In the ninth episode of Monster, Dr. Tenma prepares by spending time training with a bizarre man. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of kidnapping, colonialism.
What the fuck???
So, this was an odd one, but only really in one respect. I think in terms of pacing, this was a brilliant choice. After the events of the last episode, we’re given some necessary context for the timeline. Dr. Tenma didn’t just give up his job; he sought out someone to help train him for his inevitable showdown with Johan. I feel like that’s barely an assumption of the text, too. Dr. Tenma knows he’s up against someone horrifying and violent, and he also knows that he does not have the skillset to facedown Johan. The episode is ambiguous as to how Tenma found Bernhardt, but I’d also argue that the whole episode is deliberately vague about a lot of things.
See, what little we even know about Hugo Bernhardt is given to us by Inspector Lunge when Lunge questions him about Dr. Tenma’s whereabouts. “The Girl and The Seasoned Soldier” starts in the present, with Tenma still seeking out Johan, but it also frames this with Lunge’s interrogation of Bernhardt. Bernhardt is revealed early on to be a hired mercenary, someone who was sent all over the world to basically kill people for… well, that’s left unsaid. Government forces? There’s a mention of him killing “Islamic extremists,” and then there’s his whole backstory with the young girl, WHICH I WILL GET TO IN A SECOND. So, this helps us to believe that he’s cutthroat, highly qualified, and the perfect teacher for Dr. Tenma. And if the training sequences in this episode seemed a bit by-the-numbers, the story itself is so strange that it felt dreamlike at times, as if I was reliving a hazy memory from a summer long ago.
Part of that is achieved by Burnhardt’s demeanor, since he’s not a very open or emotional character until halfway through the episode. And even then, he mostly spends his time here scowling at everyone. Well, I say “everyone,” but there are only three characters here the whole time. Is it rare for Burnhardt to take on someone? I’m guessing that’s the case, and I think you can read between the lines if you examine the girl’s behavior, too. I noticed that we see her jump roping in the opening scene, but once Dr. Tenma arrives, she stops, never to pick it up again as long as he’s around. Once he’s at their home, she just watches. She doesn’t say a word THE ENTIRE TIME, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some form of communication here.
That being said, I’m a bit confused about the intentions the writers had. (And I say that in reference to the original manga’s author, Naoki Urasawa, and the person or people who adapted the work for the anime.) It’s hard to talk about this girl—who oddly remains unnamed for the entire episode—without talking about her origin. It is horrifying to me that Bernhardt not only murdered her mother in Myanmar, but then TOOK THE DAUGHTER WITH HIM. I can only assume that this was some colonialist war or intervention that brought Burnhardt there, and there’s been a long, fucked up practice of invaders stealing children and bringing them back to their own homes. Initially, I felt like the show wanted me to be horrified with Bernhardt for what he’d done. The reveal is handled in a way that made it clear that we were supposed to put ourselves in Dr. Tenma’s shoes, that we most likely felt just as shocked as he did. But as this story progressed, I’m not so sure the intent was the same anymore. The girl develops a fascinating with Dr. Tenma, and I saw a direct parallel between her helping him up when he fell, and the scene where he taught her to help the fallen bird. But what does that turn into? Because unless I am interpreting this wrong, Dr. Tenma’s actions—particularly his kindness towards the girl—helps her to finally open up to Burnhardt. And I’d also argue that this is a huge reason why he refuses to tell Lunge where Tenma is! He feels an appreciation for Tenma because of how he affected this girl.
But is this girl his daughter??? Like, was there a legal adoption? Since this is left unsaid, it makes this feel tonally inappropriate. Yo, you KIDNAPPED this girl after MURDERING HER MOM IN FRONT OF HER. I don’t need a Hallmark ending to their arc! I need to understand more about this story!!! How did he bring her back to Germany? How is she allowed in his house? Has she literally never communicated to you in all the years you’ve had her? Did he allow this child to go to therapy to deal with the trauma of SEEING HER MOM MURDERED IN FRONT OF HER???
This was so strange, y’all. I’m not sure I get it.
The video for “The Girl and The Seasoned Soldier” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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