tek's rating: ½

Monster, on Nippon TV
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Caution: spoilers!

Dr. Kenzou Tenma was this incredibly skilled Japanese neurosurgeon, living in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1986. (I thought it was sort of amusing that the voice actor, Liam O'Brien, is someone I've heard play German characters, like Nightcrawler in "Wolverine and the X-Men".) Anyway, he works at Eisler Memorial Hospital. There's another doctor at the hospital named Becker, who doesn't seem to be particularly skilled, but he's friendly, and advises Tenma to pay more attention to internal politics. Tenma doesn't seem to pay him much heed, though. At the start of the series, Tenma operates on an opera singer, saving his life, but this meant he couldn't operate on someone of lower status, who ended up dying, even though that man had been admitted to the hospital first. He felt terrible about this, but he was just following orders. However, when he was later ordered to operate on the mayor instead of someone else of lower status who had also been admitted first, this time he chose to follow his conscience rather than orders... and the mayor died. This led to the hospital's director, Dr. Heinemann, demoting him, with no chance of future advancement. Also, Heinemann's daughter Eva, to whom Tenma was engaged (and who, like her father, clearly didn't think that all human lives were of equal value, an attitude which horrified Tenma), dumped him. Later, Director Heinemann and a couple of other doctors were murdered, and Tenma ended up being promoted to chief of surgery.

However, the person he had operated on instead of the mayor was a young boy named Johan Liebert, whose parents had been killed, leaving Johan and his twin sister Anna orphaned. About the time of the murders, the two of them disappeared from the hospital. Also, Tenma met Inspector Heinrich Lunge of the BKA (Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office). Then the series skips forward 9 years, to 1995. Lunge, a rather odd man who's always moving the fingers of one hand around as if typing, to enter information into the "database in his head," which lets him remember everything... well, he's investigating another series of murders, which once again brings him into contact with Tenma. And he seems to be suspicious of Tenma regarding the murders from 9 years ago. Well, Tenma soon learns that Johan had killed those doctors 9 years ago. Now he's grown up, of course, and he's responsible for the recent murders that Lunge is investigating. And he regards Tenma as something as a father figure, because he had saved his life back then. Of course, Tenma is horrified to learn that because of his choice, people have been murdered by Johan, the "monster" of the show's title. (I find it rather ironic that doing the right thing turned out to be very much the wrong thing, though of course there was no way Tenma could have predicted this.) He immediately informs Lunge of what he's learned, though Lunge doesn't believe any of his story....

Meanwhile, it turns out that Johan's sister, Anna, is now a college student in Heidelberg, who has been raised by a couple by the name of Fortner. She herself is now called Nina Fortner, and she has no memory prior to the age of 10. So she doesn't even know the Fortners aren't her real parents. But Tenma manages to track her down, since he's taken time off work to look for Johan, hoping to stop him. And he finds out that Johan will be coming for her, on her 20th birthday. Tenma rescues her, but isn't able to prevent the murder of the Fortners, as well as a reporter who had been aiding him. Nina's memories return, and they go on the run, as it is apparent that there are police officers who are working for Johan. But she soon leaves Tenma, ane he goes back to work. However, Eva, who has been through three failed marriages since leaving Tenma 9 years ago, wants to get back together with Tenma, and when he refuses, she helps Lunge in his investigation, which leads to Tenma becoming a murder suspect, and he resigns his position at the hospital, and flees. So from now on he has to evade the law, even while trying to find Johan. And the series flashes forward 5 months at this point....

