Monster 18

October 29, 2009

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2008 – 18 volumes

Hmm.  That didn’t go at all like I imagined.  There were also a few things left up in the air that I’m still trying to sort through.  I don’t want to talk about it too much here for fear of spoilers, but… hmm.  It was just different.

There were confrontations.  Most of them weren’t… well, all that satisfying.  And then one or both of the parties would be killed or seriously injured.

I liked the climax, and I liked the wind-down after the parts in Ruhenheim quite a bit.  The way that they show you how everything was resolved in the eyes of the law is satisfying and not all that time-consuming.  That last scene, too.  I think he was supposed to have imagined the conversation, but I love that last panel, and I love the way it was left up in the air.

I loved Lunge right up through the end.  The story really needed a character like him, and absolutely everything he did, all his investigating, all his doubting, and all his heroics in the end, everything was perfect.  He was probably my favorite character in the end.  I liked that the mind games may or may not have worked on him through the climax, and I loved the way we were not privy to his thoughts as all the different players in the crime came together at the end in Ruhenheim.  One of the best panels in the series, too, was his “I’m sorry.”

I wasn’t clear on a few things in the end, though.  Was all of this for Tenma, or was it all for Johan?  I’m not entirely sure that point is meant to be clear, because I think the evidence supports both sides.  One thing that I’m pretty sure I missed entirely, however, was “Scenery for a Doomsday.”  It had to do with a character I had completely forgotten from the first half of the series that was re-introduced at the end, but it was also something that passed between Tenma and Johan.  I have no idea.

Also important: Wim is awesome.  His role in all of these things at the end was also great, though I’m sad that he and Dieter didn’t wind up together at the end.  I have no idea why that would have happened, but it would have been great anyway.

The emphasis on Tenma’s conflict at the end, and the repetition of events from the beginning of the story, however, was a satisfying climax/conclusion, and I have no problem with those parts.

In the end, I can see why Urasawa wanted Monster completed before 20th Century Boys or Pluto were published.  It doesn’t hold up very well compared to those, but is great in its own way.  I have to wonder about Billy Bat now.  Does it completely dwarf 20th Century Boys in terms of storytelling the way that 20thCB dwarfed Monster?  I can only imagine.

Monster 17

October 29, 2009

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2008 – 18 volumes

I knew it!  I knew once the threads of the story converged, things would get really great really fast.  I would have liked to have seen this happen more often, but then again, that isn’t the nature of the story.  It’s supposed to have everyone working independently on different versions of the Johan riddle.  This ending wouldn’t be spectacular if this wasn’t the first time it happened.

So.  After a somewhat disappointing finish to the Anna/Johan confrontation last volume (I’m still not sure how that happened… how could a confrontation between those two be disappointing?), the action moves to a town in Germany called Ruhenheim.  At first, it’s just Lunge hanging out for unspecified reasons.  Then Grimmer joins him, and the two form an extremely unlikely pair that watches as everyone in the town goes insane.  We eventually find out why both are there, and elsewhere, Tenma and Anna separately decide to join the two of them.  We can assume Johan is hanging out somewhere, too, since apparently this is leading up to his… suicide?

Everything that happened here was pretty outstanding, and it was great to see the peace in the quiet little mountain town shatter as petty bickering escalated and people grew suspicious.  I’m not convinced that the townspeople did everything implied, but we’ll find out next time.  I also like that the setting is about to get cut off from the rest of the world by massive flooding.  I’m curious as to how Tenma and Anna will get there, but I’m sure they’ll find a way.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read the last volume right now.

Monster 16

October 27, 2009

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2008 – 18 volumes

Curses.  We still don’t get to see the less pleasant side of Anna, something I’ve been waiting for the past couple volumes.  I’m still not clear on whether that will come or not, but it would be a wonderful twist if she wound up being just as much a twin to Johan as she looks.

The story is just teasing me at this point, showing those flashbacks again and again and not really explaining them.  I know the explanation will be grand, and that the conclusion will probably take all of the two volumes that are left to tell, but man, talk about suspense.  I need to know what’s going on between Anna and Johan.  Seriously.

