Blu-Ray Spotlight: Monster

Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s latest film gets a US release from Well Go USA.

celluloid consommé
4 min readApr 9, 2024
Box and disc art photo courtesy of Well Go USA.

Well Go USA adds a genuine masterpiece to its home video collection this month with Kore-Eda’s Monster. Despite Well Go’s tendencies to align with genre cinema the exception of adding a Kore-Eda drama is a big addition to its repertoire. Monster sees director Kore-Eda and writer Yuji Sakamoto collaborating symbiotically on a story told through different perspectives. Though Rashomon is the primary inspiration for its structuring, Sakamoto’s character writing focuses on the children’s perspective in Minato (Soya Kurokawa) and Yori’s (Hinata Hiiragi) relationship at school in a small Japanese town.

Saori (Sakura Ando) hears from her son Minato that he’s being bullied at school by his teacher Hori (Eita Nagayama) with injuries to show for it. After a meeting at the school raises more questions, Saori’s concern grows heavier until she decides to withdraw Minato from the school. But as teacher Hori’s perspective of events sheds light on what was previously unknown, then Minato’s and the school principal’s (Yûko Tanaka), each experience fills our understanding of what has really happened.


Still courtesy of Well Go USA.

Monster is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 with an AVC disc encoding. The film was shot digitally and finished in 4K, so naturally its visual presentation can be sharp and vibrant. Its darker scenes lose definition in the usual encoding Well Go USA uses, leading to some banding in black levels here and there.

Still courtesy of Well Go USA.

Brighter shots come across cleaner and less muddy, although this muddiness may be intentional due to the thematic nature of the film. Landscapes bathed in daylight are lent the artistry of paintings, sometimes more alluring than what is transpiring in the foreground with its frequent boasting of color usage that varies in such brilliant ways.


Still courtesy of Well Go USA.

Well Go USA’s presentation of Monster comes in a very nice dynamic package that complements its visual radiance. The disc offers both an original Japanese language track and an English dub, both in either DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or standard 2.0 stereo. Despite my insistence on the original language track I switched between the Japanese and English options and other than the obvious language difference the mix remains virtually the same. If subtitles pose an issue for watching the option is there.

The sonic range of Monster comes about in a very robust presentation and while it’s not a flashy action or horror flick, its use of surround is more than satisfying to establish a sense of space and immersion. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s final score rings beautifully in both mixes, extending his piano sound beyond its audible limitations. Low and midrange notes have the effect of strings and horns, the high end giving the score a thinner, more percussive weight that brings enough attention to its timbre to enhance the subjects on or behind the screen.

The prominence in the film’s final mix expands the late Sakamoto’s beautiful minimalistic score into an infallible character. Dialogue comes through strong and perfectly intelligible throughout. Amongst all the offerings I’ve seen from Well Go USA, their audio/video work on this release is the strongest I’ve seen yet.

Special Features

Still courtesy of Well Go USA.

Sadly, this release of Monster comes with only the film’s theatrical trailer. As with other Well Go USA’s releases this comes loaded with other trailers for their prior and future releases, which will play both on first bootup and after playing Monster’s trailer from the menu.

Final Thoughts

Still courtesy of Well Go USA.

The decision to add Monster to your library will depend on the strength of the film within Kore-Eda’s filmography or adding to a growing library of his films at home, perhaps even attraction to the unique Japanese dramas written by Yuji Sakamoto. Based solely on the merits of the movie on Well Go USA’s disc this is a must buy especially at their affordable price point.

If only there were some extras to speak of other than the Japanese deluxe Blu-Ray release that has some deleted scenes, that would sweeten the pot but from a combination of what this film brings and the fact that this is currently the only western release of Monster on physical media Well Go USA’s disc comes very highly recommended.

Disclaimer: Well Go USA has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.