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Manga: Monster
"Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

"Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a nameless monster. The monster was dying to have a name."

In 1986, life was good for Japanese neurosurgeon Kenzo Tenma. He was an accomplished doctor living in Germany, had the favors of the hospital director, a hot fiancee (daughter of the same director), and a promising future. But one day, the guilt of primarily attending to the wealthy patients and leaving poorer people in need of his skills drives him to first operate on a child who was hurt in the murder of his adoptive parents rather than the mayor of Dusseldorf. As a result, the child lives, the mayor dies in the hands of less talented surgeons, and Tenma is demoted by his superiors and dumped by his fiancee. Even though his life is now in ruins, Tenma still believes that he did the right thing.

Suddenly, the hospital directors that demoted Tenma die in very mysterious circumstances, leaving a vacant position that only he can fill. At the same time, the boy that Tenma operated on escapes from the hospital with his catatonic twin sister. Although none of the deaths can be directly attributed to the good doctor, a certain Inspector Lunge is not very convinced of his innocence.

Nine years later, Tenma is still working in the same hospital when a criminal patient escapes in terror because he doesn't want to be killed by a person he calls the "Monster." Tenma follows him to a parking garage, only to see him mercilessly shot. His horror increases when he sees who the killer is: the same boy he operated on nine years ago, now a young adult. Johan Liebert, the boy in question, confesses that he was the one who killed the directors years ago as a way to give him thanks, and abandons the scene leaving the doctor alive.

Tenma, horrified to find that he is responsible for the existence of such a monster, abandons his work and his life, and devotes himself to finding Johan again and killing him once and for all. Following Johan's blood trail, however, becomes tricky and absorbing, and as Tenma's hunt becomes riddled with clues from the boy's childhood, finding the truth about Johan's past becomes as imperative as finding Johan himself. The quest is further complicated when Johan's crimes are ascribed to Tenma, and Lunge, convinced beyond a doubt that Tenma is the perpetrator, begins a chase of his own.

The series, written and drawn by Naoki Urasawa, one of the most popular mangakas in the business, has received several major awards and substantial critical acclaim; it is painstakingly drawn and thoroughly researched, with an extensive cast and a complex, multi-layered story. The adaptation is almost identical to the original, differing only in several scenes that were cut and several that were added.

Not to be confused with the Oscar-winning film starring Charlize Theron, even for a minute (although that one is also about a serial killer).

The anime was a fan-favorite on SyFy's Ani-Mondays block. Unfortunately, it is no longer available on Hulu, Netflix (subbed), or the new Manga Entertainment app for Xbox360 (dubbed) as Viz Media dropped the license. Fortunately the Australian company Siren Visual has licensed the anime for full release, dubbed and all in its respective country.

Monster has also been green-lit for a live action adaption, courtesy of HBO and director Guillermo Del Toro. Time will tell if it makes it past the pilot stage.

Monster provides examples of:

  • The Abridged Series: Here.
  • Absence of Evidence: Johan's crime scenes are devoid of feeling. In one arc, this enables Lunge to determine that a certain murder was committed by a copycat and not Johan.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used by a woman in labor.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens quite often in this series.
  • The Antichrist: A major motif in the series.note 
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Used with two of the main characters and some interesting children's books.
  • An Aesop: Even the most evil people deserve life and forgiveness.
  • Anime Theme Song: Being anime, it has one, but it's quite unconventional. It was kept for all 74 episodes. It's an Instrumental Theme Tune apart from some ominous chanting.
  • Anyone Can Die: Do you have a favorite character you really like? Have they, at any point, so much as made eye contact with Johan? Beeeeg mistake.
  • Arc Number: 402.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Look at how big the Monster inside of me has become!"
    • "Humans... Can become anything."
    • "Welcome home."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Dr. Heinemann involves himself in dirty dealings, has complete disregard for human life, and steals candy from children. He pays dearly for that last one.
  • Art Shift: Bonaparta's story books.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Thanks for killing Heinemann, Johan; Oppenheim and Boyer were pretty despicable too. This is probably the only good thing you've ever done, Johan. But remember: the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.
    • And Blue Sophie. Oh, and the corrupt cops in Prague.
      • Well, one of them, anyway - the other cop had made a heel face turn and living happily with his wife and step-son, and genuinely remorseful for what he'd done. This, coupled with Redemption Equals Death, took him out of being an asshole.
  • The Atoner: Franz Bonaparta as the most obvious example, but also Wolf, Schubert, Rosso, Bernhardt, and many others. Also given inversions and subversions, temporary and otherwise. Atonement and redemption are arguably two of the series' key themes.
    • Tenma himself could fit the mold fairly well - as kind-hearted as he is, he sees his absolute biggest mistake as being something he alone can fix. And despite numerous opportunities he gets where he could abandon his self-set mission, he refuses every time.
