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The Pokémon Anime


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#1 klop422

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 12:52 PM

So I just got out of the longest bingewatching session I've ever done.

I watched the entirety of the Pokémon Anime, from the start of the Orange Islands arc (since I've seen season one a few times already) until the newest episode (released in the UK, at least). Took me since September until a couple days ago.

Since I need somewhere to put down my thoughts, I'm just gonna put down my initial thoughts as a sort of review. So, spoiler warning, I guess, if anyone cares enough about the Pokémon TV show. I'll probably telegraph which series I'm specifically talking about at the beginning of each paragraph anyway, but still.

 

Basically, don't read this is you don't care at all. But feel free to discuss the anime anyway if you can't be bothered to read the whole thing. It turned out long. General things first anyway:

I don't really care about how loose the adaptation is - it's its own world which is a lot like the game world. Still, some things are inconsistent, so... whatever.

 

So, people complain about the fact that Orange Islands is a filler arc, but, honestly, it ain't that bad, at least on first watching. Tracey (replacing Brock) is a fine character, and the whole Ash/Misty ship hints are good fun. Other than that, this is (spoiler for the entire rest of the series) the only time Ash wins at the Pokémon League, so there's that. In any case, it's not bad. And the theme song is pretty good.

Johto, on the other hand, is much more filler-filled than Orange Islands could ever hope to be. Brock coming back is good, but they spend so many episodes doing nothing to the overall plot that it gets really tiring. I'm normally fine with filler (I mean, I didn't decide to watch Pokémon for heavy plot), but some of this was ridiculous. That said, apparently people complain about the Whirl Islands arc (where Ash and Misty join a battling competition, and then Team Rocket try and get Lugia by capturing baby Lugia) for being a filler arc, but it's honestly still not really an issue - at least there's a plot going on through it. Just the fact that there are so many episodes between the gym battles, i.e. the plot markers, makes this one a bit of a trek.

That said, there are a couple nice filler episodes - the one where Ash and Brock get ill and Misty has to do everything is good fun, and the absolute best episode of the entire show (until maybe some of the modern ones) is James the Mighty Moltres. Just the pinnacle of stupidity, but done (mostly) on purpose, which is what this show is all about, to be honest.

Also, this series introduces Wobbuffet, who, while I found him grating at first, is overall a great addition to the show.

The theme songs for this series are a bit less good. The second Johto song is really bad - they steal some of the lyrics from the first one, but it's not nearly as good. Third one is a little better, but so far nothing comes up to the original series.

The last episode is also surprisingly emotional, since Misty is pretty much forced to leave the group (and so shipping) and Brock randomly decided to go home as well. While it's still clearly a kids' show, the characters feel real enough to get attached to (which is what kept me watching, tbh).

In any case, Ash has to use cutlery to get out of a hole which they've previously gotten out of using no tools whatsoever. Team Rocket's pitfall traps are a bit inconsistent.

 

The Hoenn series is fine. Theme song gets worse again for a bit. May and Max took a bit of time to grow on me, since I was still getting used to not having Misty (and at first May even outright states that she doesn't like Pokémon), but Contests are a good addition to the story, since we now have multiple characters having a goal (i.e. we have more actual plot to fill empty space). Brock and Max are also a great supporting cast in this series, although Brock gets creepier as the show goes on. Also, we get Jessie catching Seviper, which is wonderful (and unfortunately the best clip on youtube is this, which is terrible quality).

Misty does show up again for half a dozen episodes, in two bouts, which isn't as satisfying as it should be, because she doesn't interact enough with the established characters. Sure, it'd be pointless if she got no time to interact with May and Max, but it's disappointing to see her not really do a lot of talking to the other two (and the shipper in me needs that :P).

The endgames happen as one would expect i.e. (spoiler alert) both Ash and May get to their big events (Pokémon League and Grand Festival respectively), do decently well, and then lose. Ash makes the odd decision to only use his Hoenn Pokémon, but it doesn't really matter in the long run. Just a little disappointing not to see some of the other good Pokémon of Ash's.

Battle Frontier is also good fun - Ash wins everywhere (after losing at the Battle Pyramid due to demonic posession or whatever), marking his second (and most recent) success at a major Pokémon battle thing. May also does some more contests (furthering the ship between her and her rival Drew). Nothing really major, though.

The other thing that happens is the dub voices change, which is weird for a bit. Team Rocket's voice actors take some time to get used to the cackling, but it works out. Other nitpicks include the overuse of the 'Advance Adventure' track, which gives me He-Man vibes (i.e. cheesy 80s cartoons) and the overuse of the action music from Pokémon 2000, which doesn't really make sense since Lugia is never involved.

