Judge Paul Pritchard has a monsuno in his pocket.
The Race To Harness The Power Of Monsuno!
Parents beware: Monsuno is coming to take your money.
It's impossible to talk about Monsuno: Destiny without mentioning the P-word. No, not that one (you should be ashamed of yourself), I meant Pokemon. As you may recall, Nintendo's cross-media phenomenon (which no doubt due to me being in my mid-thirties has pretty much passed me by), saw young children enslave powerful creatures in tiny balls before pitting them against each other in what looked like a furry version of Street Fighter II. The franchise spanned television, movies, trading cards, action figures, and of course the videogames that started it all and continue to this day. It has also raked in an obscene amount of money. With that in mind it's understandable that other companies would want a slice of the action. I'd never heard of Monsuno, but a quick search of toy catalogues reveals the merchandise machine is already in full swing, despite the show first airing at the start of 2012.
Unfortunately the creators of Monsuno have adhered a little too closely to the Pokemon formula, so much so that those, like myself, who are not fully initiated in their respective universes will find it hard to differentiate between the two shows. Both feature a trio of friends on a quest; in the case of Monsuno the group is searching for Chase's missing father—and in both the kids have control over powerful creatures that they battle with. Small deviances—Pokemon are held in small balls, whereas Monsuno are stored in cylinders—do little to make a case for Monsuno being a completely original creation.
A bland, anime-by-numbers look also does little to help Monsuno stand out. The human characters—especially the series lead, Chase Suno—could have very easily been lifted from any number of Japanese or Japanese influenced animations from the last two decades, as they lack a single defining feature. The designs of the various Monsuno is also unremarkable. Whereas Pokemon threw up all kinds of oddities, Monsuno takes a standard animal, for instance a polar bear, and simply increases its size tenfold and sticks on a piece of armor, or some other nondescript adornment.
Moving beyond the fact that the show lacks a truly unique selling point in terms of its basic concept, it's still disappointing to report that the writing is so lacking in imagination. The episodic nature of the show quickly becomes repetitive, as a different villain appears in each episode while the main antagonists are held back (something I assume later episodes will address). Of the five episodes included in Monsuno: Destiny, only episode five, "Knowledge," really stands out. The episode is in many ways typical of the way the show assimilates ideas from other series, in this case there's a hint of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The appearance of a camp monk known as The Bookman, whose villainy is so overplayed that it is impossible not to enjoy, saves it and suggests there may be hope for Monsuno once the series finds its stride.
Monsuno: Destiny contains the following episodes:
• "Clash"—Chase Suno and his two best friends, Bren and Jinja begin the search for Chase's father, the scientist Jeredy Suno, who has gone missing. On arrival at his father's remote lab, Chase is confronted by Jon Ace and S.T.O.R.M. (Strategic Tactical Operatives for Recovery of Monsuno), who are after the Monsuno Jeredy had hidden for his son.
• "Courage"—Chase, who is now in possession of his own Monsuno (the giant polar bear named Lock), goes in search of a Monsuno called Quickforce, who is being held captive by S.T.O.R.M. Quickforce's volatile nature makes their rescue attempt difficult.
• "Underground"—The trio meet a mysterious woman who leads them to an underground club where Monsuno do battle. While there, Jinja is able to obtain her own Monsuno, called Charger.
• "Wicked"—A mercenary pursues Chase in an attempt to force him into a Monsuno duel.
• "Knowledge"—When the evil monk known as The Bookman imprisons Chase, Bren, and Jinja, help comes in the form a younger monk name Beyal who aides in their escape.
Picture quality on Shout Factory's DVD release of Monsuno: Destiny is very good. The transfer is sharp, with vibrant colors, and no real flaws to speak of. Sound is also hard to fault, with clear dialogue accompanied by a suitably buoyant soundtrack. The only extras on the DVD release are character bios for Chase and Lock.
The real kicker with Monsuno: Destiny is that despite having watched endless episodes of Pokemon—having taken an interest in it following Pikachu's involvement in the Super Smash Bros. series of videogames—and the slightly more recent Dinosaur King, my kids still found plenty to enjoy here. Whether it's the familiarity of the show that drew them in, or the fact that they dig watching big monsters beat the snot out of each other at the behest of some puny little kid, it just clicked for them and in doing so kind of rendered all my arguments moot. Monsuno is a kids' show. If they like it, that makes it a success, right?
No. Forget what the kids say. It's Guilty.
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