Care for another cup of tea? Perhaps we can crack some roasted almonds, while we’re at it. Keep yourself comfortable – the party’s just gotten started.
ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME….
TWO REPORTS ON MORAL RELATIVITY: Monster
Over the months of August to September, I had taken interest in a critically acclaimed show called Monster, based off the manga written by Naoki Urasawa. The story focuses on a young medical doctor named Kenzo Tenma, a highly successful neurosurgeon rising up the ranks in a prestigious hospital, his life prosperous at every point. This all takes a turn for the worse when Tenma decides to go against his medical director’s wishes and operates on a young boy instead of the mayor of the city, resulting in the mayor dying and the boy surviving. Losing his status, recognition and praise because of his disobedience, Tenma’s life nearly crashes until the medical director and several others are found mysteriously murdered, with the boy and his twin sister nowhere to be found. Nine years later, Tenma is the chief surgeon of the hospital, only to meet another series of unfortunate events: one of his patients is murdered in front of his eyes by no one other than the boy he had saved nine years ago. Shaken to the core as well as chased by the police who think he is the perpetrator of all of these murders, Tenma goes into hiding and tries to figure out the identity of the boy he saved and why he’s killing all of these people, questioning his own moral beliefs at the same time.
The show is gripping, compelling, and masterfully told at best; every episode has you at the edge of your seat, biting your nails at trying to figure out what’s going on and how events and characters are connected to each other. There’s also a wide range of themes presented throughout, the most prevalent ones being the nature of identity and the construction of the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ within each soul. At face value, the story is about Tenma and his antithesis: Johan, but as you journey with our good natured protagonist, you find that there are so many brilliant (and bleak) streaks of moral relativity found in a human being. One amazing story that nearly brought me to tears was one of the earlier episodes where Tenma goes to train and learn how to use a gun, and ends up being taught by a former soldier named Hugo Bernhardt. Hugo, as fate would have it, was a man who participated in many strategic battles in wars; he has seen life and death at their cruelest moments. However, his biggest curse is in the shape of a girl who he’s taken under his wing ever since he shot her mother in one of the wars. He feeds her, gives her shelter, but she doesn’t say a word to him, and only sits in silence or plays outside in the forest.
It’s not that Monster is anti-war in any way – like Tenma, it does not judge the evil at first sight, nor does it glorify those who win. What it does do, however, is present people in their most human, natural form. For soldiers, the battlefield is never over, and for Tenma, his war has yet to begin – but this episode clearly shows that even in the end, when one completes his or her mission, there’s a conflict that can never be resolved. For an instance, the show is solemn and grim in its meaning.
But if this was the only theme of the story, Tenma’s journey would be useless from the start. As he cooks for Hugo and the girl, he instills a sort of warmth and life into the broken family. He teaches the girl to return a baby bird to its nest; he teaches Hugo how to eat with chopsticks. Just like how any bird leaves the nest, once Tenma completes his training, he disappears, giving Hugo the rest of the payment for the classes. For a moment, the despairing and woeful atmosphere seems to seep into the Hugo household again. Tenma’s light and inspiration is gone, or so it seems.
But what’s taken root grows. The child laughs, and it’s a beautiful, powerful and emotional scene as Hugo realizes that some sins can be forgiven. Hope still exists for those who have committed wrongs – all you need is a push in the right direction, and peace can be found. It’s not just a sign for Tenma and his journey, but it’s also a carefully subtle message about how the constant conflict in our lives can be resolved if we open ourselves up to the possibility that all things don’t end in despair – even war. Hate only brews more hate, but love, when carefully nourished, can bring so much more.
12 Days of Christmas: Post 1