In a land far away, there was a monster without a name

Via AWESOME ENGINE, a 35-second teaser for the live action 20th Century Boys has appeared online. It’s so short, but still, I can hardly contain my excitement for this. Why? Despite that it’s set to become the most expensive Japanese film project of all time; I’m captivated because it’s an adaptation of Naoki Urasawa‘s manga (of same name).

I’ll put my neck on the line and say that Urasawa‘s Monster is probably the best anime not yet released on DVD in the US and/or Europe (it was close run thing with Honey & Clover). Unlike the vast majority of this ‘stuff’ we love, someone could place Monster alongside The Wire or 24 in TV schedules and it wouldn’t look out of place; given a fair chance, I really believe that his style of writing would destroy this seemingly pervasive notion that all animation is intended for kids and geeks alone; just a pipe dream of mine, really.

The above video is from episode 37 of Monster and watching it now, I’m reminded just how much I loved it. Around this time of year, I suppose many of us are guilty of watching a lot of mediocre and predictable anime because it’s new and shiny, but for me, that’s a waste of time; Monster might have premiered back in the spring of 2004, but it will always be great. If you haven’t seen it, pause everything else and have a look-see.


  1. That clip just reminded me how goddamned fantastic Monster is – although there’s no DVD release on the horizon I’m enjoying revisiting it by reading the manga (which, incidentally, I’m somewhat behind on).
    As for 20th Century Boys, that trailer looks (and sounds!) great. Apparently Viz won’t be releasing the manga until they’ve finished publishing Monster’s English language version, which if nothing else will be a bit easier on the wallet. I’ll still make a mental note to add that and Master Keaton to my ‘to read’ list, though.
    Urasawa’s not exactly a genius in terms of artwork; I’d call it ‘simple’ and ‘functional’ rather than ‘impressive’. As a storyteller on the other hand, he’s second to none – a fact borne out by the unprecedented size of this new film’s budget I guess. Exciting news indeed!

  2. Monster is the very definition of greatness. i remember it being the only anime that gave me vivid nightmares. i swear that soundtrack, the mood and johan…. *shivers* bateszi ur a wire fan? greatest. show. ever.

  3. You still haven’t seen Master Keaton yet? It has glimpses of Monster throughout it but is more of a series of adventure stories which are highly enjoyable and more realistic than a lot of adventure anime you see.

  4. @Sy: Unfortunately not. At the moment, the thing holding me back from Master Keaton is it’s episodic nature (though I imported Vol. 1 from the US a year ago). Generally, I really need to invest myself in the characters of a story, but Keaton’s one-shot style makes me think that this could be hard to do. That’s not to say I will refuse to watch it, but it’ll definitely require more energy and attention than the usual anime.
    @kauldron26: I started watching The Wire last week and… seriously… it’s fantastic, and I have to say I think US TV is going through something of a renaissance at the moment. The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, LOST, and not to forgetting the likes of The Sopranos and Heroes too. To that end, I can’t really justify watching much anime at the moment (with the exception of something superlative like Kaiba) because, simply put, The Wire is much, much better; been a while since I’ve seen a crime drama as resonant, moving and vital as this.

  5. Around this time of year, I suppose many of us are guilty of watching a lot of mediocre and predictable anime because it’s new and shiny, but for me, that’s a waste of time; Monster might have premiered back in the spring of 2004, but it will always be great. If you haven’t seen it, pause everything else and have a look-see.
    I really like Monster (who doesn’t?) but I actually don’t think the spring season is mediocre at all. I am watching about 8 shows now and they are all very promising (if they weren’t I would drop them). And as much as I love the style of Kaiba I am not so sure story-wise if it is going to be the best this year. Well time will tell.
    I also disagree that American TV is that great now. It’s nice that they have continuous story lines but they still drag on way too long until they suck so I can’t bother wasting my time with them. If we are talking live action I actually think Brit TV is much better. Maybe it’s the whole the grass is greener on the other side sort of thing. 🙂

  6. @Kim: For me, British TV fails when it comes to serious drama/sci-fi. In saying that, you can probably infer that I’m not a fan of quintessentially British things like Dr. Who, which is way too camp/pantomime for my tastes. In particular, the UK is great for comedy and satire (some of my favorite TV series of all time include I’m Alan Partridge, The Office and Peep Show), but looking at things like LOST, The Wire and The Sopranos, we’re so badly lagging behind that kind of quality and aesthetic that it’s almost embarrassing. I understand your point on how US TV series drag on way too long, but sitting down to something like The Wire, or Battlestar Galactica… In terms of cinematography and thought provoking, mature ideas, we’re not there yet. Note: I haven’t seen Life on Mars 🙂
    As for my other point, I guess I’m talking about people who are willing to put themselves through something like Kanokon despite knowing full-well they’ll hate it/feel ambivalent about it. I’m kinda pleased I’ve managed to resist the urge to gorge on all this new anime; waiting until the end of April and reading through everyone’s impressions is really enlightening and saves me making any soul-sapping mistakes.

