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My (late) introduction to anime series...

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Onderhond
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#41

Post by Onderhond »

Oh, it's not just Japanese animation. Watch some live action dramas (surely the rural ones) and it's everywhere too. It's just like the "Japanese people riding on a bike" scene. Trademark!
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#42

Post by burneyfan »

I've spent an August in Japan in the late '80s as a teen, and that was exactly like what the suburbs and country sounded like -- cicadas everywhere, so loud. My friend's father used to jump and clap his cupped palm to the trees along the sidewalk near their house to grab cicadas to show me.
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#43

Post by mjf314 »

TraverseTown wrote: April 30th, 2020, 4:23 am We should do a favorite anime list-poll on this forum that includes both films/series/OVA/limited-series.
I would be interested in a poll, but I think I would find it hard to rank movies and series in the same list, so maybe 2 polls would be better.
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#44

Post by Onderhond »

I was thinking a while ago how an anime poll would be interesting, but somehow I expect we'll end up with a Top 20 full of Ghibli movies and maybe two Satoshi Kon films + GitS/Akira/Angel's Egg, so it would probably just end up being more frustrating than fun for me. Don't think there's enough fans here to come up with an interesting list.
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#45

Post by OldAle1 »

Onderhond wrote: May 8th, 2020, 5:34 pm I was thinking a while ago how an anime poll would be interesting, but somehow I expect we'll end up with a Top 20 full of Ghibli movies and maybe two Satoshi Kon films + GitS/Akira/Angel's Egg, so it would probably just end up being more frustrating than fun for me. Don't think there's enough fans here to come up with an interesting list.
That's true for most polls to one extent or another really. The south Asian list being full of Satyajit Ray is just the most recent example. Not that the majority of folks don't agree that S. Ray is a great filmmaker in India, or Ozu is a great Japanese director, etc, etc, but a list compiled by voters who were *really* knowledgeable could be a lot more interesting. Maybe the top 10-20-30 would still be fairly similar to what we usually get in our non-experts polls, but I'll be the lower choices would show a few more odd and off-the-wall examples.
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#46

Post by mjf314 »

OldAle1 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 5:41 pm but a list compiled by voters who were *really* knowledgeable could be a lot more interesting.
Are there any good Indian movie forums? If such a forum exists, maybe we can go there to run an Indian movie poll. I would be interested in seeing the results.
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#47

Post by OldAle1 »

mjf314 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 6:02 pm
OldAle1 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 5:41 pm but a list compiled by voters who were *really* knowledgeable could be a lot more interesting.
Are there any good Indian movie forums? If such a forum exists, maybe we can go there to run an Indian movie poll. I would be interested in seeing the results.
I'm sure there are but I'd have no idea where to look. Everything exists somewhere on the internet, right?
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#48

Post by Onderhond »

OldAle1 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 5:41 pm That's true for most polls to one extent or another really. The south Asian list being full of Satyajit Ray is just the most recent example. Not that the majority of folks don't agree that S. Ray is a great filmmaker in India, or Ozu is a great Japanese director, etc, etc, but a list compiled by voters who were *really* knowledgeable could be a lot more interesting.
Well of course, the difference being that I'm not knowledgeable about Indian cinema and so I didn't really care, but I would consider myself knowledgeable on anime features, so that would be really frustrating B)
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#49

Post by OldAle1 »

