Reread of Monster by Naoki Urasawa

I often come across people who enjoy comic books, but never have made the plunge into Manga. I think this is largely because there is an perception of manga as being quirky, comic, and romantic. The truth is that Manga spans many different genres, many of which would appeal to typical comic book fans.

One of the first Mangas I would recommend to comic book fans looking to venture into the medium would be Monster by Naoki Urasawa. The premise of Monster is that a brilliant Japanese surgeon (Kenzo Tenma) chooses to save a boy (Johan) rather than attending to a political figurehead that is rushed into the same hospital. This noble pursuit means disaster to his career, but this is only the beginning of his problems. A string of murders at the hospital is pinned on Tenma and he becomes a fugitive. Now on the run, Tenma seeks to clear his name, but more importantly — to stop the killer before more lives are taken.

Monster 1I read this series with the now out-of-print paperback editions of this book, but I now see that they have a 2-in-1 omnibus collection just starting called The Perfect Edition. I am dying to get my hands on these books! Urasawa is as good as any artist in the business and the oversized editions should complement his vivid and detailed artwork.

The first volume was released on July 14, 2014 and they are on a schedule to release a new volume every three months. The original paperbacks released in the US came in eighteen volumes, so I suspect that the Perfect Edition will contain nine volumes in total.

Urasawa is very good at blending intricate plot lines and balances the large, but unique character sheet well. There are many mysteries that are revealed throughout the course of the narrative, although some explanations were a little shallow.

I have already read the series twice and I suspect that Monster is a graphic novel that I will read more times again. It is lengthy, spanning 162 chapters, but it never feels stretched thin or meandering. For those who like psychological thrillers or horror and are looking to get into Manga, this is the place to start.

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Must-Read Manga: Naoki Urasawa

I go through Manga spurts — typically gravitating toward the SF story lines with titles such as Akira, Ghost in a Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. But SF fans would be remiss to pass over Naoki Urasawa. He interweaves intricate plot lines, has deep characters, and has a skill at writing with suspense. They are the kind of stories that leave you thinking about the psychological thrill-ride that Urasawa brings you on.

There are two series in particular that are, in my mind, required reading — and a third that I hope to start shortly:

monster

Urasawa kills it in his manga, Monster. Forgive my pun, for it’s the suspenseful tale about a serial killer and an altruistic doctor who is on the run, accused of committing the killer’s crimes. The characters, the plot, the pacing, the art, the suspense, the dialog — every element of this manga — is just spot on. I am only four volumes in, but am completely addicted to this series.

Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a Japanese surgeon who goes to make a name for himself in Germany to avoid working in the shadow of his adept, but older brother. His talents are unmatched in his new hospital and he soon finds himself operating on people deemed more important rather than those in the greatest need. This conflict of morals come to a pass when he saves a young boy against the administrations direction, leaving the mayor to die fatally in the hands of a lesser surgeon. The outcome of this decision has grave consequences for his life, his career and for a stream of future events.

This is a brilliant piece of work that deserves to be read by anyone with even a slight interest in manga.

20th century boys

For those with a bit more patience and a penchant for the strange and speculative, Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys is nearly equal to the much more straight-forward story arc of Monster. The story flashes between the late sixties, when a group of friends formed a secret club, to the nineties, when their childhood comes back to haunt them. It’s a story about how these boys band together to save the world, although the apocalypse and their role in it are in the early stages little more than a conspiracy. I’m still early into this series and it wasn’t until the end of the first volume that this one started to resonate with me.

pluto

I haven’t read Pluto yet, but I figured I’d toss in another popular series by Urasawa. This is on my to-be-read pile, with even a deeper sci-fi element about a future where robots pass as humans. Given that I am a big fan of books like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I expect that I will love this series as well.