|“||There’s nothing special about being born. Not a thing. Most of the universe is just death, nothing more. In this universe of ours, the birth of a new life on some corner of our planet is nothing but a tiny, insignificant flash. Death is a normal thing. So why live?||”|
Johan Liebert is the titular "monster" and the main antagonist of Naoki Urasawa's anime and manga series Monster. Although he is most frequently referred to as "Johan Liebert," Johan is not his real name, but rather one of the many ones he uses over the course of his life.
Johan is shot in the head at a young age, but is operated on and saved from death by Dr. Kenzo Tenma. Because of this, he is 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 states when he is young, is to be the last one standing at the end of the world, though he decides upon a different fate toward the height of his acts.
Early life Edit
|“||I was born in a town on February 7th that was straight out of a fairy tale. Many people died there, and when I walked away I held hands with my other self. To me it seemed like if we were the only two people in the world. Neither one of us possessed a real name.||”|
–Johan recounting his childhood
Johan Liebert and his twin sister, Anna, were born as the result of a eugenics experiment orchestrated by Franz Bonaparta, the primary goal of which was to create a child who had not only an exceptionally high level of intelligence and a flawless appearance, but who could also lead the human race.
After Johan's mother, Viera Černá, is released from confinement, she and the twins move into the Three Frogs Building next to Čedok Bridge in Prague. Černá dresses both of her children as identical girls to make it appear as though she has a single child, rather than twins. The family leads a very quiet life, and most of their neighbors hardly take notice of them.In 1981, Franz Bonaparta and his then-assistant Peter Čapek appear before the family to inform them that one of the twins will be taken to the Red Rose Mansion for experimentation; the other will stay at home. Bonaparta stages the situation such that Černá is the one who has to make the decision of which twin to give away. At first, she hands over Johan, but quickly changes her mind and gives up Anna instead. It is unknown whether or not she is aware which child is which. This event impacts Johan for the rest of his life, leaving him to question whether his mother was trying to protect him or had confused him for Anna.
Anna and Černá are both taken away, and Johan stays at the Three Frogs by himself. Alone, he spends time reading The Nameless Monster, a picture book written and illustrated by Franz Bonaparta under the pen name Emil Sebe. When Anna escapes from the Red Rose Mansion and returns to the Three Frogs, Johan asks her to describe the experience. Eventually, Johan confuses the information relayed by his sister for his own experiences, and comes to believe that he was the one who suffered through the events at the Red Rose Mansion.An individual visits and informs the twins that they will have to live on their own. Johan and Anna then burn down the Three Frogs and run away, directionless with no destination in mind. Sometime later, the twins meet a middle-aged couple who give them sandwiches and contemplate taking them into their care. While playing in a field of grass in front of the couple, Johan tells Anna that he has a plan: to kill their new caretakers and subsequently wander directionless once again.
On their journey, Johan and Anna in time pass out from exhaustion in the mountains by the Czech-German border. A patrol officer named Helmut Wolf rescues them from their near-death experience. He looks in Johan's bag and finds only one thing: a copy of The Nameless Monster. He decides to name the boy Johan after the monster in the book, and gives the girl the name Anna. Afterwards, he sends them 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 arrives at Kinderheim 511, he is said to have already been beyond their program, naturally arousing the curiosity of the higher-ups and leading to a forced interview while under the effects of chemical treatment.
In time, Johan no longer desires to be at the orphanage. To escape, he formulates a plan: He will take advantage of the tension within the orphanage, or "[throw] a scrap of cloth doused in oil onto an open flame" as he puts it, by capitalizing on the hatred born when people come together. This eventually leads to the chaotic event that forever taints the reputation of Kinderheim 511. Fifty children and instructors fight and kill each either, all while Johan simply sits in a chair at the top of the main staircase, watching calmly as the massacre ensues and the orphanage burns.
The Lieberts Edit
Johan and Anna are then adopted by former East German foreign trade advisor Michael Liebert and his wife. Originally, the Lieberts only want to adopt Johan. He, however, refuses to go anywhere without his sister, so Anna too is adopted and given a place within the family. In April 1986, the four flee to West Germany, specifically to the city of Düsseldorf.
