Posted by psgels on 19 February 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

And with this, I’ve finally finished this behemoth of a series. Aside from LoGH, this probably is the most critically acclaimed anime out there. And by GOD, I do agree with that consensus.

I already noticed when watching Master Keaton, how much research its author, Naoki Urusawa, puts into his stories and setting. The same influence can be seen in Monster. It’s completely different from Master Keaton, and yet both shows are meticulously well researched: its portrayal of Germany is fantastic, and like Master Keaton: everyone is a professional. This isn’t a series of impulsive plans: everyone all spends a large amount of time preparing and researching. This has two benefits: it’s incredibly believable what these guys do, and it fleshes out whatever they’re investigating brilliantly.

Now, talking about what makes this show so amazing is very difficult without delving into spoilers, so I’ll try to be as vague as possible with this review, as usual. Let me just say that this series has some of the best villains I have ever seen. Perhaps even the best out there. The only thing I’ll say about them is that their character development is just utterly fantastic.

Now, Monster is long. I have found that marathoning these long series, like most recently Hajime no Ippo and Legend of Galactic Heroes, that while they have some amazing parts, there are also parts at which it’s a bit of a chore to sit through with all of the build-up. And here is the thing: with Monster, I did not have that. It immediately starts off with an amazing display of fireworks, and even though it is paced very slowly, every episode delivers an interesting new twist to the story, and every episode had me at the edge of my seat. Even the build-up episodes are fascinating to watch, and in a personal way that really allows you to connect to the characters. It manages to avoid being repetitive by continuing to push its storyline in different directions, and introducing a wide variety of characters. Seriously, even the development of the minor side-characters has its flashes of brilliance.

On top of that, this show also has a stunning direction, use of music and audio. Masayuki Kojima has really shown that he can direct in pretty much any style. And heck, Ryousuke Nakamura (yes, the Mouryou no Hako guy) was actually the assistant director for this. The result shows, with an incredibly solid show that hardly ever shows any bad animation. The animation that’s there feels real and yet very intense when it needs to, and it makes very good use of its camera angles and fluidity. The music is also just perfectly timed.

This show is amazing. I’m very sure that this show is better than anything else that’s going to appear this year. Did it become my favorite series? Well, it’s certainly amazing, but near the end of its run it does lose a little steam, and the ending itself was excellent, yet left me hungry for more answers. It’s not like the ending is rushed, but because it wasn’t rushed it couldn’t answer as much as I had hoped to. Still, a spot in my top 20 favorite anime has most definitely been conquered.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Brilliant atmosphere and pacing.
Characters: 10/10 – Deep and diverse characters, both main and side. Fantastic development.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Perhaps not over the top or anything, but the animation is very refined and very realist, plus the soundtrack is terrific.
Setting: 10/10 – Again, meticulously researched. A very realistic and believable portrayal of Germany.

Suggestions:
Gankutsuou
Les Miserables – Shoujo Cosette
Mushishi

46 Responses

  1. Avatar Guigas says:

    Yes, yes, yes. I knew you’d love this masterful anime. LoGH, Monster ,Mushishi and Berserk composes the best animes I had the pleasure to watch in my life so far.

    Urasawa Naoki = Living genius. Too bad you don’t read mangas Psgels. His other most famous work, 20th Century Boys is also utterly brilliant and it shares the same exceptional writing present at Monster.

  2. Avatar Myna says:

    Will you be posting an updated list of your favorites soon?

  3. Avatar SixFlags says:

    Great to see a post of this old masterpiece!

    By the way, I live in Germany and I wouldn’t wonder at all if Mr. Urasawa actually had lived in Germany for a some time in his life.

    Also I can only recommend to read his other manga works.

    And as a huge fan of his mangas, I can say that this anime is an incredibly good adaption of his manga.

  4. Avatar ChobitsChi says:

    Now it’s official:
    Monster was the last contender for possibly surpassing Mahou Shoujotai as your favorite series.

    Now I can say for sure that there won’t EVER be an anime out there that you consider to be better than the one you view as the best.
    But at least it came close…and my prediction of you rating it lower than 90 was falsified. (Thank Goodness!)

