Re: Monster (Ch.1-10)

One of the coolest things about the internet is that it allows anyone to be creative and share their work. Granted, this isn't always a good thing, as even the worst of minds can take part, but it also allows for the freedom to try things that would be impossible otherwise. This goes for manga too, as trying to get a series published in a magazine is a difficult task in itself. However, anyone can draw and put it on the net, and sometimes, just sometimes, surprising things can be found. Take Re: Monster, an adaptation of yet another web work (a web novel series) that comes up with a truly creative premise and does the most with it that it can ...though it also includes a few other ideas that were perhaps better to just be left ideas.

The story begins with our protagonist newly born as a goblin, though he was originally human. In his human life, he was an esper soldier named Tomokui Kanata, granted with a rare ability to gain new abilities from what he eats. He was killed by a girl he knew and found himself reincarnated as a low level monster in a fantasy world, but quickly discovered he still retained his incredible eating ability. Under the rules that govern this world, Tomokui can gain new abilities from the various monsters around him and evolve into different, stronger monsters overtime. Excited by this prospect and cut off from wherever his old life was, Tomokui becomes "Goblin Rou" and decides to see how strong he can become, whipping the weak goblin tribe he is now apart of into shape. His long term goal is unknown, but the short term? Live as full of a life as possible.

What stands out about Rou from the start is that he's a very strict, calculating character, though not inhuman. He gets violent urges, but what makes him a capable leader is that he can see his own weaknesses and the strengths of the people around him. He becomes a teacher very shortly into the story, gaining dominance over the more unruly members of the tribe and then training them to use their natural abilities to their fullest for the entire group. The series is told almost entirely from a first person narration from Rou, as he learns more about the world and interprets the various people around him. It gives us a good idea of who Rou really is as a person (or goblin) and doubles in working in all the world building.

Similar to Log Horizon, Re: Monster is a series that heavily uses rule sets to create conflicts and drama, along with a rich mythology just begging to be explored. All of Rou's actions are based around growing stronger or using his military knowledge from his former life to train goblins into a more organized, effective group. He doesn't rush ahead blindly, either. Most of the series is him observing monsters and phenomenon within the world and learning how best to use or conquer it for the betterment of himself and his tribe. Various other goblins eventually become specialists in different fields, partly through Rou's suggestions and teachings and partly through their own actions, and we start seeing how the otherwise backstabbing group start working together. What keeps it together is Rou's status as an alpha male, keeping more troublesome elements in check and allowing things to mostly run themselves while giving useful directions. It's a very early civilization building idea going on here, and it's interesting to watch.

While world building is fine in its own right, that alone does not make for an interesting story. That's where Rou comes in, as he's a surprisingly fascinating lead. His inner thought narration adds a lot to the series and effectively makes it, and it makes the world building more interesting because we're leaning along with him. His might makes right philosophy fits the story perfectly, especially in that he's a more civilized version of it. He gauges the ability of those around him and is always examining their mood or growth, using other goblins as he needs them, or to keep others in line. He realizes he needs other people and that he has his limits, even with the wide variety of powers he starts gaining. This morally ambiguous nature of his is interesting, as we do see moments of caring and mercy from him, but also moments of violence and brutality.

This brings us to the series most troubling element of the series, the big smear on an otherwise stellar project. As I said, this series is a new media sort of thing, and as a result, publishing standards for it allow for a lot more than you'd find from major publisher distributed works. It's why the overall story is allowed to focus on world building over a traditionally structured story, but it also means that the writer was able to insert a plot point that, while used well for its intended purpose, feels completely out of place within the story's normal tone. Please skip the following paragraph if you have a soft stomach, as, unfortunately, I have to talk about ...rape.

Damn it, Japan. Damn it.

One of the major subplots of the series deals with one of the ways goblins reproduce. One of the ways is capturing human women and using them to give birth to new offspring, which Rou discovers by finding a group of abused women in one of the goblin caves. The scene is important and gives us a further look into Rou's character, as he chooses to give them a method of suicide out of sympathy for their horrible situation, but it is completely out of place with the rest of the series. The subplot returns later on as Rou has to save captured adventurers from much harsher goblins by making said goblins submit to his strength and show that the two races can assist each other for mutual benefit later on, and I would be fine with this if not for that scene from earlier in the series with the destroyed women. It's a very cheap way to build drama, and outright disgusting in just how out of place it is in an otherwise darkly comedic series. It paints the new human characters in a disgusting light as well, as we know exactly why they've appeared here, and it makes their later behavior as they grow to trust Rou very, very troubling. They're essentially hostages that Rou is trying to keep alive without becoming an enemy of his tribe, and they become accustomed to their situation far too quick (especially when its suggested that allies of theirs were killed before Rou met them). The series starts to falter here as Rou's complexity becomes self-insert otaku fantasy with both one of the adventures and Mi (one of the main goblins) crushing on him, and it feels completely out of place with the horrific context of the presence of those human adventurers presence in the story. The series would be significantly improved if this subplot never existed, or at least handled in a more subtle way, like only implying the context and not lingering on the sheer horror of it, which paints the adult goblins in completely different lights very poorly.

Despite this thorny issue (and one that I'm sure will turn away a lot of possible audiences), there's still a lot to like about Re: Monster. The comedy comes with good timing and a cynical touch, creating a lot of amusing little moments to balance out with the more visceral action scenes. Said action scenes are really well done, with trading blows and a real sense of energy and movement. The art in general is great, with great body proportion between characters and excellent panel work. The few splash pages present feel well earned as well, and not just wasting space for the story. The supporting cast is also very strong, with each named goblin given their own personality and little moments, and they all fit within Rou's philosophy in different and interesting ways. It's not just the Rou show, and there's a lot of little moments building up future events, especially within how much of the goblins feel about Rou.

If you can stomach that nasty subplot (which is thankfully only a small part of the series), you'll find something immensely creative and engrossing here. Re: Monster has a brilliant idea and really runs with it, creating a strong cast of characters, a very interesting lead, expressive art with some serious energetic flow, and some rich but accessible lore. It has the best qualities of new media manga ...and an example of one of the worst qualities, sadly. Sometimes, expanded creative freedom may not always be a good thing, though that's (mostly) the case here.


  1. Ew. That sounds like an interesting series, but yeah, the rape thing is too much. Actually, it's even worse that just rape, to be honest. Normal rape is bad enough, from what you said, those women were raped, impregnated, forced to give birth to goblins, and have it all go over again. It also, (purely talking based on what I've seen in your review) paints all goblins super negatively, since most of them must of have done something as such, and you know that every single goblin around was born of the deepest pits of horror and misery.


    Personally, I think rape is almost always done poorly in stories, IMO. It's an incredibly easy target to hit to make people feel something. I'm not saying it should never be used and it's always bad when used, but most of the time it is, at least to me. Regardless of whether or not you think people over react to, writers damn well know they can just throw in sexual violence with out any effort and get a strong reaction from readers, with out even trying. In a lot of stories, it seems to be that rape has just been the cop out for the writers wants to make you feel bad but not want to put in any effort to getting you invested.

    Er, sorry about the rant, that's just a super sore topic for me.

    1. Don't worry, I agree with you. Usually, if a rape story is to be effective, it has to actually deconstruct the psychology behind the act and its direct consequences. Most rape stories aren't well thought-out enough to be able to do that, hence they feel really cheap and lazy...


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