Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter Review

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It’s time to look at a Monster Hunter manga. This one made it all the way to 10 volumes and has some cool cover arts so how does it rank? Well, it’s a pretty good premise and I wouldn’t fault its pacing, but the manga does fall short in some areas. Mainly the art and the characters are what brings it down. Salvaging the manga though is the amount of fights we have on deck and the fact that it’s still interesting. It pales in comparison to many other titles but I wouldn’t call it bad either. It just takes a while to get going and by then it’s basically over.

The series starts with Raiga as a kid. He looked up to his local Monster Hunter (A guy who hunts monsters) but unfortunately this guy got scarred after a tough quest and changed into a violent person. He is now bent on getting revenge and ditched Raiga’s village. The hero and some townspeople survived, but Raiga swore that he would find this hunter one day and get payback. He decides to be a hunter and a few years later he has finally attained his goal. The problem is that his bark is bigger than his actual skill. He teams up with Keres, an arrogant archer who panics quite often and Torche, a navigator who isn’t particularly skilled. Can these three heroes become legendary Flash Hunters?

Lets address the elephant in the room. That is to say, the terrible character known as Raiga. It’s obvious what the series is going for from the start. Raiga’s the hot headed main character who jumps into action and thinks about the consequences later. That’s fine, I’d actually consider that to be a positive trait most of the time. A lot of my favorite characters are like that as with Vegeta and Ichigo. The problem is that Raiga never improves enough where he can afford to act this way. All he ends up doing is putting everyone in harm’s way. Time after time he rushes at an enemy and nearly gets the group destroyed. It always works out one way or the other, but always because someone saves him and not because he ends up beating the monster. Raiga doesn’t care about teamwork and will always choose to pursue the monster.

You’d expect some kind of character arc for him somewhere down the line but it never, ever comes up. Even in literally the last volume he makes the same mistake. A monster has been forced back into the ocean and the town is calling in a bunch of hunters. Once there are enough of them then the team will go in to finish the monster. The problem is that Raiga wants to prove that he has surpassed Bexel (The rogue hunter who betrayed his village) and goes in alone. Naturally he gets beat up as always and Bexel is forced to save him. Then the rest of the team arrives and Raiga is saved, but our young hero ends up taking most of the credit. What he did was completely unnecessary. He does something like this in every volume and you can see why Keres kept ditching him. Raiga is a man who puts his own adrenaline needs above the lives of his teammates. Such a character won’t go far.

Raiga was just annoying the entire time and I’m still shocked by how he never got better. Unfortunately his teammate Torche is almost as bad. Her personality quirk is that she’s pretty clutsy and isn’t good at anything besides being a scout. She can pick out monster weak points, but this almost never comes in handy. She defends Raiga a lot which isn’t good either. The worst part is that she never really becomes a fighter. I get that not all team members need to know how to fight, but at least getting better armor and superior weapons would help her case a lot. She just ends up being more of a non character than anything.

Finally we have Keres. He’s a mixed bag because on one hand his constant need to run away is annoying. He gets nervous a lot to the point where he even retires for a while and is forced back into the hunt. On the other hand, he is often right when Raiga is involved. Why go to hunt a monster that isn’t bothering anyone when they can wait for reinforcements? He isn’t constantly addicted to fighting the way Raiga is. Still, he can be annoying in general so since all 3 main characters are annoying you can see why the characters is an angle which holds the manga back.

I also think the art may have something to do with this. The artist isn’t great at drawing facial expressions so everyone tends to have the same grins, frowns, etc. They all look the same after a while. Different character designs, but the same postures and expressions. Then the artist gets completely lost with regard to the fight scenes. You really can’t tell what is happening half of the time because it is too chaotic. Everyone is using a huge attack and the same goes for the monster so all of the action lines intersect to the point where it’s too muddled to make anything out. The art never gets better unfortunately and this would certainly be one of the weakest art that I have seen for a series.

Then we’ve got the main rival character Bexel. You could also call him an antagonist I suppose, but Raiga definitely exaggerates when talking about him. If you think about it, Bexel never actually hurt everyone. He decided to distance himself from everyone, that’s certainly true. At the same time I think it’s a little iffy for Raiga to basically act like he’s a monster. Bexel single handily saves many villages because of how crazy strong he has gotten. He may not be a hero, but he certainly is the best hunter in the series so just let him do his thing. Even by the end of the series nobody is even close to being as strong as he is. That’s pretty impressive.

