Johan Liebert is the titular "monster" of Naoki Urasawa's anime and manga series Monster. Despite being the name he is referred to most as in the series, "Johan Liebert" is not his real name, but rather one of the many ones he's used over the course of his life.
Johan was shot in the head at a young age, but operated on and saved from death by Dr. Kenzo Tenma. Because of this, he was very grateful to Dr. Tenma. He has spent portions of his life in different locations under different aliases and possesses an extraordinary level of charisma and intelligence. He uses his gifts to cruelly manipulate and corrupt others, often with no apparent end other than to cause suffering and destruction. His original goal, as he stated when he was young, was to be the last one standing at the end of the world, although towards the height of his acts, he would decide upon a different fate.
Early life Edit
Johan Liebert and his twin sister Anna were the result of a eugenics experiment, the primary goal of which was to create a child who not only had an exceptionally high level of intelligence and a flawless appearance, but could also lead the human race. After their mother, Viera Cerná, was released from confinement, she moved her twins into the Three Frogs Building next to Cedok Bridge in Prague. Their mother dressed them similarly to hide the fact that she had twins.
On one fateful day, Bonaparta and his then assistant Peter Capek appeared to the family to inform them that they would be taking one of the twins to the Red Rose Mansion for experimentation; the other would stay at home. The catch was that Viera was the one who had to make the decision of which twin to give away. At first, she handed Johan over, but quickly changed her mind and gave Anna up instead. It is unknown whether or not she was aware of which child was which. This event would impact Johan for the rest of his life, and leave him questioning whether his mother was trying to protect him or had confused him for Anna.
Anna and Viera were both taken away, and Johan stayed at the Three Frogs by himself. While there alone, he spent a lot of time reading The Nameless Monster, a picture book written and illustrated by Franz Bonaparta under the pen name Emil Sebe which would come to drastically affect Johan in the future. When Anna escaped from the Red Rose Mansion and returned to the Three Frogs, Johan requested that she tell him of her experience. After listening to his sister's story, Johan walked away from the conversation believing that he was the one who had suffered through the events at the Red Rose Mansion.
Later, an unknown individual came to visit the twins to inform them that they would have to live on their own. Johan and Anna then burned down the Four Flags and ran away, directionless with no destination in mind. Some time later, they met a middle-aged couple who temporarily cared for them. One day, while playing in a field of grass, Johan told Anna that he had a plan; this plan was to kill their new caretakers and subsequently wander directionless once more.
On their journey with no destination, Johan and Anna would in time pass out from exhaustion in the mountains by the Czech-German border. A patrol officer by the name of Helmut Wolf rescued them from their near-death experience. He looked in Johan's bag and found one thing: a copy of The Nameless Monster. He decided to name the boy after the monster Johan in the book, and gave the girl the name Anna. Afterwards, he sent the twins to two separate orphanages — Anna to a place called Orphanage 47 and Johan to Kinderheim 511.
Kinderheim 511 massacre Edit
Kinderheim 511 was a secret, East German, experimental orphanage located in East Berlin, with the goal of creating perfect soldiers. When Johan arrived to Kinderheim 511, he was said to have already been beyond their program, naturally arousing the curiosity of the higher-ups and leading to Johan being forced to partake in an interview while under the effects of hypnosis and chemical treatment.
As time passed, Johan no longer desired to be in the orphanage. To escape, he formulated a plan: to take advantage of the tension within the orphanage, or "[throw] a scrap of cloth doused in oil onto an open flame" as he put it, by capitalizing on the hatred born when people come together. This would eventually lead the chaotic event that would forever taint Kinderheim 511's reputation. Fifty children and instructors fought and killed each either, all while Johan simply sat in a chair at the top of a staircase, watching with glee as the massacre ensued and the orphanage burned.
After the massacre was over, Johan found and saved a hungry and parched Christof Sievernich, with whom he formulated a plan and decided to reunite with roughly ten years later.
The Lieberts Edit
Johan and Anna would eventually come to be adopted by former East German foreign trade advisor Michael Liebert and his wife. Originally, the Lieberts only wanted to adopt Johan; however, Johan refused to go anywhere without his sister, so Anna too was adopted and given a place within the family. In April 1986, the four fled to West Germany, specifically the city of Düsseldorf.
