The Monster series (2004) consists of 74 episodes in one season. The anime, directed by Masayuki Kojima based on the fully completed Naoki Urasawa manga, did not change the original story in any way. The 162 chapters are adapted in a way that closely resembles the cinematography. You could say that “Monster” is the most non-anime anime. And in fact, there is little Japanese, except for a reference to one of the national symbols – water. The inconsistency of “Monster” divides the opinions and views of the audience. Some see it as a leisurely detective, others as a psychological drama with a moral dilemma.
A distinctive feature of Monster is the references and symbols scattered throughout the timeline. There are European political realities of the 1980s, and the fascist doctrine of the Aryan race, and biblical themes, and frank mysticism. All this reveals to the thoughtful viewer the meaning of the confrontation between the key characters – the neurosurgeon Kenzo Tenma and the wounded boy Johan Libert, who was saved by him.
Realism in the series
The plot structure, the general style and the drawing of the anime refer to the time of the overthrow of communism in Europe: the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Another historical anchor is the experiments with schoolchildren on leadership, begun in 1939 by the German psychologist Kurt Lewin. The gist of the National Socialists’ idea was to take children born to selected couples with pleasing looks and good mental abilities. From them, select the child best suited to raise a leader capable of conquering the world. In the anime, the doctrine of “superiority and purity of the Aryan race” is indicated by the behavior of Klaus Poppe, the affairs at the Red Rose Mansion, the fate of the residents of Orphanage 511, Franz Bonaparte and the people behind him.
What’s the point of the anime “Monster”
The main revelation of the series is that Johan did not become a Monster as a result of the formation of his character by “bad uncles,” but was one from the beginning. The first episodes show that the boy was shot by his adoptive father, and his sister asked the doctor not to save her wounded brother, but to destroy him. After all, Johan killed the Liebert couple, massacred three medics before escaping from the hospital, and later massacred the orphanage.
In the second part of the series, we see the Monster in the guise of a blond, fair-haired young man with dissociative identity disorder. A subtle strategist and genius manipulator of others, he has no conscience or any compassion for others: to take a person’s life is easy, “you just have to forget the taste of sugar” (c). The only people Johan refuses to kill are his twin sister Anna and the doctor Tenma, who saved him 10 years ago.
The plot loops when it becomes clear that it wasn’t Johan, but his sister, who got into the villainous organization as a child. Then she hid from the neo-Nazis under the name of Nina Fortner. In the mind of the boy, who identified himself with the twin, everything turned upside down when he heard the story about the Red Rose Mansion. Johan was convinced that he was the victim of an experiment and must take revenge on Franz Bonaparte for what he had done to their mother. The only question that had plagued him all this time was who his mother had really given him away. Did she want to get rid of him as an “unwanted child,” for some reason decided to save her son, or did she simply mistake him for her sister (the children were dressed identically as girls).
In fact, the woman had her best child, Anna, taken from her. Johan, from whom everyone around him suffered from a young age, was a sociopath. As a result, we see a crippled and broken person, who has gone through a hell of dislike and loneliness, devoid of any concept of morality. The essence of Libert, in whom the Monster awoke, is understood by Dr. Tenma. Chasing Johan and having had the opportunity to kill him more than once, he did not do so. The virtuous Tenma believed that there is no absolute and gratuitous evil, always adhered to the concept of the equivalence of human lives. Johan, on the other hand, was convinced that “all men are equal only before death” (c). The demonstration of this confrontation is the main point of the anime Monster.
The authors’ governing idea
The main goal of the series’ creators is to motivate the viewer to evaluate his or her understanding of the ethical “wagon problem. The essence of English philosopher Philippa Foote’s concept is the impossibility of making a choice between human lives that is both rational, binding, and morally winsome. Is it possible to save many people at the cost of the death of one (perhaps innocent) person? Do we not become monsters ourselves by sacrificing one person and choosing to save someone else? No one knows how justified the “ethics of the result” are.
In philosophical terms, “Monster” touches on very serious themes: the nature of humanity, the essence of justice, the evil created by the human imagination, the impact of our actions on the lives of strangers. In some ways it is an essay about despair and contempt for an unworthy life, a story about the struggle of darkness and light in the depths of each soul, the story of the formation of the individual on the path of search for truth.