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The Fighting Misty

The reception of the Johto saga in the anime, and why it was the shows downfall

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I notice a lot of people are putting up similar themed blogs about the older seasons, the reception of the anime's popularity in the U.S., and/or the original trio. So here's my take on it. Yes this is going to be a "too long, didn't read," but I know some people are going to read the whole thing merely out of curiosity (and to understand what the hell goes on inside my head), and why I have such great dislike for this arc over the last 10 years. Here we go, folks:

Back in 1999, the Pokemon anime was at the height of its popularity in the US. The last chunk of Kanto episodes were airing on TV at the time and Orange Islands would start shortly after. While the Brock/Tracey switch disappointed some people at the time, (I didn't mind Tracey myself, although Brock was better before he got stale in later arcs), Orange Islands was still a much loved arc and a nice bridge between gens. Then came the Johto saga....and the show could officially be considered, "jumping the shark."

I remember when Johto was airing for the first time in the U.S., all the original Kanto/Orange Islands fans started to lose interest in the show. Kanto and Orange Islands was considered the, "Golden age" of the anime, while Johto was not included in that. While the very beginning of Johto Journies was well received, it didn't take long for people to realize that Johto was starting to seem dumbed down compared to Kanto, with the sense of darkness and plot (by Pokemon standards) that Kanto had was disappearing. Most people originally lost interest by the time Charizard left and after Goldenrod City eps aired, and after that we knew the show would never be the same again.

This is when the shows ratings started declining for the first time, and the 3 Johto movies completely bombed in U.S. theaters. If you check the box office sales for the movies in the U.S., there was a staggering drop between Movies 2 and 3...as if half the kid audience who saw the first two movies didn't bother to see the third. WB actually stopped distributing the movies in theaters because of these poor sales, and 4kids had to partner with Miramax just to get the 4th and 5th into limited releases. Those movies bombed in theaters too, so they just gave up after that and went the DVD route.

A large chunk of the original, old-school Kanto/Orange fanbase from 1998 never watched all of Johto in its original run. Many of them stopped watching in the middle, and most never even knew that Misty left. I remember we were in the year 2004 or 2005, and people were asking, "Wait, where did Misty go?" as if they were just discovering she was gone for the first time. Why? Because so many people had stopped watching halfway into Johto, that they never even made it to the tail-end to see Misty left. Those who did survive the entirety of Johto was more than happy to see it end, and I'll get to that in a minute.

The end of Johto was with much celebration in the anime. After sitting through 3 long years of the same region with nothing but endless filler comprising the majority of it, many of us thought the show was going to remain as stagnant as it was for eternity. When the first news of the AG series started coming in for the first time, it became obvious that AG was being written in a way to address many of the complaints of the Johto saga, but first let me get to Takeshi Shudo.

The reason for the loss of quality in writing during Johto was because Takeshi Shudo, who was the head writer of the original series, stepped down halfway into Johto. He was the main writer and series constructor of the first two seasons, and why Kanto feels so much better than other arcs, the man knew what made Pokemon good. You can read Shudo's blogs that the moderator Musashi posted, where Shudo actually quit the show because he was disgusted by the direction Johto was going in. He envisioned the Pokemon anime of having a decent plot and direction like Kanto did, and to watch the show decay into nonsense repetition must have been painful for him. Shudo knew that the series went downhill, and he felt like he could no longer be a part of it, so he stepped down and left. The rest of the writers didn't know what the hell to do during Johto, so they just filled it with repetitive filler until the R/S games came out. If Takeshi Shudo actually stayed on, Johto might have turned out much differently. Johto would have likely been more like Kanto was, and the cast would have never been flanderized.

