When you say Pokemon, there are many things that come to mind. Perhaps it’s the original video games that you grew up playing. Or maybe you’re first thought is the card game, as you’re an avid collector. Or maybe you haven’t played any of the games at all! Maybe the only thing Pokemon means to you is a cheesy anime!
Y’know. The one show that may actually be longer than One Piece!
This show is weird. Like, really weird! It’s essentially one long advertisement for the various games in the series. It puts a generic but likable and never-aging protagonist on a ceaseless adventure full of colorful personalities, bizarre scenarios, and of course: Pokemon. The quality of each adventure varies wildly, but they’re always at least decently enjoyable!
The plot of each season (or collection of seasons, I suppose) is simple. Eternal ten-year-old Ash Ketchum (or Satoshi if you’re Japanese) heads off to the region of a Pokemon game (Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos, Alola, and the newly introduced Galar) with his best friend Pikachu, starts putting together a team, then tackles the various gyms and evil organizations on his way to challenge that region’s Pokemon League. He’ll often travel with a group of friends, all of whom have their own Pokemon and goals. Once he’s done with one league, he says goodbye to all his friends, ditches his Pokemon with Professor Oak, and moves on to another.
Or he goes back to an old one if a new game hasn’t come out yet.
It’s a simple formula, which is likely why it’s so effective. It makes for easy and organic adventures starring most of, if not all, the various Pokemon introduced in every generation. This not only serves as a decent advertisement for the game, but it also makes the world of the series feel alive and interesting! It creates the sense that there’s something new to be found at every corner!
The variety of these episodes is also great! When you pull up an episode of Pokemon, you never know what you’re gonna get! You can either get an episode that tears your heart out, making you cry like a baby even if you’re twenty years old (looking at you, ‘Bye-Bye Butterfree’) or a goofy, light-hearted adventure where Ash and friends run away from giant animatronic Pokemon!
Even if most end up with ‘Team Rocket tries to steal the episode’s titular Pokemon and Ash needs to stop them’. But let’s be honest: we all like Team Rocket more than we do Ash. So I can live with that.
Or something so completely stupid that it melts your brain and makes you forget that you just watched an episode of an anime. But hey, at least you had a good time! Or you think that you did. That’s the problem with losing your memory.
However, not every iteration of the series is as enjoyable to watch. If you pick a random episode of the Kanto or Johto series, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll have a fun time, regardless of your age! Pick one from the Hoenn or Sinnoh series, there’s a fifty-fifty chance of a good time. Pick one from Unova, Kalos or Alola, and chances are that you’ll be watching something less than stellar.
Though to be fair: Kalos and Alola have some gorgeous bits of animation sprinkled in there. Including my new favorite scene in Pokemon: the Ash-Pikachu Kamehameha!
The movies are of similar quality. Some of them are great, being lots of fun to watch with decently compelling stories (at least by Pokemon standards). Others are messy disasters that make me want to claw my eyes out. None of them are essential to watching the show (thank Arceus above) but I felt I had to at least touch on them, given how many there are.
This show does not feature high-class, compelling writing. Each episode is written with the following edict: “Eh fuck it, just put this Pokemon in there, write some weird bullshit, slap Team Rocket in at the end, and boom! We’re done! Kids’ll eat it up!”
And in fairness: they’re right.
There are a lot of words I could use to describe this series. Long, simple, goofy, bizarre, inconsistent, and so on. But there are two words that I’d choose over any others: fun and harmless. If you’re a kid, you’ll think it’s the greatest thing in the world! As an adult, you can look at it, realize how dumb it is, and still have a great time!
If you’re watching one of the good seasons, that is. With how many there are, they can’t all be winners.
No matter how old I get, I can’t help but love this show. It’s my go-to anime if I want to watch something dumb and fun, or to just relax after a long day! No, it isn’t weird that I’m a twenty-year-old man still playing/watching Pokemon! And no, I have no intention of ever stopping!
Though I’ll be honest: I never cared for the card game. Sorry, but I never liked Magic, why would I like the Pokemon version?