Franz Bonaparta, who is living in the south German town of Ruhenheim under the name Klaus Poppe, sees the twins on TV and decides to pay them a visit. The Lieberts allow him in, and he looks at twins while under the impression that they are sleeping. Johan, however, is not asleep and thinks that Franz Bonaparta, whom he has coined a "monster," is 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." He consequently kills the Lieberts. The gunshots wake Anna, and she finds her parents' corpses as well as Johan standing armed in a nearby room. He gives Anna the gun, then orders her to shoot him in the head, wipe the gun after, and throw it out of the window. She follows through with Johan's request and pulls the trigger, subsequently entering a state of shock herself. The neighbors, who have woke up due to all of the gunshots, call the police. The authorities arrive shortly after and Johan, in critical condition at the time, is sent to Eisler Memorial Hospital to be operated on by Dr. Kenzo Tenma.
Eisler Memorial Hospital Edit
As Dr. Tenma is just about to begin surgery on Johan, he is contacted by the Eisler Memorial Hospital director, Udo Heinemann, who demands that he 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 decides to operate on Johan. Although Johan's surgery is successful, Tenma's decision to operate on him instead of Mayor Roedecker results in the latter's death. His decision also consequently leads to him being punished: He is stripped of his position and has any chances of career progress ruined.
Filled with rage, Tenma approaches a presumably unconscious Johan to vent his anger. Proclaiming that he was not wrong and that Udo Heinemann is not a doctor, but rather a filthy money-mongerer, the angered surgeon wishes death upon the Eisler Memorial director.[ Unbeknownst to him, Johan is not only conscious, but also very grateful for Tenma's decision. As a result, Johan, using poisoned candy, decides to repay his debt by granting Tenma his wish: He kills Udo Heinemann, along with Dr. Oppenheim and Dr. Boyer, then disappears from the hospital with Anna.
After escaping Eisler Memorial EditOn the same day that they escape from Eisler Memorial Hospital, Johan and Anna run into Rheinhard Dinger, who has come into trouble with the authorities for attacking a man whom he saw abusing his dog. Johan tells the police that Dinger isn't in the wrong, and that the dog abuser had attacked him first, saving him from potential jail time. Out of gratitude, Dinger offers to drive Johan and Anna to their home, but, after discovering they have no home, allows the two to stay at his apartment for a couple of days. Johan, Anna, and Dinger watch the news while eating dinner. When Dinger mutters to himself about how depraved the world is and how "the scum should all die," Johan agrees with his notion, stating, "We don't need... those people," a comment that marks the start of Dinger's career as a murderer. 
Sometime later, the twins travel to Heidelberg, where Johan leaves his amnesia-stricken sister in the care of the Fortners until 1995. Then, he goes to Munich and stays with a family under the name Franz Heineau from March of 1987 to April of 1988, where he strikes up a good relationship with a blind man and former soldier. The veteran tells Johan war stories and, per his request, gives him his personal description of "ultimate fear." He also teaches Johan French and English, which he masters by the end of the thirteen-month period. Johan then stays 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 goes to Bruntal, where he finds a new couple with the last name "Liebert." Coincidentally, they once had a son named Johan who died as a toddler, which gives Johan the opportunity to jump into the deceased boy's identity. Following a convenient fire where the town's birth certificates are kept, the Lieberts are able to apply for a new application making it seem as though their son never died. Johan provides his new family with a nice home in Offenbach Hessen.
Johan uses the couple to prove he has an identity and ordinary background. Although he has established a family, however, he doesn't spend much time with them. At the age of fifteen, Johan organizes a money laundering business which becomes very prosperous and well-known in the German underworld. Towards the end of his career, he spends several months living with Halenka Novakova, who is baffled by the extraordinary similarities between Johan and her friend Viera Černá. Novakova is the victim of a phantom killing in 1995, presumably related to her association with Johan. Eventually Johan grows bored of the underground bank, so he takes an amount of money and abandons it. With the president's disappearance and an inevitable end in sight, those involved lose control, wiping away what is left of the organization with a massacre.
Reunion with Dr. Tenma Edit
From 1993 until he abandons the bank, Johan begins hiring serial killers around Germany to murder his former foster parents. One trio carrying out the executions involves Adolf Junkers and two of his partners.
