What I’m reviewing today is a cookie cutter, wait, no it’s Monster Hunter Orage, vol. 1. Monster Hunter isn’t bad, it’s just so very shonen. If you’d like to run down the checklist with me:
Does it have a protagonist that has no limits on his strength?
He doesn’t have an impossible dream, does he?
-Yes, he does! Shiki is going to find the Thunder Dragon Myo Galuna and slay it. It’s kinda a huge deal.
How about a girl who is strong, but not quite as strong as the main guy?
-Oh, you’re talking about Ailee.
She doesn’t really dislike him for his nonchalant attitude, does she?
-Actually, quite a lot.
And how big are her breasts?
-Hey, that’s not fair. Besides, Sakya’s are way larger. Ailee just happens to be naked a lot. For the story.
Are all monsters gargantuan?
-Just a few stories tall each.
There couldn’t possibly be a cocky rival turned bad guy, right?
-How did you know about Prince Curlon?!
Of course all of the main conflict stems from a shadowy guild or organization?
-Whoa, calm down now. This is the first volume. We’ve only seen shadows. No way to know if they’re bad or good yet.
Not all of this is completely fair. Most manga readers are well aware of the different patterns that make up some of their most beloved works. So if you’re a reader that embraces basic shonen for what it is, Monster Hunter Orage is up your alley.
Really though, what shonen apologists know better than anyone is it isn’t the patterns that make up the story, but the individual flairs that the creator gives it. For instance, Hiro Mashima has the tough-as-nails Prince mess up really common idioms, and forget names all of the time. From his work in Fairy Tale and Rave Master, we know that Mashima can deliver really quirky characters. Orage doesn’t celebrate this freedom as much though. It may be in part because the book is done in partnership with Capcom, but Monster Hunter Orage plays it very safe. Yes, Shiki is good natured and insanely powerful, and everything else that makes up a shonen lead, but that is all the reader gets to work with. Everyone has a conflicted back story, but they are so typical, it’s hard to remember why you care.
I haven’t played any of the Monster Hunter games produced by Capcom, but it’s worth it to mention that is where this manga comes from. Mashima is a fan of the games, and was approached to work on a manga adaption. The games are customizable adventures that revolve around quests, so the manga is a very different from its video game relatives. The game’s influence does insure that Mashima includes some of the most titantic monsters ever drawn. While this could be good, it really doesn’t impress you after awhile. The first monster Shiki and Ailee fight has to be around 200ft long, probably longer. Monster splash pages quickly lose their shock value.
The greatest crime of Monster Hunter Orage is that it is procedural. But as that procedure is still one that delivers on monster fighting, the strength or friendship, and the dominance of willpower over all else, it might be enough for some readers.