Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (2004) review

Rated: 3 / 5 (might improve sometime in the future when I decide to rewatch this show)

And slowly, you come to realize, it’s all as it should be.
You can only do so much.
If you’re game enough, you can place your trust in me.
For the love of life, there’s a trade-off.
We could lose it all, but we’ll go down fighting.

So I’ve been aware of this anime’s reputation for a while now.  Some say it’s “the best anime no one has ever seen,” and by no one they mean Americans.  Not sure how true that is (personally, I think that reputation should fall upon Legend of the Galactic Heroes, something I have completely downloaded, but have only seen a few episodes so far; didn’t stop because it sucked, just have the mindset, “Let me finish this, and this, and this first, before getting sucked into this.”), as I believe it has gotten the attention it’s deserved since its release, but viewers have to jump through a few hoops to get the whole thing.  From what I understand, this only aired on the Sci-Fi channel (was it that far back, or was it SyFy at this point?) for a duration, and the last 15 or so episodes never aired, so most didn’t get to see how the anime would wrap up.  Well, I’ve seen the whole damn thing.  I won’t say how, but you could probably think of a few ways.

So, how was it?  Not too shabby, despite a couple minor caveats here and there; up until the last 5-6 episodes or so when it does this stupid bullshit that a lot of animes do that irritate me to no end.  I’ll get to what those are later, but for now I’ll just say they don’t fuck up the show to the point where I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Despite its faults, it’s one of the better anime series out there, and it doesn’t run so long to the point where it overstays it’s welcome (I mean, Inuyasha, Bleach, One Piece, holy fuck do those go on forever).

Oh, and there will be spoilers.  Just sayin’.

So the show starts out with this master surgeon, Dr. Tenma, who is considered to be the best doctor in the country (the show primarily takes place in Germany, but the lead doctor protagonist is Japanese), conflicted with his choices of whether he should continue to do what his bosses want, healing the patients they demand and thus prioritizing the more wealthy/famous/political over the commoners, or not.  The guilt of continuing this trend weighs heavy on him until he decides to disobey orders and do surgery on a young boy named Johan who was shot in the head, choosing to help him over the other more “important” individual.  Because of his actions he becomes de-promoted, and his twat fiance (who is the daughter of the hospital president) shows her true colors in that she was only in the relationship for the finances and high position, so she ditches him for another.  But the act has unforeseeable repercussions that extend beyond this.  Soon after healing the boy, several of the hospital higher ups are killed via poison, leaving nothing in the way of Tenma moving back up in the ranks.  And the boy patient Johan, along with his sister (who was admitted due to trauma/shock) disappear.

Years later, Tenma is successful, and glad to be rid of his fiance, who tried to come back to him (bitch, please).  However, a patient of his raves and rants about a monster coming for him, and he runs out of the hospital with Tenma in pursuit, only for both of them to become confronted by the monster.  The monster, as it turns out predictably, is Johan, the boy patient from nearly a decade ago.  Johan kills the patient, spares Tenma, and leaves.  Tenma also finds out that Johan is a serial killer, who has been killing many people over the years, which makes Tenma second-guess his philosophy that every life is sacred, and equal, and worth saving.  Are there some lives that shouldn’t be held as high as others?  Are there some lives that must be ended for the good of others?  Well, Tenma decides to change his life, leave his job, and begin tracking down Johan across the country, trying to find him and eventually kill him.

That’s more or less how the opening 10 episodes go.  And this is a series comprised of 74 episodes.  I began to wonder, “The premise is interesting, but how in the hell can they keep this show engaging for that long of a duration?  I’m seeing the setup for intrigue and deeper layers indicating that there’s more going on than what we’re currently seeing, but for another 60+ episodes?”

And the next several episodes began to worry me in this regard.  Because despite how the first few episodes seem, this isn’t one of those shows that tells its story in a straightforward manner where we continually follow the lead protagonist most of the time.  No.  For several episode stretches and different intervals, we are introduced to other characters, and follow their stories, like Tenma’s arc during the first act was just one story amidst a bunch of other stories that encompass a giant conspiracy.  In hindsight, this technique worked, but it demands patience from the viewer.  There were times where I went, “Ok, this is nice and all, but what the hell is happening with Tenma!?”  There are times when we leave him and then get introduced to some girl attending a college for a few episodes; or later on are introduced to some child of a rich man trying to become re-aquainted with his father; or follow a cop who’s a recovering drunk.  But after a certain point, they all start to link together.