Shudo is also the person who made the decision to remove Misty from the anime. It says a lot that the main writer of the original series, and the creator of the anime-version of Misty's personality, didn't seem to think she was a good female protagonist. Again, you can read what Shudo thought about Misty in his blogs posted by the moderator Musashi. This might account to why Misty's character was so neglected over the course of her run as a protagonist. It didn't seem like the writers wanted to make her a prominent character, so after her personality was somewhat flanderized by Togepi making her all motherly, the writers just seemed to keep her around until they had the first opportunity to drop her, which was the first time a female lead was in the games from the start, which they did. I'd even wager to say that she was Shudo's least favorite character of the original Kanto cast, given Ash/Brock/Team Rocket are all in literally double the amount of episodes that she was. After Shudo quit, it didn't seem any of the other writers had much interest in the character either, because her departure as we can see now, really was quite permanent. Even her cameos/guest appearances have dwindled down to nothing, and her last real appearance in an episode was all the way back in 2005.

To get back to Johto in general, it seems like the writers are well aware of its reception in its original run. Most of the mistakes of Johto were never repeated in the following arcs, and a lot of its plots and characters, and even Ash's Johto Pokemon, were purposely buried with little to no screentime or returns in the following arcs.

For a detailed view of the flaws of the Johto saga, I typed them up here:

- Johto did away with the sense of darkness and plot that Kanto had. All the reasons people loved Kanto could not be found in Johto. Even the slapstick humor and comedy disappeared for the most part.

- The GS ball plot being dropped was obviously a huge flaw

- Charizard and Squirtle leaving, while not being a big deal now, back when it originally happened felt like a huge slap in the face. To see Ash get rid of his classic Kanto starters and make it look like they were going the way of Pidgeot caused a lot of people to quit Johto. At the time we didn't know if Charizard/Squirtle would ever come back, so we thought Ash was going to continue releasing all his Pokemon.

- Ash's Johto team was just handled poorly. Heracross was dropped after only 30 episodes, Chikorita was his only evolution, and Totodile/Noctowl spent the majority of its run doing absolutely nothing but rotting in their balls. Cyndaquil also should have evolved back here. Coming after Kanto, the Johto team made Ash look really weak.

- Gary only appears in 3 episodes prior to the league. Why the writers decided to have Gary never show up is beyond me, since Ash needed to compete with a rival in Johto who didn't exist 90% of the time.

- Misty gets very little screentime and development in this saga, not only compared to her Kanto/Orange self, but compared to everything the female protagonists do after her.

- Misty/Brock only capture one new pokemon each this saga. It got hard to care about their pokemon when the writers wouldn't even have them capture pokemon to begin with.

- Way too many bad, tedious fillers that all followed the same plot. Johto began the, "Ash helps a trainer with a problem, Team Rocket steal Pikachu" formula and it went on the entire region with only a few rare exceptions.

- Little to no character development for the main cast. By the time Johto ended, Ash/Misty/Brock felt almost exactly the same as they were in the first Johto episode besides the different Pokemon. Gary was the only character to go through a bit of change.

- The Gym battles while handled better than Kanto, weren't really anything to write home about.

- No new rivals or characters introduced. Casey was treated like a joke, no new major characters at all.

- Although this one is minor, the gang should have gotten new clothes in Johto. The cast got boring to look at since they had the same Kanto clothes.

This is the most flawed arc of the entire anime.


So, really, where does this leave us now in the year 2013? The reason why the anime changed so much after Johto was because of these reasons. This is also likely why the original trio never was reunited, not even for a single episode or special, even after these last 10 years. While some people do like the Johto saga, I'm sure they're not oblivious to its flaws as I've detailed in depth.

I know there will be people who disagree with this blog, and that is perfectly fine. If you liked the Johto saga, more power to you. I just want everyone to know, THIS saga is the reason that caused the huge revamp/re-tooling of the anime, and why Johto to this day represented the end of the writers using the original cast and formula.

(And before anyone asks, it only took me 10 minutes to type up this entire thing. I basically posting the same things over and over again over these last 10 years so I already know what I am going to say in detail.) Indeed.

