If you like mystery, suspense, and psychological thrillers...


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Given that we've just relinquished our cable TV subscription, my family has turned to other forms of entertainment whenever we want to relax together at the end of a long and exhausting day. My brother discovered this Japanese anime series called Monster a few years ago, and we're finally getting around to watching it.

If you're a fan of, say, Law & Order: SVU, then I think you'd really like this series. If you don't mind it being a cartoon, that is. Although it's animated, it's definitely NOT for kids, as it deals with heavy and disturbing issues that are suited for an adult audience.

We're not far into it yet, but from what I can tell, besides my brother's hearty endorsement, it's got three things going for it:

1) compelling three-dimentional characters with complex histories, relationships, and motives, who you come to care about very quickly;

2) a sophisticated, brain-tingling, intricately designed and suspenseful plot (if it were a book, it would be the kind of page-turner you can't put down at night);

3) and an uncommon combination of cultures (the lead character is a Japanese man who immigrated to Germany), settings (cities and villages around central Europe), and issues (secret government projects, sociopaths, fairytales, child abuse, immigration, communism, fascism...).

I won't try to summarize the plot of this fantastic story for you, since Wikipedia has already done the work for me:

The series follows Dr. Kenzō Tenma (天馬 賢三, Tenma Kenzō?) as he pursues a young psychopath/sociopath named Johan, whose life Tenma once saved. The story rapidly progresses through a number of locations: it starts in Düsseldorf, Germany, passes through Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Wiesbaden, cities in the Czech Republic such as Prague, and other cities and villages. (...)

Dr. Kenzō Tenma is a young Japanese doctor working at the Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf during the 80s. A highly accomplished brain surgeon, he appears to have everything on his plate: a promotion in the offing; the favor of the director of the hospital Heinemann; and Heinemann's daughter Eva as his fiancée. However, Tenma grows increasingly dissatisfied with the political bias of the hospital for treating patients, and seizes his chance to change things after a strange massacre brings the twins Johan and Anna Liebert into his hospital. Johan has a gunshot wound to the head and Anna keeps muttering about killing, and Tenma decides to operate on Johan instead of the mayor of Düsseldorf who arrived afterwards. Johan is saved, but Mayor Roedecker dies. Tenma loses all his social standing and Eva as a consequence. However, Director Heinemann and the other doctors in Tenma's way are mysteriously murdered, and both children disappear from the hospital soon after. The police suspect Tenma, as he benefits greatly from this turn of events, but they have no evidence, and so can do no more than question him.

At this point, the story advances to nine years later. Tenma is now the Chief of Surgery at Eisler Memorial Hospital. However, he is about to come face to face with a sociopath - a sociopath that he helped save.

If you can get a hold of this somewhere, maybe at a DVD rental store, at a library, or an anime store, or even on YouTube, definitely give this one a try, and tell me what you think. :)