Minato In ‘Monster,’ Explained: Why Does Minato’s Behavior Seem Strange To Saori?

In the first act of Monster, the sharp-witted mother, Saori Mugino, observes strange behaviors in her son, Minato, in a series of instances, starting with weird questions about pig brains, which he claims he got to know from his teacher, Mr. Hori, or Hori sensei. The second instance takes place when Saori finds that Minato has chopped off his hair after returning from school, following which he loses a sneaker. On one particular evening, Minato doesn’t even return home, which compels Saori to look for him. She rushes to the old railroad as soon as she receives information about her son’s whereabouts, only to find him alone in the dark, yelling gibberish. On their way back home, Minato makes an unusual conversation about his father and suddenly jumps out of the car, causing her to crash her car as well. While walking back from the hospital, Saori suspects that her son is being bullied at school after he says that he’s a monster and his brain has been switched with a pig. Saori decides to confront her son regarding the matter, at which Minato confesses that Hori sensei, their homeroom teacher at his school, is the aggressor.

Saori decides to make a complaint against the teacher to the school authorities, expecting a solution to the problem; however, the only compensation she receives is heartless apologies from the school board as well as Hori sensei. Much to her surprise, Hori even denies having hit her child. As a result, Saori keeps revisiting the school when Minato’s odd behavior continues to persist.

Spoilers Ahead


Was Minato Being Abused By His Teacher?

During one such visit by Saori, Hori claims that Minato was the one bullying not just his classmates but the young teacher as well, but these claims are nullified based on the testaments from the students. Only in the second act of the movie, which retells the events through the eyes of Michitoshi Hori, is it revealed that he is not the abuser at all. Hori Sensi, on the contrary, is an extremely kind and compassionate teacher who looks after his students. Upon further revelation, it is shown that Minato was indeed caught by Hori, who acted out and threw his classmates’ belongings into the corridor. Upon a swift intervention by Hori to stop Minato from doing so, the teacher’s hand accidentally hits his nose, making him nosebleed, thus fueling the rumors about Hori’s misbehavior. Regardless of his behavior, Hori sensei treats Minato with compassion and asks him to apologize to his classmates. After some time, the teacher catches Minato walking away after locking Yori Hoshikawa, his classmate, in a bathroom stall. Having gone through the allegations and his one-sided witch trial, Hori concludes that Minato was the actual aggressor all along, but even after desperate attempts, he is forced to resign from his position. Yet he does not feel any animosity towards the child.


Was Minato The Bully?

The ending of the second act reveals Minato’s association with Yori. As the now-ostracized Hori decrypts the cipher inside Yori’s homework, knowing Minato and Yori’s names, Hori realizes that he had been wrong about Minato all along and that the two children were close friends instead. The conclusion, however, leads to one of the most potent motifs in the movie when Saori and Hori climb atop the flipped railcar in search of the children—While the adults attempt to clear the dirt off the windowpane to gain a better view, the rain repeatedly muddies it again, blocking their vision until they finally slide it open. This scene, to me, symbolizes the adults’ perspectives tainted by pre-existing notions as they try to understand the children’s problems. Despite their best efforts to wipe the lens clean, it gets filthy again, rendering them blind. Perhaps the only way for us to comprehend their issues is to remove this lens altogether.


What Was Minato’s Association With Yori Then?

Minato’s actual motives are depicted in the third act during the final retelling of the events through Minato’s perspective. As a part of their mundane school life, it is seen that Minato and Yori indulge in a conversation while walking to their school. His classmates, however, interrupt the conversation, throwing Yori on the ground, scattering his belongings, and walking away, taking Minato with them. Failing to focus on Hori sensei’s lesson, Minato finds himself gazing at Yori, suggesting his curiosity about the boy, who gets assigned the same activity as Minato. During their time in the music room, Yori caresses Minato’s long hair, admitting that he did not expect to make a friend, to which Minato reluctantly admits seeing him as a friend but suggests not being seen in class together. Upon returning home, Minato cuts his hair off as if he wants to stop Yori’s disease from spreading to him. Following this moment, Minato and Yori keep getting closer and closer. Minato avoids associating with Yori in class to save himself from the mistreatment, all the while feeling sorry for Yori. During one such incident when Yori is being bullied for his effeminacy, Minato intervenes by acting out, maybe as a measure to grab everyone’s attention away from Yori, but gets caught by Hori sensei instead. The other events at the school also play out similarly when Hori sensei walks in on Minato. The two boys find themselves in a secret hideout inside the railcar, where they hang out and fill each other’s mundane lives with childish adventures as they grow closer.


How Does ‘Monster’ Portray Minato?

The movie observes the world through the eyes of a child standing at a juncture between his mother and the constraints of his newfound society while he begins an innocent journey of self-exploration. Minato is a sensitive 5th grader in modern-day Japan, which is still quite conservative on many social issues. Growing up in a heteronormative world, Minato suddenly feels drawn to a fellow boy and feels ashamed because of his own barriers while living in the closet. Similar to many closeted men caught in the crossfire between their masculinity and queerness, Minato ends up blaming Yori and himself for feeling this way, referring to himself as the Monster. To run away from the truth, Minato finds himself inside a web of emotional complexities. He even lies about his teacher out of convenience and a lack of understanding, because for him, it is easier than telling his mother about the actual reason for his strange behavior.


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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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