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  1. Pokémon Master Ash's Avatar
    [QUOTE=Insanish Danish;bt276421]I actually liked Johto, but you really can't deny that the writing got better afterwards. Whether you like the newer or older parts of the anime is completely based on opinion, but the writing has definitely strengthened since the Johto days.[/QUOTE]
    Well, the writing was better in Hoenn and Sinnoh when it comes to battles, I guess. When it comes to emotional moments, Hoenn was alright, but Sinnoh couldn't pull them off at all for me.

    Unova...let's just say the Kanto/Johto writing was better than the current writing at least.

    As for me, I definitely prefer the older parts of the anime overall. Sure they aren't as mature, but there's a genuine charm to them for some reason for me. Hoenn vs. Sinnoh, though? I like Hoenn more myself. :)
  2. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    Johto is just a weird transition saga after the initial Kanto/Orange arcs and what the anime would become with AG and onward.

    I agree there's no point in complaining about it now as its a dead issue that's long over, but it justifies why the anime didn't continue in that set-up.
  3. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    Johto is just a weird transition saga after the initial Kanto/Orange arcs and what the anime would become with AG and onward.

    I agree there's no point in complaining about it now as its a dead issue that's long over, but it justifies why the anime didn't continue in that set-up.
    Seeing how writers go back to set up of one main star and two gym leaders with BW serves as pretty strong indication how writing staff and fandom never had issues with such formula. After all it was this set up being used when pokemon was at peak of its popularity.

    As i said before reason behind decline in quality of writing during Johto saga was mainly product of writers inexperience not knowing how to develop storyline over long regions properly , lose of vital plots like GS ball which was main reason behind journey over there in first place and quarrels between writers themselves not being sure what they wanted for show to become.

    They could had increase Ash sidekicks role focusing more on Misty water master career by creating more events beside Whirl Cup only, give her more pokemon, rivals and focus. Same applies to Brock. And if they written for Johto nowadays with same characters result would be vastly different.

    Even so they still gave us several memorable moments with Johto saga, excellent interactions between characters with original trio having closes bond as group and some valuable growth for protagonists. Especially in last season with al those great mini arcs, so some credit should be given and take in account how Johto was writer testing ground/first long region they were supposed to write for.

    And when taken in account improvement writers made over the years realizing past mistakes i have no doubt in my mind how good old group of Ash, Misty ad Brock could have worked once again in today anime format. It would be certainly fun to see rekindle between Ash and his oldest friends knowing themselves for long time, and how they would interact since they have history together, advance their stories further etc.

    Judging by demand and mostly positive reception im sure fans would more than welcome this .
  4. Misty Calls Masquerain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by EmotionalTensionPKMN
    Unova...let's just say the Kanto/Johto writing was better than the current writing at least.
    :)
    Dude anything's better than the current writing. I saw the Unova league for the first time on Saturday, and it SUCKED.
  5. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Misty Calls Masquerain
    Dude anything's better than the current writing. I saw the Unova league for the first time on Saturday, and it SUCKED.
    The writing during Johto's middle filler episodes was just as bad. And the characterisation of the main cast isn't any worse now than it was back then.
  6. Bluelatios's Avatar
    Believe me, watching even the more relaxed episodes, which might still have at least pretty good dialogue or a good message, is better than watching a major battle expecting it to be good, but then facepalming in disbelief.
  7. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    I have to agree with Blue Latios. At least in Johto there was sense of continuity present building up on Ash story rather than going backwards, anime was imbued with strong sense of following developing friendship between Ash and traveling companions being treated like continuation of protagonists story and in general when episode was good it had more creativity and emotion put into characterization and plot than its case with newer seasons.

    Not to mention personally i find original trio had more believable interactions going between them giving out impression of friends which know themselves for long time while having fun in exploring world, new pokemon and advancing dreams. All of them worked as group interacting between themselves having two, often three way interacting reciprocating back to jokes, temperament outburst or admiration and care they expressed being very supportive and loyal to each other.

    To this day i think they had closes bond as friends and it doesn't surprise me why they're hold in high regard among many.
  8. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    There may have been continuity, but its not much different. Cilan got to do more than Brock, Gary only appeared in 3 measly episodes in Johto before the league eps, and Misty we've covered tons of times about her lack of focus.