In 1995, Johan betrays the group; two are killed on the spot and Junkers is hit by a car after trying to run away, sustaining an injury to the head. He receives treatment from Kenzo Tenma and makes a miraculous recovery, until one night his paranoia causes him to run out of the hospital in terror. Tenma chases after him and they reach an abandoned building. There, Junkers is shot to death by Johan, leaving Tenma severely shocked. As Johan leaves the premises, he is observed by Eva Heinemann..
Picking up Nina Edit
Johan goes to pick up his long-lost sister, who now goes by the name of Nina, from Heidelberg in May 1995. He begins to interact with her anonymously via email, and informs her that he is going to pick up her soon. He later monitors her as she meets with a young man named Otto Huberman, whom she believes to be the anonymous sender. Nina, after spotting Johan's figure in the crowd from afar, begins questioning who he is and subsequently faints.
Later, Johan sends Nina a message requesting that she meet him at Heidelberg Castle. He hires two corrupt cops, Detective Messener and Michael Müller, to kill the Fortners while Nina is out. He also pays a gardener at the castle to make sure she doesn't leave the premises, as he has something to do before he can arrive himself. Dr. Tenma later arrives at the castle and escapes with Nina, foiling Johan's plan.
Targeting the neo-Nazis Edit
Traveling to Frankfurt, Johan begins to target an organization led by neo-Nazi leaders "the Baby", Professor Gunther Goedelitz, Peter Čapek, and Helmut Wolf, who believe that he will become the next Adolf Hitler.Tenma, meanwhile, arrives in Frankfurt investigating the murder of the Springers, a family Johan stays with under the name Erich before arranging to have them killed by unnamed man.
Johan annihilates Goedelitz and his henchmen and leaves Nina a message telling her to meet him at the ruins of the Hilden & Engels warehouse in Romberg. He then leaves a message for Tenma on a water tower that reads "Sehen Sie mich! Sehen Sie mich! Das Monstrum in meinem Selbst ist so groß geworden!"  After these events, Johan leaves to pose as a law student at the University of Munich.
Closing in on Schuwald Edit
Johan's plan in attending the university is to get close to the former business tycoon Hans Georg Schuwald. In his initial scheme, Johan intends for Schuwald to ultimately end up dead, which will then allow him to gain control over Germany's economy. First, he manipulates murderers to kill those close to Schuwald, creating an empty space he can fill with himself as one of the elder's Latin readers.He begins setting up Edmund Fahren to appear as Schuwald's son, but soon realizes that the tycoon's real son, Karl Neuman, is available and latches onto him instead, consequently putting Fahren up to suicide.
Private detective Richard Braun is hired to investigate the case of Fahren's suicide, and, after suspecting Johan, begins to draw connections between Johan and other unsolved murders. In retaliation to Richard's meddling, Johan meets with and takes him to a bar. There, masked as research for his college thesis, he begins mentioning how Richard executed a seventeen-year-old serial rapist and murderer named Stefan Jost while supposedly drunk. In conjunction with stating various sections from the on the Rights of the Child, which put the detective in the wrong, Johan is able to rile up Richard and suggests that the two go on a walk for some fresh air, taking with him a bottle of whiskey. The two eventually make it to the top of a building roof, where Johan reveals that he knew Richard wasn't actually drunk when he shot and killed Stefan Jost, rather that he was sober. He further provokes Richard by questioning how his daughter, whom he is supposed to see the next day for the first time in years, would feel about this information. After this revelation, Johan offers a then-anxious Richard the bottle of whiskey he took from the bar. Richard is found dead the next morning.
Meanwhile, Johan is able to reunite Schuwald with his long-lost son; delighted, Schuwald makes Johan his newly-appointed secretary. Karl and Schuwald decide that because Johan has a broad understanding of economics, if anything were to happen to Schuwald he would occupy his position instead of Karl. Johan's plan had run smoothly up until that point, and all he had to do was ensure Schuwald's death at the book donation ceremony (which would be carried out by Roberto).