By the time the series was halfway over, I was down with this style of pacing.  It accomplishes something that I desire in a lot of television shows.  That the main protagonist is not the center of the universe.  There are other pieces in the game that move independent of his actions/activities, who accomplish things that the protagonist is incapable of accomplishing, whether it’s because he’s not in the right place at the right time, or he doesn’t have the skill-set to do this sort of thing (ex: Tenma can’t really fight, and he’s just so-so with a gun, and most importantly he doesn’t know everyone anymore than he has all the answers).  Plus virtually all of these other characters are interesting in their own way, thus I didn’t mind so much that I was spending time with them.

By favorite of these side-characters is easily the detective Heinrich Lunge, who pretty much chooses to have no life outside of his detective work, and can become obsessive with solving cases.  And he has a technique for doing so.  He is able to recall conversations and details with eerie accuracy, like he’s a computer who can record information at will.  Yet his method does have a fault.  Despite being able to recall conversations word-for-word, another character (who is a criminal psychiatrist) points out that Lunge utilizes this technique in a biased manner.  If he has already predetermined a potential outcome, he will emphasize a tone/aura around his recall-ability, such as believing an individual said a line in a certain way (serious, lighthearted, grim, casual, a lie, a truth) when said-individual actually said the line in a different way.  Because as objectively-minded as some people try to be, there will always be an amount of subjectivity to how they perceive things.  Plus he does all his work at the expense of alienating his family; and there were times where I began to sympathize with this guy and begged for him to go to his daughter, a sign of good writing.

And speaking of multi-dimensional characters, to my surprise, Tenma’s bitch-tits fiance ends up showing a sympathetic side to her, though you do have to get pretty far in the show to see it.  And, of course, even the main villain Johan is shown to be multidimensional.  There are no perfect characters in this show, no heroes that aren’t infallible, no villains that are pure evil (even if they do their best to convince themselves and others that’s how they are).

Getting into the character of Johan here, he does become a fascinating character.  First one begins to wonder just how it is he’s able to brainwash/manipulate others into doing his deeds.  Because as we soon find out, he usually prefers not to get his own hands bloody (though he certainly has no qualms about doing so), but rather getting other people to do things for him.  Why?  What is his end goal?  Why is he doing this?  Well, honestly, despite the hopes others have for him (there are organizations who have an interest in Johan, partly because they’ve put some investment into him in the past), he seems more interested in causing destruction simply because he likes manipulating others to see how they will all interact with each other, like interfering with the paths a line of ants would take, forcing them to follow different trails and seeing how they will adapt to new obstacles.  And he is determined to show that no one really deserves to live, that there isn’t really any value in life.  Which is why he became a bit fascinated with Tenma, intentionally bringing him into the game, wanting to see Tenma’s early philosophy on life proven wrong by having Tenma turn that very belief 180 degrees.

He also has an obsession with identity, or more accurately, lack of identity.  Because he feels he himself has none.  Because he is a monster; because his beliefs were built on the foundation of an obscure kid’s book titled, “The Monster With No Name,” something he was read to during his younger years.  On top of that, he was also the subject to multiple experiments done on children, experiments designed to create a new Hitler, ala The Boys From Brazil, but more extreme.  The experiments were designed to make the children intelligent, incredibly disciplined, and very acute.  The main thing they were taught was on observing their surroundings, and learning how to read people, to anticipate how an individual with a certain type of personality would react to various general situations.  Thus the children could grow up to become master manipulators.  And lastly, and this is something implied more than anything else (though there are enough heavy hints dropped to convince me), that Johan wasn’t always a male.  As a very young child, before he was separated from his sister, he used to be a boy, but due to surgery from the organization, he was turned into a boy (and thus to my shock, this series somehow pulled off an LGBT twist that didn’t come off as forced at all, and it was rather brilliant).  It’s at this point that a lot of his questioning of identity and his madness begins to make a lot of sense, ultimately making him one of the more intriguing villains in anime history, with a very tragic backstory.  His innocence was lost early on, thus he believed early on that innocence doesn’t exist.

Though to be fair, it is quite easy for children to lose their innocence.