 

Sinnoh is where the show starts to become worth watching. Not that I hated the stuff before, but this is where it starts maturing, if only slightly. We have Ash's rival Paul, who mistreats his Pokémon (forcing his Chimchar to get really beaten up to make Blaze work properly); Pokémon Hunter J, who multiple times succeeds in stealing Pikachu and Meowth (only to be beaten at the end of the episode, but who is still much scarier than Team Rocket); and Team Galactic, who are the first villains to be an actual threat, if underused. Also, Dawn (who does contests as well) gets depressed (as in, unhappy, not clinical depression) early on because she loses a bunch. And she mentions offhand that she felt empty inside during one episode - not anything deep, just bad writing.

The theme songs are also a bit better this time round ("We Will Be Heroes" is probably tied for third place for me, with "Pokémon World" i.e. the Orange Island theme), but the character dynamic is not. Dawn and Ash have all sorts of good banter - Dawn's a lot nicer to him than Misty or May - but Brock kind of feels like he's overstayed his welcome. He barely does anything of note, and his creepiness starts to get a bit tiring. He's fine, but he could have been used better. The other characters are much better, though.

 

In any case, I wouldn't recommend watching through the original series to the end of Diamond and Pearl unless you really like Pokémon and kids' cartoons. Pokémon Black and White is where everything gets watchable. Literally about 1% of the show is filler during this series, meaning the plot moves on at a decent pace. Ash also actually catches a decent amount of Pokémon.

That said, there are a number of issues as well. Trip, the first rival, is just a jerk for no reason. Iris, the female lead, is condescending towards Ash (who's gotten to the top 4 in the Sinnoh League) for also no reason. Cilan, on the other hand, is literally never angry, and good at pretty much everything he does. I mean, he fails at things, but he's never upset about it. They also regress slightly in terms of character goals, where Cilan and Iris still have goals, but they're a lot less clear, and so making their goals drive the plot doesn't quite work.

The rival characters are a bit too numerous as well. Every character has at least one rival, and Ash has three. Every now and then, the overall story stops for a bit while we have a tournament where literally every recurring character shows up and competes. It's good fun the first time, but it gets less interesting the second and third times.

Team Rocket also get a lot less interesting. They were getting a bit boring anyway, but suddenly becoming completely competent and no-nonsense was maybe not the solution. That said, Meowth joins the main characters for a bit, which is a fun time.

That said, their arc makes them actually threatening, and Giovanni is actually a main villain. So that's good fun.

Dawn also shows up again. She's treated better than Misty and May - gets some good interaction with everyone. Overall, fine.

After the League and Team Plasma (who are more interesting in the games, but whatever; they're not bad here), we do get a proper filler arc. It's fine - we get to see some Kalos Pokémon - but meh.

 

Far and away, the best series is X and Y, though. The episodes are much denser, the characters are much deeper, and the plot doesn't sag. There's more filler than Gen V, but it's nicely spaced out, and many of them serve the purpose of character development if not plot development. Every pair of characters has a good dynamic - not least the brother-sister duo of Clemont and Bonnie. The running gags aren't annoying and don't get tiring (like Brock's thing or Wobbuffet early on), and nobody feels like they're just there.

Well, I mean, Serena (this series' female character) kind of does for a bit. She took a little bit to grow on me - from the creepiness of 'I saw this guy I recognised from years ago on TV, so I'm going to track him down), to the fact that her goal at first appears to pretty much be 'find Ash, then get with him', she felt a bit like she was along for the ride. I'm not an avid feminist, but a strong female character she is not.

At some point, she does get a goal, though, trying to become Kalos Queen in 'Pokémon Showcases', but I didn't enjoy watching that as much. The extreme femininity reeks of pandering to a female demographic (something which I, as a young adult male, don't find very interesting - I appreciate of course that I'm not their target audience, but I imagine young boys wouldn't find it that interesting, though I don't know how interested the girls are in the Pokémon League either, so whatever). They do try to backpedal a little, claiming the Kalos Queen should be beautiful and smart, and shove a pop quiz in one of the showcases. So there's that. All in all, Pokémon Showcases are just worse Pokémon Contests (which would have been a perfect way to tie the show to Gen III since the remakes were in Gen VI).

That said, the Ash/Serena ship has my support if they decide to finalise one.

That's pretty much the only complaint I have. The trio of episodes around the last gym are the best episodes of the series, and in terms of emotional depth, also the best episodes of the show at overall. That said, the season finale spans too many episodes. I spent a day bingewatching that while I wrote an essay. Should have been shorter.