Onderhond wrote: May 8th, 2020, 8:03 pm
OldAle1 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 5:41 pm That's true for most polls to one extent or another really. The south Asian list being full of Satyajit Ray is just the most recent example. Not that the majority of folks don't agree that S. Ray is a great filmmaker in India, or Ozu is a great Japanese director, etc, etc, but a list compiled by voters who were *really* knowledgeable could be a lot more interesting.
Well of course, the difference being that I'm not knowledgeable about Indian cinema and so I didn't really care, but I would consider myself knowledgeable on anime features, so that would be really frustrating B)
I wouldn't call myself knowledgeable about either. I guess it's hard to define what makes one an expert or even an amateur expert. The one area I know better than most probably is Iranian cinema, and there I find myself frustrated that my likely favorite director, Bahram Beizai, remains just barely known, and only one of his films (albeit maybe his best) has any kind of real recognition. It's a good example of this phenomenon though - people who just watch the occasional Iranian film, or those that are on lots of lists, know only 3-4 directors max and know almost nothing of pre-1980 cinema, which is just as rich as the last 40 years. So I think it's probably true with almost any niche, large or small - the more you get to know, the more favorites you're likely to have that are obscure or totally unknown to the general (cineaste) public, and the more frustrated you may be at polls that keep favoring the same few films over and over - even if you like those films yourself.
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#50

Post by mjf314 »

When we do the anime movies poll, maybe we can create two versions of the list, a regular version and an "experts-only" version.

The experts-only version would only include people who have watched at least X anime movies (X can be decided later), and it would have a higher half-life.
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#51

Post by Onderhond »

OldAle1 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 8:40 pm I guess it's hard to define what makes one an expert or even an amateur expert.
There might be a grey area that is a bit hard to define, but I've been passionate about anime for the past 25 years and 10% of my Top 600 is Japanese animation, with a higher percentage (25%) when looking at my 5* ratings. I don't really have a problem calling myself knowledgeable, though I do realize this is the internet and there are always people who know more/have seen more/are bigger fans.
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#52

Post by OldAle1 »

Onderhond wrote: May 8th, 2020, 8:48 pm
OldAle1 wrote: May 8th, 2020, 8:40 pm I guess it's hard to define what makes one an expert or even an amateur expert.
There might be a grey area that is a bit hard to define, but I've been passionate about anime for the past 25 years and 10% of my Top 600 is Japanese animation, with a higher percentage (25%) when looking at my 5* ratings. I don't really have a problem calling myself knowledgeable, though I do realize this is the internet and there are always people who know more/have seen more/are bigger fans.
I'm guessing that within this forum you're among the top 5-10, at least from the people I see actually posting about anime from time to time. That's expert enough I'd think, for any poll done on this forum. I'm certainly way outside the mark with less than 50 total anime features/OVAs seen and no series seen complete, and my top 10 or 20 of that would be pretty much the usual, expected Ghibli plus a couple from Shinkai, Hosoda, Oshii, etc. I'd actually be more interested in the results of an anime poll than most other polls here at this point, simply because it's an area I'm still a relative novice in, but where there's a whole lot that interests me and I don't necessarily know what direction(s) to proceed in apart from watching stuff I already have (which isn't too much).
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#53

Post by Onderhond »

Well, if you want a Cipp-like take on anime, I can easily link my own top 60. Just checked my stats and I'm close to 300 features/OAVs (but mostly features), not counting a bunch of shorts (never tracked them) and TV series (haven't seen many lately, but watched a lot in the 90s/early 00s).

If you're talking off the radar stuff that I think would perform nicely on this forum, a film like Spring & Chaos (Shoji Kawamori) springs to mind, since it's somewhat experimental and has a literary/biographical background. I know Yuasa is a forum favorite, rightfully so, but that's already a bit more "vintage" anime. I think films like Jin-Ro and Wings of Honneamise might do well too, since they're a bit more serious and quite moody. The Case of Hana & Alice by Shunji Iwai is also pretty interesting, Iwai really managed to capture his typical live-action style in animation, which isn't that easy to do.

The biggest revelation in the past few years for me is the Tatsuya Oishi/Akiyuki Shinbo combo. They make core/weird anime stuff (including monsters and pervy stuff), but in a very conscious way. There's something about the pacing and editing in their work though that I've never seen anywhere else, anime or live action. Don't think they'd do very well here though.