  5. Avatar sato says:

    Finally! Glad you liked it :)
    BTW, it’s funny how you don’t show either of the 2 main protagonists in your screenshots.

  6. Avatar astrocurrent says:

    Ryousuke Nakamura has left Madhouse and became freelanced last October, along with Mieko Hosoi. Pity, I would very much like to see him directing at least one episode of Chihayafuru.

    • Avatar miguel says:

      last october? it wasn,t in the spring 2010? he worked in ocult academyin the summer of this year(was a tomohiko ito series)

      But he is also not working in guilty crown now and he is very friend of Araki(even worked as animator with Hosoi in HOTD), maybe he is very centred in his new work.

      He it,s no suposed to be directing a film for this year with his usual staff(i don,t know in what studio)?. but, the last things he did was the videoclip for supercell “perfect day” and the storyboard fo the third episode of supernatural, and theese where at madhouse.

      And Nakamura and Kojima usually work a lot with the NTV so is not strange to think they are going to have more work there in the future.

  7. Avatar evolstar says:

    It’s great to hear that Monster made your top 20! I also was unsatisfied with the ending, but otherwise I loved the mystery and the suspense.
    What about Gankutsuou? You also gave that series a 95: will that join your list too?

  8. Avatar Koby says:

    I found Monster to be extremely slow and boring and the ending made it feel like I watched 74 episodes with nothing actually happening.

  9. Avatar headachebaby says:

    I love this anime…the suspense and horror had me on the edge of my seat too. What I applaud is the realism; the story telling was fantastic. Yes, the end was a cliff hanger and I wanted more of Monster but it’s gotta end somewhere…I was still very satisfied.

    After watching this anime, it gave me the impression of a very good movie.

    This anime was truly scary as it dwells into what made the “monster” and featured other monsters.

    The music was wonderful and enhanced the anime brilliantly. The opening song was freakish and gave me the same vibe as the opening song in “X Files.” I couldn’t watch “X Files” when it aired on US television due to that freakish opening song. Monster’s ending song was not scary but the way it complimented the ending credits made it super freakish. I was actually afraid to listen and watch the whole ending credits when I started the anime.

    This is truly an awesome anime and there will not be one like it at all. I would definitely buy this anime if I could find a complete box set.

    More of Urasawa Naoki’s work should be adapted into anime…I’ll definitely watch them.

  10. Avatar gan says:

    Finally you managed to finish one of the masterpieces of anime/manga out there!! Yup,like all others out there,I’m a big fan of Monster and loved it.
    By the way psgels,if you wanna know more answers,there is a sequel to Monster called “Another Monster”. Too bad it’s not an anime or manga,but a novel.
    I havent read it myself.
    If you enjoyed Monster,I really recommend 20th Century Boys.It’s as mindblowing as Monster.

  11. Avatar dango says:

    Told you he would rate it above 90, It’s definitely a under appreciated masterpiece that was worth watching.

  12. Avatar DmonHiro says:

    While I don’t really like this anime, it is the animated version of the old proverb: No good deed goes unpunished.

  13. Avatar tktym says:

    yeah monster was pretty awesome, especially the villain. . .wow, the last thing he did at the end just made me go “oh shi*$# and made me think for a LONG time”

  14. Avatar zewho says:

    Koby, of course, it felt like none of it had to happen (i.e. it felt like there was no point and so on) that’s why the show is so damn sad.

    I’m one of the few here who loved the ending to “Monster,” I guess. This show is definitely my number one favorite anime of all time.

    You know what, I have completed this show nearly a year ago, and it feels like almost every day since (well, okay, not every day), I have tried to put more of the mystery together, and I am still not finished! Yeah, I am very obsessed with it. (*Cough* this is in no small part because I have mental illness running in my own family.)

    *spoilers from here on out*

    Okay, I am simply going to draw conclusions about the whole show based on the final episode alone so here goes (have fun reading this). The 74th episode finally showed us the twins’ mother and she still does not trust people (which I cannot blame her but wow, unbelievable! And she’s felt this way for how long!?) She still has the precisely same grudge she has had years before, so what’s new? What’s truly changed inside of her?