    And Ash's Johto team, despite only having 6 captures, was handled just as badly as his BW team. Heracross was Oak'd way too early, Cyndaquil/Totodile never reached their full potential and Phanpy came too late. Bayleef was the only decently handled one.
  9. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    There may have been continuity, but its not much different. Cilan got to do more than Brock, Gary only appeared in 3 measly episodes in Johto before the league eps, and Misty we've covered tons of times about her lack of focus.

    And Ash's Johto team, despite only having 6 captures, was handled just as badly as his BW team. Heracross was Oak'd way too early, Cyndaquil/Totodile never reached their full potential and Phanpy came too late. Bayleef was the only decently handled one.
    Did he? Because i could sworn Brock got overall more focus and development when Kanto and Johto are combined than Cilan did at this point. He battled more ill give you that, but Brock often contributed to anime through other, just as relevant fields. And lack of focus or not Misty had most battles, character development and screen time in Johto regardless of how some might have felt about character. There is a reason why people often count Master Quest and Whirl Island detour as one of character highlights, and best sides of Johto.

    Along with having overall more humor and better dynamic between cast for reasons i mentioned before.

    Agreed on Ash Johto team and Gary though.
  10. Misty Calls Masquerain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluelatios
    Believe me, watching even the more relaxed episodes, which might still have at least pretty good dialogue or a good message, is better than watching a major battle expecting it to be good, but then facepalming in disbelief.
    Not quite, Johto had good dialogue, better dub (Eng. only), better plotlines, better battles (they didn't even try in BW), better...everything really.

    Also 1 middle finger is better than 2 (BW) .
  11. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Misty Calls Masquerain
    Not quite, Johto had good dialogue, better dub (Eng. only), better plotlines, better battles (they didn't even try in BW), better...everything really.

    Also 1 middle finger is better than 2 (BW) .
    Johto didn't have any plotlines until Master Quest, it had worst battles, and the "dialogue" was only because of 4kids.
  12. Misty Calls Masquerain's Avatar
    I meant episode plot structure, not general plot.
    I can honestly say much of the BW series wasn't that good, except for the Litwick one, and a few others.
    Even then, Johto still beats BW as a whole.
    For battles, Johto didn't have a lame 6 vs 5 match (thats right, 6 vs FIVE, people), or a bunch of one-shotting (not counting non-serious battles), and the like.
    Regardless the dialogue is still a bonus.
  13. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Misty Calls Masquerain
    For battles, Johto didn't have a lame 6 vs 5 match (thats right, 6 vs FIVE, people), or a bunch of one-shotting (not counting non-serious battles), and the like.
    Regardless the dialogue is still a bonus.
    Most of Johto's battles were barely above Kanto in terms of one-shit KO's.

    The Ash Vs. Gary match in the league was almost all one-hit KO's until Charizard Vs. Blastoise.
  14. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    Johto didn't have any plotlines until Master Quest, it had worst battles, and the "dialogue" was only because of 4kids.
    It had. Remember for example Articuno three part involving photographer Todd from Kanto?
    And im not sure how can anyone find Kanto battles better compared to Johto?

    Most of them lasted for few seconds finishing other side in one blow. I guess they were more comedic but when it comes to complexity and enjoyment clash between two pokemon brings going at each other at full force Johto was written in that aspect superior.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    Most of Johto's battles were barely above Kanto in terms of one-shit KO's.
    Not counting TR battles most battles Ash or Misty entered were detailed and had actual strategy pout into it. Whether they battled against trainers at Whirl Cup, characters like Dorian, Andreas, Chigusa, Duplica, boy with Skiplum, Marcellus and many more.

    The Ash Vs. Gary match in the league was almost all one-hit KO's until Charizard Vs. Blastoise.
    How on earth most was one hit KO? Battle between Tauros and Nidoqueen, Magmar and Heracross, Blastoise and Muk/Meganium, Snorlax and Arcanine or Scizor and Snorlax was anything but KO fest.

