Funimation’s Monster Hunter (Season 1 Part 1) boxed set boasts an interesting array of dynamics for a kids show. Think Digimon. Then think of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon. Add a helping of the Monster Hunters universe and you have the mixed-up kids show that is “Monster Hunter Stories: Ride on!”
Lute, Ash Ketchum of his universe, is a youth in a tribe of those who ride the monsters around them, affectionately calling them “Monsties”. His palico Navirou, friend and dreamer Cheval, and emerging chemist/medic Lilia spend most of the semi-blissful 12 episodes traipsing through the forest, ribbing each other, and eating doughnuts. Training a monstie for riding is about as smooth as training Charizard to fight: lots of cajoling and proving one’s worth for tougher critters.
Even so, Lute manages to hatch a wild egg without the traditional hatching ceremony… even as a darkness threatens to overtake the Hakum Village.
The reason why I name-dropped so many series at the beginning of the review was because Monster Hunters Stories: Ride On (MHS:RO) has one very common theme with them – the friendship between the “adopted creature” and the owner. Dreamworks has really made 3D dragons sing in its series, and Digimon played to the 2D audiences more but had memorable 3D transformation sequences.
As if to channel both, Monster Hunter Stories plays with 3D in a weird meld of “do we need 2D animation in this scene, or do we need a 3D flying Lute in this scene”?
Adults will notice. If you thought Kado was rough on the eyes, then don’t bother trying to enjoy MHS:RO for the animation. You will have a 3D monster in one scene walking behind 2d anime characters. You will have a 2D background scene turn into 3D and then back into 2D.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are tons of animators who spent a lot of time and energy learning how to adapt their craft – but the regular flipping was dizzying as I began to pay attention to it. It doesn’t MESH. We’ve seen fully cohesive 2D and 3D before, and (unfortunately) this show isn’t it. At a glance, I was able to suspend my disbelief. Prolonged watching was more of a challenge.
Kids, or at least my focus group (between 8 and 10 years old), didn’t catch the flips between 2D and 3D when polled initially, which is perfect for a TV PG show. After all, they are the target demographic. Also, the candy-coated colors of the monsties are quite brilliant in parrot-like splendor. Bright reds and greens, yellows and blues that are otherworldly by design and meant to pop. It’s meant to be fun and attention-grabbing. It’s meant to be enjoyable.
The boxed set is light on special features. It had a subtitle track and Japanese/English audio. There are a handful of trailers, textless opening song, but nothing outstanding. It also has double discs – two for Blu Ray and two for DVD. The interior cover is a really nice mini-poster, and when you get to the end of the boxed set of episodes, you’ll already know that there are more eps waiting on Funimation for you to watch. It only gets more dynamic from here.