Monster Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, May 07, 2006
Release Date: Saturday, April 01, 2006
Translated by:Satch Watanabe
What They Say
Tenma springs to action when he discovers that Johan, the boy whose life he saved nine years ago, has grown up and turned into a serial killer. But when Tenma finds out that Johan has strong inside connections with government officials, he realizes that this monster is far more powerful than he could have ever imagined.
Naoki Urasawa's second installment of Monster is suspenseful sequential art storytelling at its finest.
The covers for Monster are not your typical manga covers with eye-catching illustrations in order to sell an art style, but it is quite clear that this is a suspense story. The raised lettering with the title logo is a nice effect by VIZ. The front cover has another piece of quoted text on it, which is not that big of a deal given the overall lackluster cover in general.
Overall I think the print reproduction is fairly good, with a few issues here and there with muddied tones being too dark. The alignment looks great and the book is not as stiff as the first volume. There are no extras or color plates used in this book.
Urasawa's art style takes that realistic, seinen approach and he executes it very nicely. The characters' facial features have a lot of depth and a variety of expressions, each one with its own set of mannerisms. The emotions of shock and fear are also well done. Backgrounds are very detailed, bringing to life this Eastern European setting. Panel layouts and compositions are directed extremely well, which is important with this thriller and suspense style of storytelling. The one thing I'd like to see improved are some of the profiles of the characters, which lack some of the depth of the frontal perspectives.
SFX are left untouched and translated using a glossary in the back of the book. While I am glad that Urasawa's artwork was left untouched, there is something to be said about having to flip back to the glossary during a suspenseful sequence. The English script is solid, a nice flow and good attention paid to the character personalities. I did notice that there is one text bubble that is missing text (pg.43), but luckily it appears to be an exclamation of some sort rather than a key piece of text.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
If you are a writer who is interested in understanding how to create a great thriller, I would start by reading this second volume of Naoki Urasawa's Monster. This volume is one of the more intense nail-biting experiences in all of the English manga market, as Urasawa puts together a murder suspense story where Tenma now plays the role of the detective, slowly unraveling the layers surrounding Johan--the boy who Tenma gave another chance at life who turned out to be a wanted serial killer.
Urasawa begins the book by lulling the reader into a state of false comfort by introducing Nina Fortner, a charming, sweet, busy-body college student. Soon we find out that Nina also sees a psychologist due to recurring nightmares. Then there are the anonymous, cryptic emails that she believes are from her fellow students. It's not too long before she begins having nervous breakdowns for unexplainable reasons and some mysteries about her past begin to come to the surface. Bit by bit, Urasawa twists and turns the story further down the dark tunnel.
While unfolding the events surrounding Nina, Urasawa also intermixes Tenma's investigations into the four cases of the murdered couples that somehow relate to Johan. Tenma remembers that Johan had a twin sister with him at the hospital when they were admitted, and begins his investigation in each of the four towns of the murders to find out what happened to her. As Tenma's investigation gets further and further, Nina's story gets darker and darker. Just as Tenma finds out some critical piece of information, the story cuts over to Nina where a new development begins to unfold, keeping the tense mood at quite the high level and complete with cliffhanger chapter breaks.
The balancing act of these two separate stories, both slowly coming together into a huge climax towards book's end, is one of the finer examples of thriller or suspense storytelling in any medium. The foreshadowing that Urasawa employs is quite thick and obvious, but it's that feeling of anticipation of thinking you know what is going to happen and dreading its arrival that makes this volume such a success. However, not all of Urasawa's future events are completely telegraphed, as there are a couple nice twists that pull the reader more and more into the story.
With the solid story also comes quite the array of interesting characters, all with their own personality quirks and mannerisms. They have depth and feel quite natural. This is true for even the bit characters whom only show up for one scene, like the old lady hen who knows all about the rumors of the murdered families and makes Tenma buy her cake for her information, or the battle-hardened, workaholic reporter who joins up with Tenma. Each one has their own valid place in this world of suspense that Urasawa has created.
The one complaint I have about this entire volume is the last chapter; it just doesn't fit. It essentially serves as a transition chapter, with the Tenma/Nina storyline ending just before and Tenma now in a different position in his life, but the quick pacing and stand-alone nature just feels awkward following the more deliberate and suspenseful material that preceded this final chapter.
It is a good thing there is a 6-8 week break before the third volume arrives, as I need some time for my fingernails to grow back after chewing through all of them. With this second volume, Urasawa proves while he is called the "Master of Suspense". The balancing of layered storylines all slowly merging into each other for a huge climax complete with cliffhangers at every chapter break make this one hell of a nail-biting experience. The cast also continues to grow and make their own mark on the story by adding fuel to Urasawa's suspenseful fire.
This second volume brings to a close what feels like the first act of the story, so those looking to try out this title would be advised to pick up these first two volumes at once. And if this first act is a taste of what is to follow, then we are in for one hell of a ride.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left