    In my opinion, her children would have balanced her mind much better if she had been able to find them and then if she *actually* showed them she needed them (easier said than done). You know, if she had done this, it perhaps would’ve helped fix things to an even greater degree than telling Tenma her children’s names. Don’t you think its utterly ironic Tenma is the one who actually goes to the twins and tells them their names?

    Something does not quite sit right with me when she tells Tenma that she actually forgot her childrens’ names she was planning to give them (I feel this is such a bizarre way to put it)! Was this why she could not tell the twins apart!?

    You could write a whole new story based on how bizarre she was–its like writing something down and forgetting who you wrote it for or like getting a present and giving it to the wrong person! What a freaking mental conundruum she created in her own head there, and it makes her sound weird and stupid. Plus the freaky thing is you have to wonder did she subconsciously forget their names just to exact revenge on Bonaparta? If so, that makes her an even more dubious character!

    The ending was “unsatisfying” because she was a rather unfortunately dreary and “unsatisfying” individual to be watch, in my opinion. She deserves that little jab because after 73 episodes of honing in on the twins’ mysterious past, all I see is how barren in the head she seems to be.

    It’s no mystery every mentally ill person in “Monster” was a very sullen person and terrible to be around because of the unintentional (yes, unintentional) way they oppressed others around them with their backward ways of thinking (heck, Johan hardly even had to push). The whole show was practically a study in these variations of thinking, and what may happen if you approach everything in life with this kind of screwed up mental process. The twins’ mother has a special kind of loony just like Johan’s; she’s almost transcendent, she cannot be wrong, and she cannot lose.

    Johan must have felt his mother’s delusion eating away inside of him all the time. This delusion was maybe the only thing that helped him to screw up his own perception of his relation with his sister–he received the message that it was OKAY to mix things like identity around, since they were going to be constructed into a hive mind with no hope, no individual voice, or individual acknowledgment, anyway.

    He was strongly imprinted upon by the things he saw, felt, heard, imagined, and the things he read. He felt strongly that his sister would be imprinted upon as well; however, his sister got amnesia and somehow forgot a good chunk of her past and ended up doing so much better than he. Wow, such sweet and bitter irony!

    I can draw an even further conclusion whether accurate or not that he likely grew up thinking he was a freak and this was who he truly was inside…*sigh* He never seriously addressed this habit of his called murder once his whole entire life because it’s like he thought it would be more amusing not to until it was way too late.

    Oh then you finally see their mother finally remember their names at the very end of it all…because…she…forgot UGH!

    All this happened, because all of the things that the twins deserved from their mother they did not get until 74 episodes and 10-20 years too late, and the person who needed it the most was the boy who was forced to dress as a girl. The boy was left in a coma and might have died tragically soon after. This kind of stuff is so heart breaking it makes me ridiculously sad and want to cry!

    Granted, their mother was being controlled as a part of the eugenics experiment as well, but still it’s not okay to literally “throw” her head away in front of her children.

    In my opinion, monsters do not actually exist as they are figments of the imagination, but the closest thing they resemble that does exist has definitely got to be insanity.

    The worst thing of all is that Tenma never had to be thrown into the middle of any of this, and to think he almost sacrificed his life and or morals for no reason!

    By no means, does this mean the show had a weak pay off for me, though. I feel that leaving us feeling like we still do not know Johan is desirable, but hey, different strokes for different folks, you know.

    The last 5 minutes of the show was truly wtf. I cannot explain how it happened, but I’m sure there could be a rational explanation for Tenma’s brief hallucination (I would guess the enormity of discovering Johan’s true name probably somehow triggered it)–no supernatural or asspull tricks involved what so ever.

    Okay yeah, well, I’ll stop rambling now, and I’m just glad psgels liked it!

    • Avatar Guigas says:

      You’re not the only one who loved the ending, dude :)
      I love it as well, it’s probably my favorite open ending of all time.

      BTW, spot on for your comment. Very interesting.