While previewing the collection of books Schuwald is donating to the Munich University Library, Johan, on a sudden urge, wanders off and finds a copy of The Nameless Monster. Examining the picture book's contents triggers a sudden psychological reaction in him, which causes him to shriek and cry in agony. He is then admitted into a hospital and leaves the next morning. In Another Monster, it is suggested that after Johan encounters The Nameless Monster, he abandons his plans with both Schuwald and Sievernich, and his focus shifts to uncovering his past.
At Schuwald's mansion, Johan is given a letter by Karl sent to him from the "Red Hindenburg," whom he knows to be Blue Sophie. Blue Sophie has been posing as Margot Langer (Halenka Novakova, Schuwald's former lover), and met Johan when he visited her with Edmund Fahren. Johan knows the purpose of the letter: Sophie has been attempting to blackmail him in hopes of getting hush money for his connection to the deaths of Fahren and several others. As a counter to this, Johan has had Roberto form a relationship with Sophie in order to obtain her trust before going to meet her himself. He goes to the red-light district where she is located and converses with her. She informs him of the various things she knows, ranging from his real name not being "Johan Liebert" to his scheme to kill Schuwald, threatening that if he is to leave, her "boyfriend" behind the door will come out and shoot him. In response, Johan asks her what she thinks to be the most frightening thing, and follows 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 begins to leave the premises, revealing that he is no longer interested in Schuwald. To this, Sophie orders her boyfriend Roberto to come out, who, unbeknownst to her, is Johan's right-hand man. As Johan leaves the premises, Roberto kills the prostitute.
On the day of Schuwald's book donation ceremony, Johan prepares to burn down the ceremonial room and somehow convinces 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 changes his mind and instead decides to give his goodbyes by showing the tycoon a scene from Hell. During the ceremony, as Johan aides Schuwald to the podium to make his speech, he whispers into the Schuwald's ear, "Many, many people to see you... A huge flock of them." Schuwald picks up on the allusion and orders all of the visitors to leave the building. It is too late, however, as Johan soon after cues 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 burn and the visitors try to escape, Johan calmly stands on the stage with an equally fearless Schuwald, and informs the tycoon that he no longer wants to kill him. When Schuwald asks him where he is from, Johan peers into his decrepit eyes and answers him, saying that 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 world, nameless. This act and answer instills fear into Schuwald, leaving him wide-eyed and frantically shaking. Shortly afterwards, out of the smoke and flames comes Tenma. As he gets off the stage and begins to walk towards the doctor, Johan points to his forehead, tempting Tenma to shoot him. Just when it seems Tenma is going to perform the deed, Nina arrives and yells out to him, claiming that he must not shoot Johan. Unfazed by his sister's presence, Johan simply walks by Tenma into the smoke and flames and disappears.
Disguised as his sister Edit
Johan later embarks to Prague, where he establishes his identity as "Anna Liebert" and begins emulating Nina by adopting her personality and sense of fashion. First, he murders 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 tracks down Inspector Zeman and two of his subordinates, former members of the Czechoslovakian StB who are 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) shoots one of the subordinates in the head, before apparently allowing Wolfgang Grimmer to kill the other two by manifesting his "Magnificent Steiner" persona.
Johan thereafter begins to frequent a local bar, where he connects with Zeman's one-time protege, Detective Jan Suk, who is smitten with him (while in his Anna disguise). However, the courtship is merely a means to an end, as Johan, using poisoned whiskey bonbons, kills Suk's boss and other corrupt policemen involved with the StB who having been trying to obtain the tape in a manner similar to his previous poisonings, deflecting blame and suspicion for the murders onto Suk.
Johan's efforts to acquire the tape lead him to Suk's mother, who allows 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 band together to find the "mysterious blonde lady," and one of them, Milosh, is successful. While acting under his Anna guise, Johan invites the boy back to his apartment and tells him he should find his lost mother, but cruelly imparts that if he cannot find her, then he had no place in the world; he then sends 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 does not 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, proceeds to burn down the Red Rose Mansion after giving a distant speech to his mother's portrait. He then encounters Hermann Fuhr and tells him about his scenery for a doomsday.
Destruction of the neo-Nazis Edit
Thereafter, Johan attends a high society gathering back in Germany, where Eva Heinemann, who has encountered him once before, points him out to Peter Čapek , enabling his reunion with Christof Sievernich.In the weeks following their reunion, Johan manipulates multiple serial killers to murder three people in order to cover up Christof's various scandals.
