Warning: this article is full of monsters and spoilers. Some of the topics are rather disturbing. Read at your own risk or select another article to read instead. Also, be wary of spoilers!
In anime, we have several dramas, thrillers and we have Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. This anime has been a monster on its own accord. Although it was released over a decade ago, it still is well remembered. Not for nothing it ran for 74 episodes, full of complex characters, psychological phenomena, creepy experiments, murder and a good balance of action.
So, welcome to the dark side of human nature! The characters in Monster were being pursued by their pasts, or simply by their bad luck. Here we can see some choices lead us to unavoidable consequences even if we act on our best instincts. We also can see the evil incarnated in several of the characters. This is a game of life and death, where only the strongest can survive. And who were the strongest in the end? Let’s remember Monster’s characters.
10. The Baby
Don’t let that innocent and affable looking face fool you. The Baby might be a small man, but he is in the bad guys side. Even worse, he has traces of psychopathy. The Baby is part of an organization of Neo-nazis who dream with a superior race and a perfect leader to follow after all. This means he takes part in tortures, riots, and other atrocities.
The Baby might be xenophobic, but he is a resourceful man who knows how to get the (dirty) job done. And that means he has to have guts. Although he lived long years putting his strength at the service of the ultra nationalists, he was finally finished by a prostitute he confided in. That is why he is in a low post of our Top Ten.
9. Karl Neumann and Lotte Frank
Karl is a business management student in the Munich University, while Lotte is studying in the cultural anthropology department. They had normal lives until they become accidentally involved with Johan (our main antagonist) and his plan of ruling the world. All this was due to Karl’s past, as he is the illegitimate son of Hans Georg Schuwald, who holds the economy of Germany in his hands.
Although Karl wishes to reveal himself to his aging father, he knows he is far from perfect. Meanwhile, Johan passes as a law student in the Munich University, winning the favor of Schuwald. Karl and Lotte start to notice strange things going on. It is Lotte who gets the idea to follow Schuwald on his night strolls, triggering their further involvement with him. Karl and her eventually discover the creepy truth behind Johan and remain with Schuwald once the Monster changes the direction of his plans, departing from Germany. Lotte also met Nina Fortner and through their acquaintance realized which other deaths were connected to Johan. In short, Karl and Lotte remained clever, positive, generous, kind and supportive throughout the ordeals… which are true signs of strength.
8. Helmut Wolf
In the beginning, there were four ambitious soldiers with dreams of creating a superior race on their heads. One of the soldiers was Helmut Wolf. He encountered Johan and his sister when the children were trying to cross the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. From that point on, Wolf’s life would be manipulated by Johan. The scary thing is that he did not notice it soon.
Nevertheless, this also showed Wolf’s strength and endurance. Although Johan systematically suppressed any evidence of his existence, and killed every living being who knew him, Helmut Wolf lived until a very old age. That was a hard lesson on not harming others due to your ambitious, right? But Wolf learned it and he was the only out of the four soldiers who did not want Johan to become a new Hitler. So he gathered his strength to live and tell the tale to Dr. Tenma (our main protagonist), so that he could stop Johan.
7. Wolfgang Grimmer
Meet this happy man who is a master at looking, well… affable. But remember that everyone in Monster has something to hide. In Wolfang’s case, he has worked for the Czech secret police and is now a journalist. He is trying to uncover the truth behind the mysterious Kinderheim 511, the place where he later would confess he was raised in.
Wolfang looks strong because he easily outsmarts everyone and he even can kill in cold blood when his life is in danger. Nevertheless, his true strength comes from the fact that he realizes that he is disconnected from his emotions (a consequence of being “educated” in Kinderheim 511). He undergoes therapy to learn to react properly and has genuine concerns for people, especially children. Although he does not burst into tears until near the end of his life, he remains a positive character who assumes responsibility for his actions, both good and bad. That is a sign of true strength.
6. Eva Heinemann
Eva is that type of woman you would not like to be involved with at first. She is the beautiful and sophisticated daughter of Udo Heinemann, the director of the hospital where Dr. Tenma works at the beginning of the story. Eva is also our protagonist’s fiancee. Nevertheless, when Dr. Tenma almost loses his job, Eva coldly breaks up with him. But fortune changed quickly, Dr. Tenma gets an even better job and now rejects her advances.
Eva decides to get revenge for this, but she changes her mind after being involved with the Neo-nazis schemes. She even finds a good man who wants to escape with her, but he is killed and instead re encounters Dr. Tenma, who apologizes for all the bad things that happened in her life due to him. Perhaps Eva does not look as a strong character, but she is, as she was involved in perilous situations but lived to tell the tale. This woman even went very close to the most evil ones in the story, but was capable of redeeming herself and finally got a peaceful life and a better character.