There are also a few supporting characters, but given the series we are talking about none of them are all that memorable. You have another pair of hunters who do their best to support the main 3, but they aren’t all that powerful. One of them has his big hero moment which is basically Raiga’s fault so when he doesn’t return from his fatal battle we have the lead to thank. Then there is another heroine who shows up from time to time. She’s way better than Torche, but never feels too important. Honestly, nobody feels that important aside from the main 3 and you could basically just call them a distraction if anything.

I will give the manga a lot of credit for how it handles the monsters. This could have easily gone the animal violence route, but the manga is very classy with how it treats the battles. The monsters don’t get all that injured or when they die it isn’t super graphic. So while I do think the title failed in a lot of ways, this was a very important element and it handled this part very well. After all, better a 6/10 then getting the rest right and still dropping to a 4/10 with all of the creatures getting wrecked right?

I still think Bexel didn’t really get a fair shake, but I’ve already spoken a lot about the characters to lets start to wrap this up. Why is this manga still good when everything before this in the review was pretty negative? Well, as I mentioned before the premise of the manga is still good. I like a good adventure title as much as the next guy and the Monster Hunter world has always been pretty interesting. I liked the armors that the characters wore and while the fight scenes could be hard to read at least they were present. They were also rather long the whole time so you can’t say that the manga forgot that part. It does a good job of making the danger feel pretty real to the heroes.

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Overall, Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter could and should have been a lot better than it was. The characters should have been more interesting and likable. I can also dig the concept of the main 3 constantly bickering and all that, but even that isn’t handled well. We also get some random time skips, but the status quo didn’t change much so they ultimately feel pointless. You go from having the whole cast feeling outmatched against one monster to suddenly nothing can stop them in the ending. I’m fine with the main characters being the best since that’s inevitable, but you’re telling me that the whole region is basically out of hunters so without the main 3 they are doomed? How did they all live for so long then? Read this manga if you want a good action/fantasy title but prepare to get a little irritated.

Overall 6/10

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Rampage Review

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It’s time to look at a giant monster film that for whatever reason wasn’t getting a lot of people excited when the trailers were coming out. Most likely this was because the film just didn’t look intense enough but granted, the trailers weren’t bad either. My main concern was that the film would have a lot of animal violence and unfortunately this film delivered on that. It ends up limiting its own potential and essentially becoming another Jurassic World film. Trust me when I say that this is something that you typically want to avoid.

The film starts off by showing us a giant Rat in space. It murders the crew and a few more blocks of serum crash land on Earth. It infects 3 creatures, a Gator, a Wolf, and George. The corrupt villains decide to track down the monsters to make a fortune off of this although that seems unlikely but more on that later on. This gets us introduced to Davis who has been looking after George for a very long time. He’s not happy about his friend getting infected like this and decides to bring the villains to justice, but he’s going to have to go through the government in order to do it.

One of the main issues with the film is that the writing is no good. The characters don’t come across as being all that likable and everyone is extremely overconfident and refuses to listen to the others. George loves pranking everyone the whole time which isn’t handled well and the script is like something out of a horror movie with everyone having a potty mouth. It’s definitely not an element that will help the film since you need quality writing to make it to the next level.

Then we’ve also got the animal violence. Naturally George and Ralph can’t help but destroy animals on their way to global conquest. The animals never asked for this and they should have been spared this cruelty. Davis also gets a sob story involving animal violence and as the giant monsters are really just giant animals, the same can be said for all of their action scenes. It’s the reason why you will look forward to seeing Davis take on some humans instead. At least those scenes won’t make you feel bad for the opponent. As such, while the visuals can be impressive for the monsters, you really can’t enjoy the fights as much as you’d like to.

Lets take a look at the characters. Davis is the only reasonable one here. He wants to protect George so he quickly gets to work on doing so. The film addresses the reason why this random guy can pilot helicopters and take down trained professionals. It turns out that Davis used to work for the government as a secret operative and his whole life is shrouded in mystery. I guess that could be a plot point for the sequel as well. Davis is very no nonsense and he even gets to take on one of the monsters in the end as well. If only the rest of the cast was as solid.