And since he was trained to be a manipulator (though some in the organization admit that he was a prodigy compared to the other children, which is something that was bound to happen), he finds ways to easily manipulate others.  Because if you observe one for long enough, you find faults in their character, regrets over sins of the past, or having no regrets and thus being prime candidates for doing evil deeds simply because they enjoy it.  There are many faults to be exploited in humanity, and exploit them he does, not for riches, not for fame, but to send a message.

Fascinating stuff, and there are other complexities I haven’t covered yet, but I’ll leave those for readers who wish to seek out the show.  And this would be as good a time as any before reading the rest of this, because now I’m going to spoil the ending (moving from spoilers to uber-spoilers).  Because the ending is why I currently don’t rate the show higher than 3/5.

It’s not that the final outcome in of itself was bad, it’s just some of the bullshit that was done to get there, bullshit that was easily avoidable.  So first off, about halfway through the show, there’s this big muscleman who gets shot and flies down the story of a building and into the smoke below where a fire had broken out.  The way they framed this, the way it was shown, an alarm bell rang in the back of my mind, “He’s going to show up again.  We didn’t see the life go out of his eyes, so he’s coming back.”  That’s anime 101 logic (and most film logic for that matter, but animes pull this shit all the time, and it annoys the fuck out of me because it comes off as insulting my intelligence, what little I have).  So I was (not) shocked to see him show up about a dozen or so episodes later.

“That’s right motherfuckers, you can’t kill me!”

But that’s just the warmup.  During the finale, this bodyguard and Lunge get in a scuffle, and Lunge continues to do this stupid shit that keeps getting bodybuilder to regain the upper hand.  One of these actions was so fucking stupid, the anime didn’t want to shame itself by showing it, so it happens off-screen and is mentioned later (you know what, fuck you, seriously).  “Oh, I let him live and didn’t bother to handcuff him or anything, which allowed him to tackle me while I was walking down this stairs with my back turned to him.  Yeah, it makes me sound like a fucking idiot doesn’t it?  Good thing you didn’t see me being a fucking idiot, considering I’m supposed to be the intelligent one.”

And then, of course, there’s the tip of the finale.  Where the main protagonist and others are face-to-face with Johan, guns pointed, people wounded, emotions running high.  Johan is asking Tenma to end his life, by shooting him in the head.  A part of Tenma doesn’t want to do this, because it’s not in self-defense, and he knows that he will be forever changed if he takes a life as opposed to saving one.  And no one else really wants him to do this other than Johan himself, though many do want Johan to die because of all the lives he has taken.  Long story short, some other semi-random schmuck ends up shooting Johan in the head, which was a lucky shot not only because he had never fired a gun before, but also because he was in a bit of a drunken state.  It’s a pure lazy fucking cop-out, and it results in the show trying to give the happiest ending possible, despite everything that happened prior to this, from episode 1 and onward.  It would’ve been interesting to see how Tenma would’ve handled himself after doing that, but nope, we’re not going to have any of that.

Plus the whole thing just seems naive to me.  And I get what they were going for.  Once you kill, you lose an element of innocence that you will never get back.  I get it.  But the fact remains that if someone had killed this psychopath far earlier on, a shitload of lives would’ve been spared his wrath, and many more would’ve lived.  You can talk about losing innocence all you want, but that is why people exist who are willing to lose that innocence to protect others so that way others won’t lose their own innocence, much less their own lives from others who have no innocence left.  But fuck that, the anime wants you to feel sympathy for this guy and demands that the viewer hopes for a redemption arc for Mr. kills-a-lot.

Seriously, this line is fucking said.  Fuck you lady, what about all the other people he’s killed, you wanna see if they forgive this cocksucker?

So yeah, all that stuff irritated me, and marred what had been a fairly excellent show, making it go from having minor annoyances to major annoyances.  But despite that, the show it still good, has some fascinated scenarios and some thought-provoking concepts and philosophies (up until it fucking simplifies them in the last 2 episodes).  And it is worth a watch.  The things that cause me major irritations may only be minor or insignificant to you.  So, there it is.

Team America, and a rant about the post-election.

Rated: 4/5

“See, there’s three kinds of people: dicks, pussies, and assholes. Pussies think everyone can get along, and dicks just want to fuck all the time without thinking it through. But then you got your assholes, Chuck. And all the assholes want us to shit all over everything! So, pussies may get mad at dicks once in a while, because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes, Chuck. And if they didn’t fuck the assholes, you know what you’d get? You’d get your dick and your pussy all covered in shit!”

Hooray, Trump won!

