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Review: "Monsuno: Vol. 1" or "Advertising in the Digital Age 101"

When Chase’s dad disappears, he and his friends try to discover why, only to be swept up in the world of Monsunos, giant monsters that they’re going to battle. You’ve got that right, it’s another year, and another franchise is trying to take the crown away from Pokemon, and this DVD was released within weeks of the announcement of Pokemon X and Y. Good luck there, guys.

monsuno1¬†¬† There’s no doubt about it; Monsuno is the latest challenger to the long legacy of Pokemon, following the formula to the letter. Brash young male lead acquires a surprisingly powerful monster, teams up with two friends (one a spunky tomboy, another a nerdy boy), and goes on an adventure while both fleeing from and fighting an evil organization that should honestly just shoot the kids with shotguns instead of engaging them in battle. Electric mouse Pikachu has been replaced with arctic polar bear giant Lock, teaming up with Chase Suno instead of Ash Ketchum (both male leads with surnames that lead into the general concept of the franchise alongside lacking important father figures). Using not a Pokedex but a tablet computer (which, hell, the Pokedex might as well be a tablet in 2013), they’re guided along in the fight against S.T.O.R.M. (imagine a Team Rocket with more laser guns) that is trying their best to capture the lead monster. The smart-yet-socially-awkward Bren (instead of the smart-yet-socially-awkward Brock) acquires Quickforce, another Monsuno that quickly becomes just another creature to advertise, while the forgettably named tough female lead eventually fires her own monster out of a Pokeball, or in this case, “Core”. The only notable moment she has is when she tells a man that she’ll work “as long as you want in your dungeon”.

(Oh, yeah, there’s a plot, but it’s so episodic and trope-filled it’s painful to recount. Things happen, there’s no real danger, and new toys are advertised. Got it? Good.)

The Monsuno designs are rather boring, following the mindset of “take a creature, make it huge, and add some glowing crystal junk”. The size actually proves to be a challenge for the series, making fights occur in absurdly huge warehouses or subways or open areas.

Animation is supremely weak; understandably, the show’s likely very low-budgeted (effectively being a 22-minute commercial), and the poor frame rate is heavily noticeable. Even simple things like compression, artifacts, and other digital generic terms that an eye will catch stand out; admittedly, this is a DVD release, but it shouldn’t be that compressed with only five episodes on a disc. One thing that just stands out are mouth movements; it’s not uncommon for anime to rarely actually move the chin or jawline with mouth movement, but for this series (and possibly a factor of it being created for both America and Japan), it seems as if the mouth movements are almost preprogrammed or rigidly formed. You will see the rare physical movement but it’s also too often to just see a face (sans blinking) make five different mouth movements over the course of a paragraph of dialogue).

monsuno2Also, here’s a drinking game if, for some reason, you’re forced to watch this show: take a shot every time someone blinks. You’ll be able to drive to the store to buy some Monsuno toys afterwards.

The extras on this disc include two biographies, but they are actually videos, and not just static text with an image. For a DVD with five episodes aimed purely at a child audience, this is acceptable. What’s not acceptable is the fact that the disc starts with two commercials for the game, reminding you this is nothing more than an advertisement.

Do you have a baby that would like brightly-colored things on a television? A kid that really, really, really likes Monsuno? I guess this might not be a paperweight for them.

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