      • Ironically, this trope is the reason Tenma saved Johan in the first place.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Quite a few characters.
  • Badass Grandpa: Dr. Reichwein, who's able to take down two hoodlums after getting the tar kicked out of him.
    • Lunge counts as well for the epic fight with Roberto near the end.
  • Bastard Understudy: Christof to Johan.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted. People of all appearances occupy all positions on the morality spectrum.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For
  • Bilingual Bonus: The German and Czech on signs, in documents, and everywhere else is pretty fun for students of the language.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Everybody who survives the story gets new chances to rebuild their lives again, but where did Johan go after the finale?
  • Blonde Guys Are Evil: Oh gee. Wonder who that could be.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Martin develops one for Eva.
  • Book Ends: Johan gets shot in the head and Tenma saves him.
  • Boom, Headshot:
    • The series' favorite method of ending people. Probably justified in that most of the murders are committed by experienced killers who don't like to risk leaving anyone alive. Johan manages to get shot twice in the head by two separate people, neither of whom had much firearms experience. One was a little girl, and the other was a hallucinating alcoholic. It's like his brain is a bullet magnet.
    • Martin mocks a guy for not shooting someone in the head. That someone was him.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Nina, and poor, poor Tenma.
  • Broken Ace: Our resident twins. Johan is psycho and Nina is damaged and repressed.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The Baby, as Nina points a gun at him. The Baby is terrified and notes that she is most definitely Johan's sister.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Despite being set in Germany, the main character is Japanese.
  • Butt Monkey: Tenma at the beginning, detective Jan Suk, Otto Heckel, Eva and ALL of the children that show up in the story.
  • Care Bear Stare: Tenma. Also done by Grimmer, including on Lunge, of all people. Nina, when not in a bad mood. Dieter's is a major one, and undoes Johan-induced damage.
  • Cassandra Truth: Tenma has a lot of trouble getting people to believe his story.
  • Cast of Snowflakes
  • Chekhov's Armoury
  • Chekhov's Army: Many of the major supporting characters take a few episodes after their introduction before they take an active role in the story.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lunge packs a rifle and a pistol before his fight with Roberto. During the fight, he loses the first, but reveals the tiny gun.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Wim's father, who is introduced as nothing more than Ruhenheim's town drunk, is the one who ends up shooting Johan, thereby saving Tenma from the Sadistic Choice of either abandoning his ideals or watching Wim die.
  • Commie Land: Much of the story can be traced to communist East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
  • Converse with the Unconscious:
    • Used earlier as an incredibly black brick joke after Tenma complains of the politics of his hospital to a supposedly unconscious ten-year-old Johan.
    • Before Johan suddenly wakes up and just stares at Tenma.
  • Cool Guns: Nina's use of the four-barreled COP derringer.
  • A Day In The Lime Light: Very frequent. Chances are, if you're a side character in this series, you'll get your "very own episode" or your "very own series arc". Also an Inverted Trope, in that the title character (if that's how you see Johan, anyway) gets comparatively little air time.
  • Debate and Switch: Is all life equal? The only thing equal is death? Is it alright to save one, then? Do some people deserve to live more than others?
  • Deconstructed Trope: Many, but mostly idealism vs. cynicism and what it means to be a complete monster.
  • Defusing The Tykebomb: Mostly played with, though not for laughs: Tenma gets his intervention in early with Dieter, Nina attempts this retroactively with her brother, and Grimmer tries with Pedrov's boys, misguidedly as it turns out.
  • Depraved Dwarf: The Baby.
  • Dies Wide Open: The security guard in Episode 4.
  • Dirty Communists: Played straight. The crimes of neither the East German nor Czechoslovak communist regimes are ever justified and the flashbacks depict them as dark and unfriendly, which pretty much corresponds with the common view of the communist period in Eastern Europe. In a way may have even been taken Up to Eleven as the East German regim as portrayed in the story bears a hell lot of similarities to the Nazi one.
    • Although may be considered Truth in Television, at least to some degree. The East German communist regime was notorious for its ideological devotion to the socialist cause (for instance most of the communist terrorist organizations in the world during the Cold War were funded by East Germany) and it did engage in various experiments tampering with human mind and body. In fact, evidence indicate that right before the fall of communism in Eastern Europe Premier Erich Honecker considered slaughtering the East German protesters, following the example set by the Chinese in Tiananmen Square.
  • Dirty Cop: The two detectives hired by Johan to kill Nina's adopted parents, Commissioner Hamrlik, Chief Detective Batella, and Detective Janacek.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Lotte is a gender-flipped example. Unfortunately for her, Karl is pretty damn oblivious and she suffers quite a bit over her relationship woes (or the lack of). Jan Suk plays the trope straight, though it's brutually subverted in the fact that the sweet girl that he's been crushing on turns out to be Johan in disguise. There's also Lipsky, who seems to have a thing for Nina, but he ends up in a happy relationship with someone else in Another Monster.