    Battles in Johto were definitely much better than they were in Kanto, that's not even debatable.
  15. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by pokemon fan 132
    It had. Remember for example Articuno three part involving photographer Todd from Kanto?
    And im not sure how can anyone find Kanto battles better compared to Johto?
    That was barely an arc. The first two eps were just generic fillers about Sunkern and Swinub with Todd thrown in. The whole thing wasn't a real storyline.

    Most of them lasted for few seconds finishing other side in one blow. I guess they were more comedic but when it comes to complexity and enjoyment clash between two pokemon brings going at each other at full force Johto was written in that aspect superior.
    I guess mainly because Ash's Johto Pokemon didn't have as good battles as his Kanto pokemon. None of Bayleef's battles were as good as Bulbasaurs, Totodile of course had almost nothing compared to Squirtle, and Noctowl only had 1 Gym. Cyndaquil did a lot, but when you're comparing it to Charizard you can see the difference.

    How on earth most was one hit KO? Battle between Tauros and Nidoqueen, Magmar and Heracross, Blastoise and Muk/Meganium, Snorlax and Arcanine or Scizor and Snorlax was anything but KO fest
    The vast majority of them were decided in one-two hit defeats. They basically rushed through their pokemon just to get to Charizard Vs. Blastoise.
  16. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    That was barely an arc. The first two eps were just generic fillers about Sunkern and Swinub with Todd thrown in. The whole thing wasn't a real storyline.
    If recurring character like Todd was in them they can't be considered fillers, can they? Also episode about Sunkern foreshadowed meet with Articuno with Todd perceiving it as well throwing back reference to big catching contest with Ash sun stone being used he previously won. Same applies to Swinub episode building up toward Articuno full appearance,

    Whole arc involving Todd return with Ash, Misty and Brock searching for legendary ice bird was indeed mini story.

    Whether you liked it or not is different pair of sleeves.

    I guess mainly because Ash's Johto Pokemon didn't have as good battles as his Kanto pokemon. None of Bayleef's battles were as good as Bulbasaurs, Totodile of course had almost nothing compared to Squirtle, and Noctowl only had 1 Gym. Cyndaquil did a lot, but when you're comparing it to Charizard you can see the difference.
    That's ridiculous. Are you seriously going to argue how two seconds Bulbasaur battle against Erika Tangella, Squirtle one sec battle against Blaine Ninetakes or against Richie Butterfree or Charmander vs KOga Golbat was better written battle than let say: Totodile vs KIngdra in Whirl Cup or against Macy in league. NOctowl battle against MOrty GHost pokemon, Bayleef against Chuck Machoke, Cyndaquil vs Steelix etc?=

    Also Ash Charizard had better battles in Johto compared to Kanto. See match against Clair, Falkner pIdgeot or Gary.

    I don't even need to mention Misty battles which were incomparably better compared to Kanto as well.

    The vast majority of them were decided in one-two hit defeats. They basically rushed through their pokemon just to get to Charizard Vs. Blastoise.
    Only battle which can even remotely be called one hit fest was against Gary Golem and Ash Heracross due to sheer power of dragon rafge and hydropump as attacks possess. Whole battle contained lot of strategy and thinking how to putplay opponent. Whetther we are talking about Bayleef against Blastoise with Ash trying to use his rotation against himself through Bayleef weight constantly recalling pokemon trying to find effective strategy to counter him.

    Muk body being used as way to absorb physical attacks from Blasstoise and Scizor, Gary using Nidoquenn tail in smart way to dodge Snorlax attacks etc.

    I have to admit your first person i met who is complaining about match between Ash and Gary.
  17. Misty Calls Masquerain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by pokemon fan 132
    I have to admit your first person i met who is complaining about match between Ash and Gary.
    There are others, you just have to look harder (oddly enough)

    But I do agree with you, Johto definitely had better battles. Although I didn't find Indigo battles that bad..