However, Johan has other matters to attend to as well, and proceeds to send the organization attempting to make him their leader into chaos and disarray. A stripper named Carmen garners the Baby's trust and then kills him, though it unknown whether she was hired by Johan or Christof, as the latter was on bad terms with the Baby. Johan then visits a paranoid Čapek at his villa in Idstein to determine Bonaparta's current area of residence. Čapek is able to supply him with the location of Bonaparta's son, Jaromír Lipsky.
Perfect suicide Edit
|“||I woke up from the dream. There were so many visions I had of the end, but now I’m picturing a different ending altogether. A clearer vision of the true end.||”|
After abandoning his plans, the last piece Johan needs to get rid of is Franz Bonaparta; before doing so, however, he finally meets with his sister and tells her about all horrible experiences he had supposedly underwent at the Red Rose Mansion. Nina tells him that he is wrong, revealing to him that the story is not his to tell, as she is the one who went to the mansion. He then listens to his sister's story, which leaves him laughing, yet saddened and tearful all the same. He leaves site of his and sister's reunion, as Nina is unable to shoot him after seeing the expression on his face.
Before executing his final plan, Johan visits Horst Grossman, his last remaining subordinate. Grossman greets Johan with tea and asks him who they are going to kill next. In response, Johan points to his forehead and puts a handgun on the table between him and Grossman, provoking the latter to shoot him. As Grossman takes the provocation as a joke, Johan stops pointing to his forehead and tells his associate, "I've awakened from the dream." Angered by this revelation, Grossman asks Johan what the purpose was of all the money he made and people he killed. Johan then informs Grossman that he has seen the end many times, but now can see a different scene—the true end—and knows where he needs to go. After further elaborating on his revelation, he then kills Grossman and leaves the premises.Following Grossman's death, Johan goes to Ruhenheim and destroys the town's peace by instigating a massacre. In the midst of it all, he visits a small cottage on the edge of the town where he finds piles of drawings of himself and his sister as children. According to Nina, who visits the same place shortly after, he had been crying as he sorted through the unfinished sketches.Johan travels back to the center of town to meet Bonaparta and Tenma. After he arrives, Tenma immediately takes aim, but is then ambushed and disarmed by Bonaparta from behind. Bonaparta then aims the gun at Johan and suggests that the two die together. Before Bonaparta can shoot, he is executed by a gravely injured Roberto. Succumbing to his injuries, Roberto collapses to the ground and requests that Johan allow him to see the scenery of the doomsday, to which he is informed that he is not able to see it.
With no one else left to interfere, Johan asks Tenma if he has finally realized that the only thing all humans are equal in is death. He then shows Tenma the scenery of the doomsday, which Tenma is temporarily overwhelmed by. Nina arrives on the scene and pleads with Tenma not to shoot Johan. She then tells her brother that she forgives him. Johan, however, rebuffs her forgiveness, claiming that some things can never be amended and there is no turning back. He then tries to provoke Tenma into killing him by holding a gun to the head of a young boy, Wim Knaup, but instead is shot by the boy's alcoholic father, who describes him a monster with seven heads and many horns.
The End EditWith urging from both Nina and Heinrich Lunge, Johan is operated on and saved yet again by Dr. Tenma. After having visited Johan's mother, Tenma pays him a visit in the state police hospital, where he has been unconscious ever since the massacre. Tenma informs Johan that he had a name, and he sits up and begins talking to Tenma, retelling the story of his mother's choice and asking which child wasn't needed. It is unclear whether this is a hallucination that Tenma experiences or if it is actually real. Either way, Tenma gives no response and departs shortly thereafter. 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 describes 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 callously delivers destruction and suffering to those who happen to fall prey to his schemes. Even before his tenure at Kinderheim 511, Johan still exhibits psychopathic tendencies. For example, most of his murders, both in childhood and adulthood, have been premeditated and calculated.
Many of Johan's beliefs run consistent with nihilism, as he does not see any meaning to life. He claims, "Most of this universe is 'death' anyway," and that to the universe, "most lives are just specks in a corner of the earth, gone in a flash".
