Monday, July 20, 2009

Monster, vol. 2

The story: Dr. Tenma's search for Johan, the serial killer and "monster," continues in this second volume. As Tenma searches throughout Germany, Johan continues his path of destruction, killing whomever and whenever he pleases. Tenma's search finally turns up Johan's sister, now known as Nina, who had gone catatonic and suffered from amnesia when she and her brother were first admitted to the hospital years ago. At present, she has zero recollection of her life before that fateful day. And just as Tenma thinks he's gotten closer to Johan, his prey proves himself the monster and, again, escapes out of Tenma's reach. The mystery continues to deepen in the second installment of this thriller of a manga.

Reaction: I think it would be so easy to plow through this plot, much like a movie. But, Naoki Urasawa takes care in telling the story at a perfect pace -- not too fast, so that details are missed, but not too slow, either. As I'm sure the mangaka has intended, I'm getting reeled into this story, bit by bit. There are so many questions that arise and I found myself reading through this as quickly as possible, simply so I could get started on the third volume that much sooner. Of course, only more questions arise this time around and none are answered.

Deep thoughts: I found the newspaper archive interesting, as I've had to search newspaper archives myself. For the Heidelberg Post, they have no microfiche and, instead, possess reduced copies of the newspaper and even copies of stories that never saw print. It strikes me as particularly odd that the paper didn't use microfiche -- before everything went digital, it was the accepted standard. It also doesn't really do anything for the story in terms of adding another layer of depth, either. Regardless, I can't imagine what a treasure trove of information a place like that would have been. On the other hand, it seems it would be near impossible to find the specific story Tenma searches for, although he does find it in the end.

Artwork: Much like the story itself, Urasawa's artwork seems to tease the reader -- the deaths in this volume are never shown in an explicit or graphic manner. You know there's something horrible around that corner, but, much like a parent protecting a child, Urasawa never reveals the true horror of the gruesome deaths he hints at. Outside of that, Urasawa also has a deft hand at expressing emotion, whether it's fear, shock or frustration; he captures it all with seeming ease.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This story has intrigue, romantic betrayal and, even, small happy moments where you least expect them. I simply can't wait to get to the third volume and beyond. Monster is available in the U.S. from Viz.


  1. It's interesting you mention movies, as I've always thought Urasawa's stories had a cinematic quality.

  2. @Michelle Well, when I started reading Monster, it reminded me of a few movies I've seen, where a chase is involved. However, unlike Catch Me if You Can and The Fugitive, where those being chased are at least likable, Johann has no redeeming qualities. Thankfully, Dr. Tenma makes up for that. Of course, there's no denying the cinematic quality of Urasawa's work, especially with the live-action films for 20th Century Boys recently announced.

  3. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to seeing those.