Monster Ending Explained & 2023 Film Summary: Why Did Minato Keep His Friendship With Yori A Secret?


Hirokazu Kore-eda’s international acclaim and reputation as a filmmaker focusing on the sensitivity of modern human lives have made him one of the most celebrated Japanese directors of these times. After staying away from his homeland and native language in the last two films, Kore-eda returns to Japan through Monster, which is undoubtedly one of his best works now. Centered around a series of incidents at a primary school, the film splits the perspectives of the main characters, slowly peeling away their perceptions of truth. Greatly moving and successfully leaving a profound effect, Monster is a must-watch for all global cinema viewers.

Spoiler Alert

What does Saori find out about her son?

Monster begins with a terrible fire in a building with a hostess club in it, with the whole neighborhood looking on with bated breath as the fire brigade responds with multiple trucks rushing to the scene. The fire is put out, and no casualties are reported, but the visuals of this fire and of the burning building will keep returning in the film, serving as an important event in the passage of time. In this first instance, we are introduced to Saori, a single mother living in the neighborhood, and her young son, Minato. The woman works hard at a local laundry business, providing for her son, with whom she is very close. But with Minato’s growing age, the boy has been going through some changes, which remain mysterious to Saori. She is concerned to find her child exhibiting some strange behavior, like when he cuts off his own hair or when he returns home with only one shoe out of the pair.

One night, Saori grows extremely tense when Minato does not return home, and she finds him inside a dark abandoned railway tunnel, shouting out a strange rhyme about being a monster. While returning, the boy even jumps out of the moving car before eventually breaking down. It is only after much effort that Saori manages to find out a name from her son—that of his teacher at school, Mr. Hori. The woman understands that her son has been hit by his teacher at school, leading to his erratic behavior, and she is quick to go to the school the next morning, looking for answers. Saori meets with the principal, Makiko Fushimi, and demands an answer from her regarding the matter on multiple occasions. However, the desperate mother only gets apologies in return, making her grow even more resolute to get justice for her son.

Whenever the school board brings Hori in front of Saori, the young teacher either claims that nothing wrong has happened or acts in a totally mechanical manner. The woman repeatedly comes to the school with her complaints, seeking punishment from the teacher, and she is even more shocked to find on one occasion that Hori has apparently pushed Minato down the stairs at school. This marks her last limit of patience, and the school board also fires Mr. Hori. However, unbeknownst to both sides at the time, the real truth is very different from what it seems, needing a shift in perspective to understand the whole matter.

Is Hori responsible for abusing Minato?

During one of the many meetings that Saori has with the school authorities, Michitoshi Hori, the homeroom teacher, claims that Minato has been bullying another student in the class, Yori Hoshikawa. Monster then goes on to shift the perspective of the events, moving to that of Hori, and we are taken back to the night of the fire, when he was out on a walk with his girlfriend. After running into a few of his students from school, Hori returns home with the woman, who has not been with him for too long. She complains that Hori should not focus on being a great teacher to the children and just do the jobs asked of him without getting too attached. Yet, this is the problem of Michitoshi Hori, for he is a genuinely good teacher and guide to the children, always with the best intentions to help them. Monster is a brilliantly complex film in this regard, for there is nobody, perhaps except for just one character, who can be blamed for the situation around them.

Hori is not responsible for abusing Minato, but rather, he has been careful and sensitive towards the young boy, just like with everyone else at school. The incident in which Minato had been smacked by the teacher had really been an accident, as his hand unintentionally hit the boy’s nose. There had also been a specific complaint from Saori that the teacher had abused her son, saying that his brain was that of a pig, suggesting that he was extremely unintelligent. But Hori had said none of this, and neither had Minato meant to say these things to his mother. He had only said that Mr. Hori had caused the injury to his nose, and the rest was all due to rumors and misconceptions.

Such rumors play an important role in the whole film as one of its themes, which lead to various misunderstandings and wrong notions being born of a character. Saori hears that Hori had been seen at the hostess club, which is an unwarranted smear on his morality. Hori hears his girlfriend say that single mothers are often overprotective towards their children, and he states the same with regards to Saori, which is utterly disrespectful. Later on, Hori hears a student say that Minato had been fiddling with the dead corpse of a cat, and he believes that the boy had killed the animal. A rumor about Principal Fushimi states that it was she who mistakenly ran over her grandson and then blamed it on her husband. Like with many other matters in the film, there is no proof of or against this rumor, but Saori still uses the statement to hurt the elderly woman where it hurts most.

One of the central ideas in Monster is that all of us keep searching for some external monsters to understand and come to terms with the emptiness and confusion of our own lives. Saori does not genuinely understand the emotional developments in her young son, and so she is in search of an external factor that is making him act this way. Hori himself is a shaky and sensitive character, often affected by the words and actions of people around him, and so he desperately goes in search of someone to save from bullies, which, in this instance, is Yori.

