Well, looks like I'm going have to plan another trip to Japan. (I wish.)
When a Doctor makes the highly controversial decision to save a boy's life over the mayor's, it leads to the loss of almost everything he holds dear. His fiance, his career, his social standing. The only thing he keeps is his own feeling of self worth, knowing that he did the right thing in saving the boy, who came in first. Yet even that is threatened when he begins to learn that nothing is as it originally appeared. A trail of bloodshed pointing to the seemingly innocent child leaves him questioning even his beliefs. Whether, in the end, all lives are ever truly equal. (Source: ANN)
I already knew most of this story before I read it. That's because a while ago I watched the Monster anime; and since the anime and manga play out the exact same story, reading it in the manga left little to be surprised about.
So given that, this is a difficult review to write because, since I knew what to expect, there wasn't as much tension or anticipation about what would happen next. So as far as the story itself is concerned, I think you can refer back to my review of the anime to see what I thought about it.
Although, going through the story the second time does give me the opportunity to look at it with a more critical eye. For instance, this time I realized that we never learn much about what all the different organizations were trying to use Johan to achieve. We know that everyone is fascinated by him and want him to be their leader in some way, but to what end -- from either their perspective or Johan's -- I am not sure. And along those same lines, there are parts of the story that seem a little drawn out, with new characters constantly being introduced that did not seem necessary. And although the character development was top-notch, I never did get that feeling of dread that other characters (and other manga reviewers) had about Johan.
But despite that, the reason I wanted to read this story for the second time in manga for was because I wanted to see how such an intricate story and realistic setting and characters played out in manga form. It was more curiosity than anything else. And what I came to realize is just how skillfully the manga writer/artist Naoki Urasawa was able to relay the story. I mean, it really is just a lot of dialogue and very little action, but the manga never gets boring because it is told at such a brisk pace. The art is clearly drawn with equally detailed attention give to both characters and setting. The panel layout makes the action easy to follow -- something all too infrequent in a lot of manga I've read. And the dialogue is written with such efficiency and economy, that it is able to relay a lot of information in very few words while still maintaining character's personalities and intonations. Urasawa is one of the most talented manga artists/writers I've seen and I'm looking forward to reading a couple of his other works that I have sitting on my shelf right now: 20th Century Boys and Pluto.
So, in short, even through the story has some flaws I highly recommend this manga for those seeking a truly mature story. Or of course, you can watch the anime and pretty much get the same experience. And in fact I think Funimation is supposed to start releasing the anime within the next few months free online, so there you go. Although, with a length of 72 episodes, I think reading the 18 volume manga might end up saving you some time. But either way, you can't go wrong.
Story = B+
Video = B+
Audio = B+
Two girls, both named Nana and of the same age, coincidentally meet on a train trip to Tokyo. They soon find themselves living with each other under the same roof because of an even bigger coincidence. Even though they share the same name and age, they differ in just about everything else. Even so, through hard experiences in love and life, a strong friendship is born between them, as both Nanas grow through their hardships and struggle to win the odds. (Source: ANN)
I don't have much to say about Nana other than that I like it. I think part of the reason is because it is about a rock band, and stories about bands -- whether real or fictional -- always seem to draw me for some reason. Probably the reason for that is because they usually involves an everyday normal person achieving success by following their passions: basically a feel good, success story with characters you can relate to. It's the same thing here, because Rock-girl Nana is trying to create a successful band. But there's the added twist that she is motivated by the desire to be an even bigger success than her former boyfriend, who is now I superstar rocker. And of course, you have the good-girl-Nana who is Rocker-Nana's biggest groupie, apartment-mate, and friend.
And definitely the Rocker-Nana is the more appealing character out of the two Nanas. Her childhood hardships made her strong and willful, which is always a good way to make a sympathetic character. The innocent-good-girl Nana is less appealing because of her puppy-doggish following of the other Nana, but is also more relatable because of it. She is drawn into the world of the other Nana (confused yet?) and wants to be like her. But because of her naivete she ends up getting taken advantage of and gets into a bit-o-trouble. But even though the two are opposites, they are attracted to each other (as just friends...I think) because each envies the other's life. The dynamic between those two Nana's and their friendship is a big part of what draws you into the story.
