Naoki Urasawa’s Monster – Boxset 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)
January 21, 2010 by Dennis Amith
Thrilling, addictive and highly entertaining! Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” is a series that should be on your must-see and must-own anime on DVD list! Highly recommended.
Image courtesy of © 2004 Naoki Urasawa. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Naoki Urasawa’s Monster – Boxset 1
DURATION: 330 Minutes (15 episodes)
DVD INFORMATION: Language: Japanese 2.0 and English 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Viz Signature/Viz Media
RATED: M for Mature
Release Date: December 8, 2009
Based on the manga series “Monster” by Naoki Urasawa
Directed by Masayuki Kojima
Series Composition by Tatsuhiko Urahata
Script by Kazuo Watanabe, Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, Kurasumi Sunayama, Masahiro Hayashi, Masatoshi Hakada, Namiko Abe, Ryosuke Nakamura, Ryū Nakamura, Tatsuhiko Urahata, Tomomi Yoshino, Tomonori Saitō
Music by Kuniaki Haishima
Character Design by Shigeru Fujita
Art Director: Yuji Ikeda
Character Conceptual Design by Kitaro Kousaka
Sound Director by Yasunori Honda
Director of Photography: Ryu Takizawa
Producer: Hiroshi Yamashita, Manabu Tamura, Masao Maruyama, Takuya Yui
Anime Production by Madhouse Studios
Featuring the following voice talent:
Hidenobu Kiuchi/Liam O’Brien as Kenzou Tenma
Mamiko Noto/Karen Strassman as Nina Fortner/Anna Lieert
Nozomu Sasaki/Keith Silverstein as Johan Liebert
Hideyuki Tanaka as Mr. Wolfgang Grimmer
Ichiro Nagai/Paul St. Peter as Dr. Reichwein
Junko Takeuchi/Laura Bailey as Dieter
Mami Koyama/Tara Platt as Eva Heinemann
Tsutomu Isobe/Richard Epcar as Inspector Runge (Lunge)
What would you do if a child you saved grew up to be a monster?
An ice-cold killer is on the loose, and Dr. Kenzo Tenma is the only one who can stop him! Tenma, a brilliant neurosurgeon with a promising future, risks his career to save the life of a critically wounded young boy named Johan. When the boy, now a coldhearted and charismatic young man, reappears nine years later in the midst of a string of unusual serial murders, Tenma must go on the run from the police, who suspect him to be the killer, to find Johan and stop the monster he set loose upon the world.
In 1994, mangaka Naoki Urasawa (known for his works “Pineapple Army”, “Master Keaton”, “Yawara” and later for “Pluto” and “20th Century Boys”) began the series “Monster” which would be featured in Shogakukan’s “Big Comic Original” from 1994 through 2001 (later reprinted in 18 tankobon volumes). The series has won several awards including the “Excellence Prize” at the 1997 Japan Media Arts Festival and the “Shogakukan Manga Award” in 2001.
And in 2004, the manga series received an anime adaptation courtesy of Madhouse Studios (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars”, “Death Note”, etc.) and was directed by Masayuki Kojima (who worked on the series “Samurai Champloo”, “Trinity Blood”, “Master Keaton”, “Gunslinger Girl”) and series composition by Tatsuhiko Urahata (“Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino”, “Vampire Hunter”, “Saki” “Mermaid’s scar”, etc.). The series was 74-episodes long and lasted until Sept. 2005.
Because Kojima wanted to capture Urasawa’s character designs and the fact that the series was quite long and longer television series may have quality differences, it was important for him to have a number of people working on the artwork and getting familiar with Urasawa’s work and thus there were two directors responsible for the look of the series: character designer and chief animation director Shigeru Fujita (“Nana”, “Summer Wars”, etc.) and character conceptual design by Kitaro Kousaka (“Spirited Away”, “Ponyo on the Cliff”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, etc.).
The story of “Monster” is about a talented neurosurgeon from Japan named Kenzou Tenma. Dr. Tenma works at the Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf, Germany and he was given that chance to work in the country by Director Heinemann. Kenzou happens to be engaged to Heinemann’s daughter Eva and with Tenma doing so well at the hospital, he has a chance to become the department director which makes Eva happy.