Yeah, this is one of those reviews made for this historic time period to intentionally say I am glad Trump won. I’m not glad he won because I think all of his policies will be great (though I do believe some of them could turn out to be good), but I am glad he beat that corrupt-as-fuck hypocrite Hillary Clinton.  But this review is also made because I am fucking sick and tired of seeing people bitch about Trump, before and after the election.  And all these goddamn protests and threats.

For all the women out that who are saying, “We needed a woman president to show how far women have come in this nation,” fuck you. You don’t need a woman president. You need a GOOD woman president. Hillary would’ve been a terrible woman president and would’ve been a terrible representation of women . And for all the men who are saying, “We don’t need a woman running this country,” fuck you too. Trump isn’t much better in the men’s department. If a female candidate is better than the male candidates, I would vote for them, and you thick-headed numbskull ass-hats should fucking do the same. Because it doesn’t matter if the fuckface candidate is a man or a woman, they just need to be better suited for the position than the other candidate.

And people like Van Jones, who say, “This was a white-lash. This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president in part, and that’s the part where the pain comes.” Fuck you. Statements like that not only falsely suggest that Hillary would’ve helped black communities any more than she fucking did in the past, or more than any other presidential candidate like her has, but it implies that Trump would manage it worse with no good reason to back that up. Besides, there are many in the black community who are sick of the bullshit that’s been going on to make their lives suck (Ferguson and such), just as there are those who seem to be just fucking dandy about the whole thing. Just because some of you are Liberal and only have Liberal opinions that you’re entitled to doesn’t mean others aren’t fucking Conservative and have their own fucking Conservative views. And threatening those who have a view different from yours that you don’t fucking like sure as hell isn’t going to heal the divide.

And fuck black lives matter. ALL LIVES MATTER! Black, white, brown, red, whatever fucking color you identify yourself with, you’re a all fucking human being and every one of you fucking matter! Just because some of you had it rough for most of your life doesn’t mean making someone else who’s had it good and making their life rough is going to make things any better. Those who have it good should be helping those who have it bad so they can also have it good. And that can be done without making them fucking suffer for it.

The moment people agree that people like that should go and fuck themselves and become more thoughtful rational-minded people who believe that everyone should be fair and thoughtful to everyone else, and admit that every politician and every corporate asshole are pieces of shit no matter how much you may favor one over the other, that is when the healing of the divide can begin. It can also begin when we can admit that white people also like rap, black people also like mayonnaise, politicians normally don’t keep their word no matter which side of the spectrum they swing, and not every illegal immigrant comes here with bad intentions (some want to actually work and live here and get legalized and eat Mexican food in America rather than in Mexico) anymore than every illegal immigrant comes here with good intentions (some want to do bad things like watching Crash and saying it’s a good movie). It would also help to agree that both Republicans and Democrats are full of shit a lot of the time. Might also help heal the divide if we admit that Star Wars VII wasn’t a good movie.

This whole fucking divide spawned from a desire for entitlements, that some people believe they are owed something, that because some pansy-ass motherfuckers believe that because they find something offensive means that no one should be able to fucking see it as opposed to just dealing with it. I don’t like seeing naked old ladies with their tits drooping down to their wrinkly old vaginas anymore than I like seeing naked old men with their balls drooping down to their feet, but I’m not going to say those images can be banned. Why? Because I’m fucking mature enough to fucking understand that I don’t have to fucking pay attention to it and fucking look the other way to something else. I’m nowhere near the most mature person in the world and I at least know that others should be at least as mature is that. There are things in the world you may not like, but there are other things in the world that most people, if not everyone, doesn’t like.

This national divide didn’t start with Trump and Hillary, it existed (and grew) before either of them made a bid for presidency. This national healing everyone wants doesn’t start by lying to yourselves about how things really are and by believing you should be intolerant to anything that offends you. It begins when you grow the fuck up, know that there are some things in life you have to put up with that you can easily live with, and move the fuck on. I’m not sure when this politically correct attitude of millennials became to big that they felt they don’t have to grow up, but I do know that’s one of the root causes of this divide.

Case in point, if someone posted a negative review for a movie like Scream, a movie that most people like, but someone didn’t like the negative review of it and thought it should be taken down or edited just because they find it offensive and doesn’t conform to their views for no good reason, how should people respond to someone like that? I’ll tell you how they should respond, they should tell them to kiss their ass, and fuck off, and go crawl back into whatever gutter they came from, because reviewers are entitled to their fucking opinions and people are allowed to fucking enjoy them if they agree with them! Go off and make your own goddamn review that other people will like so you can satisfy your own confirmation bias. You don’t get the right to censor something just because you don’t fucking like it.