And then there's basically just anything Studio 4°C makes. They're not that well-known in general, but they are the ones that are constantly pushing the boundaries of the genre.
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#54

Post by Armoreska »

burneyfan wrote: May 8th, 2020, 4:02 pm I've spent an August in Japan in the late '80s as a teen, and that was exactly like what the suburbs and country sounded like -- cicadas everywhere, so loud. My friend's father used to jump and clap his cupped palm to the trees along the sidewalk near their house to grab cicadas to show me.
What about the bird sound that's usually heard in serene moments like sunsets? Which bird is that? I've been thinking about it because I can hear a similar birdsong in the morning. Google wont help.

he or A. or Armo or any

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currently working towards a vegan/free world + thru such film lists: GODARD, r/antinatalism recommends,..
the rest
ANARCHISTS, ANIMAL RIGHTS, Assisted suicide, Existential films, SOCIALIST CINEMA (an amalgamation of lists), Feminist lists, various GSSRM lists (aka LGBTQ+), 2010s bests, Visual Effects nominees, kid-related stuff, great animes (mini-serie or feature), very 80s movies, mah huge sci-fi list, ENVIRO, remarkable Silent Films and Pre-Code (exploring 1925 atm) and every shorts and docu list I'm aware of and
/forum.icmforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1434
and "Gordon" Liu Chia-Hui/Liu Chia-Liang and Yuen Woo-ping and "Sammo" Hung Kam-bo
imaginary awards | youtube channels | complaint lounge | explain how big a fan of slavery you are here, ..viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1535 and here: ..viewtopic.php?f=12&t=4484
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#55

Post by mjf314 »

I just made a list of my favorite anime feature films: https://www.imdb.com/list/ls099802210/

I didn't make a list of my favorite anime shorts, but I'll list them here:
Kigeki
Fantascope 'Tylostoma'
Panda kopanda
Dimension Bomb (one of the segments of Genius Party Beyond)
Tales of a Street Corner

I've seen 263 anime feature films in total (including single-episode OVAs), and probably between 200 and 300 anime shorts.
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#56

Post by Knaldskalle »

burneyfan wrote: May 6th, 2020, 8:35 pm
PGonzalez wrote: May 6th, 2020, 8:21 pm I saw Death Note a few months ago, but felt it started going downhill rather quickly after the first five or six episodes. Still watched it until the end, but it was a bit of a chore, as I heavily disliked all the high-octane attention-grabbing maneuvers it kept going for (which seems to be a constant in most anime, and the main reason I always kept it at bay).
I'm two episodes from finishing Death Note, and I completely agree with your take -- it started off with real promise, and then it went seriously downhill and got ridiculous.
Yep. I thought it started out as some of the best anime I'd ever seen (and I still think the basic concept is really cool), but then it just goes straight to hell. I finished it, but man it was a chore. I guess the creators found themselves unable to solve the basic premise so they just ended going in circles.
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#57

Post by PGonzalez »

Onderhond wrote: May 8th, 2020, 2:47 pm
PGonzalez wrote: May 8th, 2020, 2:41 pm with the cicadas sound effect repeating for the entire duration
One of the sounds of Japanese cinema/TV. If you want more, there are 10-hour YouTube vids with just that.
Ah, now that you mention it I seem to remember hearing it in some other Japanese films, but the sound of cicadas is frequent in Southern Europe so I guess it never particularly struck me until now as it is a very familiar sound. Thanks a bunch for the video though, it's extremely relaxing :)
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#58

Post by outdoorcats »

Finished (or caught up on) three more series:

1. The Promised Neverland (Season 1) - Repeating my thoughts from before, a good mainstream show with nice production values. If you tried to reduce it to a quick soundbite, it's like The Great Escape but with super-smart kids and monsters. If Season 2 also gets good press I'm interested. 7/10

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2. Samurai Champloo - The final third or so really catapults this into the all-time faves for me. Finishing this one, like Cowboy Bebop, is bittersweet, as I had grown deeply attached to the characters (and soundtrack, and aesthetic). 9/10



3. FLCL - Insane, experimental alt-rock-opera coming-of-age miniseries with some of the greatest animation I've ever seen. 9/10

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It's been an embarrassment of riches recently.

