October 15, 2009
Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2007 – 18 volumes
Since I have failed completely at actually talking about horror manga, how about a thriller? I still need to finish this series, and October is a fine time to do it.
Unfortunately, it’s hard going back to Monster after reading 20th Century Boys. That is the superior work, and… Monster is sort of a complicated and slow read after that. There’s lots of stuff going on, and at this point, I’m not sure how much of it is relevant. In this volume in particular, there’s appearances by a lot of characters that must have been from the first couple volumes. In context, their relationship to Tenma is clear, but it bothers me that there’s bits of story I’m forgetting. I can remember all the important things, and having that character chart in the front of the volume helped immensely since I could reply all the various plotlines as I read the names and little descriptions. But it’s still hard to keep straight who’s who and who knows what, and how much some characters know is very important.
There is a LOT going on. How much of it will come directly to bear on the Johan/Tenma face-off? That’s the part I care most about, and I’m still very interested in the mind games Johan plays and in Lunge’s chase. But Dr. Reichwein? Shuwald? I’m not all that interested in those characters any more, though they’ll probably stick around since Schuwald has a direct connection through his lover to Johan and Anna’s mother and Reichwein is probably useful, in his way. They both are coming in handy during the current plot development, but again, I’m not all that interested in what they’re currently bringing to the table, even if it is directly related. I suspect Grimmer is another character that will soon fade into the background, reappearing every once in awhile with something important to say. I like Grimmer, but he’s just another piece.
The best part in this volume was at the beginning, when the little boys that played with Grimmer try tracking down Johan. The chapter where they give chase is called “Detective Boys,” and the direct reference to Detective Conan made my night. But when the little boy was caught by Johan, lectured, and then set loose in some sort of Reeperbahn-type area… that is what I like about Monster. Johan being absolutely heart-stopping sinister and ruthless, but in a very hands-off way. It’s terrifying. He’s one of the best villains I’ve ever seen. And that’s why Monster is still worth reading, even if I am recently enamoured with 20th Century Boys.
Again, too, I’m also a big fan of Lunge. I know he could probably be considered a background character at this point, especially since his job has pretty much just been done for him, but the way he is methodically collecting his information and keeping pace with Tenma, and how he is probably still barking up the wrong tree… it’s interesting to me. It’ll be fun when Tenma and Lunge go head to head again.