If there’s a misunderstanding somewhere when it comes to what someone thinks, in that they don’t have their facts straight, be a decent fucking person and try to show them the facts as clearly as you can. The truth can hurt, but lies are going to hurt a hell of a lot more if they’re left to fester. So do yourselves and humanity a favor, don’t lie to yourself about how things really are, and how things really were.

And for those of you who believe Trump will be a worse president than Hillary no matter what regardless of all that’s been said about her and him, do what we’ve done for all other presidents who’ve been elected in the past that we didn’t like. Give him a fucking chance. If he fucks up and is as bad as you think he is, it shouldn’t be that difficult to impeach the cocksucker. It would certainly be easier to do that than to impeach that cunt Hillary if she fucked up. And I honestly don’t know how it is that many of you have been so convinced, have been so certain, that Trump really is THAT much worse than Hillary. I don’t even know how you can say he’s going to be the worst president we’ve ever had compared to everyone else in the past century. I really don’t.

Yeah, I’ve been keeping a lot of that pent up inside me for a while now.

“Maybe feelings are feelings because we can’t control them.”

Oh, right, there’s a movie I wanted to watch and review. Despite this being a small scale using only puppets and not trying to disguise how cheap it is at all, it’s pretty well made and makes great use of explosions, violence, editing, and choreography. I mean, it may have a bit of a cheap look to it, but it’s intentional. They don’t try to hide the fact that these are puppets on strings, they don’t even try to hide the fact that many of the characters are voiced by the same 2 guys. This movie knows exactly what it is. A foul mouthed satire of America’s war on terror which attacks everyone on all sides and doesn’t give a fuck. Even so, some of these scenes are actually quite well-made, especially that assault in France intro (whew, speaking of things that could make people uncomfortable nowadays).

I have a bit of a personal story with this movie. When I was much younger, I made a vow to never watch R-rated movies, because I was convinced that they all contain offensive material that I should never be exposed to. I later came to regret that decision. In hindsight, that vow was made for stupid bullshit reasons. But the main reason I regret making that decision is because I missed out on a lot of fun stuff my friends and family did. My friends went off to watch this movie and others like A Clockwork Orange, and they enjoyed themselves, and I chose not to share in that. And this movie, my sister and dad went to see it with a large crowd, and they laughed their asses off at it, and I missed out on the whole thing, by choice. Years later when I decided to cast that fucking vow off to the side, I got to see the movie with some other friends of mine. Know what happened? We all laughed our asses off and had a great time watching it. From that point on, I realized that it’s stupid to restrict yourself like that. It made me lose out on some great experiences that I can never take part in, and I’m never making that same mistake again.

“So lick my butt and suck on my balls!”

I’d imagine this movie would be uncomfortable for people to watch nowadays especially after the election. Because this president is so much more bloodthirsty than any other we’ve ever had (sarcasm). But you know, of all the things that seem to have changed that would make me view this movie differently, make me laugh at it less or make me laugh at it more, that would even be considered a satire, it wasn’t the stereotypical Middle Eastern portrayals (which is clearly done for parody purposes, just in case some of you forget what a satire is and forget that making fun of stereotypes is a joke and is ok to laugh at), or that America is gun-ho about blowing shit up, or their portrayal of Italians, or Koreans, or how actors are just as hypocritical as everything else (bunch of FAGs).

“My acting is what got a thousand people killed! Jesus! It’s happening to me again!”

No, that’s not what took me by surprise for this viewing. The story about the apes beating a kid to death before they all were gassed and killed; boy does that ring some bells.

Guess that kid is going to grow up into an actor who sings about AIDS on broadway before moving on to save the world from North Korea.

For everyone who finds this movie too offensive and too unsettling and too uncomfortable to watch, that’s fine. There are some satires that people can’t take, like those who can’t take Blazing Saddles.  There’s plenty of alternative for them to watch.  For everyone else like me, we’re going to enjoy ourselves and laugh our asses off while we watch dolls fuck each other, and hope that a sequel is made that will bring more of it all.

“Now take your weapons of mass destruction and get the FUCK OUTTA HERE!”