One lunatic's love-hate relationship with the Pokémon franchise, and his addled musings on its rights, wrongs, ins and outs. Come one, come all, and indulge my delusions of grandeur as I inflict my opinions on anyone within shouting distance.
What are your special skills? – Compassion: You are less of a $#!tbag than most kids your age, allowing you to empathise with people and Pokémon, and intuit their desires or concerns. – Science: You hang around Professor Oak’s lab a lot, and have picked up a lot of debatably useful trivia about everything from astronomy to marine biology. – Tactics: You watch televised Pokémon battles obsessively. You know Pokémon type advantages by heart, and know how certain moves can be used in creative ways.
What is your rival’s name? – I think it’s like a colour or something
Okay, let’s get on with it!
You’re at Professor Oak’s lab, ready for the beginning of the rest of your life! The floor is tiled in pristine white – or at least, it used to be; they do a lot of experiments here and the cleaners can’t keep up. You can still pick out most of the stains that are your fault. Thick textbooks on Pokémon behaviour and anatomy line every wall and are scattered over most of the tables, complex machines with lots of enticing buttons litter the main room, and the lab assistants are that particular kind of dishevelled that says “we barely know how to feed and clothe ourselves, but give us grant money and we’ll work 36 hours a day!” You nod cheerily to each of them as you pass. You have a lot of fun memories in this place – culturing bacteria in Petri dishes, mixing chemicals to create violent colours and beautiful explosions, learning to predict the weather from air pressure measurements, helping the Professor’s assistants to draw up charts of Kantonian habitats and biomes. It’s almost a shame to be leaving, but there’s so much to do out in the world: people and Pokémon to meet, natural phenomena to explore, battles to win! Professor Oak is standing, magisterial and dignified, but with a kindly smile on his face, just next to a high bench with three glittering round objects.
As you’ve often mentioned, a predominant theme of Pokemon is that humans and Pokemon both prosper by working together and treating each other with respect and friendship. It’s not only the ethos of most inhabitants of the world, but built into the metaphysics of the game itself (friendship evolution, etc). Why is it that (most of) the evil teams seem so convinced that it’s better to treat mons like tools or slaves instead, when their ideology is demonstrably wrong? Obviously, it shows that the evil people are, in fact, evil, but Team Rocket, who cares solely about money, should at least be able to crunch the numbers and see which technique is more profitable in the long run. Plus, who’s on the buying end of these smuggling rings? Do you think something else is going on? Either something implied or an unintentional interpretation?
These two episodes cover a brief (?) excursion to tropical Seafoam Island, where Delia and a group of her friends from Pallet Town are enjoying a relaxing holiday (it’s a very different place from the Seafoam Islands in the games). Misty and Brock are both invited to join their group, but Ash – who is theoretically supposed to be training for the Pokémon League – is left behind, until he manages to con Professor Oak into giving him an excuse to go anyway. The Evolution Solution, upon watching it again, is not as interesting an episode as I had hoped it would be, and The Pi-Kahuna has themes that are pretty standard for the Pokémon anime. However, the former gives me an excuse to ramble at length about Shellder and Slowbro, while the latter… let’s just say its themes are open to creative reinterpretation. Anyway – without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Now safely back in Pallet Town, Ash has to start preparing for the Pokémon League tournament – and in order to do that, he has to visit Professor Oak to find out when and where the tournament actually takes place (evidently, the answer is: in exactly two months, at exactly the same place as every year – the Indigo Plateau). It apparently never occurred to him before now to look this stuff up. When he arrives at the lab with Misty and Brock, Oak is apparently more excited to see Togepi than to see him, but nonetheless welcomes the gang into his sitting room, where they find out that – as always – Gary is two steps ahead of Ash. They are almost immediately at each other’s throats, but Professor Oak protests that it would be a shame for there to be a feud between Pallet Town’s two “top trainers” – to the indignant disbelief of both. Ash and Gary snipe each other for a while as the Professor examines their Pokédexes, and then it’s time for a tour of his facilities.
With Giovanni and Viridian City behind him, Red’s journey takes him to Indigo Plateau and the headquarters of the Pokémon League. He narrates, briefly, his conquest of the Elite Four, accompanied by only brief clips from each battle, and is finally sent through by Lance to meet the Champion, who turns out to be – spoiler alert – Blue. Red is surprised, but seems almost pleased to find him there. Blue gives an adapted version of his classic overconfident and egomaniacal entrance speech, complete with his line about being “the most powerful trainer in the world,” and hurls his Pidgeot’s Pokéball to start the battle. We skim through most of it in a few seconds – Blue’s team is the same as he would use with Blastoise in the games, while Red uses Jolteon, Lapras, Persian, Scyther, Dodrio and Charizard. Eventually, of course, the battle comes down to their starters. Although Blastoise shrugs off Charizard’s initial Mega Punch and then nearly ends the battle with Hydro Pump, Charizard is able to endure the damage, trap and weaken Blastoise with Fire Spin, and finally nail him with what I imagine to be a critical hit with Fire Blast. Blue is confused and upset by his loss, but covers it up quickly – and then Professor Oak arrives. Professor Oak’s lines in this scene were sort of forgivable in the games, where all the dialogue was pretty simplistic, but a lot more jarring in this medium: he initially ignores his grandson completely to give embarrassingly glowing praise to Red instead, and when he finally does acknowledge Blue, his first words are a condescending “what a shame…” Blue shrugs that off – and gets accused of forgetting to treat his Pokémon with trust and love, something which rings a little hollow given that we’ve never really seen the way Blue treats his Pokémon. Once Professor Oak has finished being a douchebag, he leads Red backstage to enter him in the Hall of Fame. Red is a little self-conscious here, but is assured by Professor Oak that he’s earned it, so he vows to uphold the honour of the position.
For those not familiar with it, Pokémon Origins is what might be called a ‘reboot’ of the Pokémon anime. Released late last year, it is a four-episode miniseries which follows the adventures of Red – the protagonist of the original Pokémon games – and is closely based on the events of Red Version, Blue Version, and their third-generation remakes, Fire Red and Leaf Green (the visuals mainly taking their cues from the latter pair of games). This stuff is pure nostalgia fuel, for people who were introduced to Pokémon by Fire Red and Leaf Green, for those of us who are old enough to have clear memories of when Red and Blue were first released, and, hell, probably for Game Freak and the animators too. Each episode opens with the CONTINUE/NEW GAME/OPTIONS screen and ends with the SAVE screen from the original games, the first episode begins with Professor Oak’s “introduction to the world of Pokémon,” followed by the battle between Nidorino and Gengar familiar from the opening cinematic (on Red’s TV), and even the dialogue often quotes directly from the games. This last point, if you ask me, may have been pushing it a bit far, since the English translations of Red and Blue didn’t exactly have the best-written dialogue in video game history – the quotes stand out for being, frankly, a little wooden. Enough of the general style, though; let’s talk about the plot.