Franz Bonaparta, who was living in the south German town of Ruhenheim under the name Klaus Poppe at the time, saw the twins on TV and decided to go pay them a visit. The Lieberts allowed him in, and he looked at twins while under the impression that they were sleeping. Johan, however, was not asleep and thought that Franz Bonaparta, who he coined a "monster", was going to seize hold of him and his sister again, supported by his later statement, "A monster came today... A monster came to take the two of us away." Consequently, killing the Lieberts was his idea of a protective measure. The gunshots woke Anna, and she found her parents' corpses as well as Johan standing armed in a nearby room. He gave Anna the gun, ordered her to shoot him in the head, wipe it afterward, and throw it out of the window afterwards. She followed Johan's request and pulled the trigger, subsequently entering a state of shock herself. The neighbors, who had woke up due to all of the gunshots, called the police. The authorities arrived shortly after and Johan, in critical condition at the time, was sent to Eisler Memorial Hospital to be operated on by Dr. Kenzo Tenma.
Eisler Memorial Hospital Edit
As Dr. Tenma was just about to begin surgery on Johan, he was contacted by the Eisler Memorial Hospital director Udo Heinemann, who demanded that the surgeon remove himself from the boy's operation and attend to Mayor Roedecker instead. After thinking of a similar previous incident he had regretted, Tenma ultimately decided to operate on Johan. Though Johan's surgery was successful, Tenma's decision to operate on the boy instead of Mayor Roedecker resulted in the latter's death. His decision also consequently lead to him being punished: he was stripped of his position and had any chances of career progress ruined.
Filled with rage, Tenma went to a presumably unconscious Johan to vent his anger. Proclaiming that he was not wrong and that Udo Heinemann was not a doctor, but rather a filthy money-mongerer, the angered surgeon wished death upon the Eisler Memorial director. Unbeknownst to Tenma, Johan was not only conscious, but also very gracious for the doctor's decision. As a result, using poisoned candy, Johan decided to repay his debt by granting Tenma his wish; he killed Udo Heinemann and two others, then disappeared from the hospital with Anna.
After escaping Eisler Memorial Edit
On the same day they escaped Eisler Memorial, Johan and Anna ran into Rheinhard Dinger, who had come into trouble with the authorities for attacking a man who was abusing his dog. Johan told the police that Dinger wasn't in the wrong, and that the dog abuser had attacked him first, saving him from potential jail time. Out of gratitude, Dinger offered to drive Johan to his home, but after discovering they he no home, he allowed Johan and Anna to stay at his apartment for a day or two. While eating dinner, Johan, Anna and Dinger watched the news. When Dinger muttered to himself about how depraved the world was and how "the scum should all die," Johan agreed with his notion, stating in agreeance, "We don't need... those people."
Sometime later, the twins traveled on to Heidelberg, where Johan left his amnesia-stricken sister in the care of the Fortners until 1995. Then, he went to Munich and stayed with a family under the name Franz Heineau from March of 1987 to April of 1988. He struck up a good relationship with a blind man who was a former soldier. The veteran told Johan war stories and, per his request, gave him his description of "ultimate fear". He also taught Johan French and English, which he had mastered by the end of that thirteen-month period. After this, Johan stayed with the Reichmanns in Köln for a year, the Schumanns in Hanover, a couple in Hamburg, and possibly Hanna Kemp.
Other Lieberts Edit
Next, Johan went to Bruntal, where he found a new family with the last name "Liebert"; coincidentally, they once had a son named Johan who died as a toddler, giving him the opportunity to jump into the deceased boy's identity. Following a convenient fire where the town's birth certificates were kept, the Lieberts were able to apply for a new application making it seem as though their son had never died. He provided his new family with a nice home in Offenbach Hessen.
