A bit of a disclaimer to start. It has been many years since I’ve read this manga or watched the adapted anime so if I get any details wrong, I apologize in advance.
Not too long ago, I saw a post on Reddit asking if it was worth finishing Monster. I can’t remember how far along in the story the poster was, but I gave them my honest advice based on my opinion of both the manga and anime. I was then shit upon by another Redditor for having a poor opinion of what is generally a well received and highly praised work. Apparently not agreeing with the majority is no longer allowed.
It all starts out really well. Dr. Tenma is a Japanese brain surgeon working in a hospital in Germany. He is praised as a brilliant doctor and is engaged to the daughter of the head of the hospital. His life seems to be going only in the right direction when a young boy comes into the hospital with a bullet wound to the head. At the same time, prominent figure (I think it was the mayor) is brought in ( I think he had a heart attack). The head of the hospital orders Tenma to operate on the Mayor, but Tenma has a moral problem. The child is clearly in more danger of dying than the mayor and he is the better doctor to treat the boy. Ultimately, Tenma chooses to operate on the child, saving his life.
This doesn’t sit well with the other employees in the hospital. The mayor dies and Tenma is blamed since he didn’t treat the mayor. Tenma loses his job and his finance leaves him. Before he departs the hospital, he sits by the child’s side and confesses out loud his frustrations with the other doctors and their behavior to the unconscious boy. Not long after, the boy wakes up, disappears from the hospital and the doctors who Tenma complained about are found dead. It doesn’t take long before it becomes obvious that the boy, Johan, is responsible for the deaths of the doctors. It’s at this point that Tenma realizes that by saving the child and confessing what he did that he is responsible for the deaths of the other doctors.
This is an amazing premise and I was absolutely hooked. This was just one volume of the manga after all and there are 18 volumes.
The narrative skips ahead several years. Tenma is trying to locate Johan in an attempt to correct the mistake he made in the past. Throughout most of the story, Tenma is intent on finding Johan and killing him. My interest was held mostly throughout the whole story. I really wanted to know how it was all going to end, but at some point suspense can just become boredom. The author, Naoki Urasawa is considered to be a master of suspense, but if all your story is is on going suspense, it loses it’s appeal. It takes so long for anything to actually be revealed that it got into eye rolling moments when the reader thinks something really important is going to finally be revealed and then – NO. Instead, there’s too many side characters, most of which I can’t even remember. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure the outcome of the entire series would have been the same whether or not those side characters were even there.
During Tenma’s search, any time he heard of a blonde young man doing something even slightly sinister, it had to be Johan. Like, it couldn’t possibly be any other blonde young man – in Germany. Really? Johan is supposed to be some kind of evil genius but his motivations don’t make any sense. Why did he do any of the stuff he did? I can’t remember.
I did stick it out to the end, but there are times I wish I’d just asked the internet what the ending was and not wasted my time. I hated the ending too.
So there’s my unpopular opinion of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. It starts out absolutely amazing and just goes down into eye rolling boredom. I wish it was better. I really do. It could have been so much better.
Anyway, thanks for reading and please let me know what you thought of this series!