One other random thing - Grant, the second gym leader, sounds like an educational YouTuber.

In any case, I enjoyed this season, and if you don't mind Pokémon and like childish anime, I would actually recommend this one.

 

Which brings us to the Sun and Moon series. They kind of regress here. Ash becomes a child again (not like he wasn't one before, but he acted a lot older), and they never mention his visits to anywhere other than Kanto and Johto (which means, were it not for the fact that he recognises Pokémon from the other regions, it might well take place before the Advanced series). The humour works fine (better than previous series) and the characters grow on you. I think my issues with it are only there because of how good the previous series was in comparison.

In case you don't know, they switch up the status quo: Ash goes to school, and the other main characters are the other students. The teacher is Professor Kukui, who somehow gets away with teaching six ten-year-old students while wearing only shorts and a labcoat that's never closed.

The plot also doesn't really kick off until season 2 (or 21 if you're going by the whole show). At that point, there's a multi-part story which goes through Sun/Moon's (the games') climax with Lusamine, but after that they form the Ultra Guardians, which is a parody of (at least what I imagine to be) the Power Rangers (given that I've never watched any). The plot's a bit better now, but it still feels like it's regressed a little since X and Y.

Other things to note about this is that Misty and Brock show up again for two more episodes (and are set for a third sometime next year), but, again, feel very underused in terms of character interaction.

 

So, overall thoughts: I enjoyed the whole thing, but I know it's really not everyone's thing, especially if you don't have a lot of time on your hands. I do kind of wish they'd make more references back - Gens V, VI, and VII are all very self-contained, though V leads right into VI. People complain about Ash not being 'savage' (i.e. sarcastic and insulting) anymore, but to me it all worked very naturally - Gens III and IV put him in the role of a teacher rather than a learner, and so he got a little better about it, and Gen VI is the endpoint of that (for now). I suppose before Gen VII he could have gotten sillier because he'd been hanging out with his mother for a while, but who knows?

 

TL;DR Gen VI and VII are worth a watch if you like shows targeted at a younger audience. Watch before then only if you really want to. It's been a ride, but it took me three months, so, you know. At your own risk.

Anyway, I just wanted to put down my thoughts on the show. Anyone else keeping up with the show? Predictions? Opinions?

Or, you know, rail me with abuse for spending hours upon hours watching and unironically enjoying (ok, mostly unironically) mediocre tie-in kids' TV show (though I'll defend myself for Gen VI). Whatever you find most appealing.

Anyway, I don't think I'll be bingewatching anything this childish for a while. Either something more 'grown up' or even just some books.


Edited by klop422, 05 December 2018 - 12:53 PM.


#2 Chris

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 02:44 PM

I didn't really keep up with it, but what I saw of most later seasons was opposing to your review getting worse and worse to me ;p

Something you didn't really mention were the added game stuff. The old anime kinda does what it wants, the newer has some annoying elements like pokemon blocking an attack with then someone explaining "ohh, the ability activated". The attacks also are just like in the game with a lot of flashy effects but rarely any creative use imo.

Regarding the wonders of Pokemon, I remember multiple intering older episodes, but not really any new ones. Like in the newer episodes I saw some things happening that made me interested what comes next, but there came nothing next. Like one episode about a relicanth (the stone fish) were I expected something about old culture or so and then they just found a cave with old pokemon or so (language barrier plus long time since I watched it ;p )

I simply really liked the first cast, ash and misty as team and Brock as silly adult fitting in with the Joyces and Rockies (are they spelled like that) looking all the same. As well as finding Team Rocket quite funny back then.

In later series I found Ash less noticeable, often seeing him as a background red line to give the episodes a connection. The other girls were more lively but less interesting to me. Like Misty was like searching for a place for herself, left behind by her sisters, while the later ones felt to me like a female ash, just more emotional and girly. And the little brothers... they acted like kids and added content for a even younger audience, making the series too childish for my taste.

I half agree on Brock and Team Rocket. They kind of lost their charakter through the series. The old series felt a bit stiff (graphics and such, repetitive charakters as running gag) and there Brocks actions kind of fit in and lived things up, in the new series with better graphics and a more lively surrounding the same behavior indeed often just feels creepy. Team Rocket were simply the silly and like that funny but also tragic antagonists, they got a lot of screen time, too. Later they are more of a leftover, becoming rather a overused joke with not enough screen time to give them charakter.

I don't really like the new villains though. They may be more evil and threatening, but in a child show sense, and as such again rather boring. Same with many of Ash's later rivals, they are jerks in a little kids sense and their quarrels kinda remind me of kids drama you really regret to be around if it happens.