Johan used the couple to prove he had an identity and ordinary background. Although he had established a family, Johan didn't spend much time with them. At the age of fifteen, he organized a money laundering business which became very prosperous and well-known in the German underworld. Towards the end of his career, he spent several months living with Halenka Novakova, who was baffled by the extraordinary similarities between Johan and her friend, Viera Cerna. Halenka was the victim of a phantom killing in 1995, presumably related to her association with Johan. Eventually he grew bored of the underground bank, so he took some money and abandoned it. With the president's disappearance and an inevitable end in sight, those involved lost control, wiping away what was left of the organization with a massacre.
Reunion with Dr. Tenma Edit
Starting in 1993 until he abandoned the bank, Johan hired serial killers around Germany to murder his former foster parents. One trio carrying out the executions involved Adolf Junkers and two of his partners.
In 1995, Johan betrayed the group; two were killed on the spot and Junkers was hit by a car after trying to run away, sustaining an injury to the head. He received treatment from Kenzo Tenma and made a miraculous recovery, until one night his paranoia caused him to run out of the hospital in terror. Tenma chased after him and they reached an abandoned building where Junkers was shot to death by Johan. As Johan left the premises, he was observed by Eva Heinemann.
Picking up Anna Edit
Johan went to pick his long-lost sister Anna up from Heidelberg in May of 1995. He began to interact with her anonymously via email, and informed her that he was going to pick up her soon. He would later monitor her as she met a young man named Otto Huberman. Anna, after having spotted him in a crowd from afar, began to question to herself who he was and subsequently fainted.
Some point later, Johan sent Anna a message requesting she meet him at Heidelberg Castle. He payed a gardener at the castle to make sure his sister didn't leave the premises, as he had something to do before he could arrive himself. Dr. Tenma would later arrive at the castle and escape with Anna, foiling Johan's plan.
Targeting the neo-Nazis Edit
Traveling to Frankfurt, Johan began to target an organization led by neo-Nazi leaders "the Baby", Professor Gunther Goedelitz, Peter Capek, and Helmut Wolf, who believed that he would become the next Adolf Hitler. Tenma, meanwhile, arrived in Frankfurt while investigating the murder of the Springers, a family Johan stayed with under the name Erich before arranging to have them killed by unnamed man.
Johan annihilated Goedelitz and his henchmen and left Anna a message telling her to meet him at the ruins of the Hilden & Engels warehouse in Romberg. He then left a message for Tenma on a water tower indicating that he may have split personalities. After these events, Johan left to enroll at the University of Munich.
Closing in on Schuwald Edit
Johan's plan in enrolling at the university was to get close to the former business tycoon Hans Georg Schuwald. If everything went according to the initial scheme, Schuwald would have ended up dead, allowing Johan to gain control over Germany's economy. First, he manipulated murderers to kill those close to Schuwald, creating an empty space he could fill with himself as one of the elder's Latin readers.
He began setting up Edmund Fahren to appear as Schuwald's son, but soon realized the tycoon's real son, Karl Neuman, was available and latched onto him instead, consequently putting Fahren up to suicide.
Private detective Richard Braun was hired to investigate the case, and after suspecting Johan began to draw connections between him and other unsolved murders. In retaliation for Richard's meddling, Johan met and took the man to a bar. There, masked as research for his college thesis, he began mentioning how Richard had executed a 17-year-old serial rapist and murderer named Stefan Jost while supposedly drunk. In conjunction with stating various sections from the "Treaty of Children's Rights", which put the detective in the wrong, Johan was able to rile up the man and suggested that the two take a walk for some fresh air, taking with him a bottle of whiskey. The two eventually made it atop a building roof, where Johan revealed that he knew Richard wasn't actually drunk when he shot and killed Stefan Jost, but rather was sober. After this revelation, Johan offered a then anxious Richard the bottle of whiskey he took from the bar. Richard was found dead the next morning.
Meanwhile, Johan was able to reunite Schuwald with his long-lost son; delighted, Schuwald made him his newly appointed secretary. Karl and Schuwald decided that because Johan had a broad understanding of economics, if anything ever happened to Schuwald he would occupy his position instead of Karl. Johan's plan had run smoothly, and all he had to do was ensure Schuwald's death at the book donation ceremony (which was to be done by Roberto).