The other thing that draws you in is the casual nature of how all these rock stars act. Rocker-Nana's band all meet together in their apartment and BS just like regular friends would. There's conflict here (and a good deal of over-acted melodrama), but mainly in as much as people are struggling to maintain their relationships when their opposing lifestyles are pulling them apart. Sounds kind of cheesy when you put it like that, but even so, it's a big part of what makes these two movies so easy to watch.
That same tone also applies to the plot. There are some stories that seem to just be about the characters doing stuff, without ever having a defined direction, and thus gets tedious to watch after a while. This movie had that same kind of character driven story, but never got tedious to watch. But it does mean that the endings to both movies seem to come suddenly. And even at the end of the second movie it seems like there is more story to tell. But regardless, it's still an over-all satisfactory package, and I guess if you really want to know more, you could always read the manga.
Of course, a big part of any movie about a rock band is the music. It's especially critical because in order to believe that the fictional band deserves the success they achieve, the music has to be especially good. For this movie, I'd say that the music does mostly achieve that, but I guess the success there will all be personal preference.
So overall, I do recommend these movies for those who are looking for a good, easy-to-watch, genuine drama. I also know there's an anime version of this out there too and of course there's the manga too if you do end up liking it and are looking for more.
Story = B-
Video = B-
Audio = C
In an alternate 21st century, Japan's scientists has perfected the art of biotechnology and robotics, its benefits extending the lifespans of all humans. However, the United Nations deemed the advanced technology a dangerous threat and started strict surveillance on Japan. The government of Japan refused to abide by UN's demands to halt research, in the year 2067 left the UN and isolated itself visually and communically. Ten years later, an American special forces unit by the name of SWORD, led by its female commander named Vexille, are sent to uncover the current status of the isolated Japan, after the country begins its plan to move. The shocking secrets they find will shock the rest of the world. (Source: ANN)
I had no idea what this movie was about going into it, which is why I was able to enjoy it as much as I did. The only reason that I wanted to see it was because it was animated with CG, and I heard in some vague reviews that it was intelligently written. Well, it is CG, and to a certain extent it is smartly written, but it's the unknown elements that kept me interested.
The story takes place in an alternate Earth where Japan has become a technological powerhouse, but has also decided to totally isolate itself any outsiders, even going so far as to block satellite photography. So Commander Vexille and her crew need to sneak in and see what's up.
To me, the best part of this movie is the build-up to the forces trying to get into Japan. The idea of an entire nation cutting itself off from the rest of the world, after being embroiled in such epic events creates a huge sense of mystery and I was dying to know what kind of epic insanity was behind that isolation.
Although, when they actually get into Japan what they find isn't quite as mind-blowing as my imagination had lead me to believe. There is really only one part that was kind of cool, which I don't want to give away, but to me seems like an obvious homage to Dune. But even with that, the concept behind how it came to be seemed really far-fetched, even for a movie like this that's far fetched to begin with. (Vague enough for you?)
But even if it didn't quite meet my own expectations, it is still worthwhile watching and it is somewhat intelligently written. I think that "intelligent" part mostly has to do with the fact that it is referencing Japan's real-life attitudes toward isolationism. So there is more of a meaning behind the story that what is on the surface.
As for the visuals, the CG is similar to the first CG Appleseed movie, although the visuals here are a slight improvement. I'd actually say that it falls somewhere between the first and second Appleseed movies in terms of the quality. But there is nothing particularly original about the designs here, especially for a sci-fi storyline.
So in short, if you are going to watch this movie, I suggest not watching any of the trailers or reading too many plot summaries. Don't even watch the trailer that I have linked at the top of this post; even though the spoilers there are pretty minimal. But in this case, the less you know the better.