Manga Review: Monster: The Perfect Edition Volume One

Monster: The Perfect Edition Volume One is a new release of the Monster manga, which features a new translation, re-mastered pages, and some full-color content. This volume was published by Viz Media’s Viz Signature imprint in 2014. The series is rated “T+” for older teens; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.

Monster: The Perfect Edition Volume 1
Written by: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 15, 2014

The main character of the series is Doctor Kenzo Tenma; he’s a Japanese neurosurgeon working at the Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf, Germany. At the beginning of the series, he is the Head of Neurosurgery and is engaged to the daughter of the department’s director.

At the beginning of the series, Dr. Tenma is called away from performing surgery on a Turkish worker injured in an accident to operate on a famous opera singer. At a press conference, the department director takes credit for the surgery on the singer. Later, the wife of the Turkish worker approaches Dr. Tenma and questions why he operated on the singer instead of on her husband, who died in surgery. This event causes Dr. Tenma to start questioning what’s been going on and the decisions being made by the director. During a conversation Dr. Tenma has with the director, he learns the director’s true motivations for how he decides to do things at the hospital; this doesn’t sit well with Dr. Tenma.

Later, the Liebert family becomes the victims of a crime. The parents are killed, one of the children is shot in the head and is in critical condition, and the daughter is in a state of shock. As Dr. Tenma is about to go into an operation to perform surgery on the boy, the director tries to pull him out, saying the mayor had collapsed in his home and he needed Tenma to work on the surgery. After a crisis of conscience, Tenma disobeys the director and returns to the operating room to save the young boy. The boy survives, but the mayor dies in surgery. The director is so angry about Tenma disobeying him that Tenma is demoted; also, the director’s daughter breaks off her engagement with him.

Soon after, the director, as well as two doctors, is murdered after being poisoned by candy. At the same time, the two Liebert siblings disappear from the hospital. After a new director is named for the hospital, Tenma finds himself being promoted to chief of surgery. Tenma also meets Inspector Lunge of the BKA, and Tenma’s sudden promotion seems suspicious to Lunge.

The story jumps ahead nine years. At this point, four middle-aged childless couples are murdered, and it’s a case that’s baffled authorities. Tenma becomes involved when one of the suspects has to receive surgery after being hit by a car. While interacting with this patient, Tenma learns about the murders and the identity of the one who hired him.

Tenma finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong times several times, so Inspector Lunge starts suspecting that Tenma is involved even more than he had before. This volume also reveals what happened to the Liebert siblings who head disappeared nine years earlier.

From reading this volume, I thought that Monster had a very compelling story. As a reader, I really came to like Dr. Tenma; I also feel bad for him for everything he’s had to endure up to this point. He’s become rather disillusioned as a doctor, and has now found himself embroiled in a major set of murder cases. He also carries a heavy burden, since he feels it’s his fault that the murderer has been able to commit their crimes due to having saved this person’s life years earlier.

When it comes to this release, I thought the art looked very crisp and clear. I suspect this is due to the remastering that Viz did to the manga. I also liked the color pages that appear in the volume; the two sections with color pages are the beginning of the first chapter and the beginning of the 15th chapter. When it comes to the art, I felt there were some very powerful panels that appeared in this volume; to me, one of the most powerful ones is when Johan Liebert is reaching out for his sister while he’s in his hospital bed, and he’s crying. And Urasawa’s art style really captures emotions well, and this helps to enhance the drama of the story.

I was riveted as I read this volume, and was so impressed by what I read that I definitely want to read more of the Monster manga series at some point in the future. If you like crime drama stories that include conspiracy, political intrigue and murder, then you’ll probably enjoy Monster. Unfortunately, I haven’t read the original pressings to be able to compare those pressings with Monster: The Perfect Edition, so I really can’t comment on how different the two versions are.

I wrote this review after reading a review copy of Monster: The Perfect Edition Volume One that was provided to me by Viz Media.

Additional posts about work by Naoki Urasawa:

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