While previewing the collection of books Schuwald was donating to the Munich University Library, Johan wandered off and found a copy of The Nameless Monster. Examining the picture book's contents triggered a sudden psychological reaction in him, which caused him to shriek and cry in agony. He was then admitted into a hospital and left the next morning after having recovered from his trauma.
At Schuwald's mansion, Johan was given a letter by Karl sent to him from the "Red Hindenburg", who he knew to be Blue Sophie; he also knew the purpose of the letter: Sophie was attempting to blackmail him in hopes of getting hush money. As a counter to this, Johan had Roberto form a relationship with Sophie in order to obtain her trust before going to meet her himself. He then went to a red-light district where she was located and conversed with her. She informed him of the various things she knew, ranging from his real name not being "Johan Liebert" to his scheme to kill Schuwald, and that if he were to leave, her "boyfriend" behind a door would come out and shoot him. In response, Johan asked her what she thought to be the most frightening thing, and followed up by stating, "I thought I had gotten to the darkest place in the world... but then... ahead of me... I saw an even darker blackness." Claiming to be done with Sophie, he began to leave the premises, revealing that he was no longer interested in Schuwald. To this, Blue Sophie ordered her boyfriend Roberto to come out, who, unbeknownst to her, was Johan's right-hand man. As Johan left the premises, Roberto killed the prostitute.
On the day of Schuwald's book donation ceremony, Johan had prepared to burn down the ceremonial room and had somehow convinced a woman to ignite a trail of oil to initiate his scheme. Unbeknownst to Roberto, who was initially supposed to ambush Tenma on the second floor of the room and use his sniper rifle to kill Schuwald, Johan had changed his mind and instead decided to give his goodbyes by showing the tycoon a scene from Hell. During the ceremony, as Johan aided Schuwald to the podium to make his speech, he whispered into the latter's ear, "Many, many people to see you... A huge flock of them." Schuwald picked up on the allusion and ordered all of the visitors to leave the building. It was too late, however, as Johan soon after cued for the swayed woman on the second floor to ignite the oil, thus setting all of the books alight and causing the visitors to panic and selfishly topple over each other.
As the books burned and the visitors tried to escape, Johan calmly stood on the staged with an equally fearless Schuwald, and informed the business tycoon that he no longer wanted to kill him. When Schuwald asked him where he was from, Johan peered into his decrepit eyes and answered Schuwald. He said he was born in a town straight out of a fairy tale, and that he and his other self were the only people in the word, nameless. This act and answer instilled fear into Schuwald, leaving him wide-eyed and frantically shaking. Shortly afterwards, out of the smoke and flames came Tenma. As hopped off the stage and began to walk towards the doctor, Johan pointed to his forehead, tempting Tenma to shoot him. Just as it seemed Tenma was going to perform the deed, Nina arrived and yelled out to the doctor, claiming that he musn't shoot Johan. Unfazed by his sister's presence, Johan simply walked by Tenma into the smoke and flames and disappeared.
Disguised as his sister Edit
Johan later embarked to Prague, where he established his identity as "Anna Liebert" and began emulating Nina by adopting her personality and sense of fashion. First, he murdered Reinhart Biermann, the headmaster of Kinderheim 511 before his enrollment, as he was in possession of a tape from Johan's youth located in an undisclosed safety deposit box. He then tracked Inspector Zeman and two of his subordinates, former members of the Czechoslovakian StB who were trying to obtain the tape for the purpose of selling it, to a factory setting where they were torturing Wolfgang Grimmer for information about the tape's location. Upon interrupting the interrogation, Johan (in his Anna disguise) shot one of the subordinates in the head, before apparently allowing Wolfgang Grimmer to kill the other two by manifesting his "Magnificent Steiner" persona.
Thereafter, Johan began to frequent a local bar, where he connected with Zeman's one-time protege, Detective Jan Suk, who was smitten with him (while in his Anna disguise). However, the courtship was merely a means to an end, as Johan killed Suk's boss and other corrupt policemen involved with the StB who were trying to obtain the tape using poisoned whiskey bonbons, in a manner similar to his previous poisonings, deflecting blame and suspicion for the murders onto Suk.