But Dr. Tenma is shocked when one emergency patient who came in to the hospital, a patient he would have worked on, until he was called in by the Director to work on a more important patient. We learn that the Director Heinemann values Dr. Tenma’s work but the priority is the hospital and its business. So, saving those that are beneficial to the hospital comes first. This shocks Dr. Tenma because he looks at all patients and values them all the same, he wants to help them.
One day while working, two young twins are rushed into the hospital. Their parents have been murdered and the girl is in shock, while the boy has a bullet lodged into his head. Dr. Tenma is prepared to work on the boy but immediately, the director gives him an order to not work on him but on the mayor. Dr. Tenma is angered by this and talks to the director and learns that the Mayor is very helpful to the hospital and its the hospital’s best interest to have him alive, so Dr. Tenma is the best surgeon and he must do it. But Dr. Tenma doesn’t.
Tenma let’s other doctors work on the mayor while he works on the child, disobeying the director’s orders. Afterwards, he manages to save the boy but the mayor dies and there are repercussions. Tenma is no longer considered for director of the department and Eva dumps him for the man who does become director. For Dr. Tenma, he doesn’t understand why these band things are happening and all he wanted to do is save lives and while sitting next to the boy he saved (who is sleeping), out of anger, Dr. Tenma screams that he wishes they were dead.
The following day, the director is found dead by his daughter. As well as a few others. And the twins that were rushed into the hospital, have disappeared.
Fast forward nine years later and Dr. Tenma is the director of the hospital, investigators are working hard on a case as more people are being found dead. For Inspector Runge, he suspects Dr. Tenma maybe involved. As for Dr. Tenma, he has no idea what’s going on until he meets a patient who reveals to him that he and his partners have killed people but they were instructed to and now the person who has hired them is out to kill them. Dr. Tenma is shocked and confused and then he learns the truth.
The boy he saved nine years ago, Johan Liebert is not only the mastermind of the deaths that are happening around the area. Johan is a cold, intelligent, methodica, manipulative individual and is responsible for so many deaths.
This includes the deaths of Tenma’s director and colleagues. Johan tells Tenma that he made his wish come true on the day he was complaining about his colleagues and said “they were better off dead”, he made it happen. Shocked about his reunion with the boy, now a man, Tenma realizes that the boy who inspired him as a doctor has turned out to be a monster.
Now Dr. Tenma leaves his job and his life in order to find this monster and also to find out what has happened to his twin sister Anna. Anna is now living with the name Nina Fortner, a teenage college student living with her step-parents and has forgotten everything about her past including her brother. Thinking that she has been living this normal life but for some reason, has memories of something dark from her past which she can’t yet figure out and is seeing a psychiatrist to help her understand what is going on in her head.
Dr. Tenma now knows that she may be in danger and must do what he can to find her and try to stop Johan.
“Monster – Boxset 1” comes with a total of 15 episodes, five episodes on each of the three discs. Here is a basic, spoilerless summary of each episode:
- CHAPTER 1: Herr Dr. Tenma – Dr. Tenma works on an opera singer but a mother and her child blames him for not working on her husband who came into the emergency room much earlier.
- CHAPTER 2: Downfall – Dr. Tenma decides to disobey the director’s order by working on Johan Liebert’s life instead of the mayor.
- CHAPTER 3: A Murder – The director and several doctors have been poisoned and killed. The storyline then shifts to nine years later.
- CHAPTER 4: A Night of the Execution – A man named Junkers is being held in police custody for homicides in the area. The mastermind is revealed
- CHAPTER 5: The Girl of Heidelberg – The storyline then showcases Nina Fortner (Anna Liebert) who is studying law in Heidelberg.
- CHAPTER 6: The Missing – Dr. Tenma works with a journalist to track down Nina Fortner.
- CHAPTER 7: House of Tragedy – Dr. Tenma finds Nina (Anna) but when they arrive back to her home, they discover only tragedy.
- CHAPTER 8: Pursued – Dr. Tenma returns to Dusseldorf and we see how his ex-fiance, Eva’s life has changed for the worst.
- CHAPTER 9: The Girl and the Seasoned Soldier – Dr. Tenma learns how to use firearms.
- CHAPTER 10: A Past Erased – Dr. Tenma starts working with a criminal named Otto.
