Monster Farm DVD Review (aka: Monster Rancher)

Monster Farm DVD Review (aka: Monster Rancher)
Monster Farm: The Secret of the Stone Disk
モンスターファーム〜円盤石の秘密〜
Monster Farm: The Path to the Legend Cup
モンスターファーム〜伝説への道〜
Monster Rancher

I don’t remember when I saw the English dub version of Monster Farm, known as Monster Rancher, on American TV. I didn’t know anything about it, other than it seemed to be an anime in a similar vein to Pokemon or Digimon. As I recall, I was only ever able to watch probably a dozen total episodes. However, I was curious enough about the series to want to see the whole thing.

Fast forward to present. I discovered that Discotek had released Monster Rancher on DVD. In addition, they released the Japanese original with subtitles by its original Japanese name–Monster Farm. I decided to go ahead and buy Monster Farm and not only see what I missed in the story, but to get it from a proper Japanese perspective. And to think, I was watching an Isekai series without knowing it. 😉

****SPOILERS****

Monster Farm: The Secret of the Stone Disk Story

Monster Farm is actually two series, both of which are included in the DVD set. The first is Monster Farm: The Secret of the Stone Disk. Covering 48 episodes, this series starts with a young boy named Genki, who’s won the Monster Farm console game tournament on Earth. After he gets his reward CD to unlock a unique monster in the game, he finds he is summoned into the real world of Monster Farm by a teenage girl named Holly and her eyeball monster Suezo.

Monster Farm 01

Holly is looking for the legendary Phoenix, which will defeat the evil monster Muu and his “baddie” minions by turning them good. They soon find a stone disk that contains Mocchi, a duck-billed monster and Genki’s main partner. The group then encounters Rygar, a wolf-like monster, Golem, a stone monster, and Ham, a giant hare monster, all of whom join the party. Together they have to battle Muu’s minions and leaders before confronting Muu himself. Genki is returned to Earth.

Monster Farm: The Path to the Legend Cup Story

Genki is on Earth and thinks he sees Mocchi. He ends up at some old, toy store. Genki enters the residential section and finds no one. But he does find a console with the latest Monster Farm game. So naturally, he starts it up and finds out what has happened in the year since he was last there. Again, he gets summoned to the world of Monster Farm. After reuniting with Holly and Suezo, they set out to reunite the original group.

This time, the group are looking to obtain a new Gaia Stone with which they can rescue Holly’s father. This means winning the various monster tournaments until they can reach the Legend Cup Tournament. Unfortunately, some “baddies” are still around. They must be dealt with if Genki’s crew can win the tournament and save Holly’s dad.

The Good: The Lore

One of the things I enjoyed about Monster Farm is the lore. The lore elements are mostly kept to Monster Farm: The Secret of the Stone Disk, which is the superior of the two series. I found it fascinating that the world of Monster Farm reminded me of the world of The Jetsons, the old American cartoon. The ancient world, as it is now known, had futuristic cities and technologies to amaze. And this technology is what created the monsters in the first place.

It would have been fun to explore the lore even more than the series ended up doing. However, the lore we do get pretty much explains how a sci-fi world ended up being a fantasy world in the post-apocalypse that happened hundreds of years earlier.

The Good: The Supporting Cast

For the most part, I like the supporting cast in Monster Farm. Holly drives the quests for forth series, and she’s a lovable character. She’s mostly a “den mother” in that she’s mostly there for moral support and to cook meals for everyone. Rygar can be amusing, especially when he bickers with Ham, or when he attempts to act unaffected by things. Golem was OK, and I guess Mocchi was as well.

One reoccurring supporting character was Pixie. I liked her because she was given some character development. There were cliched elements to her character, but she was fun. It was a shame that after she upgraded to Venus, she was only used once in the second series.

The Bad: Cliched Shounen Lead

Genki is the cliched shounen lead of Monster Farm. Despite being an elementary school boy, he likes leaping before he looks. He’s completely worthless until the writers decided that he could inspire “guts” to make everyone in the party do more damage. I hate to say it, but everytime he took a beating, I snickered, giggled, or outright laughed out loud. I didn’t hate the character, but I didn’t care for the character for the most part.