    Definitely agreed on Pokemon bodies, they barely use Pokemon's bodies to their advantage anymore.
    Updated 18th April 2013 at 03:13 PM by Misty Calls Masquerain
  18. Bluelatios's Avatar
    I think so too. I don't pay too much attention but aside from obvious fighting Pokemon and a few of Pikachu's iron tail tricks, battles generally do seem designed to look good (contests aside) more than look well played nowadays. And I'm not saying battles were ever that amazing (though plenty were enjoyable enough), its just a valid observation nonetheless.

    And story arcs? Pokemon was never really made to have its high points found in its arcs. Sure they're nice to have sometimes if they aren't sloppy (some recent, ahem, tournaments come to mind), but the bulk of Pokemon episodes are just there to make me smile, laugh, cry (man tears mind you), and want to go adventuring with friends. Basically, at its heart its a feel-good show more than anything else, in my opinion. In the words of many I know; "Screw the plot, Pokemon is awesome." XD
  19. Pokémon Master Ash's Avatar
    After reading what all of you have to say on the Johto days/seasons, here's what I personally feel about them:

    I really actually love the Johto seasons for some reason. I personally feel Kanto and OI were better just because there was a bit more slapstick there and really powerful emotional moments (in addition to less filler), but I felt Johto was pretty great in my book as well.

    However, at the same time, I think what "The Fighting Misty" has to say is very valid, and I get where he's coming from. We have all had those arcs or eps where we've been disappointed by what we seen, and the first real loss our anime fanbase suffered was in the Johto saga. A lot of people dropped out around 2001 because they were tired not only of the fillers (personally, I like many of them) but that they saw nothing really changing/were getting bored of the repetitive nature of the series.

    The ratings for each consecutive saga of the series are actually lower and lower, though. The next real loss after this one to create another division in the fandom was when Misty was dropped after Johto, the next when the original dubbed VAs were replaced in the Battle Frontier, the following division after that occurred when May/Max left, the next when Dawn left, and the final one so far with the disappointment (and for other fans, revival) fans have felt BW has brought them.

    Personally, I find the whole series/plot/maturity/immaturity/voices/music etc. issue is just a matter of opinion and preference. Nobody here (including myself) is right or wrong about this or any of the sagas in general. Objectively speaking, everything about a show is on an even playing field/equal. From there, it's really up to the viewer to decide what they like most and what meshes best with their own preferences.

    I myself am one of the biggest fans of the older series. My favorite saga is the Original Series in general. I find it pretty endearing and it has a charm that really sells it to me. I loved Advanced Generation, but it wasn't the same for me at the same time (much as I still liked May/Max, Misty was my favorite female companion, so I was saddened she wasn't around at the same time).

    Diamond and Pearl was a huge disappointment for me, but it was an excellent saga to most fans. I still like it, but it's my least favorite saga thus far.

    Black and White has been more or less a revival for me, but to many others it's their worst saga so far. I can understand some of the perfectly valid issues with it, but for me it's not so bad.
  20. Pokémon Master Ash's Avatar
    [QUOTE=Bluelatios;bt281576]I think so too. I don't pay too much attention but aside from obvious fighting Pokemon and a few of Pikachu's iron tail tricks, battles generally do seem designed to look good (contests aside) more than look well played nowadays. And I'm not saying battles were ever [I]that[/I] amazing (though plenty were enjoyable enough), its just a valid observation nonetheless.

    And story arcs? Pokemon was never really made to have its high points found in its arcs. Sure they're nice to have sometimes if they aren't sloppy (some recent, ahem, tournaments come to mind), but the bulk of Pokemon episodes are just there to make me smile, laugh, cry (man tears mind you), and want to go adventuring with friends. Basically, at its heart its a feel-good show more than anything else, in my opinion. In the words of many I know; "Screw the plot, Pokemon is awesome." XD[/QUOTE]

    Totally man. That's how I feel as well. :)
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