  • Dramatic Wind: Happens very often, especially in the anime. Empathetic environment generally tends to apply.
  • The Dreaded: Everyone who knows and works with Johan , with the possible exception of Roberto, fears him to an extreme degree.
    • There are even occasions where people figure out that Johan is nearby because of the overwhelming fear that suddenly overtakes them.
  • Driving Question: What is Johan planning? And does he even know himself?
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Tenma's alibi against charges of Klingon Promotion, complete with public staggering and ranting. Generally a source of trouble elsewhere (Eva, Richard, Martin, and Wim), though not anviliciously so - best beer ever is all part of Grimmer's and Reichwein's positive outlooks. Just be careful with who you drink with.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The entire plot is driven by this trope.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite almost setting itself up for a downer ending, most of the surviving characters definitely end up with this. Lunge gets back in touch with his daughter, Dieter seems to be living happily with Dr. Reichwein, Nina is well on her way to becoming a successful lawyer, and Tenma has joined Doctors Without Borders. Eva kicks her problems and seems to get her life back in order. Even Johan, depending on what you consider a "happy ending", gets one.
  • Evasive Fight Thread Episode: Lunge vs. Roberto.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: So many people try to take advantage and use Johan's evilness for their own means. They all find out, far too late, just how evil Johan is.
  • Evolving Credits: The end credits gradually progress through the story, "The Nameless Monster", until the final episode where there's simply a static shot of the empty bed where the supposedly comatose Johan was previously.
  • Expy: A few characters are based on members of Osamu Tezuka's "Star System". The most obvious is Dr. Reichwein, who is a clear homage to beloved Tezuka character Shansaku Ban, right down to his trademark moustache. Johan also has too many similarities to Yuki Michio from Tezuka's suspense-thriller MW to be coincidence. Dr. Tenma shares his name with Astro Boy's creator, although he's actually closer to Black Jack. Urasawa would later go on to create Pluto, a remake of a story arc from the Astro Boy series.
    • It would seem that this series has characters resembling to their counterparts from Halloween. Tenma is Loomis, Johan is Michael, and Nina is Laurie.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: See list on the trivia page.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: In-universe, courtesy of Franz Bonaparta.
  • Fan Disservice: There are several instances, like when a kid searching for his mom ends up in a red light district, sees a prostitute bent over a trash can servicing a patron, and is paid to watch. Also, Roberto. Another being Nina in first half of the Prague arc being revealed to actually be Johan in drag.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Johan is probably the quintessential viper, with anyone who does a kindness to him suffering horribly for it. Tenma, the one who saved his life in the first place, gets the very worst of it through the horrible things that Johan does to others in order to repay him.
  • Fictional Document: The various nihilistic children's books.
  • Film Noir: It borrows a few elements every once in awhile.
  • Fingore: Grimmer is tortured by Corrupt Cops in this manner.
  • Flat Character: Both Tenma and Nina are basically flawless; throughout the entire series there isn't a single moment that they wouldn't give the priority to the well-being of the whole universe above their own.
  • Four Is Death: The Nameless Monster goes through four hosts.
  • Freudian Excuse: Both twins suffered through many traumatic experiences, though in Johan's case it's somewhat convoluted. Played straight with many of the other Kinderheim 511 alumni - and in a frighteningly effective way, to boot.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Kinderheim 511 was trying to create emotionless, vicious, Super Soldiers who would kill with no qualms. Johan took to it so well that he got everyone else in the orphanage to kill each other.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Petr Capek's attempts to cultivate Johan into the next Hitler end up destroying himself and his organization.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Dr. Tenma, Nina, and Dr. Reichwein.
  • Good Times Montage: Nina, Dieter, and Lipsky "making happy memories" in Prague.
  • Gratuitous English: The Japanese books have the subtitle of "HORRIBLE STORY". You can probably guess why Viz didn't carry that part over.
  • Gratuitous German: Well, it's set in Germany, but this trope still applies because they switch off between using Japanese and German honorifics all the time.
  • Guilt Complex: Tenma, Tenma, Tenma...nothing involving Johan is your fault. And the death of that construction worker was just a terrible mistake.
  • Half-Identical Twins : Johan and Nina. Their mother even used to dress Johan up to resemble Anna while the children and she were in Prague. As young adults, Johan masquerades as Nina while he's in Prague, and when Nina gets there, she's confused by his female identity and how everyone seems to know "her."
    • A major plot point is whether Anna (the twins' mother) dressed up Johan for his sake or for his sister's sake; Tenma ponders on the conclusion that she wanted to get rid of one of them, but who?