Johan's efforts to acquire the tape led him to Suk's mother, who allowed him to see it and copy over a message for Tenma. Meanwhile, in order to exonerate Grimmer from false suspicion of murdering Biermann, several of the orphans who were previously in his custody banded together to find the "mysterious blonde lady" and one of them, Milosh, found her. Under his Anna guise, Johan invited the boy back to his apartment and told the boy he should find his lost mother, but cruelly imparted that if he couldn't find her, then he had no place in the world; he then sent Milosh to look for his mother in a nearby red-light district, and it was only through Grimmer and Tenma's narrow intervention that the boy didn't commit suicide after failing to find his mother and witnessing several forms of human depravity along the way.
Before departing the city, Johan, with little else left to attend to in Prague, proceeded to burn down the Red Rose Mansion after giving a distant speech to his mother's portrait.
Destruction of the neo-Nazis Edit
Thereafter, he attended a high society gathering back in Germany, where Eva Heinemann, who had encountered him once before, pointed him out to Peter Capek, enabling his reunion with Christof Sievernich. In the weeks following their reunion, Johan manipulated multiple serial killers to murder three people to hide Christof's various scandals.
However, Johan had other matters to attend to as well, and proceeded to send the organization attempting to make him their leader into chaos and disarray. He presumably convinced a stripper named Carmen to garner the Baby's trust and then kill him. Johan would later visit a paranoid Capek at his villa in Idstein to determine Bonaparta's then current area of residence. Capek was able to supply him with the location of Bonaparta's son, Jaromir Lipsky.
Perfect suicide Edit
The last piece Johan needed to get rid of was Franz Bonaparta, but before doing so, he finally met with his sister and told her about all horrible experiences he had supposedly experienced at the Red Rose Mansion. Anna told him he was wrong, revealing to him that the story wasn't his to tell, as she was the one who witnessed the incident. He would then listen to his sister's story, which left him laughing, yet saddened and tearful all the same. He then left the site of he and Anna's reunion, as his sister was unable to shoot him after seeing the expression on his face.
Before executing his final plan, Johan visited Horst Grossman, the last remaining subordinate of Bonaparta aside from those in Ruhenheim. Horst greeted Johan with tea and asked him who they were going to kill next. In response, Johan pointed to his forehead and put a handgun on the table between him and Horst, provoking the latter to shoot him. As Horst took the provocation as a joke, Johan stopped pointing to his forehead and told his associate, "I've awakened from the dream." Angered by this revelation, Horst asked Johan what the purpose was for all of the money he had made and people he had killed. Johan then informed Horst that he had seen the end many times, but now could see a different scene—the true end—and knew where he needed to go. After further elaborating on his revelation, he then killed Horst and left the premises.
Following Grossman's death, he went to Ruhenheim and destroyed the town's peace by instigating a massacre. In the midst of it all, he visited a small cottage on the edge of the town where he found piles of drawings of him and Anna as children. According to his sister, who visited the same place shortly after, he had been crying as he sorted through the unfinished sketches.
Johan traveled back to the center of town to meet Bonaparta and Tenma. After arriving, he was immediately gunned down by Tenma, who was then ambushed and disarmed by Bonaparta from behind. Bonaparta then aimed the gun at Johan and suggested that the two die together. Before Bonaparta could shoot, he was executed by a gravely injured Roberto. Succumbing to his injuries, Roberto collapsed to the ground and requested that Johan let him see the scenery of the doomsday, to which he was inform that he couldn't.
With no one else left to interfere, Johan asked Tenma if he had finally realized that the only thing all humans are equal in is death. He then showed Tenma the scenery to the doomsday, which seemingly temporarily overwhelmed the doctor. Anna would then arrive to the scene and plead with Tenma not to shoot Johan. She then told her brother what she could do for him to forgive him. Johan rebuffed Anna's forgiveness, claiming that some things could never be amended and there was no turning back. He then tried to provoke Tenma into killing him by holding a gun to the head of a young boy, Wim Knaup, but instead was shot by the boy's alcoholic father, who described him a monster with seven heads and many horns.