  7. I’ve always thought that if any mangaka deserved live action adaptations, it was Naoki Urasawa. Granted, Monster had a more cohesive story in the end than 20th Century Boys, but nothing can beat the WHODUNNIT GODDAMNIT greatness of 20th Century Boys.

  8. I completely agree that Monster would fare just as well (or better) alongside TV shows like 24. There’s just so much depth that it’s hard to believe that something most people classify as cartoons or whatnot can be so realistic. Honestly, it would be superb as a full-length Hollywood movie series if done right. It really is a terrific series.
    Also, hurrah at this news! I haven’t yet read 20th Century Boys yet, but knowing Urasawa, it probably will not disappoint.

  9. the wire is basically a novel, with each season being a book. The series just ended last month 5 seasons 60 episodes and the writer/creator told the story he set out to tell… i love getting people into the wire and then watch my friends stop watching shows like csi, law and order and all those other crap shows where cases are solved in 40 mins. the wire is realistic to the core and shows what cops really go through to break a case. All in all its a love story to America that shows what life is like for the politicians, the cons, the cops, the school system, the press and the every day citizen. IMHO the wire is far superior to the sopranos in every way.
    Heroes peaked half way season 1, now its just fodder, the funny thing is that when it first came out we were so excited that they answered questions unlike LOST. we didnt have any idea that the LOST guys knew what they were doing and then the finale for lost s3 blew everyone away reminding us when the show is not only phenomenal in story telling but original as hell.
    Another great show Battlestar Galactica… words fail to describe the greatness of the writing and characters of this magnificent show that comes to an end this year. i just love it when writers choose to tell their stories how they want to instead of stretching it for commercial reasons. Lost only has 32 eps left to tell their story.
    other great shows, and ofcourse as always since i love them u prolly will too… CARNIVALE, ANGEL, THE SHIELD, 24

  10. I agree on Master Keaton. I actually have all eight disks and I stalled out in the middle of the second disk. But Monster is excellent. And I actually do like the artwork, not because it’s flashy, but it’s different. It gives the show a more mature feel then a lot of other shows.
    Although I do agree that America is going through something of a TV rennesaince (and disagree that Heroes peaked halfway through the second season), I think comparing them is a bit unfair. The strength of anime is the fact that it can do things that regular movies and television can’t do. I mean no matter how well choreographed the fights are in Hero, I can’t buy into them in the same way I can buy into the fights in say, Seirei no Moribito. In a lot of ways, the strength of anime is that it can take the mundane and make it epic. Whereas the strength of television (and movies to a lesser extent) is that it can take the epic and bring it down to a human level.
    But I am looking forward to 20th Century boys. 🙂 It looks pretty cool.

  11. Pausing everything, because I’ve been meaning to watch Monster, like I have been so many other things, for the longest, longest time ever. It was one of the first series recommended to me. It seems I missed a crucial line the first time I read your post, shame on me for skimming, but “I suppose many of us are guilty of watching a lot of mediocre and predictable anime because it’s new and shiny, but for me, that’s a waste of time” really hit a chord with me. I’ve been thinking lately why it feels so strange to be watching a dozen shows but to not have any real drive behind it. I think I just found my answer.

  12. Oddly, I have to confess that I don’t think much of Monster. I’ve never understood why it receives the kind of praise it does. I’ve often wondered if it’s not a kind of retroactive praise heaped on it simply because it’s by the man who did 20th Century Boys. Not an opinion that many seems to share but Monster was for me just… rather boring. I couldn’t help thinking it would work a lot better as a live action series rather than an anime and the limitations that brings (I’m not just talking about the genre expectations here).
    20th Century Boys IS an awesome manga though and lived up to the hype years ago when it was already billed as one of the best series ever. I’ll check this movie out. The series will lose a lot but I can actually imagine the series being condensed down quite easily.

  13. Monster is so fucking awesome. The only anime that can create such genuine heartwrenching moments and amaze me with storytelling. The characters are very interesting to watch as well.

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