  • Harmful to Minors: And how!
  • The Heart: Monster arguably has several, even if Tenma is the obvious one.
    • It's almost impossible not to love Nina, even when she's frightening enough to make a Neo-Nazi piss himself.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Nina, Dieter, Karl, and Grimmer. Subverted with various other Kinderheim 511 alumni, and for Johan. This being Monster, though, everyone, gets an ordeal.
  • He Knows Too Much: With rare exceptions, knowing anything about Johan's existence is enough for him to kill you.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A lot.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: What Johan hopes Tenma will turn into. He comes close, but it doesn't work out.
  • Heroic BSOD: Several, particularly after Nina regains her memories. Tenma even has to talk her out of suicide.
  • Hollywood Psych: Mostly averted, but some questionable approaches to both theory and security are left in place even when officially rejected, e.g. on the issues of dissociative identity disorder, recovered memories, hypnosis, Epiphany Therapy and inferring psychology from physiognomy. Also, "Transcendental Criminal Psychology", Dr. Gillen?
  • Humans Are Flawed: Tenma and Johan draw polar opposite conclusions from this, testing each other's convictions to the limit.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: This works remarkably poorly on both female leads.
  • Inaction Sequence: The series is 90% inaction, with or without characters on-screen. Even the 'action' sequences drag on with still poses, locked gazes, and held grimaces. Because there's never a pay-off in climax, the other 9% crawls along with exhausted melancholy. That last 1% is the final climactic events of the story.
  • Incest Subtext: Johan has quite the obsession over Nina. It doesn't help his case that she's probably the only person in the world that he cares about to the extent that people wanting Johan to join their cause have attempted to capture Nina merely because they know how important she is to him. And he's the one who sent the anonymous "romantic" emails to an initially amnesiac Nina, who thinks she's been receiving emails from her "Prince Charming."
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Tenma catches on that a couple of police officers work for Johan when one of them calls him "Dr. Tenma", despite the fact that he only introduced himself by name and didn't mention his profession.
  • Inspector Javert: Lunge, to the point where he takes a vacation to search for Tenma, at least while he thinks that Tenma is guilty, only to finally come to the realization that Johan was the mastermind behind all the murders
  • Irony: Just read the summary. For starters.
  • I Owe You My Life: The main reason why Johan has spared Tenma's life. Subverted in that Johan is keeping Tenma alive to kill everyone from his memories so Tenma can suffer alone.
  • It's for a Book: He just wants to interview you, Detective Braun! Richard really should have known better than to fall for that line too, considering that he already suspected Johan of being a murderer and Johan introduced himself by name. Someone with that kind of critical information shouldn't allow the person they suspect of being a killer anywhere near them, no matter what story the person uses.
  • It's Personal
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Tenma wishes the hospital director and his underlings would die, while venting to a supposedly unconscious patient. Aforementioned patient gladly obliges.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Mostly in terms of Johan's backstory.
  • Joker Immunity: In Another Monster, Johan is revealed to be alive three years after the events of Monster.
  • The Killer In Me: Lunge thinks Tenma has a Split Personality and is committing murders without realizing it since Johan does such a good job of staying invisible that the only clues he is able to find point to Tenma.
  • Kill Him Already: When it's the villain who says it, you're in for a treat.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The basic premise of the story is a stretch to believe (though Urasawa pulls it off), and every so often, someone in-story will helpfully point this out, usually at the expense of Tenma (or anyone who has come around to his view). See also Scully Syndrome.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Subverted. At the brink of death, Roberto asks Johan to "show him the landscape of the doomsday." Johan stares gloomily at his shoes and replies, "You can't see it."
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The last half of the manga collections include flowcharts with running updates to help you keep track of who's who and how they're related.
  • Locard's Theory: Played with. Inspector Lunge believes it. Unfortunately, it's not true.
  • Loss of Identity: Analyzed and played with.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Franz Bonaparta, the one in charge of the experiments at Kinderheim 511 and the readings at the Red Rose Mansion. Except he isn't the main villain.
  • Maybe Ever After: Do Lotte and Karl get together after all? How about Tenma and Nina? Sure seems like there's interest on both parts near the end, but there's no clear answer aside from the subtext.
  • Meaningful Name: Johan, Ruhenheim, and what's up with Franz Bonaparta?
  • Meganekko: Lotte Frank.
  • Mexican Standoff: Gratuitous with a capital G. The whole series is made of this trope.
  • Mighty Whitey: Inverted. Japanese Dr. Tenma is the youngest and most skilled surgeon in a German hospital.
  • Mind Rape: Happens quite often, usually thanks to Johan. Bonaparta has a whole pedagogy founded on this.
  • Missing Mom: Helenka and the twins' mother, Anna.
