Adekunle Bajo’s review published on Letterboxd:
Naoki Urasawa's Monster is a writer’s wet dream. A heavily character-driven story with an intricate character web that spans across 74 episodes. This without a doubt is one of the best psychological thrillers across any medium. it's an anime that doesn't rely on the clichés that we're accustomed to. You will not find forced comedy moments that produce cheap laughs. This show is heavily rooted in realism. The animation style resembles that of the late 80s-90s anime. If this was an artistic choice it was a darn good one as it really brought the show a certain aura of the authenticity of the period it tries to depict. The story is set after the Berlin Wall collapse from the mid-1980s - 1990s and the world is very bleak. You still have the remnants of the Nazi army walking about. Communism is still heavily practiced. The show subtly explores certain themes like racism, classism, human experiment amongst others. The main theme in this show is love vs nihilism. You have Dr. Tenma who stands for love and there's Johan Liebert who stands for nihilism and he is the Monster in the show.
Dr. Tenma is a brilliant neurosurgeon working at one of the top hospitals in Germany. He is on the rise and is engaged to the Chief Of Surgery’s daughter Eva. His almost perfect life comes to a halt when faced with a choice that sets the story in motion. Two patients were brought in in the dead of the night. A child with a bullet in the head and the mayor of the city with an aneurysm who had a strong relationship with the Chief of Surgery. Like with all cases where powerful men are involved Tenma was instructed to save the mayor who was to pass a law to help the hospital. If he did as instructed he would be promoted. Tenma has a strong moral value and strongly adheres to the Hippocratic Oath. He sees all life as equal and anyone that has a chance to be saved should be. He weighed his options. The child had the worst case and he goes ahead with the surgery. Tenma had no idea that he was giving a monster another chance at life. Years later after Tenma discovers the truth about Johan he is devastated. He questions his choice about all lives being equal. He was Johan as the anomaly in his morals. After being framed for murders he did not commit Tenma flees the law to go and kill Johan in order to stop the chaos.
Johan might just be one of the best villains to ever grace the screen. He's like the devil. you can't prove he exists but a mere mention of him sends chills down anyone's spine. Everyone that comes across Johan refers to him as the devil or something similar.
you must not look at the devil, you must not play a part in the devil's plans. nobody wants to die - Martin
The character web is so intricate and woven very much like a spider web in how every character is connected in one way or another or are bound to be connected later. There are times when you think a character is rather random and adds nothing to the story at large but eventually it will pay off much later and you will be satisfied with the result 95% of the time. You will find yourself caring for many characters outside of the main characters. The attention to detail of every character is incredible. Every character has a life of their own. You can take any one of them and just imagine their own lives outside the story based on the little details provided and they can probably carry their own spin-offs because a lot of them are really intriguing.
The show is very slow-paced which suits the show and makes every moment immersive. There’s hardly any filler episodes here everything there is to push the story forward. There are moments when the episodes have happy moments and it’s actually a breather because you’re mostly in despair and worry.
I wish I could go even deeper about the show but I may give away important spoilers. This anime is a masterpiece and of course it has its flaws. There’s a lot of deus ex machinas but it’s not really bothersome as it is sometimes well hidden but it gets more obvious towards the end.
The end of this show…. I don’t want to give anything away but feel free to interpret it as you wish. All I’ll say is I think this show is a masterpiece in every sense. It’s not for everyone so if you dislike slow-burn type of shows this is not for you.
And I'll close with this. This sums up about 80% of the show.
"Doctor Tenma, for you all lives are created equal, that's why I came back to life. But you've finally come to realize it now, haven't you? Only one thing is equal for all and that is death." - Johan Liebert.