DVD Review: Urasawa Naoki's MONSTER, Episodes 61-74 (End...)

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Monster-61-74-DVDreview-main.jpg(Does it take two headshots to finish off someone with a split personality?)

To say I've been eagerly awaiting the fifth boxset of the Monster anime is an understatement. The fourth set ended with enough cliffhangers to break off an entire ridge. But when I held the discs physically in my grubby paws, apprehension was there as well: what if the ending sucked? What if, after 74 episodes, it ends with a sign saying "sorry, we had no money to finish it..."?

Well, I need not have worried. The anime adaptation of Urasawa Naoki's Monster rightfully belongs in the shortlist of best animated series in existence, Japanese or otherwise. It has an ending.
I will keep the remainder of this review pretty much spoilerfree as usual, so as not to unduly disrupt anyone's journey through Tenma's and Johan's worlds.

But first... what was the series about again? Read on...

Monster-61-74-DVDreview-ext1.jpgThe Story:

Once upon a time, brain surgeon Doctor Tenma saved the life of Johan, a young boy who had been shot through the head. A decade later, Tenma had to flee the police for murders committed by Johan, who had grown up as a soulless monster.

And Tenma started to hunt this monster. A difficult task as shady organisations wanted to mask Johan's existence, or were even grooming him to become a leader.

But that was then, this is now. All the conspiracies and organisations surrounding Johan are collapsing, and end up being used by him for a terrible plan of revenge. Tenma is finally able to get to the root of what Johan is, and what created him. Unfortunately, so do most of Tenma's friends and enemies.

When Johan starts his end-game, will Tenma be able to stop him? And even if Tenma succeeds, who will survive the Monster?

The Series, finished:

In short: wow. What a ride this has been, and what an achievement. If Monster has one distinctive quality, it is consistency. Throughout its 74-episode run, this series has remained thrilling, confidently telling a single big story and telling it well, in its own tempo, slowly but surely working its way towards its finale.

When that finale had finished, at first I wondered if that was all, but the more I thought the more I noticed there wasn't all that much to add. While there sure are some remaining questions, as bewildering as Neon genesis Evangelion this is not. Some of the little twists are obviously deliberate, put there to make you doubt and wonder, to make it harder to close this book in its entirety in your mind.

I could go on and on about what it does right, and nitpick at what it does wrong, its use of loactions, of fairy tales, of real history. But part of the fun is in discovering just how clever this has been put together. Its team of directors has kept the series steeped in intelligence, and has kept the adherence to its own moral questions intact without getting too preachy. And I do also want to point out the excellent use of sound and music, racking up and releasing the tension whenever necessary.

And now that the series is over, I actually feel its absence.
Wow indeed...

On To The Discs:

It's not just the series itself which was consistent during its run: the same could be said about the five boxsets released. All are coded locked to region 4, in NTSC, with English and Japanese soundtracks, and excellent English subtitles.
Unfortunately the consistency continues in all boxsets being equally barebones, with transfers which are not of the highest visual quality.

Still, I count Monster as one of the most exciting anime releases this year, and applaud Siren Visual for taking the risk.
Because it consistently kicked my ass for 74 episodes, something no other series has ever managed to do.

As I said, I do not wish to spoil anything. But as this is the last review for this series I do want to end it with a "grand reveal" of sorts. I noticed that in the previous reviews I haven't shown what the boxsets actually look like, and therefore I will remedy that here with this gallery of pictures.

And here they all are: the Monster anime boxset, the release of the series in its entirety completed.

Siren Visual is contemplating whether to publish a boxset of these sometime in the future, but well... that will be sometime in the future. Meanwhile, look through these slides to see close-ups of the cover-art!

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  • Andrew Valentine

    Oh my gosh, please Mr. Ard, please tell me if you know the correct answer to my question. I live in the United States, California. I need to know if these DVDs will work on my PS3, since an out of this country company published these? My region code is Region 1/A. I'm just irritated that only Ep 1 to 16 were released and its being sold for $120. And Amazon had it but now these took it down digitally, like what the heck? If you mentioned the answer to my question in your review, please let me know to go back and read said review, I'm just so anxious, nervous, and excited, I had to jump to the comments.

  • Ard Vijn

    As an international collector, I sympathize with you. The day I unlocked my DVD-player, ten years ago, was a fantastic one. Finally it was able to play every DVD in the world, and the first thing I did was order all Hong Kong Studio Ghibli DVDs (which were at the time the only ones which were affordable AND had English subs).

    Even now, at considerably higher cost, I have had my Blu-ray player hardware-modded to play everything and anything. I'm a staunch opponent of piracy and will buy everything I watch, but I refuse to be discriminated against, based just on the continent I happen to live in.

    So... bad new first: these discs are all coded region 4, meaning Australia and New-Zeeland. They will not play in a region 2 player (Europe) or region 1 player (USA-Canada), including your PS3.

    The good news is: a regionfree DVD player (NOT Blu-ray, just DVD) can be gotten very cheap, under 30 USD. Which is a LOT cheaper than even one of these boxsets!

  • Alan Morrison

    Mr. Ard, I have looked everywhere and cannot find a single one. I also live in the US and would love to obtain this masterpiece but there's nothing over here.
    Do you know from where, whether website or a distributor, I could get these DVDs?

  • Ard Vijn

    First: note that the discs are regionlocked to region 4, so make sure your set can play them before trying to buy them.

    Second: Distributor Siren Visual is planning a boxset of the entire series, probably out in a few months already, so your best (and cheapest) bet might be to wait for that.

    Third: Siren Visual can't ship this title directly to the US, because doing so would endanger their business relations and licensing of future titles.

    (Third continued: However, some big Australian outlets will ship to the US! Here is one which has all five of them, and a link to boxset 5; just search for Monster part 1, monster part 2 etcetera, to get the rest): http://www.dvdwarehouse.com.au...

    Hope this helps!)

  • Alan Morrison

    Siren Visual is planning a boxset? <3
    I really hope that goes through. Any clue to when it might come out? Before the end of 2015?

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