  • More Than Mind Control: Johan's modus operandi. Roberto even seemed in love with him. ("You have such nice eyes. Just like Johan.") He also reminded Roberto of his only memory: how much he loved the hot cocoa served weekly.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Bonaparta, after Grimmer's death.
    • Tenma, after he realized what he brought back into the world when he saved Johan and when he thinks he killed Roberto.
    • Milch, when the guards carrying him and Tenma to prison run over his brother, who was supposed to pretend collapsing on the road in front of the car like Milch had taught him in order to aid their escape.
  • Myth Arc
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Inspector Lunge's name translates to Mr. Stake. Also, Roberto's real name is Adolf.
  • Near Villain Victory: Johan almost completes his plan in getting Dr. Tenma to shoot and kill him and thus corrupting him.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • The Baby resembles Peter Lorre. Makes sense, 'cause it's in Germany.
    • Except Lorre was taller and less German—and Word of God says the Baby's inspiration came from Twin Peaks.
      • Baby's first appearance is immediately recognizable as inspired in the Twin Peak's "dwarf" character because even the music is similar to the one used in Twin Peaks. The piece that inspires the scene is in the end of this sequence.
    • Dr. Julius Reichwein looks like Wilford Brimley.
    • There's also the uncanny resemblance between Lunge and that other super sleuth.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Tenma just wanted to save a life. Just see how it ended.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Pulled twice with Nina, and then with a lampshaded aversion for Grimmer and Tenma in Prague.
  • No Name Given: So many characters that a major theme in the series is how it is not to have a name. Others live with multiple aliases. A character who goes by a nickname for the entire series dies before his real name is revealed. Johan and Nina's true names were never given; Tenma learns their real names in the end, but the audience doesn't.
  • Not So Different
  • Not So Stoic: Out of all people, thanks in part to his Character Development, Lunge gets angry when Roberto starts talking about his failed marriage and how his grandchild doesn't even know his biological grandfather. He gets another one soon after when he starts up a Shut Up, Hannibal! moment.
    • Also, Lunge gets very giddy when he learns that Tenma saved his life.
    • A third one by Lunge bringing a beer to Grimmer's grave as they promised each other in a heartfelt moment, and informing his fellow mourners that he was able to gain contact with his estranged daughter and grandson by email, even recognizing that they barely knew each other at all to begin with.
    • Grimmer has great difficulty properly expressing emotion, always asking himself what is the appropriate response for this situation. But after watching one of his boys turning towards the dark side, he breaks down and cries, in genuine sorrow and worry.
  • Off The Wagon: Subverted with Richard Braun. Averted with Eva.
  • Oh Crap: Everyone every time something happens.
  • Oktoberfest: Notable for being completely avoided. Monster is one of the most realistic portrayals of post-reunification Germany found in non-German fiction.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Tenma vs. Johan.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The series' opening theme, "Grain."
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. The series gives us three Martins and two Ottos. And two Adolfs.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Mostly averted. A few people escape shots to the shoulder, but gut and thigh wounds kill several people. Averted when a character's shoulder's shot which cripples his arm for the rest of the series.
    • Johan gets shot in the head TWICE and gets away with little neurological damage the first time; not known the second time, though.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mafia boss "The Baby."
    • Roberto is only known as such for the majority of the series; the audience eventually learns his name when it is revealed to some characters, but no one bothers to tell him.
    • The twins' real names are revealed to Tenma, but never to the audience; it's not known whether they learn their own names themselves, given that at that point it doesn't matter anymore.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Kinderheim 511.
  • Orphanage of Love: Anna/Nina's orphanage.
  • Papa Wolf: Near the end of the series, Win's drunk, alcoholic father, shoots Johan in the head when Johan threatens Tenma with Win's life. See Spanner in the Works below.
  • Parental Abandonment: There is a mystery behind what happened to the Liebert twins' biological parents. It's implied that their father was killed, but it's later revealed that the mother turns out to still be alive.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: According to Another Monster, this was a major reason why Eva broke off her engagement with Tenma.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: Johan is supposed to be in bed after brain surgery for a while, but Johan sneaks out and takes his sister with him. This however gets on a later stage with the locksmith, which becomes the first victim we see Johan execute in the series (the doctors he murdered are on another issue, that is indirect and as a "favor" to Tenma).
  • Pet the Dog: Eva has a straight moment, while Johan loves to subvert this for all it's worth. Roberto has a retroactive one.
  • Photo Op With The Dog: Played straight as far as Heinemann's motivations are concerned. Otherwise, not so much.
  • Point That Somewhere Else
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Johan and Nina.
  • The Power of Friendship: Both played straight and mindbendingly subverted, depending on who's in the scene.
  • The Professor: All the psychologists we find.
  • The Profiler: Dr. Rudy and Lunge. Several other characters show elements of this as well.
