Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Monster Hunter Stories RIDE ON
BD+DVD - Season One Part Three
As Cheval's anger takes over his worldview more and more, he completely rebuff's Lute's friendship and sets out on his own to become more Hunter than Rider. Deeply wounded by his friend's rejection, Lute determines to remain true to the ideals of kinship and saving those infected by the black blight. With Navirou and his new friends, Lute sets out to be the best Rider he can be – even if he has to do it without his foster brother and best friend.
Monster Hunter Stories RIDE ON had some struggles in its first two sets of episodes, but here in part three, it feels as if it's finally gotten to where it needed to. The central theme of the show has always been “kinship,” and up to this point, that's largely been assumed to be between a Rider and his monstie. With the death of Cheval's mother at the metaphorical hands of a monster infected with the Black Blight, however, that concept has been revealed to not only apply to monsters, but to humans as well.
Ever since his mother's death, Cheval has been sliding farther and farther into a hell of his own emotions. While Lilia and Lute were tangentially aware of this, they're also still twelve-year-old kids, and they can be forgiven for thinking that he might simply get over it. (Don't get me started on irresponsible adults in this show.) In part this is because Lilia has made the conscious choice to follow a career that will keep her out of Hakum Village while Lute is an orphan; they simply have different experiences of what Cheval is going through. Cheval, however, is truly hurting, and as no one helps him to resolve that, he allows his grief to morph into a burning anger, one that he expresses in his newfound dislike of monsters. Although he specifies Blighted ones, his actions and the way he no longer treats his personal monstie with the care and love he once did indicates that his worldview has undergone a drastic change. That continues outward – throughout the second set of episodes, we had reason to suspect that he blamed Lute for his mother's death, but things come to a head here with Cheval explicitly telling Lute that he blames him not only for his mom's death, but for his dad's as well.
To say that this is unreasonable would be fair – but it's also very much in line with the way people, particularly children, act out their grief. In some ways it feels less like Cheval truly blames Lute and more that he has been looking for an excuse to reject his former friend and foster brother. He can't deal with Lute's optimistic outlook on life nor with his willingness to do his best to save those affected by the Blight. Cheval still has a lot to work through, and Lute is the easiest target he has for his anger. He's selfish in his grief, never considering that Lute's methods are his way of working through his sadness – after all, Lute has just been orphaned for the second time – and he essentially becomes a bully. This makes it not terribly surprising that Hyoro and Mil also abandon Lute to go with Cheval; after all, they don't want to become the next targets for his anger.
This leaves Lute with only Navirou and his monsties as reminders of home. Yes, the older Riders do come out to help and reassure Lute that he's on the right path, but ultimately he's still out seeing the world, and now he's got his quest of stopping the Blight to keep him going. Fortunately the show steps up and begins the work of explaining Navirou's past and what made him who he is, and that goes a long way towards making him a less annoying character. While his English voice can still hit “obnoxiously shrill” at times, learning his backstory gives him a reason to be who he is, and the fact that time and again he chooses to stay with Lute when pretty much no one else does makes him a much better character than previously. It also opens the door to some fairly upsetting material that seems a bit much for the intended elementary-school audience of the show, although it does a good job of establishing just how bad the bad guys are. (Even Cheval is leery of them, thank goodness.) With a past involving slavery and animal testing, this is something that adults are going to want to be ready to discuss with child viewers.
All in all, this set of Monster Hunter episodes is a major improvement. Side characters like Debli become more important as they prove that they understand kinship more than Cheval did, the addition of the amazingly adorable Floof ups the cute ante considerably (and Shiori Izawa and Sarah Wiedenheft both do excellent jobs with her voice), and the implication that Cheval is Blighted without ever actually saying as much is well done. If the Numbers speech is overused and the lack of responsible adults looking out for Cheval, as well as the occasional clunky CG, are detriments, they are much better balanced by the Blight parallels between Cheval and Ratha and the kind Hunter who takes Lute under his wing. This series is really shaping up and getting to where it wants to be.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Parallels between Cheval and Blighted monsters well done, captures his grief well. Navirou comes into his own.
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