Next up is the main heroine Kate. Right away we learn that she isn’t the most responsible person as she is about to be late for work yet again thanks to sleeping in. We’re never given a reason to sympathize with her so she is just coming in late for no reason. She lies to Davis about who she represents and after being exposed has the nerve to question Davis about how he doubts humanity. Davis doesn’t like people because he thinks they’re all liars and cheats. Kate may have a point in telling him not to generalize, but considering that she is guilty of this exact thing it’s not the best time to talk. She also questions his plans quite a lot and just can’t get with the program.

Claire is the main villain and on the surface she is fine. Claire’s an intimidating villain who is very smart and knows how to run a business. Based on that I’d say that she is a great character, however it all comes crashing down when you actually think about her plan, or lack therof. She wants to turn animals into giant monsters and then collect some money. What is she going to do with them though? It’s not like she can deliver them to a private company when they’re on the news and they aren’t going to sit still long enough for her to draw any blood. Her plan makes absolutely no sense and calling the monsters to Chicago isn’t going to do anything for her either. Her plan never had a chance at succeeding so at best she was prolonging the inevitable.

Then we’ve also got Brett who is her comic relief sidekick. He’s not the brightest bulb in the outfit and basically he is just around for her to have someone to mock. Brett does do a good job of living it large while things are going his way, but that’s about it. We’ve also got Harvey from the FBI who likes talking in a very sarcastic tone the whole time. By the end of the film he gets to be a little reasonable but it’s not really enough to make me think of him as a great character. He’s better than the field commander who is even more extreme, but that’s about it.

The cast is just pretty bad and I’m glad that Davis’ three partners from the very beginning of the film were written out. Those guys seemed pretty annoying and would have just held Davis back the whole time. They weren’t ready for this kind of mission and deep down…maybe they never were. This isn’t something that just anyone can handle after all and even Davis barely made it through. I think the film didn’t like some of these characters either as most of them get disrespected or straight up murdered at some point or another. I don’t think Brett really deserved such a death and Claire’s was also pretty vicious. The film could be surprisingly violent at times like in the very first scene where you see a head float by. The monster scenes were also quite vicious which didn’t help.

Overall, This film was just not a good one. Without good characters or fight scenes that you can get behind, there just isn’t much left. Throw in the animal violence plus the bad script and then you’ve really got a mess on your hands. I think the film should have stuck a little closer to the source material and had humans turn into giant monsters. That would have been great. Also, the film messed up on Lizzie’s design as she should have looked a little more like Godzilla. Perhaps they were afraid of copyright but at the very least it should have stood on two legs if you ask me. I think a potential sequel certainly has a lot more potential if it focuses on Davis, but the odds of that happening seem pretty slim to me. If this sounds like your kind of film then by all means check it out. Otherwise I would recommend watching the classic Tron movies instead.

Overall 3/10

Pacific Rim Uprising Review

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I remember watching the first Pacific Rim a while back and enjoying the concept of Kaiju vs Robots. The film had a relatively low budget so you couldn’t see large portions of the fight since it was at night but the whole thing was pretty epic. It was a solid film and I was certainly ready for the sequel. This film looked to increase the action based on the trailers so I was definitely all for that. It’s a solid sequel and one that almost matches the original film.

It takes place 10 years after the first film where the heroes closed the rift and saved the world. The world is ready to move on to automated drones so it appears like the pilots are about to be phased out. Are drones really a practical alternative though? They seem to turn evil in every sci-fi film. Meanwhile, we have our new main character. His Dad may have been leading the charge against the enemy but this guy just wants to have a bunch of parties and stay out of the action. Unfortunately he attempts to follow a thief so that he can steal the stolen items but he is apprehended by the cops and forced back into the program. A dark Jaeger appears at the summit he is supposed to protect and this begins the most climactic fight of his life. Can our heroes save the world one last time?

