Sunday, March 30, 2008

“Monster” by Naoki Urasawa

Occasionally, Junior League Member Rover Dill (aka my son, Jeremy) will be posting some reviews of his favorite manga, anime, and comics. He is solely responsible for them. I hope you enjoy them. Some, such as Last Exile, have been a great VSF/Aeronef influence for our games. --Bob Waller

One hardboiled thriller comin’ right up! Naoki Urasawa is a renowned manga artist best known for his stunning ways of intricate storytelling combined with heart pounding suspense, and Monster is no exception. This is one graphic novel (manga) series that you will defiantly want to check out.

“Brilliant doctor Kenzo Tenma risks his reputation and promising career to save the life of a critically wounded young boy. Unbeknownst to him, this child is destined for a terrible fate. Conspiracies, serial murders, and a scathing depiction of the underbelly of hospital politics are all masterfully woven together in this compelling manga thriller.” -Monster volume 1 description

The manga itself is set in Germany, where young Dr. Tenma is making a very promising career for himself as a neurosurgeon at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf. Soon enough though, Tenma notices that the hospital’s director Dr. Heinemann, is using him to heal only important patients in order to boost the hospitals reputation. Tenma receives a call one night from the hospital, who has taken a boy (Johan) in after being shot in the head during a murder at his house, leaving his sister in shock, and his parents dead. Tenma is forced to make a decision on weather or not he should save the boy in surgery, or the mayor who comes close to the same time. He disobeys the director’s orders of saving the mayor and saves the young boys life instead. Tenma soon goes on a downward spiral due to his disobedience with the director. He also loses his fiancée who is the directors daughter. In all of this though, he makes his way to the top of the ladder due to a series of unnerving events at Eisler.

Dr. Tenma’s life once again takes a dramatic turn for the worse nine years after his encounter with the young boy he had saved. Dr. Tenma soon realizes that the boy he had once saved has turned into a true monster, one who not only has criminal power, but political power as well. Dr. Tenma then sets off on a heart pounding journey around all of Germany in his search for the young man, constantly hoping to kill the monster he has created while unraveling the dark mystery that is Johan Leibert.

Monster is definitely one of the best reads, not only in manga, but in the whole comic community, that I have ever come across. The journey Dr. Tenma takes leaves the reader on the edge of his seat in a way that only Urasawa can do. The series delves into the mind of a criminal, explores the black and white of the human condition, and displays one of the most masterful stories around. Filled with murder, suspense, intrigue, action, and plenty of deep character development, Monster does not disappoint as it’s a fresh break, and a rare gem among manga, and graphic novels. Highly recommended.

Note: Monster is 18 volumes large in total, and as of now 13 have been released here by Viz Media. The volumes are priced at $9.99 each and can be found at most bookstores, but they can be hard to find at times. Monster is also rated T+, and is recommended for audiences of 16 years of age and older. It contains realistic, and graphic violence, and adult themes.

Viz Media: http://monster.viz.com/story.php

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