Monster Hunter fans have a reason to cheer as Viz Media is publishing manga made by a fan of the video game set in the universe. The story is based on three beginner hunters trying to level up, but like in many mangas they may have bitten off more than they can chew.
Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
So what’s it about? Per Viz Media’s solicit:
It is an age when monsters rule the world, soaring through the sky, treading the earth and filling the seas. Humanity survives on the fringes, relying on a special kind of hero to defend the people from danger—the Monster Hunters!
Hunting giant man-eating beasts is no job for the weak-hearted, but along with courage, it takes skill and experience to be a good Hunter. It also takes good teamwork. Raiga and his comrades are experts now, but when they started down the path of the Monster Hunter, they lacked these qualities. When they head off to confront the dragon-like Queropeco, they quickly learn that this flaw could cost them dearly…
Why does this book matter?
This manga is based on the Flash Hunter novels by Hikami Sensei so you know the story will have a solid base. That’s a relief since so many video game adaptations tend to be visuals first and story second which can create some messy and unpleasant reads. This is Shin Yamamoto (story) and Keiichi Hikami’s (art) first manga so you know you’re going to get their all.
Cool monsters can be found here!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Raiga is a solid protagonist who has the obvious character motifs common in manga (unsure of himself, heroic and determined) with a tad more character thrown in too. Yamamoto delivers some much needed flashbacks at one point to show us a once arrogant child who learned the hard way monsters aren’t to be trifled with. The fact that he is determined to be a monster hunter given this background strengthens his nature to never give up. Meanwhile the supporting characters around him deliver much needed character dynamics to spruce up their bond. Only a team can successfully kill monsters and it’s clear Yamamoto is building their relationships to explore later.
The world of Monster Hunter is fascinating too, with a lot of the fantasy world tropes. Bars, villages, and hunters with all sorts of neat armor and weapons inhabit this land. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves and they literally wear their achievements on their backs since the best armor comes from monsters. This first volume introduces four different monsters too—each with fun and detailed encyclopedic asides to convey their abilities—and they’re wildly different from each other. Clearly Yamamoto has a lot of monsters to play with and it’s nice to see the first volume doesn’t introduce only one monster, but a few.
The art in this volume is quite good too, with solid detail in each monster. The detail really shines in the armor of the characters as it looks cool, but also functional. Hikami’s use of sound effects add to the sheer size of these beasts, and it feels incredibly dramatic. Drama is on point throughout too due to well timed quiet moments in battle as we soak in the enormity of a situation (and the monster in front of our heroes!). Bottom line is this is a gorgeous book and if they ever do make a larger page omnibus edition this art will be well served there as well.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There were a few moments where I lost track of what was going in with the action. Either the action got too close so it was hard to discern what I was looking at, or a panel didn’t do enough to express what our hero was doing—it takes you out of the manga from time to time. It always rights itself a panel or two later though and you’re back in the thick of it with the heroes.
Their conflict is fun to read.
This is a fantastic first volume that introduces its characters well, but most importantly makes you want to explore this world even further. Monster Hunter: Flash Hunter earns its place in the pantheon of fantasy manga.
Look for this in bookstores April 12th 2016.