The action definitely lived up to the marketing which is nice. All of the fights take place during the day so there are no shortcuts like having most to obscure the robots. The two battles between Gypsy Avenger and the evil robot are excellent. Even if Gypsy does seem outmatched when it comes to the mechs, the humans know actual hand to hand combat which is finally important. After all, you would expect that to give you a big advantage in a fight right? Martial arts amp up your normal attacks so why it when inside a mech suit? The climax battle is great as well with the 4 Jaegers against the 3 Kaiju. Admittedly the Kaiju don’t look nearly as impressive as in the first film and only one of them appears to be able to fight back.

Still, they do get to roar quite a bit and I can always get behind that. Being able to absorb kinetic energy is always a great ability as well. Either way, the action scenes are definitely the highlight here and remind you of exactly why we needed a new Pacific Rim. I also do find it ironic that the Jaegers seem so much more streamlined and efficient then the Transformers. The Jaegers can still be a little slow at times, but they can maneuver through right windows and have a good array of abilities. They are really only limited by the pilots. Unlike the Transformers they aren’t constantly tripping or falling over. Granted, they can be knocked down rather easily by the Kaiju, but they get right back up.

The soundtrack isn’t bad but it isn’t memorable either. It won’t be one of the things that you will be talking about as you exit the theater but the visuals and loud sound effects help to mitigate this. I never count a lack of a soundtrack as a negative that would affect the score either unless it is painfully bad to listen too. Now it’s time to talk about the writing. Well, it’s certainly not great but it isn’t bad either. The dialogue could certainly be a lot worse and while the characters are rather generic they are written reasonably well. It’s definitely still night and day when compared to Transformers.

I’d say that the only scene where you will be cringing a lot is when the main character heads to the kitchen to have Ice Cream. He is extremely unhygienic which makes it gross rather than amusing. He eats from the ice cream bowl and puts his hand in the sprinkle jar. I feel bad for anyone else who enjoys the ice cream in this place. Surprisingly there aren’t too many over the top scenes like that which I was definitely glad about. There is a random subplot where one of the cadets is being mean to Amara and that was unnecessary, but not badly handled. If anything, the bully suddenly becoming nicer was rather rushed, but I guess getting beaten and forced into a choke hold by a little kid in front of everyone may have helped to crush her ego a bit.

Jake is a decent main character. He’s rather annoying at first as you can’t sympathize with him though. He doesn’t even need to steal or be a crook but just does it for the extra money. The whole currency exchange that he had going seemed rather illogical so maybe he just spent all of his money. Either way, he doesn’t get good until after the first showdown with the enemy. Then he finally wisens up to the fact that he needs to get it in gear and actually start fighting as opposed to constantly complaining and whining. You can probably tell that I’m not a huge fan of the guy so maybe saying that he is a decent character is a mild stretch. He is a lot better in the second half though so that helps to nage the opening at least a bit.

Then we have Nate who is Jake’s co-pilot and he is all over the place as well. He gives Jake an incredibly hard time throughout the film, but will also occasionally let it be known that he thinks Jake could be one of the greats. By the end of the film they are old pals again and the tension just seemed rather fake. Of course, I am on Nate’s side here since Jake did apparently abandon him for no good reason and then his next partner also abandoned him so it’s been a tough time for that guy.

Amara is essentially the kid from the recent Transformers film except 100x better. Instead of just talking tough and getting in everyone’s way, Amara is actually very capable on her own. She built her own Jaeger which is extremely impressive. I can’t give her enough credit for that because it must have taken a very long time so she was persistent and also had the skills to break into a government restricted area. Yes, you have to suspend your disbelief for a lot of the film, but what else is new? She sort of vanishes for a good chunk of the film, but returns in time to help for the climax. She’s not perfect, but Amara is probably the most reasonable character in the film and maybe will be the one that you can sympathize with the most. While everyone else is playing defense she is preparing for the next battle.

Then we have some returning characters from the first film like Newt. His interface with an alien was rather weird and pretty iffy at best, but aside from that one scene he is definitely a strong character. He delivers most of the snappy one liners and really doesn’t care about anyone, but himself. You can’t help but admire his self confidence and the fact that he is always the biggest person in the room. (When it comes to ego anyway) He’s an exaggerated character, but in a good way and his humor tends to land a lot more than the other characters. There is also Hermann who is basically the more stoic boring counterpart who uses his tech to help the world. He’s cool and all I guess, but you just can’t picture him putting up much of a fight compared to Newt.