There was a new character introduced last volume, and we got his backstory here.  Again, I’m not a big fan of the endless amounts of time that is spent fleshing out these side characters, but his backstory ties into one of the major players, and his current role has a lot to do with that fire that Tenma was part of at the beginning of the series.  This character also isn’t around very long.  I wasn’t terribly moved by his story since I am just desperate for the conclusion at this point, but his past and current role were well-done, as always.

I really don’t have too much to say about this volume.  It mostly seemed to serve to hype the ending up even more and make additional sense of all the different stories and explanations we’ve had all this time.  I’m ready to put the pieces together, I must say.

Monster 15

October 22, 2009

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2008 – 18 volumes

Two women dominate this volume, Eva and Anna.  I liked both their stories.  Eva, as much of a downer as she is, usually has an interesting story surrounding her whenever she shows up.  And Anna seems to have regained her memories.

I wasn’t all that surprised when the purpose behind Eva’s attendance at the parties was revealed, nor was I that surprised when she revealed what she had been doing in regard to the bodyguard’s clothing.  I was a little surprised by what happened between her and the bodyguard, however, and I was also surprised by Tenma’s role at the end.  I think the purpose of this particular story segment was to give Eva reason to keep going, and also to reveal what exactly Johan is up to and what is going down.  More and more of the pieces are falling into place.  I was a little worried that when everything was revealed, it wouldn’t make sense since I’ve read the series over such a long time period and have probably forgotten some details, but it seems to be shaping up into something I’ll be able to handle.  I’m also surprised by just how much of the story I do remember.  Karl and Lotte show up towards the end of the volume, and I was surprised when I recognized them (or Karl, at least, I couldn’t recall Lotte), and I even remember the student of Reichwein who is helping Anna with her memories at the end of the volume.  Maybe I’m not a lost cause after all.

I’m really looking forward to whatever it is that Anna’s about to do.  I desperately need to know that she is exactly like Johan in every way.

Monster 14

October 19, 2009

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2009 – 18 volumes

Happily, more pieces fall into place in this volume than are introduced, which means that we’re probably getting ready for the climax.  I’m glad things are gearing up this far back, because I think I’m going to requre a lot of explanation in order to make sense of everything that’s happening.  Of course, the main plot – Tenma needs to kill Johan because he is a psychopath – is very clear, but you know.  I need the mystery parts explained to me.  The Red Rose Mansion and how Johan and Anna’s mother played a role and all that.

To tell you the truth, there are a few pieces introduced here.  Anna is cared for by a puppeteer, who seems to know an awful lot about what went on at the Red Rose Mansion, and apparently Anna has memories there as well.  There’s a few different pieces to the Red Rose Manor puzzle, one is what the puppeteer says went on, one that Anna remembers, the true identity of the puppeteer, his relationship to the children’s book author of interest, and of course, what is actually happening.

One very interesting thing in this volume is that we finally get to see the night that started the whole story from Anna’s point of view.  We actually hadn’t seen the events (as far as I remember), but being told was more than enough to carry the story.  It’s got a lot of impact to see it from Anna’s point of view after all this time, especially after we get to read a few more children’s books to inform Anna and Johan’s situation even more.

I’ve got a theory about Anna, so now I’m curious to see what her final role will be.

Monster 13

October 16, 2009

Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2008 – 18 volumes

I was pretty sure I’d feel better about Monster when I got back into the flow of the story, which seems to be the case.  I was a little sad that this volume was all about introducing a new character, Tenma’s lawyer, a man who’s dedicated his life to defending people falsely accused of crimes because of his father’s imprisonment and death in a famous espionage case, and then undermining his role and completely blowing apart his beliefs on the last page.  I just don’t know how to take that.

I was also a little disappointed that Tenma committed a crime in this volume.  It’s true that nobody believes a single word he says about the truth because Johan just doesn’t exist, and when, for no reason, one of his enemies shows up as the partner for his lawyer and threatens the life of Eva… well, of course he’s going to have to take matters into his own hands.  But it was important that Tenma was completely innocent, and now I have to wonder how things will go for him.  Well, it’s not like things could get much worse, really, since he was already a fugitive, but morality was on his side.  The moral ambiguity in the crime he committed is interesting, because he’s not a true criminal, but still.

Also, I can’t say I didn’t see that coming.  I figured that would happen as soon as it became clear that he was really being taken into custody.

But yes, on to the next volume.  I think I’ll have more thoughts once I’m a volume or two further back into the story.

Monster 12

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.