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#59

Post by outdoorcats »

@OldAle1 - watched any good anime recently? :) I think either Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion or Monster would be solid recommendations for you. Cowboy Bebop and NGE are shorter time commitments of course.

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#60

Post by Onderhond »

@outdoorcats: have you seen any of the xxx-monogatari series? Not quite the same as FLCL, but they felt just as novel to me. My favorite so far are the Kizumonotagari "films", but the series I've seen are also great. No guarantees, as it is the kind of thing that is extremely polarizing, but definitely worth checking out.
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#61

Post by funkybusiness »

what? there's nothing polarizing about brushing your sister's teeth.
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#62

Post by outdoorcats »

@Onderhond - I have not, though I have heard of their reputation.

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#63

Post by Torgo »

I am officially bumping this thread.
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#64

Post by outdoorcats »

I just realized that I never came back to this thread to report on me watching Paranoia Agent. It's amazing, and one of the best miniseries I've ever seen. I love, love, love these types of stories where media/memetic images come to embody psychological problems so vividly that they start to radiate malevolent power. It appears to be a recurring theme for Kon, but it's also sort of a quality in Sono's Suicide Club/Noriko's Dinner Table, and Kurosawa's Pulse and to some extent Cure. Perhaps other films/shows which I'm forgetting. I can't think of any others off the top of my head.

Plus, as a Lynch fan, some of the Twin Peaks references were awesome. Particularly the "recaps" which 100% channeled that Log Lady energy.

I mean, just look at the outro at the end of each episode. Tell me this doesn't haunt you at least a little:


Rest a little...rest a little...rest a little...rest a little...rest a little...rest a little...

Nor did I ever post a full review of Monster; what can I say, I used to like writing long reviews/essays, but they just seem exhausting now. Monster is really good. You should watch it.

And the first half of Attack on Titan's final season is still fantastic.

Also, season 2 of The Promised Neverland did not get good press.

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#65

Post by outdoorcats »

Copied from the TV lounge by request:
So let's talk Monster. Where to begin with this massive, epic, hard-to-classify hidden gem? This will be kind of scattered.

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The 74-episode anime, adapted directly and with virtually no changes from Naoki Urasawa's 1994-2001 manga, remains officially unavailable outside of user-created playlists on Youtube, yet in message boards and corners of the internet where rich, adult-oriented anime are loved, it is spoken of with reverence and the textual equivalent of hushed tones. There are numerous video essays on Youtube arguing that the series' antagonist, Johan Liebert, is the greatest anime villain - or greatest villain, period - of all time: here, and here for example. Since that subject has been covered pretty extensively, I'll take a look at what other aspects of the show make it great - particularly it's style, soundtrack, characterization and themes - and how these elements combine to make Monster one of the greatest and most emotionally, psychologically, and philosophically rich shows of all time.

Of particular importance I have to cite Glass Reflection's review of the show and how the theme of Philippa Foot's "trolley problem" pervades the entire series.

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The story of Monster is this: a gifted Japanese brain surgeon, Dr. Tenma, lives in Düsseldorf in the late '80s. His career on the rise, engaged to the director's daughter, the quiet and conscientious Tenma encounters his own version of the trolley problem when two critical patients are brought around the same time. The first one is a child, named Johan, who has been shot in the head. Shortly after he begins surgery on him, the mayor is brought in in similarly critical condition, and for political reasons Tenma is pressured by the director to abandon his first patient for the mayor. Knowing his fellow surgeons are too incompetent to save the child, Tenma ignores orders and continues operating on Johan, and the mayor dies. The consequences of Tenma's choice don't become apparent until many years later, when he is framed for a series of serial killings and must go on the run.