    • Avatar Koby says:

      No I didn’t say it felt like none of that had to happen. I said nothing actually happened in the whole show. The entire plot was doctor decides to let some top-class guy die to save a kid. Kid turns out to be a murderer and destroys doctors life, doctor spends 70 episodes trying to hunt down said kid, finally finds him only to be unable to do anything about the kid, and we’re back at step one as if nothing ever happened.

      There was no mystery, no suspense, no drama. The characters had no emotion, it just felt flat and emotionless and I found myself having to force myself to finish the show because there was absolutely nothing worth watching it for. Even the characters were unlikable and extremely stupid.

      There are much better series than this within the same genre.

      • Avatar Lairan says:

        @Koby
        Hahaha, great joke dude, I’m laughing my ass off here.
        Next time you rewatch Monster, make sure you understand the show, right?

        “There are much better series than this within the same genre.”

        Do you mind telling me what are these series? Please do not troll me saying “Death Note” or even mentioning the master trolling fail anime called “Code Geass” (and I even like DN).

        • Avatar Koby says:

          Code Geass was nothing but a mess.

          Lairan, stop being rude simply because you enjoy something I don’t. I know this saying is cliched and old but:

          Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has them.

          Just most people like you prefer to flaunt their ass a bit much.

          There is no reason why one shouldn’t be able to express their opinion simply because it doesn’t agree with yours.

          As for superior series imo, for starters Higurashi and DtB.

          • Avatar Left says:

            It’s all a matter of taste. If Koby didn’t like Monster, then he didn’t like it. Honestly, I prefer Pluto to Monster, but plenty of people lambast it for being the worst of Urasawa’s big three. Sure, it can be over-sentimental and the character development in Monster is more fascinating (like Eva–she was amazing), but the themes touched a deeper cord in me.

          • Avatar Anca says:

            DtB barely had any mystery, and Higurashi… you can’t compare Monster and Higurashi. You just can’t. They’re on completely different levels.

          • Avatar zewho says:

            Koby, what are you talking about nothing happened? Johan got shot twice in the head!!! Johan did 99.9999% likely die at the end, so no, we’re not back at step one. He didn’t just walk out of the hospital and go, “I’m free to kill more people, whee!”

            Anyway, this is kind of random coming out of left field, but am I the only one who thinks that Christopher Walken’s performance as Max Zorin in James Bond “A View to a Kill” feel like he could almost pass as Johan’s incarnation?

            Just read the first couple of paragraphs of Max Zorin’s background, and maybe you might agree with me?
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Zorin

          • Avatar Lairan says:

            @Koby

            Don’t get me wrong, you are free to say whatever you want. I’m not saying you have to like Monster, i’m perfectly fine with the fact that you don’t like this show. I only think that your opinion about the show is way too simplistic and narrow-minded to take it seriously. For example:

            “There was no mystery, no suspense, no drama. The characters had no emotion”

            “Even the characters were unlikable and extremely stupid”

            This anime is 99% mystery/suspense and there is no mystery at all? And the characters are as human as animes can get (except the villian), so I’m not feeling the “emotionless” thing. I guess that’s because the anime isn’t filled with overacting moments commonly present at animes. The cast here is much more subtle at their acting, and it is miles away from being stupip as you state.

            “I said nothing actually happened in the whole show.”

            Yeah, right… and what about the psychological aspect of the show? Monster asks lots of interesting points of human psyche.

            As for DtB, there’s almost no mystery at all. And the mystery present is unresloved: where did their powers come from and why? The anime gives us some poor explanation to answer that :hell’s gate appears and contractors gain powers because of that, pfff. It comes off as some cheap plot device to excuse the random powers that the contractors have.

            The mystery present at Higurashi isn’t bad, but those charaters…

          • Avatar AidanAK47 says:

            “Higurashi… you can’t compare Monster and Higurashi. You just can’t. They’re on completely different levels.”

            That’s right. Monster could never possibly reach Higurashi’s level. In terms of mystery Monster doesn’t stand a chance.

