DVD Review: Urasawa Naoki's MONSTER, Episodes 31-45

(We're past the halfway point already? Nooooooooooo...!)

Australian distributor Siren Visual continues its release of the Monster anime unabated, and the third boxset, released last month, is the strongest one in quality so far.
Despite sporting an IMDB-rating of 8.6, and being shown on English-language channels, Monster was previously never released in its entirety on DVD in an English-friendly version, and this current release shows just how big a shame that is.

My reviews of the first and second boxset were very positive indeed, and if you just want to know if this one keeps up with those, rest assured it does.


Monster-31-45-DVDreview-ext1.jpgThe Story:

Years ago, brilliant surgeon Tenma saved Johan, a young boy, only to see him grow up into a human monster: a sociopath serial killer who murders for fun. When Tenma is framed for several of Johan's crimes, he decides to flee the police, to hunt down and stop his former patient.

Now, Johan has surfaced in Munich, as a caretaker for an elderly billionaire, and Tenma finally has him in his sights. Literally... because the surgeon has bought a sniper rifle. But can Tenma actually kill? Even if his target is a monster?


The Series Continued:

With the Munich storyline developing, we enter the second half of the story. The whole anime is 74 episodes after all, and this boxset ends at 45. Impressively, the plot doesn't even remotely lose steam, although I could be spotted yelling at the screen: "Shoot! Shoot! Take the shot! TAKE THE BLOODY SHOT!!!"

So... yes, the occasional spot of frustration does appear, but these are always off-set by interesting new sidelines, extra characters worth checking, or straight surprises. Johan turns out to be very hard to predict, both in actions and in goals, and for every right guess you're smacked in the face with a couple of wrong ones.

Meanwhile, Doctor Tenma's character doesn't so much develop as it degenerates. The endless hiding takes its toll, the good man having to make a living as an illegal surgeon for the German underworld. This provides him not only with bad patients and moral conundrums, but also food, money, weapons and shelter.
Still, Tenma manages to slowly but surely build a second reputation as a mystery rescuer, wherever Johan has been wreaking his havoc. Police keeps getting confused by all the witness accounts of a Japanese man saving people's lives. And Tenma gets help from several of Johan's surviving victims, who start forming their own perilous network.

The series' greatest quality is in building its atmosphere. An eerie tension is always there, and danger seems to lurk just around the corner. And having visited some of these corners' locations myself in real life, I can vouch for how authentic they feel in this anime. The artwork and use of music fully support this, mixing the Iron Curtain paranoia with supernatural unease. What the hell is Johan exactly? To be continued...


On To The Discs:

Siren Visual has released the third boxset of Monster on NTSC DVD, locked to region 4. There still are no extras, but there are Japanese and English soundtracks, and the English subtitles are excellent.

But, and here comes the surprise, the image quality has improved a lot. While there is still some ghosting, the weird ugly interlacing effect of the previous boxsets has been completely eliminated. Even the smallest letters during the credits sequences are now easy to read. Kudos to whoever did this transfer for sorting that out!

In short, once again there is no reason to NOT buy this series. This is the first time these episodes have been made available on English-friendly DVD, and the story only grows more compelling. Fans have already written me to not fret about a bad finale, and they claim this series actually "sticks the landing". I can't wait to find out for myself. Three down, two to go!

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