In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma a cold-blooded serial killer is on the loose in post-unification Germany. The only one who can stop him is the brilliant Japanese surgeon, Dr. Kenzo Tenma.
Why? Because the good doctor has a secret that even he doesn’t know.
Fed up with hospital politics and determined to honor his oath to save lives, Kenzo risked his career to save the life of a horribly injured young boy.
Little did he know that in the process, he created a monster.
Enter a psychological thriller with complex characters, conspiracy and deep character development –that is second to none.
Presented by one of Japan’s greatest living mangakas, Naoki Urasawa. Enjoy a journey into the heart of pure evil.
How far is Kenzo willing to go to atone for his part in unleashing a sociopathic killer on the world? Read on to find out…
Herr Doktor Tenma –Hanibal Meets the German-Japanese Bromance
Germans love Japan, and I think the feeling is mutual. I’ve never seen such a feeling of kinship between two cultures from different parts of the world.
It isn’t really surprising. Both value order, discipline and obedience above all else. Both share a martial history and glorification of military prowess that got them into trouble (understatement).
And both had to rebuild and redefine themselves from scratch after World War 2.
What does this hundred plus year old bromance have to do with Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma? Everything!
When we meet Dr. Kenzo Tenma it’s 1986 and he’s a brilliant young surgeon working at a hospital in Dusseldorf, West Germany.
On the surface Kenzo has everything going for him. He’s the rising star of the hospital and going out with the beautiful but spoiled daughter of the hospital’s Director.
But all is not well.
It quickly becomes apparent that the Director is using Kenzo to advance his own career. He claims Kenzo’s successful surgeries as his own and goes so far to steal the young doctor’s thesis for his own benefit.
The Director’s daughter, who is eager to be married to a brilliant young Chief of Surgery, is very willing to help her father take advantage of Kenzo.
All is well until Kenzo is shaken out of his cozy little life and has to make a hard choice. A choice that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
An Attack of Conscious –The Fall of Herr Dr. Tenma
Just before the surgery that will change his life forever, Kenzo is confronted by the widow of a Turkish laborer. The woman, in tears and full of rage, wants to find out why Kenzo passed over her husband to save the life of a famous opera singer who came in after him.
It turns out that the Director reassigned Kenzo away from that surgery, because he was playing politics –figuring that saving a celebrity would endear him to the hospital board.
When he confronts his fiancé with this over dinner she blithely remarks that not all people’s lives are made equally. Charming.
This is the kind of brutal reality that makes Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma such a compelling read.
Push comes to shove when the family of a high ranking East German defector is brutally gunned down. Only the defector’s kids are left alive, with his daughter in shock and her twin brother critically injured.
When faced with saving the life of the little boy or the city’s mayor, Kenzo makes a fateful decision. He saves the child, and losses everything he has.
The Director is furious and takes it out on Kenzo. He loses his position as a rising start and his fiancé dumps him.
So he dedicates himself to the recovery of his young patient and his sister.
When the young boy wakes up, a series of strange and unfortunate deaths in the hospital restore Kenzo’s fortune.
Fast forward a few years and a brutal serial killer is murdering elderly couples.
This is where Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma really takes off and turns into an action packed, dark thriller.
When Kenzo saves the life of a suspect in the investigation, he’s drawn into a dark tale of murder, brutality and evil.
The man wakes up from a coma and scream “He’s coming! The Monster is coming!”
Want to find out what happens? Read Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma to find out!
The Art and Writing of Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma
Naoki Urasawa is one of the Japanese grandmasters of graphic fiction. His other epic manga series 20th Century Boys has reached cult status and was turned into a live action movie a few years ago.
And Monster is no slouch either!
Urasawa is best known for his deep narratives, but it’s his character and world building that really shine in Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma.
He gives us the chance to really get to know Kenzo as a person. He’s a brilliant but humble young doctor who really cares about his patients. Kenzo is also somewhat shy and doesn’t really like to be assertive.
We see him grow and mature during the course of this graphic novel. He loses his innocence and naivety about practicing medicine but fights to remain true to himself.
Dr. Tenma is, at his core, a man of integrity.
You also get a real feel for Germany at the end of the Cold War. You see the prosperous West confronted with a mystery from the (formerly) closed off East.
And you get to witness the birth of one of the most evil serial killers in modern literature.
Urasawa art is simple, clan and masterful. He has a way of conveying a characters emotions and intentions from their body language and facial expression that is up there with the best illustrators in the business.
Are there things that I don’t like about Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma?
This story is literally an epic! Because of its sheer length and the Japanese approach to storytelling, Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma gets off to a slow start.
The first volume is all about setting the scene and throws us into the action only at the very end. I think that this introduction could have been a bit faster paced.
If you like deep stories of murder, conspiracy and intrigue Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma is for you.
Complex characters, detailed world building and the gorgeous art of one of Japans most successful mangaka await you.
Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma is a psychological thriller that will take you into the heart of evil by simply asking one question, “If you bring a monster into this world, is it your job to take it out?”
Read this exciting, must read graphic novel and find out!
(This link goes to the Perfect Edition which is gorgeous and includes Volumes 1 & 2)
PS: A sociopathic serial killer is on the loose in 90s Germany and only Japanese surgeon Kenzo Tenma can stop him.
Intrigue and deep story telling are the hallmarks of this psycho thriller, get ready for a journey into the dark, cold heart of evil!
And if you liked Monster Vol 1: Herr Dr. Tenma you might also like our review of Blake & Mortimer: The Yellow M