Over time, Hori starts to strongly believe that Minato is going extremely wayward, showing violent tendencies, and bullying other students in his class. He catches the boy behaving very erratically, throwing things around inside the classroom and creating a scene, and takes it to be an expression of his violent nature. When he later catches Minato and Yori fighting in class, Hori believes it to be proof of Minato bullying the other boy. Upon seeing the boy also lock Yori inside the toilet stalls at the school, Hori confirms his belief. It is not like the teacher grows angry or distrustful toward the young boy, for Hori is a sensible man with a very soft and helpful nature. He only wants to get close to Minato and make him understand his mistakes, but the boy does not give his teacher the space. Therefore, when the man keeps attempting his plan, Minato becomes scared that his teacher will punish him, and so he grows even more distant.

If anyone is to blame for the situation between Hori and Saori, it is the school authorities, who keep meddling in the matter, and in their efforts to solve it, they make it even worse. Hori is made to apologize to the parent without any proper inquiry into the events, and this further angers Saori, who is appalled by the insensitivity and ingenuity of the school authorities. Monster paints most of the characters in such a manner that it is not possible to blame them entirely. Even the school principal, who is grieving after the accidental death of her grandchild, only has the school to look forward to in life, and she tries to protect its image with all her might. But at the same time, all of the characters also have their own flaws, and they can all be held partly accountable for the chain of events.

After being fired from the job, Hori’s girlfriend leaves him, and he is also faced with harassment from the media and other neighbors. Still thinking about the effect of the incidents on Minato, Hori returns to the school, and in the heat of the moment, the boy slips and falls on the stairs, for which the teacher is blamed once again. Hori really considers throwing himself off the roof of the school to take his own life, but then the sound of trumpets makes him change his mind. It is only a couple of days later, amidst heavy rainstorms, that Hori finds the names of Minato and Yori together on one of their assignments and understands that the two were actually friends. By the time he rushes to Minato’s home to apologize, though, the boy is missing from the place, and Saori is immensely tensed.

Why did Minato keep his friendship with Yori a secret?

When Monster changes the perspective for a third time, this time shifting to that of Yori himself, it is revealed that he and Minato had actually become very close friends after initially coming close. Yori used to be bullied by some other boys in school, and this was mostly because of his more sensitive and slightly effete nature. In fact, Minato had constantly tried to stand by his friend and cause distractions in order to stop the bullying and harassment of Yori. However, the boy also started to feel and believe that he must not let others know about his friendship with Yori, and a number of reasons are behind this. To begin with, Minato is still at a young age in which ideas of those around a kid are mistaken to be the norm by them. Thus, he feels that becoming friends with Yori would make him the target for ridicule as well, and because of this, he sometimes fights the boy or does not help him out of the toilet stall after his bullies lock Yori inside.

The stereotypical notion of masculinity also hinders Minato’s understanding of his friendship with Yori, for he does start to feel emotions for his friend. While that is a natural matter, without necessarily any romantic tinge to it, Minato fears that his proximity to his best friend is taking away from his masculinity. This is why none of the boys are able to express themselves to Hori, for he, too, talks of the filter between what is manly and what is not. Yori’s drunkard father, Kiyotaka, who is perhaps the only character on whom a lot of blame can be thrown, also keeps stating that his son has a pig’s brain instead of a human’s, solely because of the sensitive nature of the boy. This statement, in turn, makes Minato believe that he suffers from the same ailment when he starts to have feelings for his friend. The boy also fears that their classmates will pick on them if they are seen together, which does happen even when Minato simply refuses to bully the kid, and so he keeps their friendship a secret.

But during this time, the two boys had also grown extremely close to each other outside of school, and they had found their own personal space inside an abandoned train coach deep inside the railway tunnel. On the morning of the rainstorm, Minato rushes to his friend’s house after Yori’s father had claimed that he would take the boy away the previous night. Minato finds his friend with severe bruises on his body, indicating that Kiyotaka had assaulted his son before leaving the house, and the two boys go away to their rail coach. They eventually get stuck at the place because of the rains and have to find some other shelter as well, which is why Saori and Hori do not find them there.

In the characteristic fashion of Kore-eda’s films, Monster‘s ending washes away all negatives and misunderstandings, and fresh, bright sunlight shines over the world. Minato and Yori wonder for a moment whether the world has been reset and whether they have been reborn, but both soon agree that this has not happened. The film ends with the two boys running around laughing and playing after having come to terms with their friendship, naturally not yet realizing the deep, beautiful impact that it will have on their lives.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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