I AIM TO MAKE THIS AS SPOILER-FREE AS POSSIBLE
Okay, so I've been putting off this review for a few days because I've no idea whatsoever where to begin.
Monster is a 2004 anime series made by Madhouse (those awesome folks who gave us Death Note), based almost word-for word on a manga series of the same name by Naoki Urasawa.
The animation was superb, and the show featured character designs by the amazing Kitaro Kosakal (a genius animator famous for his work with Studio Ghibli), but otherwise closely matching the style of the source material.
The story was intense and every character got so much development and backstory that almost all of them (with the exception of Johan and some (but not all) of the other serial killers) are unbelievably relatable. Heck, they even got me to sympathise with a freaking neo-nazi (General Wolf). How good does a writer have to be to be able to get me to relate to a neo-nazi?!?!
In fact, the writing was some of the best I've ever come across, because I managed to get behind every single character from minor to major at some point in the story, and you really got a glimpse at what goes on in the minds of different kinds of people (which if you're as bad at empathy as I am, is a very impressive feat for a writing team).
With that said, there was one frustrating character in the series: Inspector (dumbass) Lunge, who at first comes across as very intelligent and methodical, but whose stubbornness and refusal to believe that Tenma isn't guilty of Johan's crimes eventually verges on incompetence, and episodes focusing on him are rather hard to sit through.
But DON'T GIVE UP on the show, as every other episode is a complete masterpiece of character, animation and atmosphere.
Now, I'm red-green colourblind, so I'm not going to talk about the "colour pallet" or how it creates/improves a show's atmostphere in any of my reviews, but I THINK that it was somewhat muted in this series, which I THINK was done to simulate the hopelessness and desparation in the minds of so many of the characters. But I might be wrong.
And now I get to the part I really wanted to talk about, the voice cast of the English Language dub provided by Viz Media. They were perfect, and I highly commend whoever was in charge of casting. Of particular note are the superb performances by Karen Strassman as Nina Fortner, and the always amazing Keith Silverstein as Johan, who seemed to channel a bizarre blend of Hannibal Lecter and Dio Eraclea to produce what was almost undoubtedly the most eerie villain voice I have ever heard (eerie because you both want to run away from it and trust it at the same time, exactly the way the character was written). I honestly think Silverstein should have won an award for this performance, as it is just mind-blowing.
In short: YOU NEED TO WATCH MONSTER.
It doesn't even have a depressing ending like Guilty Crown or Fam The Silver Wing.
My next anime I'm watching is called Shiki, so I'll let you know what I think of that one later...