What is “Monster”?
Monster (モンスター Monsutā, sometimes referred to as “Naoki Urasawa’s Monster”) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. It was published by Shogakukan in their Big Comic Original magazine between 1994 and 2001, with the chapters collected and reprinted into 18 tankōbon volumes. The story revolves around Kenzō Tenma, a Japanese surgeon living in Germany whose life enters turmoil after getting himself involved with Johan Liebert, one of his former patients who is revealed to be a dangerous psychopath.
Urasawa later wrote and illustrated the novel Another Monster, a story detailing the events of the manga from an investigative reporter’s point of view, which was published in 2002. The manga was adapted by Madhouse into a 74-episode anime TV series, which aired on NTV from April 2004 to September 2005. It was directed by Masayuki Kojima, written by Tatsuhiko Urahata and featured character design by Kitarō Kōsaka. The manga and anime have both been licensed by Viz Media for English releases in North America, with the anime having been broadcast on several television channels. In 2013, Siren Visual licensed the anime for Australasia. Monster has been critically acclaimed, with the manga having won several awards and its anime adaptation being called one of the best of the decade.
Dr. Kenzō Tenma is a young Japanese brain surgeon, working at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf. Tenma is dissatisfied with the political bias of the hospital in treating patients, and seizes the chance to change things after a massacre brings fraternal twins Johan and Anna Liebert into the hospital. Johan has a gunshot wound to his head, and Anna mutters about killing; Tenma operates on Johan instead of the mayor, who arrived later. Johan is saved, but Mayor Roedecker dies; Tenma loses his social standing. Director Heinemann and the other doctors in Tenma’s way are mysteriously murdered, and both children disappear from the hospital. The police suspect Tenma, but they have no evidence and can only question him.
Nine years later, Tenma is Chief of Surgery at Eisler Memorial. After saving a criminal named Adolf Junker, Junkers mutters about a “monster”. Tenma returns with a clock for Junkers, he finds the guard in front of Junkers’ room dead and Junkers gone. Following the trail to the construction site of a half-finished building near the hospital, Tenma finds Junkers held at gunpoint. Junkers warns him against coming closer and pleads with him to run away. Tenma refuses, and the man holding the gun is revealed to be Johan Liebert. Despite Tenma’s attempts to reason with him Johan shoots Junkers; telling Tenma he could never kill the man who saved his life, he walks off into the night, with Tenma too shocked to stop him.
Tenma is suspected by the police, particularly BKA Inspector Lunge, and he tries to find more information about Johan. He soon discovers that the boy’s sister is living a happy life as an adopted daughter; the only traces of her terrible past are a few nightmares. Tenma finds Nina on her birthday; he keeps her from Johan, but is too late to stop him from murdering her foster parents. Tenma eventually learns the origins of this “monster”: from the former East Germany’s attempt to use a secret orphanage known as “511 Kinderheim” to create perfect soldiers through psychological reprogramming, to the author of children’s books used in a eugenics experiment in the Czech Republic. Tenma learns the scope of the atrocities committed by this “monster”, and vows to fix the mistake he made by saving Johan’s life.
Monster won the Grand Prize at the 3rd annual Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 1999, as well as the 46th Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category in 2000. The series was published in English by VIZ Media under the VIZ Signature imprint from February 21, 2006 to December 16, 2008. VIZ Media has republished the series in 2-in-1 omnibuses (subtitled The Perfect Edition) since July 15, 2014. The final omnibus is set to release on July 19, 2016. The manga was also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Panini Comics/Planet Manga from June 2012 to April 2015.
Main article: List of Monster chapters
Written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Monster was published in Big Comic Original from December 1994 to December 2001. The 162 chapters were periodically collected into 18 tankōbon volumes published by Shogakukan, the first on 30 June 1995 and the last on 28 February 2002. While writing Monster, Urasawa began the series 20th Century Boys in 1999, which would continue after Monster had finished.
Monster was licensed in North America by Viz Media, who published all 18 volumes between 21 February 2006 and 16 December 2008. They will begin re-releasing the series in a two-in-one volume format in July 2014, titled Monster: The Perfect Edition, with a new volume published every three months. The series has also received domestic releases in other countries, such as in Germany by Egmont Manga & Anime, in France and the Netherlands by Kana, in Spain by Planeta DeAgostini, in Brazil by Conrad Editora and later by Panini Brasil, in Argentina by Larp Editores, in Taiwan by Tong Li Publishing, and in Mexico by Grupo Editorial Vid.
Main article: List of Monster episodes
The manga series was adapted into an anime by Madhouse, which aired between 6 April 2004 and 27 September 2005 on Nippon TV. Directed by Masayuki Kojima and written by Tatsuhiko Urahata, it features original character designs by long-time Studio Ghibli animator Kitarō Kōsaka which were adapted for the anime by Shigeru Fujita.
The anime includes an instrumental theme by the Chilean folk music group Quilapayún, “Transiente”, which originally appeared on their 1984 album Tralalí Tralalá. David Sylvian was commissioned to write the ending theme, “For the Love of Life”, on which he collaborated with Haishima Kuniaki. In the cover notes to the official soundtrack he said, “I was attracted to the Monster material by the moral dilemma faced by its central character. The calm surface of the music giving way to darker undercurrents, signifying the conscience of the lead protagonist and the themes of morality, fate, resignation, and free will.”
An English dub of Monster was produced by Salami Studios for Viz Media, which had the North American license to the anime. The show aired on Syfy’s Ani-Mondays with two episodes back-to-back each Monday night at 11:00 pm EST, beginning 12 October 2009, as well as on its sister network Chiller. A DVD box set of the series, containing the first 15 episodes was released 8 December 2009. However, due to low sales of the first box set, Viz decided not to continue releasing the remaining episodes on DVD and later dropped the license. Monster began airing on Canada’s Super Channel on 15 March 2010, and on the Funimation Channel on 3 April 2010 on weekends at 12:30 am. The series is also available digitally from several internet retailers. Siren Visual licensed the series for Australasia in 2013, and released it in five DVD volumes beginning in November 2013.
New Line Cinema acquired the rights for an American live action film adaptation of Monster. Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson (noted for his work on the 2005 American/German crime-thriller film A History of Violence) was hired to write the screenplay. Although the studio planned a 2009 release, it is unknown when or if the film will be released.
In 2013, it was revealed that Guillermo del Toro and American premium television network HBO are collaborating to come out with a pilot for a live-action TV series based on Monster. Co-executive producer Stephen Thompson (Doctor Who and Sherlock) is writing the pilot, while del Toro will direct it and be an executive producer alongside Don Murphy and Susan Montford.
In 2015, Guillermo del Toro told Latino-Review that HBO had passed on the project, and that they are in the process of pitching to other studios.