Masterpiece is a word that is used a bit too lightly these days it seems but I will be damned if it is not fitting for Monster. First of all, it’s so different than almost all anime that I have watched. Not that I have watched all that much but still that has to count for something. Secondly, its characters are so well crafted that even tertiary characters are better developed than a lot of the main characters in popular shows like Gundam Seed Destiny. In Monster a character can be developed over the course of a few episodes better than most series do it in 26 – for instance Martin. Doctor Tenma started as a rather annoying and naive youngster and developed into really impressive and confident man, without losing his ideals. And as most people would probably agree Johan is one of the most interesting villains ever, not to mention how frightening he can be, even when he is just talking calmly. Furthermore, I am impressed how the series never spares the viewers or the characters the bad sides of life. For instance, Tenma got severely beaten a few times, a lot of people died and generally life was not fair at all to the characters. Another aspect is the realism – here we have characters who before embarking on their quest to find the evil mastermind actually spent months preparing how to fight, instead of just going agaisnt him, sure that their righteousness will prevail anyway as a lot of anime characters do. The attention to detail in the animation really helps to create a unique atmosphere, everything that surrouns the characters looks so…real. Even without being told you can in a way feel that the action takes place in Prague or in a rural German town, it just felt right. If only the music was better the series would have been close to being perfect. Not that it didn’t have its fair share of good background music, it simply was not good enough compared to the other elements of the show.

It was great that the plot of the series never felt rushed as in so many other series and everything unfolded naturally, without looking forced. Someone might say that there were too many filler episodes which did not advance the plot. I think these were crucial for developing the characters, plus the plot was brilliant even with the inclusion of these episodes. But I can see where these people are coming from. Had I watched the series waiting for every episode, I would be annoyed if the plot is not advanced in an episode I have spent week or more waiting for. Furthermore, the interweaving of the different storylines was marvellous and a lot of stuff that looked like filler turned out to be important later.
I’d recommend “Monster” to any anime fan who is not unwilling to watch anything depressing or series with more than 26 episodes. It seems to me that it is one of those “love it or hate it” shows, so I don’t think anyone needs to persevere if he or she does not like the first ten or so episodes.

MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOWING!!! Run for your life! 🙂

I am not sure whether I like the ending that much or not. It just seemed that Grimmer’s death was the real climax leaving me a bit disappointed by the final confrontation between Tenma, Johan and Nina. But only compared to the previous events, mind you, it was a very strong scene in its own right. Since about episode 20 I have not been too fond of Runge but he really shone in the last arc. And you have to love his voice, so devoid of emotion that he really seemed like an embodiment of a great detective. I would have liked to know more about Nina and Johan’s journey from Prague to Germany but it wasn’t to be. I almost expected Eva and Tenma to be together in the end but I guess this development would have been too much of a cliche. Johan’s disappearance in the end made the ending too open for my taste but it looks there won’t be a sequel so I can tolerate such an ending more. But I guess the real evil mastermind was actually Bonaparta who got what he deserved in the end.

Favourite character has to be Nina although Tenma and Eva were arguably better developed. I guess choosing Nina has a lot to do with the fact that I love her seiyuu Mamiko Noto, I just can’t help it. 🙂 Anyway, when it seemed that she killed some people in Prague I was quite surprised but I was even more surprised that this was actually Johan. My point is that at the time I couldn’t exclude the possibility that Nina is not totally nice and could actually kill people but I guess she was more like the God from that picture book while Johan was obviously the Devil. Nina and Tenma unwilligness to let the other one kill Johan was handled great, I am usually annoyed by characters who are always reluctant to kill anyone, despite how much the situation demands it, but this time it worked.
Tenma is marvellosuly developed. I simply loved the way his confidence grew over the course of the series. And he is one fo those rare characters who like to promote their ideals and stick to them all the time without getting annoying.

Eva probably changed the most and in such a great fashion that as far as character development goes I think she should be placed first among all the characters in “Monster”. For some reason I always liked her to an extent except in the first two episodes. It was very interesting to follow how the series of traumatic events changed her personality almost beyond recogntion but in a rather believable way, mind you. I just wish characters with such a sophisticated development were more common in anime.

Not much to say about Johan apart from repeating how awesome a villain he is. And unlike the cliched villains he doesn’t have a maniacal laughter, he does not scream all the time, nor does he want to conquer the world.

Another feature that I liked in Monster is the horror element. I have never been fan of horror but here we had some really chilling scenes. For some reason the story of “The Moster without a name” scared me quite a lot and in the same time it was so deceptively simple and done with simplistic animation. And the whole “I am home” and “Welcome back” series of flashback was absolutely brilliant. I also liked the way how often certain characters’ faces were not shown for a few minutes, keeping the viewers guessing who this character might be.

All in all, brilliant series. if someone bother to read that (which I doubt) and knows of a smiliar series, please let me know.

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