Punpun Straussianism 5
Another Anime Review
Monster by Naoki Urusawa is a manga known for its detailed and nuanced character studies. Its plot centers around two people: the doctor Kenzo Tenma and the crime boss
Niccolo Machiavelli Johan Liebert. Johan is born to an East German eugenics experiment, taken to an ‘orphanage’ where kids are trained to be highly psychologically manipulative as if they were traumatized pokemon. It’s often said that Yohan frames Tenma and he ends up chased by a bunch of police as he tries to gather the evidence that Yohan killed those people, not him.
Here’s the problem: for a show with such excruciating attention paid to character consistency, it’s pretty crazy that the main ‘antagonist’ has random moments where he just does ‘evil’ things for no reason. There’s a plotline a third through the series where he just tells kids to try killing themselves to see if they’re ‘chosen by fate’. Even geniuses have realistic constraints, costs and benefits to consider. If Yohan were really going through life taking stupid, pointless risks like that, he would never survive running the underground central bank.
When you see contradictions, seek the esoterica. What’s the esoteric message here? Earlier I wrote “it’s often said that Yohan frames Tenma”, because I don’t actually think that’s true. Aside from being in similar places, there’s really only one tie from Tenma to Yohan’s crime: Eva’s false testimony. Even then, any reasonable cop would know not to take testimony from a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder as the sole piece of evidence to convince an otherwise upstanding member of society (right? right??). My reading of Monster is that the real central conflict was never Johan vs. Tenma. That was just for the masses. The actual central conflict is Johan and Tenma vs. Eva and Lunge (the police chief). It’s the characters who are competent, who are doing something with their lives, who are live players, versus the idiotic and narcissistic NPCs. It’s not good versus evil, it’s good versus bad. It’s a flag of the pattern of propaganda, never orchestrated by the masses but always downstream of their preferences.
Monster is a letter to any smart, competent person like you or I that:
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