Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Dec 10th 2011
Monster Hunter Orage
Continuing on their quest for the Myo Galuna, Shiki, Ailee, and Sakya decide that upgrading their weapons would probably be a good plan. Sakya's father's master lives in the town of Goltette, but to get there they need to take a boat. Unfortunately shipping lanes are closed because of a particularly vicious armor-crushing monster called a Plesioth. If they want to cross the sea, our group of heroes will first have to defeat it...wearing bikinis?
Are you one of those people who would rather watch someone play a role-playing video game than actually play it yourself? If so, Hiro Mashima has the series for you. Picking up where he left off last time, with Shiki and his gal pals Ailee and Sakya searching for the master smith Kibalion, Mashima leads us on another few hours of gameplay as the three take out a new boss monster. You can almost see the status bars.
Although a bit formulaic, Monster Hunter Orage is still at least a little fun. Mashima begins with a combination of Shiki and friends setting out and a quick glance at our resident villains, the jealous Curlon and a mysterious character named Shadow. Curlon can't believe that Shiki has the mark of a seal hunter and is determined to have that honor for himself. Shadow seems willing to help him, but at what price? Our heroes would be totally unaware of the man were it not for a run in with an apprentice paleontologist from the Royal Academy. Named Kirck and pronounced “plot device,” he is hellbent on cataloging as many different monsters as he possibly can, and casually tells the group to “Beware the man named Shadow.” Ailee seems to know who that is, but the plot thread is shelved immediately thereafter. One hopes, however, that in the next volume it will resurface.
Before leaving, Kirck very helpfully gives Shiki a map to the town of Goltette, where Kibalion lives. This enables the group to head to the sea, as they will have to make a nautical voyage in the grand tradition of video games. Of course, upon arriving at the port, they learn that a monster has been ravaging the ships. If only there was a group of intrepid monster hunters who could lay it to rest! In an unsurprising twist, Shiki, Ailee, and Sakya volunteer, only to be told that they must wear a specific type of armor: the kelbikini. This traditional barbarian chick chic gives Mashima a chance to draw his trademark curvy women as well as propagate the ridiculous notion that women are obsessed with each others' bra sizes. (Amusingly enough, Mashima mentions that he wasn't sure he could get the costumes approved by CAPCOM.) Shiki and a random male traveler who happens to be there get form-fitting swim trunks, though it is worth noting that in the original image of the masculine kelbikini it was, in fact, a male bikini.
More interesting are the flashbacks to Ailee's past, when she was less cynical and wore more clothes. Ailee has thus far come off as the hard-nosed, slightly bitchy girl who may or may not be jealous of Shiki's relationship with her father. Now Mashima offers us a glimpse into what made her that way. These sections are probably the strongest parts of the book, as they are both informative and plausible, particularly to anyone who was ever the lone good student in a group of bad ones. Sakya and Shiki remain firmly one-note characters, although the next volume preview promises a look into Shiki's past, so he may develop more then.
The biggest issue with this volume is a choice made on the part of the translators. Characters, particularly Shiki and Ailee, make much use of the word “companions.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as “to keep company.” This does not seem weighty enough for the way the characters use it and gives the translation a bit of an awkward feel. Perhaps a better word choice would have been “comrades,” meaning “an associate in friendship, occupation, etc.” Other detractions include too-obvious video game references, such as item stats or mentions of “adding another member to our party,” and Shiki's obsession with his late master. Luckily Mashima seems aware of this last one and has other characters comment on it, with Ailee flat out calling it “creepy.”
What really holds this series together is the art. Mashima's characters are attractive, if not overly buxom in some cases, his original monsters are interesting, and his backgrounds have depth. While goofier looking characters have a decided One Piece feel, he has enough original touches that it isn't overly distracting. If nothing else, this book is awfully nice to look at.
While Monster Hunter Orage doesn't hold up to Rave Master or Fairy Tail in terms of appeal or even craft, it does still have its own charm. As with the first volume, younger readers will most likely get more enjoyment out of this book, but Mashima fans and the backseat gamers will still find something to like about this adaptation of the Monster Hunter games.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B+
+ Art that moves with backgrounds you could walk into. Ailee's past develops the character nicely.
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