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style

Perhaps the best way to describe the show's unique style to North Americans is to contradict myself and say that it is, in a certain sense, not anime. It is an animated series from Japan, but contains virtually none of the characteristics we think of when we use the term "anime" in the west. It is a thriller set in the real-world, against historical backdrops, with no purely fantastic elements. In terms of story, style, and themes, Monster has more in common with live-action dramas - for example, Urasawa has said one of the strongest inspirations for the series was the experience of seeing The Fugitive series on TV as a child, which also features a framed doctor on the run and other story similarities. Besides The Fugitive, Monster seems to have more in common with Hitchcock, Twin Peaks, and even the writings of Pynchon and Kundera than anime. Even the style of drawing faces, as in Urasawa's manga, features far more detail and realism than in imagery stereotypically associated with anime. These are of course stereotypes, and Japanese animation features some pretty diverse styles - just look at the works of Yuasa - and any Japanese animated work is by definition anime.

Yet as wrong as it is, describing Monster as "not anime" could be a helpful gateway to suggest to a newcomer just how unique this show is. It is for certain a show that many who "don't like anime" may love, and many who love anime may find boring. I do not mean to imply that there isn't a rich history of thematically and philosophically rich anime, some examples of which, such as Cowboy Bebop, became huge international hits. What rather makes Monster unique is the real-world setting. After all, part of the appeal of animation is to depict the wildly fantastical, in ways that don't quite work in live action. With Monster, on the other hand, there's no particular reason in theory that this couldn't be a live-action series, other than the simple one that it's unlikely a studio would bankroll an adaptation of this long, cerebral, slow-burning story - as Guillermo Del Toro has unfortunately proven over the years - much less one as devoutly faithful as MADHOUSE and Masayuki Kojima's adaptation.

In terms of composition and editing, it's obvious from early episodes that Kojima worked with a limited animation budget. Most of the show's shots involve one or two characters animated over a static background. These constraints seemed to force the show to focus more than usual in shot choice, composition, and rhythm to convey mood.

Let's look at this scene from episode 4, the scene which kicks the main story into motion. Notice how shadows and what is unseen, rather than seen, is used to create dread. The static shot of Tenma ascending a dark staircase, only his feet visible as he disappears into darkness above. The subsequent eerieness of his patient calling out to him, warning him, his voice and Tenma's footsteps echoing through the empty building. As with Tenma, our gaze scans back and forth, seeing nothing but emptiness and shadows as Junkers pleads with him to turn back before it's too late. Then the confrontation with Johan, where he remains silhouetted - and so we are first introduced to our antagonist not by appearance, but his unsettlingly gentle voice and the contrast it strikes with what he says, and the contrast between his calm and Junkers' desperate panic. Look at the wide shot here, with its blurred edges, monochromatic hues, sharp shadows and haunting emptiness suggesting Hopper by way of a noir film. The way a sudden rainstorm is conveyed simply though a closeup of raindrops and sound effects, and is no less effective as dramatic punctuation. This is, relatively speaking, not complex or difficult animation - in fact, there's barely any animation at all. Yet, thanks to Kojima's direction, it's a sequence as iconic as any in the anime canon.

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music

When going over that scene, one key element that I left out, no less critical to its success, is the soundtrack by Kuniaki Haishima. Throughout the series, it becomes clear that Kojima and Haishima are music and soundtrack nerds with eclectic tastes, that use music both psychologically and to pay homage to some of Monster's thematic influences. Take, for example, the track that plays in that scene. It's one of many highly Hermann-esque tracks on the soundtrack, and although it's not unusual to see film and TV composers pay direct homage to Bernard Hermann, it's worth noting that Hermann's frequent collaborator, Hitchcock, shared a fascination with stories about people on the run for crimes they didn't commit.

The intro sequence music, titled "Grain," is one of the first things that arrested me and made me realize I was watching something different. You don't often see anime OPs with off-beat percussion that sound like something from "Trout Mask Replica." For the end credits, the show was able to recruit progressive/art rocker David Sylvian to compose "For the Love of Life," a work of heavenly beauty which hints at what an emotional, thoughtful, and empathetic journey this story will become, and an instrumental version of this theme is woven into some of the series' most revelatory moments.