5. Heinrich Lunge
If we have one persistent character in Monster besides the protagonist and antagonist, that character is Lunge. Faithful to his nature as Police Inspector, this highly intelligent man is obsessively convinced that Dr. Tenma murdered the directors who died mysteriously after his nearly demise from the hospital. Having no proof, Lunge had to patiently wait until ten years later, when he was investigating a series of murders that ended up connected with Dr. Tenma and Johan. Although the doctor tells the Police Inspector everything he knows about the murderer, Lunge thinks the man is insane.
After his family leaves him for being too focused on his work, he decides to pursue Tenma full time. So yes, Lunge might look too stupid (and weak) at this point, but he eventually found enough evidence in Germany to make him change his mind and even support Tenma in the end. He even risks his life to stop Johan’s plans at the Hotel Bergbach. Thus, Lunge’s true strength is on the pursual of truth regardless of the consequences.
Dieter has had a hard life for his short age. In the first place, he is an orphan. This little guy’s guardian, Mr. Hartmann, was fascinated by the manipulative abilities of Johan at Kinderheim 511. That is why he decided to replicate the experiment in Dieter, thus, the poor boy was constantly physically abused. Fortunately, he encounters Dr. Tenma during his travel to find the truth behind Johan’s past. The Doctor convinces him to not become a monster, and thus they become travel companions.
Dieter would know a lot of people (including Nina), and help them. Despite his insecure personality, he choses to save people even at the risk of his own life. Also, although Dieter is in constant contact with twisted personalities (Martin for example), he shows horror over their actions and empathy towards the innocents. His refusal to turn to the dark side makes of him a strong character.
3. Johan Liebert
What can be said about Johan? His childhood was difficult and disturbing, starting from the point that he never had an official name. It could be alleged that few would have grown out of such ordeals fully sane, or at least not as corrupted as Johan did. This guy is the living proof that you just can not simply make psychological conditioning experiments to raise a new Hitler to conduct a superior human race to… glory.
Most of what Johan left behind him was chaos, destruction and mental suffering. His strongest point was his ability to manipulate others into causing the destruction and/or violence themselves. Remember how he provoked everyone, teachers and children, to kill each other at Kinderheim 511 while he simply sat watching? But we must admit that Johan’s other abilities are handy too: his superior intelligence, his charisma, and his good lucks opened doors that none others could have. Plus, he was captured but always escaped! This handsome guy is definitely one of the creepiest and strongest antagonists ever created in the history of anime.
2. Nina Fortner
Nina used to be known as Anna Liebert. She is Johan’s twin sister, thus, she lived throughout a lot of the same ordeals. Johan even asked Anna to shoot him when they were kids, so that “the monster could not get them”. But they eventually separate and Anna is adopted by the Fortners, taking the name of Nina.
Contrary to what might be expected, Nina grew up to become a kind, brilliant, truth and justice seeker. She could not remember what happened in her childhood in the beginning of the story, until she was contacted by her brother anonymously through e-mail. Needless to say that Nina is one of the strongest characters of the story, being capable of understanding the perilous situations quickly. She even saved Dr. Tenma during their first encounter and learned to use firearms. Nina is one of the few who understand Johan and even tries to kill him, although deep inside, she knows she can not kill. She even tells her brother that she will always forgive him. It is her deep compassion and her resilience that make of her a strong girl.
1. Kenzou Tenma
Although we have seen great stories of redemption and forgiveness in Monster, the strongest character should be Dr. Tenma. It is not only because he is the protagonist. This man went from one hell to another, being pursued for years due to crimes that he did not commit. At the same time, Tenma was hunting down the true killer, who was none other than Johan.
Throughout his adventures, we can see the struggles of this man to do what is morally correct. He keeps saving people, operating people and trying to make the best of the most awful situations. Tenma assures Nina that he won’t let her or Johan become monsters. He convinces Dieter to not be like Johan. Tenma also eventually makes amends with Eva and even with Lunge (both of whom were trying to get him arrested). This is a man who recognizes his mistakes and, although they are difficult to fix, he at least apologizes and tries to correct his course. And well, Tenma survived the whole ordeal to become a member of Doctors without Borders. After so many years of fighting to find truth and redemption, we can safely say that he is the strongest character in Monster.
There are two aspects of Monster that make you shudder at the mere thought of them: the first is that the story was inspired by real locations and situations from the Nazi period in Europe. The second is that the uncanny feeling of the story comes from the following simple truth: anyone at anytime can become a monster. It is just like in the experiments shown in Johan’s and Nina’s childhood. If people are conditioned to not show compassion, or feelings, they become incapable of empathize with others. The good news is that, although it takes great strength, a reverse process is also possible. The silent but constant screams of the Monster were asking for healing and closure. The end of the story does not show if Johan got it, but there at least lies hope. Perhaps the monster could become human again, surrounded by the example of such strong characters.
Which is your favorite character in Monster and why? Remember that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!