A lot of episodes will involve Tenma learning more about Johan's past, which is complicated and rather tragic (involving a rather monstrous orphanage called 511 Kinderheim). At one point, a young orphan named Dieter begins traveling with Tenma. And occasionally Tenma will cross paths with Anna/Nina, who also wants to kill Johan. (Both she and Tenma want to do that themselves, so the other won't have to.) Anyway, Tenma often ends up helping people out, and of course they don't believe he's guilty of the serial murders for which he's wanted. Oh, and it also seems it's possible Johan has a split personality, as Tenma receives messages from him wanting help stopping the monster inside of him. There are also episodes in which Tenma doesn't appear at all, though ultimately, everything ties together. There's a criminal psychologist named Rudy Gillen, a former classmate of Tenma's, who believes Tenma is innocent, and tries in vain to convince Lunge of this. Dr. Gillen also has a colleauge, a psychologist named Julius Reichwein, who was treating a detective named Richard Braun. Braun was working for a retired businessman named Hans Schuwald, who had become a pawn in whatever game Johan was playing. There was also a college student in Munich, named Karl Neumann, who was Schuwald's long lost son, but eventually they were united. He had a friend named Lotte Frank, who had encouraged him in his efforts to reunite with his father. She also later became friends with Nina. And we occasionally see a hitman named Roberto pop up; he works for Johan. Of course, we also occasionally see Lunge, who steadfastly refuses to believe Johan exists anywhere except Tenma's mind. Meanwhile, Gillen and Reichwein try desperately to prove that Johan (now working as Schuwald's secretary) is the Johan who Tenma says is the real killer; but they also want to prevent Tenma from killing Johan, and making a killer of himself for real. Oh, and at one point, Tenma leaves Dieter with Dr. Reichwein; later, Dieter begins travelling with Nina.

Well. In the course of all that, we eventually learn of a children's picture book called "The Nameless Monster," by Emil Scherbe (a pen name), which was somehow tied to Johan and Anna's childhood, from a time they don't even remember. But it seems to have something to do with the monster inside Johan. Tenma also receives a clue that leads him to Prague, where the next story arc takes place. En route there, he meets a freelance journalist named Wolfgang Grimmer, who we'll eventually learn was once an orphan at 511 Kinderheim, himself, though he doesn't remember his time there. He's trying to learn all he can about it. Later, Grimmer retrieves some notes and an audiotape from a psychiatrist named Petrov who used to work at 511 Kinderheim, which are wanted by members of the former Czech secret police. There's a Prague police detective named Jan Suk who is investigating some murders (which soon includes Petrov), which may have been committed by a pretty blonde woman (apparently Nina), though Grimmer becomes a prime suspect. And various police who were actually former Czech secret police are murdered, for which Suk becomes a suspect, and he disappears. Eventually Grimmer and Tenma meet up again, and begin working together, but it's complicated.... Nina and Dieter eventually show up in Prague as well; she's trying to learn more about her past, hoping to regain lost memories. And she wasn't the one who people had seen there before; Johan is also in Prague. And Lunge shows up after awhile (on vacation, but still working). The picture book continues to tie into all of this. Tenma and Grimmer learn that the book's author, Scherbe, also went by the names Klaus Poppe, Jacov Vyrobek, and Franz Bonaparta, who was also involved in 511 Kinderheim.... And there was another place, the Red Rose Mansion, where experiments were once performed, even earlier than at 511 Kinderheim, I guess. So everyone hopes to find answers there....

However, Tenma gets arrested in Prague, and extradited back to Dusseldorf. He gets two lawyers, Alfred Baul and Fritz Vardemann. However, Baul turns out to be Roberto, who tells Tenma he plans to kill Eva, who had seen Johan at the scene of one of Tenma's supposed crimes. She had always intended to testify against Tenma rather than in his defense, but recently had a change of heart. Anyway, Tenma gets involved in an escape plan with another prisoner named Gunther Milch, so that he could stop Roberto. While all this is going on, Lunge continues to investigate Franz Bonaparta, who was connected to Vardemann, and the Red Rose Mansion. He was also connected to a man named Jaromir Lipsky, a puppeteer who Nina and Dieter have recently met.

Um. I fear I've been saying far too much, but I also realize I've left out some important things. There was an organization founded by four people, years ago, one of whom was General Helmut Wolfe. He was the one who found Johan and Anna when they were young orphans, and had given them those names ("Johan" was taken from the picture book). His organization had wanted to use Johan, perhaps as a new Fuhrer, though Wolfe didn't want this. There's another member of the organization, a man called "the Baby," who worked for the founders, but had plans of his own. Yes, I should have perhaps mentioned all this before. Because these characters resurface now, as well as Petr Capek, another of the founders, who had sent a man named Martin to bring Eva to him, in Frankfurt, before Roberto (or Tenma) could get to her.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing how the story progresses. It's all very dark and dramatic and interesting. And it just keeps getting more complex. I'll try to update this entry as I learn more.... Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see the whole series, and I'm not sure when I might be able to. The first 15 episodes (of 74) are available on DVD, but it doesn't seem that the rest of the series will be released, so... I dunno.

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