Probably in an attempt to prove that there are no good instances of a game crossing over into either anime or movies, the late 90’s gave us the perfect example of things that you probably didn’t want to see in the way of Monster Rancher the anime. Based on a video game with so little plot that they could have easily made it about a man who raises monsters only to sell them for drug money and still have managed to make it fall well within the game’s cannon, the writers of this show instead decided to go the Never Ending Story route and have a child from Earth sucked into the world of the game where they he has free license to act like a moron and ask questions about things that he should know from his own world.
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Very similar to that terrible internet music video “Friday” the intro to this show somehow manages to be the worst thing ever and so addictive that days later it is easy to catch one’s self mumbling the lyrics out load. The show aired Saturday mornings, while I was in high school, so it managed to fall in that perfect time period where I had nothing to do until noon on any given weekend, and was also too lazy to not lie in bed and watch whatever crap I got on a TV that only could get local channels—this basically meant that during the week most people within ear shot wanted me dead for mumbling something about a world where monsters rule.
The plot of the show follows a small child, Genki, who manages to win a Monster Battle Tournament –which is so meaningless in context of the game that I have no idea what they are even hinting at– and receives a super-secret game disc shipped to him a few weeks later. What really annoys me about the first episode is that there is an attempt to show Monster Rancher off as having the same depth as another fighting game, say Street Fighter, but the entire problem with that is that it is more of an RPG than anything and contains monsters that are so overly broken by design that they can kill pretty much anything in one hit. Anyone who played that game for anyone amount of time knows that you just spam the strongest attack that any monster has and blindly hope that it lands every time, trying to pretend that there is strategy or depth just insults everyone involved.
After receiving the “beta” of the new game coming out, something that would never happen now because the first thing that anyone would do would be to upload it to the internet, Genki throws it into his PS1. Oddly the new game seems to be less of a pre-release and more gateway into a world where all kinds of monsters want to kill him as quickly and painfully as they can manage. Oddly this seems to be more of a punishment for being the best Monster Rancher player on the planet as opposed to the reward that he was promised.
I find it interesting that the 90’s also proved to be a time for anime where it could have a couple hundred episodes, most of which almost never have anything that even resembles plot movement. The VHS that I own, which contains the first three episodes, has about a grand total of 3/4 of an episode worth of plot. Sure, most first episodes of many shows serve only to introduce the main character and are by definition worthless, but the second episode of this show seems to be more about the fact that he was sucked into another world without shoes on.
No, really, there is an entire 30 seconds of the second episode where he simply puts on shoes and a jacket/cloak. I guess there is an argument to the level of detail that the show follows that he wasn’t wearing shoes when he came to this world, as he was in his bedroom playing a video game, but in the same breath he also has rollerblades that he doesn’t wear because they make walking up hills complicated. I might not have been the biggest fan of skates back in the day, but I do remember that they only ever worked on completely evenly paved roads–this entire world is devoid of those and yet he still makes them work through his seemingly demon-like fountains of energy and uncaringness about physics. Also he doesn’t have any socks, and personal experience taught me that skates with no socks is a great way to get massive blisters.
The third episode isn’t any better. Sure, there is an addition to the main cast, but that is also the only thing that happens. The first half of the episode is about Genki wandering aimlessly and loudly through some woods to find where the stone golem lives, and a chunk of the later half is the crew acting like the new guy is going to eat them. Oddly it ends up seemingly like they are being more racist then protective of themselves, and I secretly hoped that the rock dude was going to call them on it.
As the way that plot goes that is pretty much it, nothing of great meaning happens. From what little research I did online it seems that the show “gets good” later on, seemingly getting very dark in some of the later episodes. I really have to say that besides being really impressed that anyone out there even remembers that this show exists is that there are people who actively defend how awesome “it gets”.
I wouldn’t really know about that because let’s be honest, like every other show that was ever on Saturday mornings only the first 10 episodes where ever really shown, everything else was probably a one shot deal when Fox decided to run a marathon for the contractual obligation they signed. If you remember anything about this show getting “dark” you were probably way more devoted to this than was healthy. I mean the only reason that I own this tape is because while ordering a large chunk of other anime I was given the choice of adding this in for 50 cents.