Monster is an unmatched piece of philosophy in the field of anime
Certain anime stand the test of time and stick with us for their enthralling stories or the messages they convey. Monster is definitely one of them, but it goes a step further by presenting one of the most thought-provoking clashes of philosophical ideologies, one that bears a frightening resemblance to real life and can question the viewer's moral compass.
Written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Monster is a Japanese manga series that received an anime adaptation in 2004 and quickly gained a dedicated following for its complex plot, well-developed characters, and realistic animation.
The anime has a sizeable cast who bear major significance in the storytelling, and each character provides a unique perspective. However, the most important cogs of the wheel in the story are undoubtedly the morally obligated optimistic protagonist Dr Kenzo Tenma and the tragic embodiment of evil, antagonist Johan Liebert.
Liebert and Tenma are often depicted as foils for each other, with their actions and motivations serving as counterpoints to each other. Liebert is a highly-intelligent and manipulative character with a tendency towards violence and a lack of empathy, while Tenma is a compassionate and idealistic doctor driven by a desire to do good and save lives. Despite their differences, Liebert and Tenma are also deeply connected, with their paths intersecting and influencing each other throughout the series.
One of the key reasons why Monster remains relevant today is its exploration of complex moral issues. The story deals with themes such as the nature of good and evil, the corrupting influence of power, and the consequences of personal choices. Throughout the series, it is conveyed that the line between good and evil is not always clear and that even well-intentioned actions can have disastrous consequences.
Throughout the series, Monster asks one of the oldest yet decisive questions about the value of life and humanity by magnificently presenting it as a philosophical dilemma. On one side, it is argued that all human life is equally important and holds value, while the other argument is professed as humanity holds no value if all humans are equal and humans are equal only in death.
To a lesser extent, Monster also touches on the grim side of the medical profession, painting the harsh realities of pressure to prioritise the interests of wealthy and powerful patients over those of ordinary people.
The animation in Monster is reminiscent of the style of its era, but it has certainly stood the test of time. Expressive character designs, a realistic stylistic approach, and the use of colour and lighting are particularly effective, which add to the mood and atmosphere of the series, thus helping to elevate the story to even greater heights.
In conclusion, Monster is a complex and thought-provoking anime series that explores a wide range of moral and psychological issues. Its portrayal of ethical dilemmas and exploration of the nature of good and evil makes it relevant and fascinating even today.
The 74-episode span may feel like a slog at times, and the dark themes might not be digestible for many. However, Monster remains a must-watch for anyone eager to witness one of the best protagonist-antagonist duos in anime and does not mind engaging in philosophical contemplation that draws parallels to our everyday lives.