That said, Genki is voiced by YOKOYAMA Chisa. Tenchi Muyo! fans may recognize her as the voice of Sasami and Tsunami in most of the various Tenchi anime titles. Most of the time, she doesn’t sound like Sasami, but there were times when she did. I couldn’t help but smile in those moments.

The Good: Some Surprising Moments

I have to admit that there were moments in Monster Farm that were quite funny. There were also moments that were touching, though those were few. And despite the “nakama power” theme in the series, I did like some of the friendship stories. Most of these are in the first series rather than the second.

The Bad: Plot Pacing

While individual Monster Farm stories can be interesting, and the overall plot can be interesting (especially in Monster Farm: The Secret of the Stone Disk), the pacing of the plot is horrible. The main villain Muu has four chief underlings. Three of those had their own armies. Having to get through all of them is no problem. But then once those obstacles are overcome, it should be time for the main boss, right?

Unfortunately, this is where the pacing starts failing. There are numerous episodes depicting scenes of Muu making painfully SLOW progress on his own quest. And then when the writers can delay the confrontation no more, they come up with another way to delay the ending by giving Muu a weakness to overcome. And somehow, Muu has a FIFTH sub-boss with his own armies to delay the ending until episode 48 finally comes to end the first series.

The Bad: The Second Series

Except for one plot element, Monster Farm: The Secret of the Stone Disk is pretty much wrapped up when it ends. Granted, Genki’s return to Earth is abrupt and in some ways, made no sense. But it worked for what it was. However, Monster Farm: The Path to the Legend Cup has to do some retconning in order to make 25 new episodes. In many ways, it makes the ending of the first series almost pointless. And the second series’s villain is such a laugh, even the writers acknowledge how terrible he is before the series ends.

Further, the second series is partially about doing boring tournament action episodes. Tournament stories are mindless drivel to me. When Genki and company aren’t doing a tournament, they do one of the following. They either have a reunion with an old enemy or friend, followed by fighting the monsters of the week, or they just fight whatever idiotic monster that’s been sent their way.

DVD Release

I am glad that Discotek released Monster Farm on DVD with the original Japanese audio and subtitles. However, I found the subtitles to be a mixed lot. On one hand, I highly approve of them using the actual names for the core characters. So it is Rygar instead of Tiger. It is Ham instead of Hare. These are positive things to me.

However, they didn’t always keep the Japanese names. At times, they gave us translated names, which I never approve of. I suppose that’s a minor thing.

Also, forget Japanese honorifics in the subtitles. So even though people are buying a DVD set for the JAPANESE version of the show, we can’t have that “filthy, slant-eyed speak polluting our subtitles.” What always irks me most about this is that the adaptations often choose to ignore honorific usage ’cause “reasons.” This is most notable in Ham’s constant shifting in how he addresses Rygar. Most of the time, “-san,” “-sama,” or other honorific Ham might use (sarcastically) is ignored.

The DVDs are pretty much bare boned. The episodes do include whatever game advert being done to unlock some monster or other.

Finally, I guess the decision to use the actual Japanese name Monster Farm was a last second decision. I say this because the actual DVD case and discs all say Monster Rancher, but note it is the Japanese release. However, there is a slip cover for the DVD case that says Monster Farm.


Final Thoughts and Conclusion

In the end, Monster Farm is a fairly cliched shounen series and an early example of the isekai genre. It is also an advertisement for the Monster Farm (Monster Rancher) game. In that light, it is clearly trying to capture the popularity of Pokemon or Digimon. However, I don’t regret having purchased and watched the series on DVD. I am glad to have seen things uncensored and in Japanese.

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2 Responses to “Monster Farm DVD Review (aka: Monster Rancher)”

  1. X_M_X says:

    I really loved this show growing up, I should rewatch it. I agree with you about tournament arcs, but a huge chunk of the Monster Rancher games are battling your monsters in tournaments. So it isn’t exactly out of place. Also I had a pretty big crush on Pixie as a kid.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      a huge chunk of the Monster Rancher games are battling your monsters in tournaments

      Yeah, I figured that was probably the case. But that doesn’t make for good TV viewing for me. 😅

      Also I had a pretty big crush on Pixie as a kid.

      Haha. Yeah, she is a bit of a babe.

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