DVD Review: Urasawa Naoki's MONSTER, Episodes 61-74 (End...)

Ard Vijn, Associate Editor, Features
Monster-61-74-DVDreview-main.jpg(Does it take two headshots to finish off someone with a split personality?)

To say I've been eagerly awaiting the fifth boxset of the Monster anime is an understatement. The fourth set ended with enough cliffhangers to break off an entire ridge. But when I held the discs physically in my grubby paws, apprehension was there as well: what if the ending sucked? What if, after 74 episodes, it ends with a sign saying "sorry, we had no money to finish it..."?

Well, I need not have worried. The anime adaptation of Urasawa Naoki's Monster rightfully belongs in the shortlist of best animated series in existence, Japanese or otherwise. It has an ending.
I will keep the remainder of this review pretty much spoilerfree as usual, so as not to unduly disrupt anyone's journey through Tenma's and Johan's worlds.

But first... what was the series about again? Read on...

Monster-61-74-DVDreview-ext1.jpgThe Story:

Once upon a time, brain surgeon Doctor Tenma saved the life of Johan, a young boy who had been shot through the head. A decade later, Tenma had to flee the police for murders committed by Johan, who had grown up as a soulless monster.

And Tenma started to hunt this monster. A difficult task as shady organisations wanted to mask Johan's existence, or were even grooming him to become a leader.

But that was then, this is now. All the conspiracies and organisations surrounding Johan are collapsing, and end up being used by him for a terrible plan of revenge. Tenma is finally able to get to the root of what Johan is, and what created him. Unfortunately, so do most of Tenma's friends and enemies.

When Johan starts his end-game, will Tenma be able to stop him? And even if Tenma succeeds, who will survive the Monster?

The Series, finished:

In short: wow. What a ride this has been, and what an achievement. If Monster has one distinctive quality, it is consistency. Throughout its 74-episode run, this series has remained thrilling, confidently telling a single big story and telling it well, in its own tempo, slowly but surely working its way towards its finale.

When that finale had finished, at first I wondered if that was all, but the more I thought the more I noticed there wasn't all that much to add. While there sure are some remaining questions, as bewildering as Neon genesis Evangelion this is not. Some of the little twists are obviously deliberate, put there to make you doubt and wonder, to make it harder to close this book in its entirety in your mind.

I could go on and on about what it does right, and nitpick at what it does wrong, its use of loactions, of fairy tales, of real history. But part of the fun is in discovering just how clever this has been put together. Its team of directors has kept the series steeped in intelligence, and has kept the adherence to its own moral questions intact without getting too preachy. And I do also want to point out the excellent use of sound and music, racking up and releasing the tension whenever necessary.

And now that the series is over, I actually feel its absence.
Wow indeed...

On To The Discs:

It's not just the series itself which was consistent during its run: the same could be said about the five boxsets released. All are coded locked to region 4, in NTSC, with English and Japanese soundtracks, and excellent English subtitles.
Unfortunately the consistency continues in all boxsets being equally barebones, with transfers which are not of the highest visual quality.

Still, I count Monster as one of the most exciting anime releases this year, and applaud Siren Visual for taking the risk.
Because it consistently kicked my ass for 74 episodes, something no other series has ever managed to do.

As I said, I do not wish to spoil anything. But as this is the last review for this series I do want to end it with a "grand reveal" of sorts. I noticed that in the previous reviews I haven't shown what the boxsets actually look like, and therefore I will remedy that here with this gallery of pictures.

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