Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Monster, vol. 1'

Monster volume one (manga)Written and Illustrated by Naoki Urasawa
Translated by Satch Watanabe
Fiction/manga, 1995 (Japan), 2006 (English translation)
Viz Media, pb, 214 p.
Winner of the Shogakukan Manga Award, 2001
An ice-cold killer is on the loose, and brilliant Dr. Kenzo Tenma is the only one who can stop him! Conspiracies, serial murders, and a scathing indictment of hospital politics are all masterfully woven together in this compelling manga thriller. Tenma risks his promising medical career to save the life of a critically wounded young boy. Unbeknownst to him, this child is destined for a terrible fate. Who could have known that Tenma would create a monster!
I don’t remember now exactly where I heard of this series but I think it was from browsing a list of recommended manga online somewhere. I don’t discuss books with my husband too much because he reads almost exclusively non-fiction but when he saw that I’d bought the first volume (on this Mailbox Monday post no less), he told me he’d read this series when he was a student and that he’d enjoyed it. He even used to have many of the volumes but sold them quite a few years ago. I wouldn’t have been able to read them anyway, being as they were the original Japanese, but still. Anyway, I thought it was fun that I’d picked up on my own a series he knew and had read, and this made me even more curious to read it myself.

It’s set in Germany, and the main character is a Japanese neurosurgeon working at a hospital in Düsseldorf. In volume 1 (of 18 in total), the story is just beginning, so much of this first volume is devoted to setting the scene and it’s not until practically the end of this first instalment that the main character makes an important discovery, that I imagine will lead the story in the volumes to come.
The artwork isn’t perhaps quite as beautiful as in Emma (which I think might be difficult to top), but the panels were very well drawn, and especially the characters’ faces were really quite expressive. With the hospital setting, and medical jargon, it sometimes felt like an episode of ER, or House. I usually like hospital or crime dramas though so that was no bad thing and it held my interest. The story was sometimes predictable, but it seems to have the makings of an exciting thriller and I’m curious enough after reading this one to read on in the series to see how it progresses. My second foray into manga has also been deemed a success.

Naoki Urasawa interview (YouTube video, taken from a documentary aired on French TV, with English subtitles).

First sentence: That was amazing. He’s the best we’ve got, by far.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#12 for 2009, Manga Challenge, Try Something New Mini-Challenge)


  1. I haven't read Emma yet, but it is sitting beside my bed. this one looks pretty interesting. I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

  2. I love the premise, Japanese neurosurgeon working at a hospital in Düsseldorf! It looks fun although it is a longer series. My degree was in Biochemistry and Neurobiology so it would an interesting read.

  3. This sounds good, but sigh, 18 volumes.

    I agree; the artwork in Emma is very hard to top!

  4. You are making me want to try Magna that's for sure! I'm going to see if I can find some of these via my library system.

  5. I looked this up but my library doesn't have it. Sad!

    I was just happy I got to read Emma. :)

  6. Staci - Emma is really wonderful, I hope you enjoy it!

    Rhinoa - Oh, you probably would enjoy this story with your background. My husband said that the medical stuff is supposed to be reasonably accurate. Apparently he consulted with a doctor or something.

    Nymeth - I know, 18!! I both want to continue and don't at the same time. LOL.

    Iliana - You should! I look forward to seeing which ones you try. :)

    Kailana - That's too bad. Emma was great though so at least you got to read it. Does your library have any other manga series?


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