Monster (manga)

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

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, 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 Runge, 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 show was a fan-favorite on Syfy's Ani-Mondays block. It's also available on Hulu here., Netflix (subbed), and the new Manga Entertainment app for Xbox360 (dubbed).


Tropes used in Monster (manga) include:
  • The Abridged Series: As of this writing, only two episodes of an Abridged Series may be found on Dailymotion: Episodes 3 and 5.
  • Absence of Evidence: Johan's crime scenes are devoid of feeling. In one arc, this enables Runge to determine that a certain murder was committed by a copy-cat and not Johan.
  • Adult Fear
  • Air Vent Passageway: Used by a woman in labor.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens quite often in this series.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance
  • An Aesop: Even the most evil of people deserves life and forgiveness.
  • Anime Theme Song: Averted. The opening theme "Grain" was kept for all 74-episodes, and it's an instrumental theme, apart from some ominous chanting.
  • The Antichrist: A major motif in the series.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Arc Number: 402.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Look at how big the Monster inside of me has become!"
    • "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 Evolution
  • Art Shift: Bonaparta's story books.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Thanks for killing Heinemann, Johan.
    • And Blue Sophie. Oh, and the corrupt cops in Prague.
  • 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.
  • Badass Grandpa: Dr. Reichwein, who's able to take down two hoodlums after getting the tar kicked out of him.
  • Bastard Understudy: Christof to Johan.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Totally averted. People of all appearances occupy all positions on the morality spectrum.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: So very, very much.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The German and Czech on signs, in documents, and just about 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?
  • 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. And poor Milosh.
  • 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. Of course, 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.
  • Care Bear Stare: Tenma. Also done by Grimmer, including on Runge, 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 him.
  • 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: Runge packs a shotgun 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.
  • Complete Monster: Johan is considered this both in-universe and out, as well as a Deconstruction of it to boot.
  • 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 Limelight: 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, Grimmer tries with Pedrov's boys misguidedly as it turns out.
  • Depraved Dwarf: The Baby.
  • Different As Night and Day: Johan and Anna/Nina.
  • Dirty Cop: The two detectives hired by Johan to kill Nina's adopted parents and 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 brutally 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. Empathic Environment generally tends to apply.
  • The Dreaded: Everyone who knows and even works with Johan Liebert, 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, 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. Runge 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 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: Runge 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 mustache. 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. Interesting to note that Urasawa would later go on to create Pluto, a remake of a story arc from the Astro Boy series. And Grimmer is clearly The Incredible Hulk.
  • 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. Works doubly as Fan Service since Fetish Fuel is what it is.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Don't be kind to Johan. It never helps. Possibly did in the end.
  • 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.
  • 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: As the Overlooked Manga Festival is amused to point out, 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.
  • Half-Identical Twins : Johan and Anna/Nina. Their mother even used to dress Johan up to resemble Anna while the children and she were in Prague. As young adults, Johan masquerade 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."
  • Harmful to Minors: And how!
  • The Heart: Monster arguably has several, even if Tenma is the obvious one.
  • 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: Pretty much 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, come to think of it, "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 badly on both female leads.
  • 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: Runge, 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: Pretty much 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 Got Worse
  • 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: Runge 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Provided Johan escaped, he faces the same life as a fugitive that tenma did due to the testimony of Runge, Nina and Tenma
  • 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 Runge 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.
  • The Messiah: Kenzo Tenma - the guy helps immensely everywhere he goes, even if he's only in a town for a few days.
  • Mexican Standoff
  • 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 basically founded on this.
  • Missing Mom: Helenka and the twins' mother, Anna.
  • Moral Dissonance: Is Tenma's worldview selfless and fair? Yes. Is Tenma's worldview responsible for a whole lot of murders that would have been precluded had he pulled the damn trigger? You decide.
  • 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.
  • Myth Arc
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Inspector Runge's name translates to Mr. Stake. Also, Roberto's real name is Adolf.
  • Eucatastrophe: 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 Runge 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, Runge 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.
  • 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-Scene Wonder: Gustav Milch, arguably.
  • 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mafia boss "The Baby."
  • 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.
    • Not really. Her father was only one reason. She also said that she wanted a man that would make her happy, and with the evidence given in the series, being happy entailed living luxuriously and having high status as the director's wife. As Tenma was demoted, she could not achieve that with him. Breaking the engagement was just as much her decision as her father's.
  • 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
  • The Power of Friendship: Both played straight and mind-bendingly subverted, depending on who's in the scene.
  • The Professor: All the psychologists we find.
  • The Profiler: Dr. Rudy and Runge. 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).
  • 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.
  • Rescue Romance: This trope gets a pretty rough time of it, subversion-wise.
  • Redemption Equals Death
  • Redemption in the Rain: Deconstructed into tiny little pieces and scattered all over Ruhenheim.
  • The Renfield: Johan's human tools run the gamut of competence, according to his needs, but some, notably Hartmann and various incarcerated killers are pretty much this, and at most serve to help him spread havoc and misery.
  • Retirony
  • The Reveal: A lot.
  • Revenge:
    • Nina wants to kill Johan primarily for killing her foster parents, though he's also killed pretty much almost every adult who has been kind to them since they were children.
    • 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.
    • The twins' mother Anna warns Franz Bonaparta that she will get her revenge on him through her children.
  • 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
  • Scully Syndrome: Virtually epidemic, if understandable. Runge 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: Arguably, but 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 Magnificent Steiner is a pretty obvious one to The Incredible Hulk. Also 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 shout-out to The Movie/Shawshank Redemption.
  • Shown Their Work: The operation scenes are largely accurate, and the renderings of Germany and the Czech Republic are extremely faithful.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: Runge'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.
  • 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 Nightmare Fuel.
  • 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.
  • 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. Runge 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Nightmare Fuel, 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.
  • Tempting Fate: "I'm surprised I lived through that." Cue the fatal bullet wound.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Title Drop
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tyke Bomb: Aiming to build Super Soldiers can backfire on everyone involved not just the subjects, though they tend to get off least lightly.
  • Ubermensch: 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 Un-Reveal: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Quite a few characters.
  • 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. Hell, 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.