What They Say:
After witnessing how infected Kinship Ore affects the land and its monsters, the Riders part ways with differing ideals—should they save the blighted Monstiesor slay them? Lute and his pals learn that the Black Blight outbreak may have happened once before, so they seek out a mount fit for a prophetic hero. But their quest won’t be that simple—Dr. Manelgerhas dastardly plans that will test the very meaning of Kinship. Even in times of struggle, though, there’s room for fun, friends, and donuts!
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. With a sunset setting for this volume, we get something that’s definitely darker and murkier than i expected, though the core group here together sitting by a small fire has its appealing, especially with Rather looking on from behind like he is. The back cover uses a lot of its space for a great big visual from the show with Avinia that gives us some brightness and kind of life it needs. 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 the same static image for each disc that uses the cover artwork well to show off its detail and colors. 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.
With the first half of the first season behind us, Monster Hunter Stories is a series that I wonder how it’s still going on as long as it has. The first series ran for forty-eight episodes and this one gets us through episode thirty-six. I liked a lot of what was done within the first two sets and that carries through to here but the slow pacing to it feels more like we’re getting something out of a travelogue novel than a show based on a game. It is advancing the story and we’re learning more as it goes along but this is something that felt like it was going to be in the line of Pokemon or Yo-kai Watch or something similar in what it was going to do. But instead it’s a more character driven and nature based work than you’d expect.
Events early on here shift the nature of the story for a while as the problems that exist between Cheval and Lute are pretty significant. They each have a different view of how to deal with the Blight and combine that with their past at the village and it’s a blowup kind of thing. So much so that Cheval and his two friends head off with him to engage on their journey of eliminating Blight-infected monsties. That’s plainly not what Lute is about so it becomes a journey for him and Navirou going forward while Lilia ends up going back home to the village to figure out certain things on her own, largely involving the white dragon that’s part of the early batch of episodes here with the hunt for an egg of one.
Cheval’s story has a couple of moments until it reconnects with Lute but it’s mostly just Lute’s story going forward. For Lute, his journey continues to be about the growing of his Kinship with Ratha and understanding the monsties in general. It works pretty well with the cast pared down as much as it is here as the focus on Lute and the adventures of this smaller group takes us into several different characters, including a crazy inventor type for a brief arc that involves him coming up with ways to basically control the monsties, removing the riders from the equation and making them accessible to everyone. Naturally, it’s a lot darker than that with what the reality of it is but it adds an interesting wrinkle to what’s happening as Lute continues his journey to befriend monsties and understand the Blight.
The Blight aspect of the series has been interesting when it’s come up and we get a new taste of it here as it’s discovered that Ratha was infected some time ago and has been struggling with it for a good bit. This is a hugely challenging moment for Lute because of the bond they share but it turns in a neat direction as we see how the Kinship stone can be used to help and that there’s more to the Blight than just the sickness itself as the bond between man and monstie is stronger than expected. The whole thing is great visually with Ratha out of control for a bit and the struggle that Lute has to face with it and then having to try and get Cheval to course correct not long after when they cross paths again and Cheval sees Ratha’s infection and is intent on putting him down.
This set rounds out with a little bit of standalone material that focuses on Navirou going back to where he grew up and his connections there, which is almost too-cute for this series that largely has a darker tone to it. It does set up what’s to come next with a greater focus on the Doc Mangaler and his plans to deal with the monsties with his mechanical conversions and we see the next leg in Lute’s journey getting underway. But the nature of this series doesn’t quite feel like defined arcs and more as just a shifting narrative that drifts here and there along the way. It’s definitely interesting and I really love the overall quality that they bring to it with the animation and tone but it also feels like it’s just lacking a certain kind of tension to make it feel like it’s moving forward. The almost leisurely pace is disarming in a way. Funimation continues to put in a solid presentation here that will make fans happy and getting more dubbed episodes is a very good thing.
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: July 17th, 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.