What They Say:
Lute, a cheerful and enthusiastic young boy, dreams of becoming the world’s top monster Rider, but getting there won’t be easy. Every step Lute takes brings a new challenge to overcome. Fortunately, he has his friends to help him along—Cheval, a fellow apprentice Rider, Lilia, a young girl who dreams of leaving the village and seeing the world, and Navirou, a loyal catlike companion.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language track gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show makes good use of its sound design with how it operates as there’s some good directionality across it with the way the action plays out and a lot of the dialogue follows along with that. The use of the monsters certainly adds to the creativity of placement on screen with flying scenes and lots of things running around between them and the characters themselves. The score for the series gives it plenty of life as well and the combination of all of these elements work really well to make it an active and engaging design. It’s a good solid pair of tracks and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the fall of 2016 before finishing up in the spring of 2018, the twelve episodes for this set are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by David Production, the show has a really great look to it where it’s very detailed, very fluid with much of what it does in the quality of the animation, and some great colors. The CG aspects of the monsters is something that’s certainly different from the rest of the show so it always has that mild element of not fitting exactly, especially since the colors feel more vibrant with them, but it fits in context to the show itself as something almost otherworldly. The encoding for the release gives us a really strong looking show that you wouldn’t normally expect for something based on a game like this but it just comes across in a great way with solid colors, a clean look, and just something special.
The packaging for this release is done with a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case as it holds discs for both formats in it on hinges and it also comes with an o-card that uses the same artwork on it as the case. The cover artwork is fun with the character and monster side of it as it makes it clear that these are younger characters and that it’s a part of this adventure in all the right ways. The large logo stands out well with all its bold elements and it works well with the rest of the colors of the design. The back cover uses a lot of its space for a great big visual from the show that again highlights just how good it looks. We get a small summary of the premise against a white background below it as well as the simple listing of the extras and the always simple but clean breakdown of the technical side for both formats. While there are no show related inserts with this release we do get a great two-panel spread on the reverse side with more character artwork that’s colorful and stands out wonderfully.
The menus for this release are simple but well done as we get static images for each disc but they look bright and colorful with the blue skies and green grass and trees that’s very appealing. The character and monster designs brought into it dominate nicely to add in more detail to the design. The logo takes up a lot of real estate overall but it’s a big one to begin with and the colors work well to stand out and really draw you into it. The navigation strip for it is kept along the bottom with a basic dark blue with white text that’s easy to navigate as both the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras included with this set is the clean version of the opening sequence.
Based on the Monster Hunter game series from Capcom, Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On is a seventy-five episode series that aired from the fall of 2016 through the winter 2018 anime seasons. That’s a lot of episodes and is a show that while simulcast didn’t get a whole lot of attention in general. Part of that is because a lot of people wrote it off as something akin to the other monster game properties that are geared more towards kids, which I did to a good degree. This set brings us the first twelve episodes of the run as animated by David Production and it’s certainly a curious series. As I mentioned in the video portion, there’s a lot to like with the visuals even if it feels like the character design quality dips a bit later in this set but I generally really liked the overall approach to the look of the show with its colors, naturalistic design, and the way the monsters themselves come off even though the CG doesn’t always quite fit.
The show takes place twelve years after some bad things happened (which means it comes up in the final two episodes of this set) and introduces us to a group of kids in the Hakum Village. This fairly out of the way village is a somewhat special one as its focus is on teaching kids to be riders of the monsters that are out there. When the creatures are born, they’re cutely called Monsties and the kids starting at age twelve work to establish a bond with them and go from there. It’s not something that a lot of kids do as this particular year feels special because there’s a handful of them that are going for this. One of them is Lute, a young boy who has long wanted to be the best as he’s wanted to prove his place in the scheme of things after losing his parents twelve years ago in the mysterious black miasma event.
Lute, naturally, is special among this new group of riders coming up because whereas the kids generally are given the eggs from which their Monsties are born, he finds his in the Forbidden forest when he’s out there with a bunch of them exploring and getting a bit lost when they come across some angry local monsters. His discovery there has given him a fairly unique creature with Rathalos that provides strength and the ability to fly as well as slowly becoming his best friend. Which likely frustratest the Airou creature that he’s friends with, Navirou, which is basically a talking cat that has a superior attitude about everything. The core group is rounded out with Lilia, one of his best friends, and Cheval, another best friend that’s fairly quite. The two have some back and forth problems along these early episodes but you can see that overall bond that exists there.
With a background story setup that only really makes a significant appearance toward the end of this set, a lot of what this show does is kind of unusual. The expectation is that once they hatch their Monsties and start bonding that we’d get underway with adventures in the world and so forth. But instead, the focus is on spending time in the village with some visitors, such as a monster hunter, and just a general look at how things work there. This lets us get to know the characters and the dynamics a bit but it also struggles because at its core these are twelve year old kids in a simple village. There’s not a lot of there there, in all honesty. The kids are all nice and pleasant and there are some small issues that surface, notably between Lute and Cheval at one point, but these aren’t people filled with rich experiences. We do get a better handle on the village than we might otherwise and a few tales told here and there, but a lot of what we get is that kind of “first stage” sandbox exploration of the village while waiting for the story proper to get underway. We’re getting used to the controls here.
Monster Hunter stories Ride On is a series that left me feeling like all I can really say is that it’s fine. I don’t play the games (I don’t play videogames in general) so there may be elements I’m not connecting with because of that. But I like the slower approach to introducing us to the characters and their world as well as the Monsties and more. But it is a slow opening set with what it does as there’s no rush to get moving here and hitting up adventures all over. It’s very home-centric before it starts to dig into the darker past toward the end, which is interesting but also quite familiar and straightforward. Funimation’s put together a solid set here with what they have and it’s no surprise that it’s kind of basic overall – the show itself doesn’t even have an ending sequence. So yeah, that’s about it. It’s fine. I’m curious to see what the second set will do if it starts to really advance a storyline.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Clean Opening
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 13th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.