Naoki Urasawa, MONSTER, and the whole Dark ≠ Interesting thing
Ugh I was feeling all gross learning about what’s going up with Hydra Cap and all as well as the general attitude in media that inherently “good” characters are “Boring” and the fact that so many people feel the need to add darkness or violence or cruelty to make things “interesting” and that got me thinking about the work of manga artist Naoki Urasawa, specifically his most famous series, Monster.
For those who don’t know about Monster, it’s an extremely suspenseful and well-written crime/drama/thriller manga series (as well as an anime which is a pretty faithful adaption, but I haven’t watched it) , and the whole plot centers around not just one, but several serial killers, as well as addressing child abuse, racism/neo-nazism, as well as corruption in the government, medical industry, and other various institutions. Knowing all of that, it’s easy to see how Monster could easily become an extremely grimdark, cynical, violent narrative regurgitating the popular “edgy” theme of how “life sucks and then you die,” as so many modern narratives seem to have bought into.
But it’s not like that, not at all. The thing about Monster, as well as the rest of Naoki Urasawa’s work, is that while it does not shy away from the reality of cruelty in the world, it also addresses the opposite. Throughout Monster, we see people act with incredible kindness and gentleness, even in the midst of extreme situations. There’s an appreciation for the beauty in the world, for the little, often overlooked details of life that make it worth carrying on. There’s the strange, makeshift familial relationships that people form to help each other through loss and grief. And people are not static; people can change, for the worse, of course, but also for the better, people work to redeem themselves and others, and the inherent worth of every person, despite the overwhelming sense of guilt and past wrongs, is emphasized over and over and over again. The narrative does not justify wrongdoings, not in the least, but does a very good job of showing that while humans are capable of horrific things, they are also capable of extreme love, encouragement, and transformation.
And get this: It has ALL of the above, and is STILL an INCREDIBLY gripping, suspenseful, eXTREMELY fascinating story with high stakes and great twists and tons of character development without resorting to cheap, sensationalized voyeuristic deaths or glorifying violence in the “good guys” name. And of course when I say the characters are good, I don’t mean they’re perfect–they make mistakes, they’re flawed as heck, they’re limited by their personalities and experiences, but they are HUMAN, and they are also GOOD.
And the way the world is, I think we need more characters and stories like that out there.
(Haha all these panel ‘caps are all pretty boring but thats because literally everything else is spoileriffic so if anyone WANTS to read it, I’d rather you go in fresh!! If anyone needs like, trigger warnings or anything for it just hmu and I’ll try to letyou know)