Then we also have Liwen who is the head of corporate and feels like an antagonist in this film because of her ideals. She wants to use her drones to make the world a safer place where pilots aren’t constantly dying. They are now safe away from the dangers. It mirrors the real world issues of drones as they are safer for the pilots, but also bring with them a ton of security risks like the fact that they can be hacked or malfunctioned. They aren’t a complete substitute for normal Jaegers and Liwen tries to make this point, but the other characters basically just yell at her the whole time to drown out her points. Yes, I’m on Liwen’s side here. Apparently in 10 years we were only able to build a small handful of Jaegers to defend the main base and the UN Summit while she built hundreds of them in the same time frame. I think it’s obvious which ones are more efficient and they also seemed fairly strong if you ask me. Again, we do need a blend of both, but if we really want to win a war with the aliens then Liwen is the world’s only chance.

Finally, Mako also appears in the film for a bit as a guest star and she’s a cool character as always. Mako’s intelligence is given a lot of credit here as she is able to spot key facts about the enemy in an instant. While her role was small, it was important and she had a more lasting impact than many of the other characters. Does anybody actually remember the names of any of the Cadets? Those guys never got any real development (Which is a good thing if you ask me) and were just around so we could have more Jaegers. Development just wastes time if it’s used on too many characters, but that’s why Mako is good since she already had her character development in the first film and here you got to understand her character in a flash. Maybe a third film could flesh out the other pilots, but again…that’s unnecessary. Lets stick to the fighting.

You’ll never get bored during the film because it’s just very exciting. At times the film goes a little too overboard in trying to show how hopeless it is for humanity though. There are some points where it should really be all over for them, but the villains have mercy or don’t make the right moves. When the mini robots came swarming in they could have easily destroyed the Jaegers by going inside the circuits or something like that. It’s always a very annoying strategy by the villains, but it works. Why didn’t the evil Gypsy blast the 3 robot reinforcements who were being carried over? They were sitting ducks while landing so he could blast them or just stab all of their processors. Why did the villain just wait by his lonesome in the arctic for a fair 1 on 1 fight when he could have lured the heroes somewhere else? If he hadn’t been in the arctic then the heroes would have been absolutely lost.

Of course, the arctic fight was one of the best scenes in the film. Second only to the first fight so I am glad that the battle happened. I know that the whole point of these films is Robots against Monsters so I should be glad that we still get those at the very end, but honestly that robot fights were the best part. This is why I would love a Gundam film at some point with a proper budget. I don’t know why but Transformers just never has good fight scenes like the Pacific Rim films. Perhaps it is the terrible designs or the fact that most of the Transformer robots just punch each other instead of mixing it up with lasers and cannons, but the fights in Rim are a lot more satisfying. I’m starting to get off topic though.

I may give Pacific Rim 1 the slight edge overall, but it is extremely close. The more I think about it, the more the second film may have the slight edge, but it’s been a while since I saw the first movie. Rim 2 isn’t the greatest movie of the year and likely will have a tough time getting the 2nd spot, but I’d wager that it will still end up being one of the better films this year. If not top 5 then certainly top 10. It just doesn’t really make any big mistakes while doing a lot of things right like the action scenes. No animal violence, no excessive violence, the language was a lot more restrained than in other films, etc. It’s just a solid all around movie.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to actually talk about the monsters all that much, but in my defense the film barely shows them either. They’re basically just a footnote in this movie as they exist just to get squashed and beaten up. They don’t seem to have much intelligence compared to the older monsters and aren’t even much of a threat next to dark Gypsy. This will be sad for big Kaiju fans, but at least we have the Godzilla films coming up. The monsters have good designs and the fight is cool so I’ll give them that.

Overall, if you haven’t watched Pacific Rim Uprising yet then I think it is time to fix that. The fight scenes here are very good and are easily the best giant robot fights we have seen in live action. That might be a low bar, but that’s not to say that these fights were not impressive under any criteria. They really did a good job of capturing how well these robots can fight. While they may need more firepower to really tack on the damage to someone like Godzilla, they should be prepared for any monster that the aliens have in store for them. The ending will definitely get you hyped for a possible third film.

Overall 7/10