Monster(2004): Why You Should Watch It

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No spoilers, this is a recommendation.

You should watch Monster because of its exploration of dark themes, great animation and art direction, great characters and story-line, and if you can handle dull portions of the story. Perfect for those who love crime dramas and a good intro to more mature anime.

When people hear the word anime they think of ridiculous hairstyles, cat-eared girls, and over the top expressions. Don’t get me wrong, there  are some pretty good reasons for those stereotypes. However anime like Monster fit none of these stereotypes. Its considered one of the best crime dramas in anime and holds up incredibly well with the other anime. Despite finishing over a decade ago as of writing this, its still ranked at #41 on myanimelist and has an 8.7 on IMDB.

If anime is not really your thing,  this show is a great place to start. For some people “anime” is something you do not particularly favor “real shows”. I’m right there with you, I almost never watch anime, but there are some real gems that should not be avoided just because of the medium its in. Fans of story-writing should not skip out on this show. Themes are heavy and deal with uncomfortable topics; abusive parents,prostitutes, murder(obviously) to name a few. The realism of the show makes it almost seem like the show truly occurred and there are only a handful of times where its grounded nature was remotely in question.

The show is a crime drama about a prodigy doctor,Doctor Tenma, who saved the life of a boy who later becomes a serial killer. The main theme deals with the value of human life and the value of saving one over another. This is not about a bunch of adults playing a children’s card game to determine the fate of the world. The art is pleasant and especially good when showing the countryside of rural Germany. However, some of the character designs seem too similar, particularly the plethora of one-off characters.

Monster is one of those slow-burning shows. It starts slows, goes crazy for a bit, settles down for a bit, and then insanity takes control again. Viewers who do not want to pay too much attention to plot and the dialogue of the characters will be rather disappointed in the series. Character development can be rather dull at times, but the show really emphasizes the various main characters and how their world views conflict with one another. You have a doctor on the run, a young serial killer, the serial killer’s twin sister who is just as capable as him (in a good way), a dark and imposing inspector devoid of emotion, and an emotionally unstable ex-fiancee.

Even the portrayal of the show adds to the rather unnerving atmosphere. The ominous opening and closing scenes are dark with flashes of blood and guns. Monster is just as good portraying murder scenes as beautiful views of nature. After the first dozen episodes or so, viewers will never be sure how long the happiness presented will last and if the buildup in a rather tense sad will end with everyone surviving. Your emotions will be toyed with throughout the series, be warned. Boredom will also be an emotion felt, as developing the characters takes time and the gradual revelations that occur later in the series are built upon. There will be dull moments, but if you can manage to power through them you will be rewarded in the plot later.

Though it is a serialized show, not all episodes are created equal. Some episodes add little to nothing in terms of moving the plot forward, but help establishes the main character compassion or the killer’s all-around cunning. You’re slowly piecing together what each character’s motives and beliefs are, leading to some horrifying realizations. Certain episodes have their main focal points vary to include side characters  as well. The amount of characters introduced and followed outnumber the main cast by a fair amount, but they all eventually come back to them. I found myself barely paying attention to certain episodes as it seemed like nothing was happening and there are several instances where I was right to do so.

All-around this show is solid and if slow-pacing isn’t a downside for you then the show is perfect. Fans of crime dramas will feel right at home watching this. Its mature,but not over the top nature makes it a perfect example of a realistic anime that is perfect for those who are not too fond of the more exaggerated versions in the genre.

Obviously this is coming from someone who is as mainstream as mainstream gets when it comes to anime; DBZ, Naruto, Death Note, Fullmetal,  Kuroko no Basuke. Those already well-versed with anime are almost certainly going to mention Monster to those who are new to anime or not too fond of the anime genre. It is one of the most well-received series by anime fans and it offers plenty to those who enjoy detailed plot-lines and heavy themes.

TL:DR; Monster is one of the best examples of grounded anime. The show is perfect for those who are not as fond of the intense screaming, big-boobed,crazy-haired anime that is stereo-typically thought of. Its dark themes and plot-lines ask questions that many people do not want the answer to. The only major knock to it is its length and slow build-up, but the overall plot is well worth it.