Monster 13 by Naoki Urasawa: A

Fairly major spoiler in the back cover blurb, so enjoy this nice cut.

From the back cover:
After his arrest in Prague, Tenma is deported to Düsseldorf to stand trial, but the odds are terribly stacked against him—one of the lawyers is a devoted follower of Johan. When his ex-fiancée Eva’s life is threatened, Tenma realizes that if he wants to save her, his only option is to escape captivity. With Eva still bearing a nearly bottomless grudge against him, can Tenma reach her before it’s too late? And even if he does, will she be willing to accept his help?

The timeline’s been corrected as of this volume, and now reads “1996-97” for all of the action happening in Munich and Prague. That reminds me that I should commend this series for being set in such interesting places. The inclusion of European architecture is definitely welcome, and it’s also nice not to have to rationalize why so many characters are fair-haired.

This volume is particularly suspenseful, since while Tenma is incarcerated, one of his lawyers (a familiar face that was wholly unexpected) threatens Eva’s life. Tenma takes some unexpected actions to achieve escape, although he arrives at Eva’s hotel after she’s already checked out.

Urasawa once again introduces a bunch of new characters and makes them interesting. In this volume, these include Fritz Verdeman, a defense attorney whose own father was falsely imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit, and Gunter Milch, a petty crook with a flair for prison escapes. I particularly love how Fritz, while working for good causes, is shown to be flawed. For example, he’s more concerned with showing up the government’s mistakes than he is with his clients’ wishes, and he’s also shown to be kind of mean to his wife.

Also multi-faceted is Eva, who thinks back on her early courtship days with Tenma and, though she blames him for ruining her life, eventually decides that she will testify about having seen Johan on the scene of one of the crimes. Even though I’m not at all fond of her, seeing her change her drink order from booze to coffee was also kind of a cheer-worthy moment.

My favorite moments of this volume are the reactions of Tenma’s supporters to the news reports of his arrest, confession, and escape. I’m not sure why, but I just love those segments. Also great is when Verdeman reads a bunch of names of patients who had asked him to defend Tenma. Even though Tenma is on his own a lot of the time, his network of friends working on his behalf continues to be one of the best things about the series.

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