Uh-kaaay..so I finished reading the manga almost 5 years ago. Totally completely forgot about it until yesterday Papadino brought it up. Then all the flashback & bitter feelings hit me back. It was a very good manga if not genius. I know Urasawa Naoki always produce such strong story. What hit me most is the way he created each and every aspect of it. Everything was carved real. Every timing, every artifact was made perfect. All its characters bear the same strong and bold personality. No one is just a simple scratch, they all have a certain background that adds to the story well. This “Monster” is my first in-depth-touch with his work before I set a look at “ ,” “20th Century Boys” & “Pluto,” his three other masterpieces.
“Monster” was set in around 1997 while its first case happened in early 1986. The story revolves around Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese genius surgeon who lived in Dusseldorf, Germany. His life turns when he chooses to save a young boy’s life of Johan. Only days after the operation, 3 of their Drs and some of their staffs were poisoned to death, with Tenma’s name on the suspect. Although he was not jailed because of the lack of proof, what happened 9 years after cause him to lose even more of his life. He’s being a suspect of middle-aged couples serial-murder within Europe. While on the run, Tenma’s suspicion later points to one name: Johan, whom he saved 9 years ago. Dwelling with guilt for rescuing the boy and eager to find the truth, Tenma attempt to track Johan’s whereabout to kill him. What he found next is more than shocking & fearful. What lies behind Johan & his twin (Anna/Nina) is darker than anyone could possibly experience.
As a seinen manga, ‘Monster’ gave a thrilling adventure, garnished with beautiful scenes of Europe’s treasury places such as Prague & Heidelberg, its atmosphere bear the mystery of European folktale & dark aftertaste. Start from what seems to be mere murder case to a larger, darker plot behind it; from a simply brilliant young man to a government’s scandal. Urasawa slowly unties the knot that bound all the plots together. Going even farther than just using German & Czech language in some of its features, Urasawa also did an excellent research about those countries where he based his story from. Something quite common for Japanese Mangaka actually. But in “Monster” he cultured it into a made reality. We can almost assure that all events really happened. Reading “Monster” always give me the curious thrill, even after 5 years. So when Papadino showed me one of its chapter days ago, I just simply rush to re-read it once more.
From “Monster” we learned that all the mess starts from a storybook read to kids in Red Rose Mansion. The storybook is indeed the key plot to all events happened in “Monster” series. What amused me is that this storybook said written by a Czech author Emil Scherbe felt so real it almost hard to believe such book was only a property of the series. Only after the series was done that the book made it into real-world as a solo. The book can be found here. And more amazing (or disturbing? ^^) is what story lies within the book. After reading it over I had this glimpse that the kids in Red Rose Mansion who received such story over and over will develop a certain feeling about themselves and others. Psychologically evil. I posted stories written by the author Emil Scherbe a.k.a Klaus Poppe/Jakub Faroubek/Helmuth VOSS/Franz Bonaparta one by one in different posts, because they are all interesting and give certain feelings to read. starts from Obluda, Která Nemá Své Jméno (The Monster Without A Name); Bůh Míru (The God of Peace); Velkooký, Velkoústý (The Man With Big Eyes and the Man With the Big Mouth); Obluda, Se Probouzi (The Awakening Monster); so long with many other stories ever appeared in “Monster” universe.
Anyway, back to the manga. Many things kept unrevealed after it finished. Although it seems not necessary, I secretly hope they will make more story about “Monster,” whether make it into a trilogy or simply a case explanation. Lately, I know my request wasn’t too much because I found that they released a supplement novel titled “Another Monster” sometimes after the manga finished. “Another Monster” is a gathered information based on interviews and scrap of facts by an Austrian Journalist Werner Weber with the help of Naoki Urasawa & Takashi Nagasaki. I am not sure whether Werner Weber is a real person or just another character built for the story.
“Another Monster” reveals many facts and insightful stories that have never been told in the manga before. So it helps getting a clearer image of what happened in whole “Monster” universe. From “Another Monster” we know what happens to the twin’s parents and what triggers the event at Red Rose Mansion, even deeper knowledge about many character’s personalities and what their connection to Johan case. I was extremely happy to find there is, even more, supplement to the series. A picture book called “The Awakening Monster” (sometimes it is also called “The Sleeping Monster”) fill in the already-bold background of “Monster.”
Now I’ve just finished reading “Another Monster”: Chapter 19 & “The Awakening Monster” which Urasawa recommend to read only after we finished reading the whole “Another Monster” chapters. I really wish there would be someone who will offer me a translation of “Another Monster” Chapter: 20-final. Been curious to death! At least after reading all “Monster” series & half of the supplements, I still think it is a magnificent story. Even all side story is oddly beautiful. A story that won’t get too old to read. Complex but entertaining in certain ways. I wouldn’t dare compare it to “Silence of The Lambs” but they actually bear the same aftertaste. Dark and bitter all the same. A little shake & fear was dragging me when I read “Another Monster” in solitaire silence. Maybe what Urasawa Naoki’s recite that “the most powerful weapon is words” is indeed true after all…
I heard “Monster” will be made to Live Action Hero by New Line Cinema, one of Hollywood major studio. Said to be written by Josh Olson (A History of Violence), an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, was actually hoped to be released by the end of 2009. Now after we reach 2011, hope the project was not left behind although I strongly feel it’s going to be just another crap remake by Hollywood industry. I can’t even imagine how they intend to picture all “Monster” events. But again, seeing from the successful adaptation of “20th Century Boys” I really hope this one won’t fail me either. As long as Urasawa involved I think there will be a good production perhaps.
View another masterpiece from Urasawa Naoki’s twisted world of conspiracy & mind control:
- Master Keaton: wikipedia, mangascans (1-4)
- 20th Century Boys: wikipedia, mangascans, imdb part 1 & part 2
- Pluto (Urasawa Naoki’s complexion inside Tezuka Osamu’s world of Astro/Atom Boy): wikipedia, mangascans
- ..and a decent review on 91.8 The Fan of his works including “Yawara!” & “Billy Bat”, his first booming & recent manga series.
- In 2017, Urasawa plan to release another series titled “Dam!yan” after previous work on “Master Keaton Remaster“, a collaboration project called “The Tipping Point” and a short manga featuring band The Beatles on their time travel trip to 2016.
*There’s Widyarani who traveled to Heidelberg, Germany & captured photos of places that Urasawa featured in Monster. Her pics make me wanna go there too~. Visit her travel report (in Bahasa) or her personal blog here 🙂
*Also read “Monster” in-depth discussions on this great blog here.