          • Avatar Hunter-Wolf says:

            *facepalm* Sigh … this creates some interesting mystery … why the heck did you even watch the show to the end if it had no mystery, no suspense, no drama !!!!!? wow .. you’re a masochist or something XD

            And yeah .. everyone has opinions .. but some opinions are more valid than others (and more worthy of listening to) because they are backed by logic and valid reasons .. yours simply isn’t at all.

            Mosnter was probably too good for you XD

          • Avatar Koby says:

            @Hunter-Wolf, you’re opinions aren’t worth listening to.

          • psgels psgels says:

            For god’s sake people. It’s great that you like or dislike this show, but can’t you accept that people experienced the show in a different way?

          • Avatar Anon says:

            Koby is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I do have to wonder if we watched the same show. To each his own, I guess.

        • Avatar Anca says:

          Aidan: that’s so not what I meant *facepalm*

          • Avatar zewho says:

            Sure, fine, people don’t like “Monster” I generally have no problem respecting that.

            Heck, it’s funny we have such opposite views on “Monster”! If you think about it, this compliments the show so well!

            I believe it’s likely that one of Naoki Urasawa’s moral reasons for writing “Monster” was to make a clear validation that most if not all individuals deep down struggle with the flaws and imperfections in their own personalities and limitations. In general, people try to form things whether concrete or not concrete that we ideally hope will be valued or make a small difference in life in ways we would not expect (since we don’t have 100% control of our influences on others or control of other influences on us). However, the downside is that our ethics will clash if we react and behave poorly whenever we disagree at points. It is improbable and highly difficult to make people see what you or I see, and it is a lifelong challenge for writers to share their perspectives with others in a friendly and tasteful manner. It is important that we the intelligent creatures known as humans must not forget how to behave civilized (even when writing our own opinions on forums or review sites). Otherwise, we may not behave too unlike the “uncivilized” people we do not wish to become, and according to “Monster” it goes like this (civilized vs uncivilized=moral vs immoral=equality vs inequality and so on.)

          • Avatar zewho says:

            Oh, btw, it’s easy for me to say why DtB and Higurashi don’t work for me…

            Anything that relies more heavily on realism is bound to strike a chord with me than a story that relies heavily on supernatural, magic, mecha, or any other fantastical plot devices. I’ve always been more fascinated by stories that feel like they could actually happen. This is just me, and it is my preference when it comes to other anime, books, and movies even.

  15. Avatar zewho says:

    Dang, I forgot to add one more thing the way Naoki Urasawa draws expressions and even the eyes are freaking awesome. Ever since I watched this show, I became somewhat of an anime art and animation elitist because I really dislike the big boring same old same old eyes that most characters in anime have.

  16. Avatar Gintoki says:

    Now if only they’d animate Pluto…

  17. Avatar AidanAK47 says:

    I have one flaw I can point out about this show. It’s not something that’s enjoyable to rewatch. I read the manga before I checked out the anime and to this day I have yet to finish it. I find that with Naoki Urasawa stories. Strangely it’s incredibly easy to put them aside while reading them and completely forget about them.
    The fact is that he depends a lot on the twists and turns to interest you but if you already know what they are then the show isn’t as exciting.

    • Avatar AidanAK47 says:

      “I read the manga before I checked out the anime and to this day I have yet to finish it.”

      I mean I have yet to finish the anime of monster but I have finished the manga.

    • Avatar Rosenritter says:

      That’s a Your Mileage May Vary thing since I’ve seen all of Monster 3 times (with several episodes up to 7 times) and have read through (and own) the manga once. I was incredibly engaged each time, seeing little things I’d missed or just reliving the emotions again.

      It’s my absolute favorite anime/manga of all time and has been since 2004, so I think it’s there to stay.

  18. Avatar Taz says:

    now i’d love to watch 20th century boys made into this kind of anime series, not the lousy feature length movie (with real humans! ugh!) like what came up a few years ago.

  19. Avatar Snowolf says:

    I’ve heard many great things about this show, but I’ve always been daunted by how long it is. I guess your review was the final straw- as I’ve just finished Gankutsuou, I’ll be sure to definitely try this out soon psgels! Thanks for reviewing.