  • Public Secret Message: A former college classmate needs to get in touch with Tenma, so he puts an ad in the paper that simply says "Let's discuss our memories of cheating" (on tests).
    • Lunge figures it out pretty easily.
  • Rare Guns: Tenma uses one of the rarest guns in existence—a one-off prototype sniper rifle which was turned down by the German army for being too expensive. Because the gun never got past the prototype stage, it was never given a true name.
    • He never fires it at anyone and is presumably destroyed in the library fire.
  • Rescue Romance: This trope gets a pretty rough time of it, subversion-wise.
    • Not counting that Tenma rescues a mountain of people, who end up loving Tenma in one way or the other and their main drive is to prevent him from killing Johan or anyone for that matter.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Muller, one of the cops who killed Nina's foster parents.
  • Redemption in the Rain: Deconstructed into tiny little pieces and scattered all over Ruhenheim.
    • A tamer subversion is when Eva begins crumbling apart at the moment she gazes at Tenma's apartment while standing in the rain.
  • Retirony
  • The Reveal: A lot. One has trouble just counting how many people died.
  • Revenge:
    • Nina wants to kill Johan primarily for killing her foster parents, though he's also killed almost every adult who has been kind to them since they were children. She later wants to kill Johan so she can prevent Tenma from doing so; this is mutual.
    • Eva wants Tenma to rot in prison for life out of spitefulness due to the latter dumping her and later attempts to get revenge after Martin's death. She gets over both.
    • The twins' mother Anna warns Franz Bonaparta that she will get her revenge on him through her children. Cue almost twenty years and hundreds of corpses; gallons upon gallons of blood on the hands of a man that almost stopped everything because he fell in love with her. Way to stick it up to him, girl!
  • Reverse Whodunnit
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: Dr. Tenma says in front of the apparently unconscious Johan that his corrupt superiors at the hospital "would be better off dead!" So Johan kills them.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Johan likes to leave messages on walls. And bits of derelict industrial sites. He also goes to some trouble to set up a Room Full of Crazy based on someone else's childhood trauma, all for More Than Mind Control.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Tenma's conclusion, and arguably that of the series itself.
  • Sadistic Choice
  • Scare Chord: Happens when a supposedly comatose Johan opens his eyes in episode 2.
  • Scully Syndrome: Virtually epidemic, if understandable. Lunge is the most standout case, but nearly everyone tends to come down with a dose of this when they first hear the main story. Check out the late-arriving cops in Ruhenheim's reaction to Gillen's explanations.
  • Serial Escalation: Just how bad does a person have to be before you, the viewer, stop sympathizing with them?
  • Serial Killer: You have three seconds to make a guess who. Though he's far from the only one.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: A rare non-negative example. Tenma's outlook on humanity by the end is more important than whether or not he kills Johan. When he went all that way to let him live again, one can say it made the buildup pointless, but it showed that Tenma felt that he wasn't necessarily wrong in the first place.
  • Ship Tease: The subtext between Tenma and Nina.
  • Shout-Out: The central chase of Tenma owes quite a bit to The Fugitive TV series (as did the TV "Hulk" for that matter). Also, Mr. Rosso mentions that one of his favorite films is Summertime from 1955. The professor in Nina's introductory scene is a shout out to John Houseman's character in Movie/The Great Paper Chase. The backstory of the escape artist who helps Tenma features a shoutout to The Shawshank Redemption. Johan's character also had similarity with another Johann who involved with Nazi.
  • Shown Their Work: The operation scenes are largely accurate, and the renderings of Germany and the Czech Republic are extremely faithful.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Lunge's response to Roberto's speech about Johan's plan.
  • Slasher Smile: While he rarely ever shows emotion, right before he asks Richard if he would like a drink, Johan makes one of the most sadistic slasher smiles imaginable once he realizes that he's broken Richard.
    • Roberto, in turn, rarely stops smiling.
    • Subverted: Grimmer's default is to smile; he's not a slasher or a bad guy but when he goes over the limit, well...
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The very plot essentially revolves around the question of whether Tenma's idealism and determination to cause good by doing good can survive against Johan's horrifyingly convincing attempts to demonstrate that they're Not So Different and that it's all a Sick Sad World in which an act of human kindness is objectively futile.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: Very much on the serious side. Some welcome touches of silliness, albeit often as a foil to the horror aspects.
  • Smug Snake: Many, many people.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Justified (sort of) in the Eastern Bloc sections since Bonaparta has connections in high places, but apart from the Lieberts, none of the twins' (or Johan's) foster parents appear to have gone through any formal process, or been caught, even when registering kids in school or reporting them missing to the police.
    • Dieter chooses to stay with Tenma while on the run; Nina even suggests that he shouldn't be involved, but the damn runt is tremendously stubborn. For a while, Dieter hangs with Tenma to keep him from carrying out his assassination plot against Johan, though later, no adult that he comes across with even considers trying to do something about him.
