"Then I saw one beast come out of the ocean. It had 10 horns and 7 heads, each horn having a crown, and each head having a name in contempt of God... To have the power to give to the beast, the dragon was worshipped by all people. The people worshipped the beast as well, and said, "Who can become like this beast? Who can oppose the beast, and fight him?" -- Johannes' Apocalypse, ch. 13, 1-4.
Monster tells the story of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a neurologist in Dusseldorf, Geremany in the 1980's to 1990's. Tenma is a serene kind of guy, with a like of children and a generally cheerful outlook on life. He takes pride in his job, enjoys helping people, and is a man who likes to sail through life without making waves. Tenma is also
However, Tenma has a great weakness - he is easily tangled up in hospital politics, as we see early on in both the manga and the anime. The director wants him to become the next director, and the director's daughter wants to be his wife. Tenma is very easily used and doesn't even realize when he's being used, nor does he care. His only concern is to save his patient's lives, which he does quite well.
One fateful - and I do not use this term lightly - evening, Tenma recieves a very late ER call. A young boy, 9 or 10 years of age, named Johan Liebert has been shot in the head. Johan is in critical condition, and it's likely he will not survive. Tenma arrives at the hospital, only to see that Johan was brought in with his sister, a few years younger, named Anna Liebert, but she proves to be no concern as of now, merely chanting the word 'kill', in a state of 'dislocated hysteria', in translated medical jargon.
Just as Tenma is prepping himself to opperate on our little Johan, Dr. Oppenheim (The head of surgery at Eisler Memorial.) pops into the operating room, quietly stating, "This is not your operation, Dr. Tenma.". It just happens to turn out that the Mayor collapsed with *insert medical jargon that sounds like a stroke here*! GASP AND WOES! Tenma almost goes to operate on the mayor, but then remembers a scene from earlier in the day...
" GIVE HIM BACK!! If you'd done the operation, he would have survived!! You skipped over my husband's turn!! GIVE HIM BACK!! GIVE HIM BACK!! GIVE ME BACK MY HUSBAND!!"
Tenma, horrified that he would turn down a poor child's life just to better himself, flatly tells the team of doctor's he's about to work with, "I've got another operation waiting for me.", turns and walks away.
A jump cut to after the operation tells us... Ding, dong, the
Another jump cut shows us Tenma and Director Heinemann at some sort of party. Tenma apologizes for his actions in taking care of Johan before the mayor, but Heinemann waves him off and basically says "dude, no prob. lulz it's k. shit happens." The head of surgery is called to give a few words, and Tenma politely excuses himself.
Director Heinemann literally turns and sneers at Tenma, saying "It's not for you.". Tenma watches with mild horror as Dr. Boyer, a lazy and medicore doctor, steps up to the plate. When Tenma questioned why the director didn't give him that position, Heinemann says, "If you wish to stay here, then stay. But you should give up hoping to raise your position as a doctor. It is impossible for a person with such personality problems as yourself."
Confused and depressed, Tenma races out of the party, only to see Eva Heinemann (Note - Heinemann is the surname of the director, in case you didn't notice.. ;D) step out of a car and glance at him. Stumbling to Eva, Tenma pleads with her to try and convince her father to change his mind. She smiles grimly at him and says "You really are a fool.". Then, removing her engagement ring to Tenma from her finger, she drops it on the ground, and walks past the stunned Tenma into the party.
Another jump cut shows Tenma sitting with the boy who's life he saved, Johan Liebert, and says with a sarcastic smile, "Hahahaha... Isn't that a awfully funny story? I came to Germany from Japan, by myself. Since the family medical practitioner business is going to my older brother, I thought I could sneak my way into a university hospital somewhere... I happened to find Director Heinemann's thesis, came to Germany, and he raised me this far. But now I realize the thesis that made such a deep impression on me must have been written for the director by someone else, just like me. I knew I was being used... but I thought, from the status I gained by doing that much, I would be able to do as much research as I wanted..."
Suddenly, Director Heinemann's face flashes into his mind, reminding Tenma of something he said earlier - "We are concerned with the academic first, saving lives second... am I wrong?"
Eva's face follows her father's, saying, "Not all people's lives are created equal."
Enraged, Tenma snarls, "No!! There's no difference when it comes to lives!! I am NOT wrong!! I have 'personality problems'?! What about you?! You're nothing but a filthy money-mongerer, not a doctor!! HE OUGHT TO BE DEAD!!"
There is a long silence, before Tenma stands and says to Johan, "Thank you. You opened my eyes as a doctor. Hang in there; stay alive. I lost everything to do your operation. I did that all to bring you back to life."
He leaves, and Johan's eyes slowly open...
A jump cut (I'm joking on the jump cut - there's more, but I'm lazy and this is long enough.) shows us Eva opening the door to her father's study, teasingly asking if he's asleep already...
Only to find his dead body, foam spewing from his mouth and a horrified look in his glassy eyes.
The same is for Dr. Boyer and Dr. Oppenheim.
Tenma, while all this is going on, is out drinking, angrily cursing the director, Dr. Boyer, and Dr. Oppenheim in the streets. He collapses into a pile of garbage cans, but somehow manages to struggle back up and home. The police soon arive afterword, asking him not to be shocked when delievering the horrible news that the Director, Dr. Boyer, and Dr. Oppenheim are dead.
Being a good little human slave, Tenma quickly rushes over to the hospital... Only to find that both his patients, Johan and Anna, are gone!
And there is where our story really begins...
To make a long, rambling story short - Monster is an awesome manga, that easily latches onto your head and really makes you wonder. Nothing feels too cheesy or comical - there's a very serious, overarching tone to the story that I enjoy. Nothing is played up too much, but nothing is easily forgettable. The characters are rememberable and hysterical, but also reach out and touch your heart in a way I've never seen any character do. Character death is well done in this series - and there's a lot of it, trust me. Those who do not like gore and blood will find this series a 'no'.
But! If you like a mysterious, supsensful thriller of a series that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page of volume 18, then I sincerely recommend Monster, by Naoki Urasawa!
And, in case your thinking "What, no free anime?", here's a link to the online manga:
Have fun, kids.