Guillermo del Toro to Adapt ‘Monster’ Manga as HBO Series

Published 2 years ago by , Updated April 25th, 2013 at 7:18 pm,

Monster Naoki Urasawa Guillermo del Toro to Adapt Monster Manga as HBO Series

One of the main complaints leveled against the otherwise well-regarded Guillermo del Toro is that his reach often outstrips his grasp. Constantly announcing new projects, del Toro has a habit of watching promising properties slip through his fingers (though often through no fault of his own).

We can only hope that his most recently announced project doesn’t share the same fate as At the Mountains of Madness. Reports indicate that del Toro will work with HBO to develop a live-action series adaptation of the celebrated Japanese manga Monster, by Naoki Urasawa.

Deadline shares the news that Guillermo del Toro has begun work on the pilot episode of an adaptation of the thriller manga Monster. Planning to direct the first episode himself, del Toro has tapped writer Steven Thompson (Sherlock) to pen the pilot’s script.

Monster‘s long, twisted narrative begins in West Germany in 1986, where Japanese surgeon Kenzō Tenma makes the choice to save the life of a wounded 12-year-old boy rather than a local politician – only for the boy to disappear from the hospital. Nine years later, Tenma learns of events that convince him that the boy he saved has gone on to become a nightmarish sociopath with a genocidal master plan. Tenma resolves to track the man down and stop him by any means possible.

Monster was previously adapted into an anime series that aired on Japanese television in 2004 and later on several networks in North America. In 2005, New Line Cinema purchased the film rights to Monster. However, writers attached to the project were unable to condense the immense comic series (weighing in at 19 volumes) into a single movie.

Monster Anime Screenshot Guillermo del Toro to Adapt Monster Manga as HBO Series

This would only be the second time HBO has broadcast a live-action series based on a comic book (the first being the 1989 version of Tales from the Crypt). However, the interest in Monster and in the works of Naoki Urasawa is completely understandable. Urasawa is currently one of the critical darlings of the comic book world, drawing praise worldwide not only for Monster, but also other long-running series such as Happy! and 20th Century Boys. His most celebrated work probably has the least promising synopsis – 2003′s Pluto adapted a beloved Astro Boy adventure story into a grim, detailed murder mystery. Nonetheless, Pluto is an exciting, visually rich, and emotionally resonant story.

Handled correctly, Monster could be a huge crossover hit for HBO. The original manga is a tense, constantly-moving thriller. Though Guillermo del Toro is known largely for effects-heavy blockbusters such as Hellboy and Pacific Rim, he’s shown an able hand with creepier, more atmospheric work (such as The Devil’s Backbone). With del Toro at the helm for its pilot and producing an extended series, Monster may end up being one of premium cable’s must-watch series.


Monster does not yet have a definitive air date. Keep tabs on Screen Rant for more information.

Source: Deadline

Follow Kyle Hembree on Twitter @ProjectNightHam
TAGS: Monster
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  1. Monster is one of my personal favorite manga, so yeah, I’m looking forward to this

  2. I’m a huge supporter of del Toro. A lot of it comes from the fact that he wrote/directed my favorite movie off all time Pan’s Labyrinth so I’m always interested to hear what he’s working on next, but…
    Even I have to admit that it’s become kind of laughable when we seem to hear about a new project every month or so. I admire the guys work ethic but seriously, he’s attached to seemingly everything these days.

  3. To an extent I agree with Kevin above, but with ‘Pacific Rim’, then this, then hopefully ‘At The Mountains of Madness’ after Del Toro does seem to finally be getting a semblance of a career path going. He is all for promoting new talent in film as he did spend two years on ‘The Hobbit’.

    But, yeah, haven’t read the material but it is some synopsis. Add HBO and frankly I’m so there it is actually verging on stalking.

    • *and he did…

      Obligatory request for an edit button, please.

  4. I remember trying to watch Monster when it played on syfy, couldnt really get into it.

  5. Tales from the Crypt was in for six seasons and two movies. That’s considered a short run?

    • Man, I misread the heck out of that list entry. Thank you for the head’s-up; the article has been appended.

      • No worries, mate. It happens. The Cryptkeeper was one of the highlights of my childhood, so I’m familiar with the HBO adaptation.
        Good article. Looking forward to this. Is the anime accessible? (Subtitled or in English)

        • A subtitled version was available for streaming on Netflix at one point, but appears to no longer be available there. The DVD release contains both Japanese and English audio tracks. That said, it looks as if the series only received one Region 1 DVD release, constituting 15 of the 74 episodes.

          As such, you may be better off tracking down the manga. Keep in mind that Urusawa can be long-winded and digressive, letting scenes and character arcs unwind at a leisurely pace. That said, he’s a masterful visual storyteller who knows how to play to (and against) audience expectations. Any of his major works (seriously, Pluto is awesome) are worth checking out.

