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ADV Films presents
Monster Rancher #1: Let the Games Begin! (1999)

"I am Genki, master monster trainer! I'm gonna kick your butts!"
- Genki (Andrew Francis)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: February 28, 2002

Stars: Andrew Francis, Janyse Jaud, Richard Newman
Other Stars: Brian Drummond, Scott McNeil
Director: Hiroyuki Yano

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild animated violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: May 23, 2000
UPC: 702727008023
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The Monster Rancher television series is, like so much Japanese anime, based on a video game series of the same name. Predating Pokemon, the games were basically about raising monsters to compete in battles, but the gimmick was that the monsters were randomly generated from music CDs. So, for example, you could pop in a copy of Steely Dan's Greatest Hits and wind up with an extremely feisty, powerful creature with an attitude or an extremely weak, boring one. The excitement of pillaging your CD collection for interesting monsters to generate was a clever idea, and continues to this day with the latest game, which allows you to also use DVD movies. The anime seems to have been devised to get kids hooked on that collectability aspect, but in the wake of a giant like Pokemon, similar success is virtually impossible. That said, though, the series is an enjoyable, quick-moving, fantasy that isn't as brainless and blatantly commercial as that "other" monster toon.Our main hero is Genki, a rather unpredictable and arrogant little boy, a Monster Rancher champion who, after winning a game tournament, is scheduled to get a preview copy of the next game. As soon as he starts playing this special version, however, he is transported into a mysterious realm where people and monsters live together. Here, "mystery discs" hold the key to generating new creatures in sacred temples. He meets Holly and her pet monster, Suezo (basically a giant eyeball on a stalk), both of whom are questing to find the legendary Phoenix. Since mystery discs contain undetermined monsters, the only way Holly can revive the Phoenix is to simply find as many discs as possible and revive them all. Why is she doing all this? Well, it would seem an evil demon named Moo (I'm going to guess something got lost in translation there) is taking as many monsters as possible and turning them into evildoers, rather than friendly, productive beings. The Phoenix can put a stop to this, so Genki decides to join their quest.Obviously, these first 3 episodes (and probably the next few as well) are meant to introduce us to the central characters, mainly the most basic monsters from the game. Suezo is already there, but the second episode brings in Mocchi, the annoyingly cute duck/armadillo thing that becomes Genki's friend. The third episode introduces Golem, the extremely large, stone monster that guards a forest filled with mystery discs. We also meet the Gel Troops, Moo's jelly-like soldiers that do most of his dirty workWithout question, Monster Rancher is a kids' show. It's securely aimed at that target and, I'll be honest, it doesn't have lofty goals or deep plots. It is, however, entertaining in a simple, escapist way. It has good humor and offers good fantasy when you're in the mood for something with less complexity. I was actually reminded of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon that I used to watch as a kid. There's plenty of action with a fairly low violence content, and the violence is very exaggerated and almost slapstick. Since Monster Rancher doesn't feel like it's constantly advertising a product, I could see recommending it to parents.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Amazingly crisp and clear, the transfer is virtually flawless, offering a superb disc of animation. The show itself seems to be computer-enhanced, in terms of color and shading, and that level of digital quality shines through. Other then some slight artifacts in a few, fleeting sequences, the compression is not an issue. The overall clarity will certainly please fans and is a demo in how good modern animation can look on DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: As this is another one of ADV's licenses from the BKN series of kids' shows on television, no original dialogue tracks were supplied, only the English dub. As dubs go, however, this one is not bad, and manages to capture the child-like characters and goofy humor quite well. My only complaint would be the repetitive slang that Genki uses. The soundtrack is pretty expansive and vibrant with a lot of front-soundstage activity. The surround channels get occasional effects that enhance the music or front sound effects. Bass and overall frequency range is suprising, and this is a satisfying experience aurally.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 5 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Again, as one of the BKN discs, Monster Rancher has no extras and the presentation is minimal. There is a lack of chapter stops (only one per actual episode) as well. Unfortunately, being the Americanized version, the show features the out-of-character rap theme and intermission songs.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Monster Rancher is a nice, simple, fun show that basically tells an adventure story with lots of weird creatures and magical spells included. It tries to keep decent messages while providing excitement, and does well in that respect. A definite recommendation for family viewing.


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