REVIEW: 'Monster' Story & Artwork by Naoki Urasawa

Monster, volume 1 by Naoki UrasawaMonster (1994) with story and artwork by Naoki Urasawa, is a graphic novel that is best described as a mystery.

This series is published by Viz Media and is completed at 18 volumes and rated T for older teens.

Monster is one one of those stories that grips you from the start. The cover quotes that describe this series as “suspenseful” and “engrossing” are accurate.

I’ve read the first five volumes in this series. Here are my overall impressions along with a brief discussion of the story arcs that encompasses the first 5 volumes in a series of 18.

The story follows Dr. Kenzou Tenma. He is a Japanese neurosurgeon working at the Eisler Memorial Hospital in Germany. On the surface, Dr. Tenma seems to have it all. He is smart and highly regarded by the director of the hospital and he is about to marry the director’s daughter. Then all of it comes crashing down.

At the start, Dr. Tenma seems to be increasingly disillusioned by the politics at the hospital. Patients of low means are relegated to the back of the line and those of more important social standing are taken care of first. This drives him to impulsively make a decision that will change his life.

Dr. Tenma’s fate is changed forever when twins Johan and Anna Liebert are brought into the hospital. Johan is rushed into surgery for a head wound and his twin sister Anna is in a state of shock. Their foster parents have been murdered. Dr. Tenma rebuffs his superiors and decides to save Johan after being told that his medical skills were needed elsewhere.

After saving Johan, many of Dr. Tenma’s adversaries at the hospital are murdered starting with the director of the hospital. Many suspect Dr. Tenma and thus he becomes a fugitive on the run. Ok, here my memory of the first volume is quite shaky. I can’t even put my hands on the book. Overall gist of the story in vol.1 is that Dr. Tenma may have saved a killer. Yes, who happens to be a little boy.

Vol.2 picks up the story nine years later and that’s when the story really takes off for me. Dr. Tenma is no longer a doctor and Anna Leibert has been adopted and is attending university. Her childhood memories are lost to her. She sees a psychologist hoping that one day she will regain her memories and her identity. She doesn’t realize that she has a twin brother who is looking to be reunited with her.

Dr. Tenma for most of the series up to five seems to travel from town to town, speaking with those who knew Johan. He picks up a little boy and a thief as companions along the way. He needs to find this “monster” in order to stop him from killing innocent people and also to clear his name. We already know that Johan is responsible for killing his foster parents. Who is Johan? Johan is described as a charismatic kid who uses psychology to induce people to do his bidding. He has powerful political connections that reach within the police department.

Monster thus far is a great read. This has been my reading material of late since life has kept me busy these last two weeks. Monster is a solid read (up to vol.5) as I quickly read all the volumes I had here at the house and plan to get the rest. This is a character driven series and a lot of the plot I have chosen not to discuss for the betterment of the series if you so choose to read it.

Johan, the “monster” we keep hearing about, has remained behind the scenes thus far. People who knew Johan have had all kinds of stories to tell Dr. Tenma. We learn a lot about him through the people who molded him into the monster that he is. It is the right wing extremists who view him as a modern day “Hitler”, a young man ready to lead them in their goal for race purification.

There is plenty of suspense in here along with some surprising twists and turns. Political climate of Germany also has a significant part to play in the story. The characters are nicely fleshed out. If you enjoy mystery and suspense, this graphic novel is a must read. It is completed at 18 volumes and is currently available in the US. I use this vendor for bulk orders since they tend to be cheaper than your brick and mortar stores. My grade for Monster ranges from a B to B+. This is a great series.

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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6 Responses to REVIEW: 'Monster' Story & Artwork by Naoki Urasawa

  1. Jill D. says:

    Hi Keishon, I just wanted to let you know, I nominated you for an award at my blog. I love your site, you are one of the pioneers who paved the way for others. Thanks so much!

  2. Avid Reader says:

    Jill D – you are too kind and thank you! Now I must scurry and try to find something to read come Wednesday. Have a good weekend!

  3. Hiruko says:

    Lol do you even know what the term “Review” means? (this isn’t one).

  4. Avid Reader says:

    Lol do you even know what the term “Review” means? (this isn’t one).

    I usually don’t respond to imbeciles who spew vitriol but you win and I’m in that kind of mood today.

    Do you even know what it means to contribute anything meaningful without sounding like an idiot? (this isn’t it and don’t bother coming back).

  5. Hiruko says:

    Well, the one spitting vitriol here is you.

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