Naoki Urasawa may just be one of the best writers in the manga industry right now. With a focus on characters and story telling rather than all the over wrought nonsense you find in most modern anime and manga, Urasawa has changed the game. I am a big fan of his adaptation of an Astro Boy story arch, simply known as Pluto, and the series 20th Century Boys, which was later adapted into a movie trilogy of the same name.
Urasawa is well known for another one of his titles, Monster which gained enough of a following to be adapted into a 74 episode series. The story begins in 1986 with a young Japanese doctor working in Germany by the name of Kenzo Tenma ( another nod to Osamu Tezuka of Astro Boy fame ). Tenma is the chief of surgery and is engaged to the Director’s daughter, but after he is made to save an opera singer over an injured peasant he becomes conflicted by the bureaucracy of hospital politics. On a late night emergency call he comes upon a pair of twins who witnessed their parents murder, one comatose and one shot in the head. Right before Tenma goes in to operate, he is told that the Mayor has had a heart attack and the Director wants him in the operating room. Going against the director’s wishes he saves the child and the Mayor dies.
Tenma loses his position. His fiance breaks their engagement, but he still remains at the hospital. Soon after the Director and the new chief of surgery are mysteriously killed, and the twins that were recently admitted vanish. Tenma is shocked but takes up the reins of his old position while dealing with initial suspicion from an over zealous cop. Tenma carries on doing what he loves, saving lives.
Fast forward to 1995. A mysterious string of murders becomes connected with the twins Tenma saved nine years previously. He leaves the hospital, compelled to stop the “monster” he created.
Monster is one part medical drama, one part to detective story, and one part political scandal; with the winning combination of great writing and art. Urasawa takes anime to a whole new level with this title.
Watch it on Hulu for free, or Netflix if you have a subscription but can’t stand commercials.