Monster 9 by Naoki Urasawa: A

From the back cover:
When an unusual children’s book causes a disturbing reaction in Johan, it may provide an ideal opportunity for Tenma to fire a well-aimed sniper shot. Could this curious book created by an obscure Czech writer also be the key to unlocking more secrets of Johan’s enigmatic past?

I doubt any book donation ceremony has ever been as exciting as the one in this volume! I seem, however, to be lapsing back into plot summary with my reviews (Connie had a similar problem with this series), so will try very hard to fight that tendency. Maybe if I limit myself to lists it’ll help.

Awesome Things:
1. Interesting older characters. There’s a whole scene occurring between two older guys—Schuwald and Dr. Reichwein. The latter is kind of badass, too, even if he does look like Wilford Brimley.

2. Tenma’s confrontation with Roberto (!) and later with Johan. I also like how he muses upon past events while waiting for his opportunity to shoot Johan. It’s a neat way to remind the audience how things got to that point.

3. The growing group of people who are trying to unravel the Johan mystery. This includes Dieter, who is absolutely adorable and keeps foisting kaiser rolls on distressed people who need to eat.

Super Awesome Things:
The picture book! I was totally blown away by the inclusion of these sepia-toned pages telling the story that so freaked out Johan. Not only are they beautiful, but the tale is nice and creepy, too.

Slightly Confusing Things:
1. The mystery of Johan’s already muddled past thickens, as there is evidently a connection between his mother and Karl’s (the university student who is Schuwald’s son) back in Prague.

2. I can’t tell yet whether Lunge believes in Johan’s existence or not. He seems to, but he is kind of crazy himself and prefers his version of reality where Tenma is the killer, despite any evidence presented to the contrary.

There. That did work out better.

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