The end of Monster Volume 6 found Dr. Kenzo Tenma arrested in Prague after getting tantalizing close to the secrets of Johan Liebert’s past. Meanwhile, Nina and Dieter are closing in on the place where her tragic story began. Will Tenma’s friends and enemies alike be able to find the truth before Johan and his followers?
The events of Volume 7 are split primarily between Dusseldorf and Prague. The former focuses on Tenma and an unlikely new ally in prison, familiar faces Eva Heinemann and Dr. Julius Reichwein, and new character Fritz Verdemann, a lawyer whose passion is defending the wrongly accused. In Prague, Nina and Dieter meet a strange man with information on the mysterious children’s book author Franz Bonaparta. Little do they know, Johan has also learned the secrets of the Red Rose Mansion.
How Was It?
This volume is lighter on the breakneck action than the previous one, but it does something very neat. The Tenma-focused part of the story has a real sense of returning to the initial conflict that set everything in motion. Tenma, so far from the fresh-faced young doctor we met in Volume 1, is still tortured by the same things that young man was. It’s easy to forget, amid the nearly endless stream of lovable, compelling, and tragic minor characters, that this is Tenma’s story. Volume 7 brings it back to him and shows just how much the past years have strained him mentally and physically. He’s still haunted by people he could have saved, and by the person he did save: Johan. When he yells at his lawyer that doctors can’t know if who they’re saving is good or bad, he’s also trying to convince himself.
Tenma’s conflict is echoed in the character of Fritz Verdemann, a young lawyer famous for acquitting clients who have been falsely accused or slandered. Like many Monster characters, Verdemann’s worldview and motivations are informed by a traumatic past experience. The lawyer’s father, a popular radio DJ, was accused and convicted of being a spy. Verdemann’s duty as a lawyer is presented as a parallel to Tenma’s as a doctor. These men may never know for sure if the people they’re serving are good, evil, or capable of unspeakable deeds, but it’s their job to treat each client and patient as worthy of help. In both men, we also see the incredible toll such responsibility can take.
Volume 7 may be a great character volume for Tenma, but more than anything, this is Eva’s time to...if not shine, at least act. If Verdemann is a parallel to Tenma, Eva has been a foil. In the beginning of the story, she represented both the corruption Tenma had to reject and the life of prestige and riches he gave up by choosing to follow his convictions. Instead of leaving her there as a greedy cardboard villain, Urasawa’s deft and sympathetic writing has made Eva more of a frustratingly pitiable character more than anything else. Over the past volumes, we’ve watched her come so close to finally giving up her pride and doing the right thing, only to self-sabotage and fall further away from resolving her bitterness. In her mind, Tenma has grown to an almost mythological figure, a symbol both of her downfall and of fleeting happiness and genuine warmth. Back in her old stomping grounds of Dusseldorf, Eva runs into Dr. Reichwein when they both try to visit the incarcerated Tenma. Reichwein wants to help her - for her own sake, for Tenma’s, and perhaps for the memory of another alcoholic patient he wasn’t able to save, Richard Braun (raise your hand if you are still upset about that). An exciting plot twist in this volume also reveals that Tenma also is not ready to give up on his ex-fiancee.
In Prague, the Liebert twins have both been led to the heart of the Red Rose Mansion, former headquarters of the children’s book author, secret police member, and all around shadow figure Franz Bonaparta. Nina and Dieter are taken in by Lipski, a lonely puppeteer who came into contact with Bonaparta as a child. This plotline in Volume 7 satisfies the other big draw of Monster - solving the main mystery. As usual, Urasawa knows how to dial up the atmosphere and reveal details that only make us desperate for more. We’re given the dark truth behind The Nameless Monster and Bonaparta’s other children’s books, but this volume still leaves plenty of mystery left. What really happened in the secret room of the Red Rose Mansion? Who is Nina and Johan’s father? It’s going to be a hard wait for Volume 8.
Despite containing an actual prison break plotline, this volume of Monsterwas more subdued than the last one. It was, however, some of the best character writing yet, especially for Tenma and Eva. We’re entering into the home stretch of the story, but Urasawa has proven again and again that he can juggle converging storylines, a large cast of characters, and never lose the emotional anchor that makes Monster a classic.
Monster Volume 7 in the Perfect Edition was published by VIZ Media on January 19, 2016. The original print of Monster was published by Viz Media in 18 volumes between February of 2006 and December of 2008. Both story and art are by Naoki Urasawa. The two-in-one volumes of the Perfect Edition are currently being released with every three months. Monster received an anime adaptation by Madhouse in 2004.
Date of Publication: January 19th, 2016
Translator: Camellia Nieh
Author: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media