*Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Book 18 — Recommended

This final volume of the series continues the same high quality established by the first book.

Naoki Urasawas Monster Book 18 cover
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Book 18
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Some have expressed concern over the ending, but I don’t see why. The character art of Dr. Tenma over this series reminded me of Angel‘s Wesley — a quiet, bookish man with a terrific life path laid out for himself who finds himself, only because he seeks to do what’s right, transformed into a kind of taciturn vigilante. The friends he makes along the way try to save him, but ultimately, he has to make his own decision of what he’s willing to do and sacrifice.

The series kept me engrossed throughout — I read the whole thing in a weekend, just because I kept needing to know what happened next. The art is clear, easy-to-read, and cinematic in its staging. The characters (except the Johan of the title) seem like real people, which makes the outcome even more heart-breaking in some ways.

I think I’ll take away longest the philosophy of the nameless reporter:

Humans are supposed to think that food is delicious. They’re supposed to look forward to a picnic on their day off. They’re supposed to enjoy a good beer after a hard day’s work.

It’s a fine summation of the physical pleasures of living, that meaning comes from the small enjoyments. It’s also a welcome counterpart to the bigger, life-and-death struggles of the plot, keeping this ethical debate enjoyable.

I’d recommend this series to almost any reader interested in manga that combines action, suspense, thoughtful character development, and excellently crafted art.


  1. […] Johanna Draper Carlson remains unperturbed by the ending of vol. 18 of Monster and recommends vol. 2 of Black Jack at Comics Worth Reading. Greg Hackmann reads vol. 1 of Bogle at […]

  2. My friend wasn’t keen on the ending, though she understood it. I felt it was really true to the story and couldn’t have gone any other way without ruining what the creator had been saying up to that point. MONSTER has been one of only two manga in my life (up to now anyway) that I’ve looked forward to every single volume and never once considered dropping. (The other was Please Save My Earth.)

  3. Ooh, the comparison to Wesley is very apt! I also read this whole series in the span of a weekend, and I’m not usually a fast reader. I can’t wait for more Urasawa to be released!

  4. Kiki, could you elaborate on what she didn’t like about it? I don’t understand what other people would rather have seen, so I’m curious about examples.

    Jun, I’m hoping we have reviews of Pluto and 20th Century Boys up here in the next week or two.

  5. She had no problem with Tenma’s decisions over the course of the story and she in general liked how everyone’s story was wrapped up, though she was really fond of Tenma’s nameless friend and felt sorry for how it turned out for him. It was the fact that evil walked away at the end of the story, free to continue its work that creeped her out a bit. She would have liked a more traditional Western style ending.

  6. Ah. Thanks for explaining. I didn’t see it as “evil continuing its work” but as the possibility of a fresh start. Maybe that was too optimistic of me.

  7. spoiler:

    Maybe it’s just me but I thought that the last shot looking out of the window at Tenma walking away and then seeing the empty bed represented the thought that Tenma was Johann. Tenma got out of the hospital bed, walked away, therefore; bed empty. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I know that this idea was expressed earlier in the story–that Tenma had multiple personalities.

  8. That was the inspector’s theory at one point, but I think the scenes of Tenma operating don’t make much sense – if he was Johan, who was he operating on?

  9. HIMSELF! No, just thought I’d throw the idea out there. Who knows what was going on in his warped mind. He could’ve been operating on anybody. I realize that the idea is out there, but I can’t help but remember a part in the book where someone looks at a picture of Johann and, struggling to remember the face, takes out a black pen and colors in the hair with black ink. Anyway, I need to let this go.

  10. Oh, yeah, that was one of the serial killers being interviewed.

    So you’re leaning towards the idea that NO ONE is heroic, then? That someone who gives up his life to stop evil is secretly evil? That sounds like a DC comic idea!

  11. Interesting theories, I must admit I never considered Tenma having multiple personalities. Johan simply getting up and starting to kill and scheme again doesn’t seem likely to me, however. The final chapter (revealing titled “The Real Monster”, hinting that Johan, in fact, is not the true monster) suggests that Johan is not inherently evil and that he finds closure from learning his real name.

    As for the final scene and Johan’s disappearance, I interpreted it to be symbolic, not literal. Rather than physically leaving the room, I assumed it meant that Johan had found some sort peace and what had been driving him was no longer there. The Monster has ceased to exist. To me, Johan being “gone” implies that the evil in him is “gone” as well. So I have a more optimistic/redemption take on the ending like Johanna.

    On an unrelated note, I just noticed how your name can spell both Johan and Anna. Scary!

  12. Ha ha ha. That’s a better reason for me to be considered scary. The names mean “God is gracious”, so maybe it was selected ironically.

    I like your interpretations. Very nice explanation.

  13. […] thrilling Naoki Urasawa’s Monster ended in December, although we’re still talking about what the conclusion […]

  14. […] authors; in fact, all of his books are now on my must-read list. I’m definitely going to read Monster as I’m waiting for new volumes of Pluto to come […]

  15. I love that you included that quote. It was one of the most memorable for me as well but I couldn’t for the patience-of-me find it in the book while I was writing up my thoughts on the series’ end.

    Lots of great thoughts shared by both you and the commenters as well. I’m so glad I finally finished the series so I can now go back and read these posts.

  16. […] on popular manga will be coming to the FUNimation Channel later this year: Nana, Honey and Clover, Monster, Buso Renkin (about a guy who fights monsters with his heart replaced with an alchemical device), […]

  17. […] of the best manga of 2008, Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, will debut in animated form on Syfy on October 12. The former Sci-Fi Network is running […]

  18. Monster is so well written, complex and just….ugh! I’m sorry that I sound like I’m gushing over this series but I can’t help it. The anime is also very beautiful. :)

  19. I didn’t think of the ending that way, with Tenma eventually being Johan.
    though it really wouldn’t make any sense if you think about Anna as his twin or something XD
    I loved this manga until the end. The scenery is really something different than most manga’s, since it played mostly in Germany, with only one Japanese character.

  20. Oh one more thing, It’s really annoying to still don’t know how their mother had named them. Or have i missed something?

  21. […] still mean to reread all 18 entries in Naoki Urasawa’s Monster in order. Now that some of them are out of print, I won’t part with it, which brings up […]

  22. I finished reading the manga last night and it is extremely well written. I have questions though: Why did Johan extensively embodied the book Nameless Monster? After hearing Anna’s story of the Massacre at Red Rose Mansion, why did Johan started to commit the perfect suicide?

    Kindly explain this to me since I’m not satisfied with what I know. Thank you!!!

  23. I read the manga and watched the series the show really captures you into the next episode i felt the beginning to be a little slow but it picked up very fast. Through out the show when they shoe johan and make him seem scary i didnt get that feeling until the last scene of the anime. And for those who didnt like the ending where johan is loose just think! season 2? :D

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