      • as someone familiar with the whole history, Dieter is a potential target of Johan as well.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The second ending, when used after a particularly Tear Jerker-y or dramatic scene.
  • Spanner in the Works: The only thing Johan couldn't plan for? The fact that Wim's father would be there to shoot him in the head instead of Tenma.
  • Spell My Name with an S:
    • Johan/Johann, Kenzo/Kenzou, and Runge/Lunge, among others.
    • In case you were wondering, it's Johan, Runge, Braun, and Schubert (as opposed to Shuwald). It's all in the series, they show it on business cards, posters, and such. Tenma's first name, seeing as everything takes place in Germany, is more accurately transliterated without the 'u'. Despite Johan being perhaps less accurate than Johann, it is still the official name used by Urasawa.
  • Split Personality: Tenma and Nina draw to the conclusion that Johan has two personalities: his normal self and the "monster" inside him. Later, it is revealed that Johan was merely toying with them. Lunge incorrectly deduces that Tenma has a split personality named "Johan" who is committing all the murders.
    • Split Personality Takeover: A frequent outcome of applied Bonaparta-style pedagogical experiments, though some of the claims to it are put in question.
    • Also The Magnificent Steiner, until the 3rd-to-last episode.
  • Stern Chase
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred
  • Suicide by Cop: What Johan hopes to accomplish.
  • Surprisingly Good English: The German and Czech words and names are mostly accurate.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Johan's human tools run the gamut of competence, according to his needs, but some, like Hartmann and various incarcerated killers are this, and at most serve to help him spread havoc and misery.
  • Taking Over the Town: A variation occurs in the finale; Johan plans to give himself the "perfect suicide" where he and some of his accomplices move to a rural town right before it gets isolated by seasonal bad weather, cut off communications with the outside world, provide guns to some of the civilians and then just watch them go crazy with paranoia and kill each other. He is stopped before casualties get too high, but there were still plenty of deaths from it. While this is a case of Kill 'em All rather than trying to take control, the tactics he uses are quite normal for this trope, and in a way, he is taking over the town by infecting them with his own nihilism and hopelessness.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Inverted.
  • Talking to the Dead: Quite a few times, though sometimes, the person addressed is just hiding. Sometimes accompanied by Libation for the Dead, or (guess who?) setting something on fire.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Repeatedly, almost to the point of Food Porn, fortunately at a reasonable distance from the horror, and with an eclectic range of cuisines. Also used as a connection with others, rejection of nihilism, or undergoing a Heel-Face Turn. Bad guys are rarely shown enjoying food, and if they do, they tend to be weird about it.
    • Tenma's favorite meal is a sandwich, and is so because of Nina; even Dieter learns to prepare them and tells Nina that the sandwiches are Tenma's favorite.
  • Tempting Apple: Johan gives Schubert an apple to convince him that the woodland of his younger days is still there. In the short run, this ingratiates himself with him; in the long run, if he ever finds out otherwise it's likely to contribute into Johan's favourite trick of driving people to suicide.
  • Tempting Fate: "I'm surprised I lived through that." Cue the fatal bullet wound.
    • Blue Sophie to Johan: "How big is the body count again?" It's about to get one bigger.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Occasionally you'll hear the opening theme in the background of a bar or restaurant.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself
  • This Is Unforgivable: Anna to Franz Bonaparta.
  • Title Drop
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Tenma plans on keeping his hands clean until he gets his chance with Johan. And once he does, he changes his mind.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Otto Heckel can be viewed as this.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Some of Johan's traumatic memories that were supposed to be his Freudian Excuse were actually based off what Anna told him after she returned from the Red Rose Mansion. Not him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The patient in episodes 3 and 4. The former has him run straight into traffic without hesitation, while the latter has him run into an unlit area at night. After seeing a security guard fall down dead. While there's someone really nasty trying to kill him. Surprise surprise, this patient is promptly found and horribly killed.
    • Richard Braun decides it's a good idea to go out drinking with his lead suspect (who introduced himself by name) without telling anyone. He follows this up by following said suspect up to an abandoned rooftop in the middle of the night, while shouting, "I know what you're up to, kid!" Needless to say, it ends badly.
  • Training Montage Episode 9 of the anime.
  • Translation Convention: Japanese stands in for mostly German; on other occasions it stands in for English, Czech, maybe French, and Latin.
    • This is particularly weird in a scene where Dieter, who only speaks German, needs Tenma to translate what a British couple is saying, even though we hear them all speaking the same language.
    • You'd also notice that there's an awful lot of locals in Prague, Czech Republic, who apparently speak fluent German (if not all of them).