#3 Adem

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 04:49 PM

I stopped watching after the voice actor change. I picked up Diamond and Pearl for a little while, but had a lot of trouble getting used to the new voices. Ash's new voice in particular completely changed the air of his character, and it was too hard for me to move past that. 

 

I've watched a few episodes of Sun and Moon and it's alright. It's cute, but I'm certainly not invested in it. While I feel like the games have continued to evolve and improve with every iteration (except, perhaps, for Black and White), I feel like the anime has gone rather stale. The early seasons are witty, campy, and sweet. But, realistically, Ash should be an adult by now...And he's still the same age he was when he first left on her Pokémon journey. :shrug: It's easy to look past that after a few seasons, but at this point it feels silly. 

 

I understand that they're trying to keep their protagonist the same age as their target audience, but I much rather would have watched Ash age into adulthood and be replaced with a new hero who makes cameos like Brock and Misty. 


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#4 klop422

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Posted 05 December 2018 - 07:35 PM

Yeah, the actual game mechanics (past type matchups) starts to get a little weird, tbh. I did cut out (and forget) some details since my 'review' was getting fairly long. I can see where you're coming from when you say it was getting worse. The overall story arcs turn out better as the show goes on, but the filler episodes get worse until we get to Black/White, and I did feel some of the staleness creeping in.

I agree that my favourite cast (at least before X&Y) was Ash/Misty/Brock. They work so well, and Brock didn't feel played out at this point (and they hadn't flanderised his character to make him creepy - he's actually shy about it in one of the early episodes). The newer cast members aren't bad in my opinion, but they're not as good as that trio.

RE newer villains, they aren't generally very relevant until the main arc involving them, so the fact that they're a lot less comical isn't really an issue to me. Having an actually threatening villain to dilute the silliness of Team Rocket is good fun (and the arc where Team Rocket is competent and threatening is less fun without them goofing around).

What I will say is that, by the point of Black/White, they do a lot to combat the staleness. It's kind of a soft reboot (i.e. they reset Ash's age), although in terms of continuity it still doesn't make any sense because Dawn shows up again. And, as I say, X&Y are really worth a watch because it's so much more mature than all of the other series. I just kind of ignore the fact that characters age, because in this world, they don't appear to, tbh. They have character development without their age increasing, I guess? (Speaking of which, Game Theory did a couple videos, and I think concluded that, as of that pair of episodes - it was a two-parter - Ash would be 21. That was a couple months ago by now). And they appear to have gotten the hang of writing series-wide stories, meaning that if you're following it, you can get invested (although Sun/Moon isn't the best for that. Again, XY is easily the best in this respect - I didn't mention the marked improvement I felt immediately as I watched the first episode after getting through Black/White). In any case, it's about character depth - something that wasn't missing from the first four/five series, but which definitely wasn't present to the extent it was in XY and is in Sun/Moon.

 

In terms of the voice change, it really does change the sound of all the characters, especially Ash, but I feel like the point where it happens is around the time when he's progressing from the really childish character to the more mature trainer he becomes later on. I'd probably have preferred the old voices to stay, but oh well... At least Giovanni and Gary kept the same voices?

 

Oh, and Chris, in English, I believe Joyce and Rocky are Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny. :P



#5 HylianGlaceon

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Posted 06 December 2018 - 02:19 AM

I watched from the First episode until Dawn left in Gen 5. The show was great until Gen 5 imo. Gen 4 probably having Ash as the best he's ever been, like actually maturing into a decent trainer.

 

Then we got a reboot in Gen 5 which basically nullified all of the development he and the show had at the end of Gen 4. I dropped it after Dawn came back and left in Gen 5 then never really went back. I did see a handful of Gen 6 episodes before finishing Gen 4 but it seemed too slow for me to get into. I have no doubt Gen 6 is better than Gen 5, but maybe I just got too old after that point to get into something like this again.



#6 klop422

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Posted 06 December 2018 - 08:17 AM

I mean, the impression I got woth Gen 5 was not that it regressed in terms of Ash's character development, just that it didn't really do any of it. And the supporting cast (Iris and Trip especially) gave the impression he was really inexperienced. Now I think about it, they make fun of him for not knowing Unova legends - which is like me making fun of a foreigner for not knowing about the Loch Ness Monster or something. So... great?

#7 Chris

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Posted 06 December 2018 - 09:51 AM

You scottish?

#8 klop422

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Posted 06 December 2018 - 12:38 PM

Yeah, I am.


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