  6. If you haven’t read the manga or watched the anime yet, please do. You won’t be disappointed.

  7. …I love Del Toro…

  8. Really REALLY wish he would consider doing Hellboy 3 first instead…Perlman isn’t getting any younger ;)

  9. You are probably aware that most directors are guilty of this. Have an idea, draft it as a script, then put it in front of producers as a pitch. The producers are awed by the idea and greenlight it, then said script is in production. This is the steps taken since the original black and white features were made.

    Now in the year of 2013, we are facing the studio production machine known as Hollywood that announces productions before a director, producer, or actor are attached. And it’s listed on IMDB with just a title (are you aware anyone can create a movie listing?). They become subject of a Extra, Access Hollywood, or Youtube fan report before any real thought is given to the budget, and any real work is done. Forum discussion sites like this theorize on every facet of the movie like it’s all set in stone. An April Fools inspired report can set off all kinds of conjecture, rumors can catch and be reported on legitimate sites, and the business side can change instantly when the idea of a movie’s risk becomes to great and the studio deadlocks (Deadpool, Supermax: Green Arrow, or Justin Marks version of Masters of The Universe). Hollywood is finicky. And hundreds of movies get knocked out of production each year, but because it’s someone like fan favorite Del Toro, who has had several productions fall apart it gets derided as someone whose reach often outstrips his grasp. I think the argument to be made is Hollywood often fails it’s creators, not the other way around. The Hobbit would have had Guillermo as it’s director if it hadn’t had it’s budget get held hostage for over a year.

  10. This would only be the second time HBO has broadcast a series based on a comic book (the first being the 1989 version of Tales from the Crypt).
    …how about Spawn?

    • Sorry, I took that comment out of context – thought it meant animated adaptation until I re-read it.

      • Actually, I managed to completely forget about Spawn in the initial write-up — something that blows me away, given how much I liked that series back in the day.

  11. Never read the Manga but it sounds a lot like Dexter. Maybe HBO green lighted it bcuz how successful Dexter was and they wanted to air a Serial Killer series before ShoTimes airs another one. However I could be very wrong bcuz I know nothing about this “Monster” series. I sure hope it has all the suspense Dexter has.

    • Actually ‘Monster’ theme is more like LOST and Silence of the Lamb. When I first read the manga, it amazed me since I’ve never expected that there is this type of story telling in manga, because normally if you read manga, you will expect the story of a boy’s journey to save the world.

      But this manga is extraordinaire and classy . It started with these on its first page:

      “One day, Dr Kenzo Tenma ignored his boss’s order and executed humanitarian rescue of a man’s child. This is how the horrible story begins. Dusseldorf, West German, 1986″

      “Then I saw one beast came out of the ocean. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
      To have power to give to the beast, the dragon was worshipped by all people. the people worshipped the beast as well and said : who can become
      like this beast? who can become oppose the beast and fight him?”
      Johannes apocalypse ch13:1-4

      So the main storyline would be Dr Tenma’s journey, trying to hunt Johann the new Hitler, investigate his origin, motive, and strategy. Reading Monster is like trying to piece a large puzzle. You felt thrilling, frightened and disgust at the same time.

      It’s a good thing they made it into Mini Series instead of Trilogy Movies due to its lengthy and complicated storyline. If I’m not mistaken Josh Olson(A History of Violence) planned to make the movie, but it was few years back. Still wonder why there is no development after that.

      I think they will altered the story a little, changing it from ‘Japanese living in German’ into ‘American living in German’ to make it more appeal to American viewers. Hopefully the transition into TV screen would be worthy to watch, like HBO GOT.

      • @Adrian, Nice! That was the response I was looking for. Other than people just saying it’s awesome, go read the manga.

        Yeah, from what it sounds like, it does fit more into Silence of the Lambs. This could be HBO’s response to counter Hannibal and HBO will indeed win. From what HBO has done with adapting books and comics (Game of Thrones & Spawn), they will do a beautiful job with this manga. I have full faith in HBO to get this job done with all the thrills and suspense. Can’t wait to see the 1st episode!

      • “you will expect the story of a boy’s journey to save the world.”

        Not always. The ones that grab mainstream attention do tend to be that way like One Piece or Naruto (though both have their charm). The classier mangas/animes tend to be very intricate pieces of art, especially when they delve into the sci fi and psychological genres case in point Ergo Proxy and Psycho Pass.

  12. Well aside from the first episode being a pretty poor reflection of how hospitals in the real world actually operate, seems like a brilliant idea for a story!

  13. Oh, wow! I really, really, hope this happens. Monster is a great comic, as well as 20th Century Boys.

  14. Did it ever push through? ;/ Monster is a really good series and it’s so disappointing if this doesn’t actually happen :(

  15. Has there been any news about this project recently? I am excited to see such a beautiful example of the seinen genre being explored by a genius like him.