Johan also has a tendency to make his victims experience the worst possible loss and suffering rather than actually killing them himself; this experience often leads to the victims killing themselves, however. Helmut Wolf is a prime example of this; instead of simply being killed, Wolf is forced to watch as all of his close relatives and acquaintances die, one after another, all so he can feel what Johan felt – solitude. The orphan Milosh provides another instance of this tendency. Disguised as his sister, Anna, Johan sends Milosh on a quest to a German red-light district to find his mother. He tells Milosh that if no one calls out to him, it means that he was never wanted, and subsequently asks him what he would do in the advent of this realization.
The root of Johan's actions is unknown. Although he was sent to the experimental orphanage of Kinderheim 511, Hartmann informs 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 Rose Mansion, turns out to be a genuinely loving and caring person. However, while she is able to suppress her memories of the Red Rose Mansion, Johan takes them as his own, coming to believe that he was the one who experienced them. After the Ruhenheim massacre, while convalescing in a state hospital from his second operation, Johan reveals to Tenma, through unknown means, his memory of his mother's decision, revealing that the said memory affected him profoundly.
Tenma saved Johan's life when he was a child, unaware of the villainy within him. Tenma would later spend several years (after a 9 year period of peace in Tenma's life, in which he is unaware that Johan was responsible for the Eisler Memorial Hospital murders) tracking down Johan out of guilt.
While the exact nature of their relationship is unknown, Fuhr's status as Bonaparte's superior pupil and Johan's connections to Bonaparte, intertwined their fates. The two have had only one known meeting, when Johan encountered Fuhr when he was burning down the Red Rose Mansion and showed him his scenery for a doomsday. This sparked Fuhr's desire to kill Eugan Molke and the events of Another Monster. Notably, Fuhr is one of the only people Johan has considered worthy to see his scenery for a doomsday and is the author of his favorite book.
Johan's possesses genius-level intelligence and he is capable of perfectly memorizing anything. His school teachers remark that he easily maintained perfect grades. While investigating Johan, Richard Braun also deduces that he had a reputation of being at the top of his class with perfect grades at the gymnasium (school) he went to. Johan is prodigiously brilliant in whatever he studies and has a natural aptitude for attaining new talents; picking up complicated skills quickly and retaining them. This is noted by Schuwald, when praising Johan's knowledge of law and economics, and by Karl, who notes that none could surpass Johan in anything. He is multilingual; in addition to the Latin he rapidly learns and masters while volunteering as one of Schuwald's readers, at twelve years of age, Johan is also able to become perfectly fluent in both English and French within a thirteen-month period. At the age of only fifteen, he starts and presides over an underground bank, a feat requiring perfect intuition and flawless intuitive understanding of mathematics, economics, trade, business, politics, management, and leadership. Schuwald's conclusion is further proof of Johan's vast understanding of economics: he decides that if anything is to happen to him, Johan will take over his place as opposed to Karl Neuman, his own son.
Johan has often been described as "beautiful" by various characters. He is physically and genetically perfect, he possesses a 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 instantly gain direct access to people's cores, hitting their weak spots, acknowledging their worth, and figuring out their mental processes, and manipulate them easily thereafter. He possess innate understanding/knowledge of psychology. He understand how the mind works to the smallest details. Allows him to detect lies, and perform perfect cold-readings. He can use it for various purposes, often changing the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, even abusive tactics. He could use it to help those with mental or emotional problems, but instead he use it to manipulate others into doing his bidding, even drive some to acts of murder or suicide. What he is especially good at is unlocking the "monster" in other people, bringing out their inner darkness and making them accept it like he has. He does not feel fear, guilt, regret, loneliness or pain. Johan leaves such a strong impression on people that he is able to convince legions to do whatever he wants, such as commit murder, play suicide games, or do other monstrous things after just a single encounter. According to Heinrich Lunge, this process is done by altering the fulcrum of someone's identity, like removing a map's coordinate axis. The more jumbled their "lines" become without that foundation, the more room he has to redraw or redefine their maps. He is a very eloquent speaker, orator, and story-teller, by nature he is incredibly persuasive and charming. Able to bring anyone to understand and feel for his viewpoint, even large audiences.
- Casa Brutus magazine had an issue featuring Naoki Urasawa's work. He ranked 6 in unsentimentalism and 1 in maturity.