2009 in anime: #12 This doesn’t really work… Does it ?

by Grungi

(First post in the “12 days in anime” 2009 project led by Mega Megane Moé. Other participating blogs include Shameful Otaku Secret!, Continuing World, Fighting for Nippon!, We love maids., Bokutachi no BLOG, Anime Profiling, Desu ex Machina, Blogging about Anime, I Will Show You Terror in a Handful of Flans, Pontifus, Open Your Mind, ∑Xce7ion, Ganbatte Forever!, Mikotoism, wat u say, Memories of Eternity, Simplicity, Gabrielino Anime Club, UNMEI KAIHEN, Nigorimasen!, Mainichi Anime Yume and We Remember Love)

What a year. What an incredible year. During the past twelve months, I’ve had the chance to experience so many new things that it’s almost overwhelming just thinking about it. It’s also my most anime-watching intensive year ever, which is part of why I really wanted to take this chance to remember some of its highlights.

And the first one of those twelve shining moments is one that takes me back to January. At the time, I was starting to work, and was using a mixture of busses and trains to get to my workplace. Each trip was about 2 hours long, so I had plenty of time to kill (4 hours is 1/6 of a day, that is reaaaally long). And what better way to spend those monstrous amounts of time than watching a long series like, say, Monster ?

And that’s just what I did, albeit in pretty bad conditions. I do recommend against trying to watch shows on a Nintendo DS… Anyway, I made do with what I had lying around, and despites being on a tiny screen, bouncing around while the bus was making its way to the station, or in the freezing cold while I waited for the train, Monster managed to deliver a gripping experience.

Yet I must admit something. I’ve not completed the show. I’m stuck at episode 28, and I really need to pick it up again. And I will, because I really want to see what happens to the good Dr. Tenma. In any case, what is this particular moment that made Monster worthy of this list ? It’s in episode 3, when one learns why Inspector Runge incessantly moves his fingers.

The guy is doing this kinda irritating movement because he’s “entering information in the disk in his head by typing on his keyboard”. Now this sounds silly, doesn’t it ? Yet it works. It’s one of the first examples of what makes Monster so great : being able to make everything seem at least plausible.

Now, of course, some elements of the plot are still far-fetched, but I really think my point stands. Up to where I’ve seen it, Monster pictures a cast and a world that are extremely believable and coherent. And it’s quite a feat with such a long and convoluted plot. A particularly impressive aspect of the show is the way Germany is depicted. Usually, when Japanese shows include Europe-inspired settings, the result is exaggerated, and full of clichés. But for Monster, a lot of effort was obviously made to make it all seem genuine. And that’s really a good thing. It also helps giving Monster a fresh feeling, what with not being set in the center of Tokyo and all…

On top of that, it doesn’t hurt that Monster has stellar production values. The animation is very fluid, the music really fits the show, and the art style is awesome, really reinforcing the “serious” tone of the anime. What’s weird is that I’ve never been fond of the art style of the manga, yet I find it excellent in the anime adaptation. Go figure. Special points for the ending sequence, done in a children book drawing style, and slowly changing as the episodes pass, reflecting the story in a symbolic way. Coupled with David Sylvian’s “For the love of life”, it really makes for a great conclusion for each episode.

But when all is said and done, the single thing that sets Monster apart is the excellence of its plot. It’s at heart a crime mystery/thriller, but each time you think you get it, another layer of explanations make you reconsider your assumptions. And even if the gist of the problem stays the same (for example, the “bad guy” is known almost right from the start), the new insight you gain as the show progress get you ever more involved.

It makes you ever more worried for Dr. Tenma as you learn that what he’s gotten into is really more than meets the eye. And this time the main protagonist isn’t a total badass ready to crush every opposing force. An episode has him learning how to fire a gun, something rarely seen in anime (or movies, or books, even). He’s a good guy, in the truest sense of the term, but he’s not a hero.

And maybe that’s the true reason Monster clicks with me ?

Because I’d want to react the same way as he does if I were in his shoes ?

Who knows…