struggle every day with the effects of his decisions, yet he always keeps a firm grasp on his utmost goal of saving lives. Yet how can the doctor's efforts be justified when every life he saves contributes to another life being snuffed out?
This is the question that Monster continues to ask throughout the series. As Tenma tries to uncover the mystery of Johann and protect the people he threatens, more and more bystanders become involved in the mess. A sympathetic reporter is murdered after giving the doctor the use of his car. His boss tries forcing him to abandon a surgery to work on a more high-end patient, and is later killed by the boy Tenma chose to save instead.
The doctor's helpless situation makes it easy to get frustrated with everything that is going on around him. Monster does an excellent job of portraying a world where no one can come out the winner, and everyone seems out to get everyone else. The only person you can trust is Tenma, but his lack of control over his situation is crippling. As outside forces methodically tear his world apart, Tenma becomes one of the few anime characters that I know who has a deserved right to cry as much as he does.
There is also a good deal of screaming and begging for mercy. The emotions in Monster tend to stick to the terrified, disgusted, shocked, and desperate end of the spectrum. In live action, I don't tend to go for that sort of thing, but Monster never really bothered me. Even with the corpses piling up, and never knowing who will be the next to get bumped off, the suspense takes a sideline to the mystery of it all, and the fact that this is anime keeps it from getting too creepy.
Throughout the anime, you are constantly asking yourself questions. Why is Johann killing all these people? How will Doctor Tenma prove his innocence in the case of his dead co-workers? Why on earth does that strange detective twitch so much? Because I haven't read the manga, only a few of my questions have been answered, but it's all the unanswered ones that keep me coming back, episode after episode. This is a mystery, after all.
The biggest question of all would be, is Monster a fun anime to watch? I would have to say yes. Since I'm not into either horror or terror genres, at first I didn't consider checking this title out. Now I'm glad I did. I found myself extremely interested in Doctor Tenma's welfare fairly quickly; I wanted him to come out on top by the first minutes of the anime. One of the first rules of fiction is that you must create characters that the audience cares about, and Monster follows that dutifully.
Monster is a solid piece of animation, produced by Madhouse Studios, and is currently airing on Nippon TV. It hasn't been picked up yet in the states, but it's only a matter of time. The music is minimal, with some eerie vocals and a few somber winds, somewhat like a creepy version of Noir, making it not a soundtrack that I would pick up immediately.
Overall, Monster is a solid title and worth looking into, especially if you want to broaden your tastes in anime. Really, this series is best watched over time, allowing the events of each episode to settle before moving on to the next one. By the end, only the writers know whether Tenma and the audience will come out unscathed, but the wait is half the fun.