  20. Avatar Piotrus says:

    Does it mean you will be posting a review of Legend of Galactic Heroes at some point? :)

  21. Avatar SJ says:

    I read the manga (hooray for my library having the full series of THAT), and the only thing stopping me from seeing the anime is that I know everything that will happen, and that I wouldn’t be able to progress through the story at my own pace. Holding the manga makes you live the definition of a page-turner, and you can tell that Naoki Urasawa plans and paces his story by the PAGE. I keep telling my outsider friends that if they’ll read manga never again, just read Monster.

  22. Avatar Commenter says:

    I never got to finish this series. I tried to continue watching it, but eventually I got stuck in another story on the side with relatively little importance. While our titular monster was a great villain, I feel that the overall cast just couldn’t hold my interest. This was probably confounded by how slow the story actually progresses and how predictable it is.

    I’m not suprised that it got as high a score as it did, since it’s widely critically acclaimed, but lets be prudent and say that this show just is not everyone’s cup of tea. To be honest, this show would have been a lot better if it had less episodes. A more concise show with much more to each episode, kinda like mouryou no hako, or like the vision of escaflowne(which was originally intended to be 36+ episodes).

  23. Avatar BurnsyCEO says:

    This anime is quite boring most of the time.They should have made it shorter and focused on tenma and johan.Not the side characters who I didn’t give a shit about.Except maybe Eva and nina.The story keeps adding unnecessary characters.The pace of this show is insanely slow.It is JUST interesting enough for me too keep watching.But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

  24. Avatar Another commenter says:

    I agree with what you (the reviewer) said about the characters. What makes Monster appealing are the side characters that contribute to the overarching narrative. They also help to flesh out the various nuances in the personality of the protagonist, Dr. Tenma. The side characters form a cohesive grid for the main characters to move about. No wonder that the manga’s addendum “Another Monster” focused on the characters other than the main protagonist.

    On its theme, Monster toys around the various shades of morality and it handles the ambiguity extremely well. It takes the usual moral dilemma found in other works within the genre and twists them 720 degrees.

    This is one of those shows that stick to your mind long after you’ve finished watching. No nonsense, no annoying weaboo elements, just a realist psychological thriller set in Germany and Czech Republic, exploring the human psyche and the value of life. What a journey!

  25. Excellent post. I will be going through a few of these issues as well..

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Upon finishing this series, the only question on my mind was how many animators did Bones sacrifice on ONE’s altar to achieve this. Following their prior season, Mob Psycho 100 Season 2 continues Bones adaptation of webcomic and manga author ONE’s 4th work, Mob Psycho 100. ONE has also authored the critically acclaimed One Punch […]

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Anime draws on many different media types in its endless search for properties to adapt, but manga is still the king of the bunch. And why not? It’s a distinctly Japanese art form, their main demographics have significant overlap, and manga’s panel-based layout means that some of the anime staff’s work is already done. Plenty […]

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru Anime Review – 93/100

Recently, sports anime have become a bit of a dying breed. Falling into the same hole as Mecha, aside from a passionate base audience, most are overlooked. There are the occasional hits like Haikyuu, Yuri on Ice, or Darling in the Franxx for Mecha, but those are few and far between, often taking years. Even […]

A quick and dirty review of Garo: Vanishing Line

What it claims to be about: A secret order of knights and alchemists, the Makai Knights and Alchemists, fight horrifying creatures called Hollows who prey on human weakness .Part of the media franchise spanning anime and live action shows, this iteration is set in modern metropolis and concerns the attempts of Sword, the strongest Makai […]

Planetes Anime Review – 84/100

If there is one thing I have lost watching seasonal anime, it is patience. Every week I expect something to happen, some kind of payoff, to make watching that week worth it. Luckily, Planetes as brought that back to me. Its depth of writing, characters, and general structure belay an anime of a different age. […]

Goblin Slayer Anime Review – 60/100

The controversial nature of this shows opening episode may have many turning away from it due to believing it’s nothing but shock value but that truly isn’t what Goblin Slayer is. I will say that the manga may hold some truth to that statement but thanks to some tasteful censoring(Yes, sometimes censoring can be a […]