Ξ January 10th, 2010 | → 2 Comments | ∇ The Anime Annals |
AND I SAW A BEAST RISING OUT OF THE SEA HAVING TEN HORNS AND SEVEN HEADS; AND ON ITS HORNS WERE TEN DIADEMS, AND ON ITS HEADS WERE BLASPHEMOUS NAMES… AND THE DRAGON GAVE IT HIS POWER AND HIS THRONE AND GREAT AUTHORITY… THEY WORSHIPPED THE DRAGON, FOR HE HAD GIVEN HIS AUTHORITY TO THE BEAST, AND THEY WORSHIPPED THE BEAST, SAYING, “WHO IS LIKE THE BEAST, AND WHO CAN FIGHT AGAINST IT?” -Revelations 13:1-4 NRSV
…and so it began…
I finally finished watching all 74 episodes of Monster last night… and wow, I’m speechless. So I’ll type instead
I’d been wanting to watch this show ever since getting into anime in May of 2007, but the length always put me off, despite the very high ratings it received pretty much everywhere. Its themes of morality, judgement, and good-versus-evil combined with its genres of drama, mystery, suspense, psychological thriller, and yes, chilling horror intrigued me from the first moment I discovered its entry at Anime News Network, along with its sky-high rating. Eventually its esteemed reputation wore me down, and after a long time searching I finally tracked down the files to watch at my convenience (i.e.: not at a network’s convenience and unreliability). From the first episode, I was hooked.
The question often is asked of what anime would make a good gateway through which to introduce non-anime fans into the medium; a show that doesn’t feature any of the typical and overexposed cliches that abound in much of the anime broadcast in the West. There really aren’t that many; even the superb Cowboy Bebop could presumably be off-putting to those potential viewers not into science-fiction. (But if they are, Bebop would be perfect!) And so Monster raises its grisly, bloody head, a Mature series for mature people who can take a straightforward thriller that rarely falters in its unrelenting breakneck pace towards its very violent end. Totally addicting and filled with enough fully-fleshed secondary characters and well-thought out subplots to spin a web that will wrap as tightly as a shroud around the viewer, by the time they’ve dug through its 74 episodes and reached its end, the concept of “salvation” may become known in more ways than one…
… or not, depending upon the viewer
For those not inclined to click the above link, here’s the summary from Anime News Network:
Plot Summary: Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese brain surgeon in Germany, had it all: incredible skill at his work, a rich and beautiful fiancee, and a promising career at his hospital. However, after becoming disenchanted by hospital politics, he chose to save the life of a young boy who got shot in the head over the life of the mayor. As a result he lost the support of the hospital director, as well as his position in the hospital and his fiance. A short time later, the hospital director and the doctors that replaced him were murdered, and once again he was catapulted back onto the top. But as the chief suspect of the murders, Tenma did not get a easy life. As a matter of fact, it seems that the boy he saved was much more than he had appeared to be… Now to clear his name and to correct his past mistake, Tenma must get to the bottom of these and other murders, and investigate the truth of the Monster who is behind all of this.
It’s often been said that for a good “gateway anime” to work here in the West that it must be dubbed in English, as all-too-many potential viewers are put off by (or too lazy to read) subtitles. Monster is said to have a decent dub, but to be honest, the original Japanese voice actors provide a much more dramatic portrayal. From what I understand, these are actual live-action actors used to playing on-screen roles, so their performances are pitch-perfect and believeable. (Note that I’m unsure about this, namely because one of my favorite anime seiyuus, Mamiko Noto, voices Nina/Anna, and it’s probably her greatest role, Clannad‘s Kotomi and Kimi ni Todoke’s Sawako notwithstanding!) You don’t get the impression that they’re forcing their voices into the characters, but are actually WHO they are portraying. I was very impressed with the quality of not only the actors, but the writing, plotting, and direction of Monster. It was the easiest “10″ I ever gave
About the only anime I can think of to compare it to would be Death Note, without the supernatural elements. The police/detective themes run strong in both, and continually poke, prod, and propel the viewer along with the story’s relentless pacing. To be sure, there are moments where the pace does slow a bit, but I think that it’s necessary to do so in order to give the recipient a break in the feast set before them. Otherwise the addictive nature of this creation will glut them to explosive oversaturation…
The bad news is that since the series has been licensed for sale here in North America, it’s hard to find not only the episodes but also fitting (and subtitled) YouTube clips Although you can sample DUBBED episodes through the above Anime News Network link, so check that out by clicking the Watch It Now button on the encyclopedia page.
The good news is that after five years since its airing, the first DVD box set has just been released here! I’d say that if, after sampling a few episodes and finding it addictive enough, it would make an excellent addition to anyone’s library of movies, because in any form this is a story that is deep, thought-provoking, and satisfying, and a very worthy title to own outright. Since this first box only contains episodes 1-15, it’ll probably take five sets to fit all 74 episodes, but will be worth every penny; I’m definitely buying it (when I get some more pennies, that is). The only shame is that David Sylvian’s beautiful and haunting song for the ending theme, “For the Love of Life” wasn’t licensed for release here in the States. So, in the spirit of not letting those idiotic money-grubbing issues prevent you from enjoying this most-fitting piece of music, here it is in its entirety along with some of the background images taken from the thematic “The Monster Without a Name” picture book that is central to Monster…
Sylvian’s a really under-appreciated artist and has long been a favorite of mine ever since buying “Down to Earth” when it came out (ON VINYL). Great atmospherics So he joins Radiohead (Ergo Proxy) the Delgados (Gunslinger Girl) and Noel Gallagher from Oasis (Eden of the East) as rockers who’ve contributed musics to anime; pretty cool! (Note that the lyrics to “For the Love of Life” can be found on the above video’s YouTube page.)
Here’s a final treat/SPOILER for those that still need prodding and aren’t averse to a little spoilage. This occurs in episode 37 (the halfway point), and is the reading of “The Monster Without a Name” by Nina, voiced by Mamiko Noto:
Just like a fairy tale… except that the tale of Monster is very, very realistic, and pretty damned believable. Not exactly a nursery rhyme or children’s lullabye.