Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Naoki Urasawa's Monster - A Different Kind of Anime

"Monster" is an anime series from 2004; the link above is to the Wikipedia page for the manga version. There is a section on the anime if you scroll down.

I had not planned on ever writing about "Monster" because there are seventy-four episodes, which I watched maybe two at a time on Funimation OnDemand. It took about a year to watch the whole series, and with so many characters, it is easy to get a little confused. Without being able to go back and re-watch, it's hard to write about the exact scenes in the right context. Those scenes are very powerful at times. There are DVD's of the first thirty episodes available, but I do believe you can watch them all on Hulu. Whatever that is. My viewing habits are pretty old school, and watching anime is pretty difficult if you want to keep up. I was glad I found this OnDemand, purely by accident. That said...

"Monster" is a really fine series, incredibly emotional and powerful. The main theme basically deals with how children are raised, and what it means to be a true, honest and loving person. The title Monster is a young boy who has grown up under rather poor guidance. He is either part of a fascist conspiracy, or perhaps he is really on his own, causing particularly violent and senseless chaos. There is no real reason to like him, other than a suspicion that he was mistreated as a young boy, so he makes a really fine villain.

Or the Monster is the one pictured above, who has lived inside the boy all through these years he has grown up.

Monster deals with adults and children as they relate to each other. It depicts the truly horrendous consequences of adults knowingly attempting to mold children in exceptionally unhealthy ways. The adult villains are truly reprehensible, which brings more emotion to the screen than even most films have. Over seventy-five episodes, there is an element of hit-or-miss, but in general, this is powerful storytelling. The plot is driven mostly by a fugitive, Dr. Tenma, so there are numerous vignette episodes in which humanity and inhumanity are explored through various situations and relationships.

There is also a revenge factor, a theme which is handled here by actually showing two sides - the reasonable and humane, against the chaotic and the despicable. It works well as it runs through the entire series.

The animation is pretty standard for anime, I think, which is not very exciting. However, this is not an action series - it is about emotion, and empathy, which is allowed to develop slowly for maximum effect. At times, there are some amazing scenes which elevate the animation and the content to a pretty high level. If you have time, and are maybe not usually thrilled by anime, this might be worth checking out. It seems to have a limited audience, but I found it thought-provokingly brilliant.

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