- CHAPTER 11: 511 Kinderheim – While Tenma investigates Johan’s past, he learns about the atrocities created on the children of 511 Kinderheim.
- CHAPTER 12: A Little Experiment – Tenma goes to learn more about 511 Kinderheim and meets a boy named Dieter.
- CHAPTER 13: Petra and Schumann – Tenma and Dieter are in a village and help out a doctor in town.
- CHAPTER 14: Left Behind – We learn how Eva has tried to move on with her personal life until something happens.
- CHAPTER 15: Be My Baby – Nina goes undercover as a prostitute in order to find Johan.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Monster” is an anime series that features a lot of talent trying to capture Naoki Urasawa’s work. Urasawa has a distinct character design and for the most part, Madhouse Studios did a wonderful job in recreating his designs for the anime series. It is important to note that the anime series came out back in 2004 and it is a television series. For those not familiar with anime, need to know that in Japan, anime studios work on these series one week at a time and are working on other series within the same time frame. So, because of deadlines, an anime series must be prepared and ready to the network for airing on television. With that being said, “Monster” is a series that looks absolutely beautiful when it comes to its artistic background and character designs. This is a series that both Masayuki Kojima and Tatsuhiko Urahata knew would be long and thus prepared themselves by aligning with talented staff.
But at the same time, although capturing the essence of Urasawa, there is mild compression and aliasing that can be seen. But granted, this is more visible with those with a larger viewing area. Also, various areas of Germany are captured quite well in the series and for the most part, the staff did a great job of adapting the manga series for anime and keeping Urasawa’s look but also capturing that feel of Germany.
Audio is featured in Japanese and English 2.0 stereo. Dialogue is clear and understandable, music was also clear and I must say that I enjoyed both audio soundtracks. The English dub work was very well done and well-cast. Japanese dialogue was also solid.
Optional English subtitles are included.
“Monster Boxset 1” comes with the following special features:
- Creators Special Interview – A 16-page text interview with director Masayuki Kojima and what he wanted to accomplish with the series.
- World Report – Text information about Germany and the areas where the story of “Monster” takes place thus far.
- Characters – Text information on the characters who have appeared from episodes 1-15.
- Story of Monster – A text summary of each episode from 1-15.
- Trailers – Trailers for Naoki Urasawa’s “PLUTO”.
- Manga – Promotional screen of Naoki Urasawa’s “MONSTER” manga series.
As for packaging, “Monster – Box Set 1” comes in three DVD cases which fits into a box. There is no artwork on the spine itself, so there is no image connect each box together when the future volumes are released.
“Monster” is a fantastic anime series that is thrilling, suspenseful and very addicting!
Naoki Urasawa has literally become one my top mangaka’s in Japan. His stories and his character designs are so captivating, thrilling and he literally knows how to capture your attention through the storyline’s pacing and makes you want even more after its done.
The character Tenma is a good-hearted individual and his top priority as a doctor is saving lives. So, it’s very interesting to see his character being put through so much and having to harbor this guilt that the decision to save a boy’s life has ended with so many people being killed. The boy that he saved was and is a monster and now with so much weight on his shoulders, Tenma feels he must kill the monster he helped revive.
What Urasawa is exceptional at is developing his characters (definitely give his other manga series such as “Master Keaton”, “20th Century Boys” and “Pluto” a chance) and in this case, although the series focuses on Dr. Tenma, we get to see these other characters coming to play in the storyline. May it be the twins Johan and Anna, Inspector Runge, the boy Dieter or his ex-fiance Eva, he knows when to utilize the other characters so well that you wonder how these characters will fare in the end. Will they survive? Will they die?
It’s one thing to capture it in the manga series but definitely exciting to see how director Masayuki Kojima and Tatsuhiko Urahata was able to bring the manga to animation. Urasawa’s character designs are well-captured, voice acting for both Japanese and English are very well done and each episode is just captivating one after the other.
The series is rated M for mature because there is killing, their is blood and their are people being shot and executed. It’s not visually violent, as we don’t necessarily see it happening but more of it taking place before and then seeing the aftermath. So, this is not a series parents should buy for their children. It’s a dark series but definitely a smart, serious, fun anime series that I have seen thus far. I definitely look forward to volume 2!
“Monster Boxset 1” is highly recommended!
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