  • Truth in Television: A Japanese neurosurgeon living in Germany is actually not as strange as you might think. Japan has roughly the same number of neurosurgeons as the United States, a country with more than twice its population. For that reason, many of them end up going abroad in search of work. The two most common places they go are Germany and the US.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Tenma for the most part and Anna/Nina eventually. Completely averted with the twins' mother.
  • Twin Desynch: Played straight, subverted, and twisted.
  • Tykebomb: Aiming to build Super Soldiers can backfire on everyone involved not just the subjects, though they tend to get off least lightly.
  • ‹bermensch: Johan, Tenma, and arguably Nina/Anna as well.
  • Underdressed for the Occasion: Eva won't let Martin accompany her into the hotel because he doesn't meet the dress code.
  • Unmoving Plaid: In the manga.
  • The Unreveal: Johan's and Anna/Nina's real names.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: The first episode of the anime.
  • Villain Episode: The Baby gets one of these just before he gets killed.
  • The Villain Makes the Plot: Notable aversion. Johan is not the only clever aspect of this series. Not by far.
    • Also, he rarely appears on-screen.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Despite assuring himself that everything is going according to plan, Petr Capek starts to grow increasingly paranoid after The Baby is killed, eventually killing his own bodyguard in a fit of paranoia. An action which is later avenged by the bodyguard's comrades, who shoot down Capek.
  • We Can Rule Together: You'll never guess who uses this for Unwitting Pawn bait on lesser bads.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Lawyer and his friend.
  • What Beautiful Eyes: Roberto telling Nina, "You have beautiful eyes. Just like Johan's..."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • To Karl Schuwald's foster parents, the Neumanns. Though it can be assumed that after Hans Georg Schubert officially accepted Karl as his biological son, Karl's foster parents probably accepted it.
    • The couple Johan stayed with in Munich. Reichwein warns them that they'll likely end up being killed like all of the others. Whether it happened or not is never mentioned, but it can be assumed that it did.
    • There's also Gustof, who is never mentioned again after he's taken to the hospital, as is Christof.
    • The woman pretending to be Roberto's wife is never scene again after she helped to torch the library.
    • Muller's new family after his death: he kills Roberto's henchmen while rescuing Nina, but there's no knowledge of whether there were any repercussions against them for his actions, as Roberto DID threaten Muller by using his family against him just hours before; Nina might have told them to flee, but it's not known.
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: "Go write a book about it. Won't sell, though."
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Roberto favors this approach when it comes to Nina, Tenma, or anyone in Johan's way, but apparently gets overruled.
  • Wicked Cultured: Johan, Kristof, and various doctors dabbling in eugenics and brain-washing.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Between Nina leaning on Tenma every two panels and Tenma telling Nina that he has nothing to live for without her, it's definitely there. Even if you're disturbed by the age difference. To a lesser extent, Karl and Lotte.
    • Regarding Tenma and Nina, after what they've been through together, one is left not really caring about the age difference anyway. In the end Nina is ecstatic when she hears that Tenma is coming back to Germany.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Johan for Karl, Lotte, and Nina. In Another Monster, Karl reveals that despite everything Johan put him through, Karl could never bring himself to hate Johan as he believed Johan's tears for him were real. Lotte, similarly, says that she doesn't hate him and that she believes Johan couldn't bring himself to kill Karl because Karl wanted things — family and a home — that Johan could never have nor understand. Nina, for her part, believes that had she not shot Johan, had she been able to forgive him, he would not have continued killing.
  • World Half Full: The world of Monster is filled with some very nasty things, but there's a lot of hope if you know where to look.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Yeah, right.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • Nina thinks the romantic emails she's been receiving are from her "Prince Charming." They're actually from Johan.
    • Suk ends up in the same situation, believing that his story is a romance where he wins over the beautiful girl in the bar. Turns out this was Johan too.
  • The Wrong Right Thing: How Tenma got into this.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: It's almost a guarantee that once someone's luck turns around, they are going to be killed. Almost.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Johan likes to clean up loose ends. And by "clean up," we mean "murder."
  • You Meddling Kids: Pedrov/Biermann tells Grimmer the 511 Kinderheim project would have worked out just great, if his successors hadn't let the anomalous Enfant Terrible get out of hand. Also played straighter with Dieter's and the orphanage boys' interventions.
  • You Monster!: Quite a few characters to Johan. It's right there in the title.
  • Young Conqueror: Johan has all the qualifications, but rather than changing the world, he wants to destroy it, just because he can.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: "But you're special, Doctor Tenma. You saved my life. You're like a father to me... I'm really glad I was able to pay you back... All I did was grant your wish." Cue Tenma's Heroic BSOD.
  • Zen Survivor: There's a nod to this trope in Rosso, Wolf, and other minor characters, though it's never fully played straight.

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alternative title(s): Monster
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