The End Edit
With urging from both his sister Anna and Heinrich Lunge, Johan was operated on and saved yet again by Doctor Tenma. After having visited his mother, Tenma paid him a visit in the state police hospital, where he had been unconscious ever since the massacre. After being informed that he had name, Johan sat up and began talking to Tenma, retelling the story of his mother's choice and asking which child wasn't needed. It is unclear whether this was a hallucination that Tenma experienced or if it was actually real. Either way, Tenma gave no response and departed shortly after. Johan's fate following this is unclear, but his hospital bed is seen empty in the ending credits, ambiguously implying that he had escaped from the hospital to do as he pleases.
On the surface, Johan is a well-mannered, charismatic and compassionate young man. He possesses a myriad of favorable traits and can easily overwhelm individuals with his seemingly flawless nature, as seen with Hans Georg Schuwald, who described him as being "too perfect" and "not of this world". This makes it easy for him to make new allies and manipulate them into doing various deeds for him. With such skill in creating this façade of perfection and pureness, Johan can hide his true motives with ease.
Within this contrived exterior, however, Johan is a psychopath who callously delivers destruction and suffering to those who happen to fall prey to his schemes. Even before his tenure at Kinderheim 511, Johan still exhibited psychopathic tendencies. For example, most of his murders, both in childhood and adulthood, have been premeditated and calculated.
Johan is also a nihilist, believing there to be no meaning to life. He claims, "Most of this universe is 'death' anyways," and that to the universe, "most lives are just specks in a corner of the earth, gone in a flash". His fearlessness is a byproduct of his nihilism. While atop the roof of a building with Karl Neuman, Johan, with his eyes closed, effortlessly walked the edge of the building. He also has a habit of pointing to his for head to provoke key individuals into shooting him.
Sadism seems to be a trait Johan possesses as well, as he sometimes makes his victims experience the worst possible loss and suffering rather than actually killing them himself; this experience tends to lead to the victim killing themselves, however. Helmut Wolf is a known victim of Johan's sadism; instead of simply being killed, Wolf was forced to watch as all of his close relatives and acquaintances died, one after another, all so he could feel what Johan felt – solitude. The orphan Milosh was also a potential victim of this. Disguised as his sister Anna, Johan sent Milosh on a quest to a German red-light district to find his mother. He told Milosh that if no one called out to him, it meant that he was never wanted, and then subsequently asked him what he would do in the advent of this realization.
The root of Johan's actions and general high level of psychopathy is unknown. Though he was sent to the experimental orphanage of Kinderheim 511, Mr. Hartmann informed Tenma that, "[Kinderheim 511] couldn't possibly create a masterpiece like him! He was more than human... He was a monster ever since the beginning." Neither of his parents seemed to suffer from psychopathy or any other mental illnesses. Anna, despite being the twin to experience the horrible events at the Red Rouse Mansion, turned out to be a genuinely loving and caring. However, while she was able to suppress her memories of the Red Rouse Mansion, Johan took her memories as his own, coming to believe that he was the one to experience the events. After the Ruhenheim massacre, while convalescing in a state hospital from his second operation, Johan revealed to Tenma, through unknown means, his memory of his mother's decision, revealing that said memory affected him profoundly.
Johan's main attribute is his genius-level intelligence. His elementary and middle school teachers remarked that he maintained good grades. While investigating Johan, Richard Braun also deduced that he had a reputation of being at the top of his class with perfect grades at the gymnasium (school) he went to. He is also multilingual; in addition to the Latin he learned while volunteering as one of Schuwald's readers, at twelve years of age, Johan was also able become fluent in both English and French within a thirteen-month period. At the age of only fifteen, he started and presided over an underground bank, a feat requiring a good understanding of both mathematics and economics. Schuwald's conclusion is further proof of Johan's vast understanding of economics: he decided that if anything were to happen to him, Johan would take over his place as opposed to Karl Nueman, his own son.
He possesses monstrous charisma and an inhuman prowess for manipulation. He is highly proficient at analysis and deduction, especially when it comes to the human psyche, and can gain direct access to people's core, hitting their weak spots, acknowledging their worth, and figuring out their mental processes, with manipulation being easy thereafter. What he's especially good at is unlocking the 'monster' in other people, bringing out their inner darkness and making them accept it like he has.