Taking a deeper dive into the original soundtrack album, we start with track 3, "Drift Mind," which both has an uncanny, medieval feel with its choice of instrumentation, but also the sense of an establishing shot, wide-eyed with wonder at a new world. Soon the track opens up into the emotional, optimistic string theme which is unofficially Tenma's theme. There's a duality to the themes of Monster, a fascination with the extremes of both good and evil in humanity, and this track makes your heart swell with hope for the good.

Contrast it with the static-laced, jazzy horror of track 7, "Sweet Home," one of many tracks suggesting Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack. Track 9, "Nacht Music," sounds like it should be playing at One Eyed Jack's, along with the sultry, corny lounge jazz of track 18, "Be Lit Up," the soundtrack to smiling and laughing in public while internally losing your shit. Track 6, "Collage Man," plays a jazzy base line against dissonant, modernist choral vocals.

Tracks 4, 5 and 8 are pure Hermann, with "Part" and "Float Flower" suggesting the haunting mystery of Vertigo and "Gingerly" calling to mind a rain-swept Bates Motel at night.

Then we have track 10, "Xenia," which rivals the orchestral sweep of any period Hollywood blockbuster, followed soon after by "Idler Wheel" and "Bush," tracks which bring back the archaic, medieval sound of "Drift Mind," with "Bush" sounding like a forgotten Fairpoint Convention instrumental that starts to unravel and become gradually more and more unsettling. The medieval sounds are possibly inspired by the setting of the fairy tale story-within-a-story which becomes both a focal plot point and a neat summation of one of the show's key themes.

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characterization and themes

That key theme is that there is a monster in all of us, waiting to devour us whole, but conversely there might be glimmers of humanity even in the most evil of people. This theme is critical to understanding the characterization of all of the show's massive gallery of characters, a morally complex tapestry of humanity.

Eva Heinemann, for example, begins as a nauseatingly shallow socialite, but goes through a long and fascinating character arc. It is nothing as simplistic as "a redemption arc," but rather an enrichening and deepening of our understanding of her as a character and where her flaws come from. The dogged, obsessed Inspector Lunge, the "Gerard" (or the Javert) of this story, has an unimpeachable code of honesty, but his character traits operate in the grey area somewhere between admirable qualities and moral flaws. Grimmer, an investigative reporter, pursues noble goals even as a darkness eats away at him from the inside. Other characters who committed heinous crimes in the past are found to have softened with time and turned repentant.

The show itself operates in this moral grey zone. The trolley problem - which posits the moral dilemma of a bystander who can choose to do nothing and watch a trolley kill five people, or flip a switch and cause it to only kill one person - bookends the series, but the series never tells us what is the "right answer." Is violence justified to stop more violence? Urasawa isn't interested in drawing a conclusion for us, other than perhaps there is none. Rather, Monster is a story about people who have to live with that ambiguity - or can't.

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a couple other thoughts:

I've looked up a lot of interviews with Urasawa about Monster, but from what I can see there are no references to him living in Germany. In fact, the only reference I can find suggesting he's even visited Europe is one where he mentions how in the years immediately after the fall of the USSR, the Czech Republic still wasn't as "tourist friendly" as Germany and therefore the streets were less well lit at night (which inspired him to move the action of the story from Germany to Prague and Brno to 'capture that darkness'). The idea that Urasawa had never lived in Germany is surprising to me after watching the series, which is rich in political, social, and cultural detail. Urasawa doesn't see Germany or the Czech Republic with a tourist's eye, but a sociologist's crossed with a journalist's. I would have assumed that not only did he live in Germany like Tenma, but spent his time there talking to many people and asking them about their life experiences. Instead I am forced to conclude that Urasawa constructed this all from his imagination and, as he said in one interview, watching documentaries. It's enough to make any writer feel inadequate in comparison. :mellow:

There is a much deeper plunge to take into Monster - say, for example, on the character of Johan and what he represents, and the series' take on psychology and the concept of nature v. nurture - but not without spoiling much of the journey. There are a number of excellent essays on Youtube analyzing Johan and the series' ending, for those who have already finished the series (see here, here, and here). For now, I have to wrap these scattered thoughts up and get some sleep.

tl;dr - Monster gud.

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A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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