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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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by , 11th March 2013 at 01:53 PM (6690 Views)
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. Hidden Mew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    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.
    Considering that Ash was actually showing decent progress with most of his Gym battles and didn't make some of the mistakes he made in Unova, I'll respectfully disagree that the characterization isn't any worse now as it was back then. I don't think that the writing for the middle filler episodes were that bad. Some of them were boring and there were plenty of bad ones, but the writing in BW is definitely worse for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    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.
    I thought that Cyndaquil was handled pretty decently. It should have evolved into a Quilava back then and it wasn't a huge powerhouse, but it was handled pretty decently along with Bayleef. Ash's Johto team was handled pretty poorly, although I think I'd give it an edge over his BW due to the Pokemon having more personality and most of them could do well in a Gym battle without a last minute forced evolution to give Ash a cheap win.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    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.
    The Johto Gym battles were way better than the majority of the Kanto Gym battles since Ash actually earned his badges, aside from the one he got from Pryce. There were some one hit KOs in Ash vs. Gary, but not all of them and the Johto League was much better than the Kanto League also because we actually saw decent battles.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    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.
    I've watched over the Kanto season through my DVD box sets multiple times and honestly, Bulbasaur and Squirtle weren't really that impressive. I don't even remember Squirtle being used that often and I don't think it got an on-screen victory until the Indigo League. Bulbasuar battled more often, but it wasn't really that impressive. In fact, they didn't seem that strong to me until they came back in the Johto League and even now, I find them, along with the first season in general, really overrated. Bayleef actually had decent battles and while Totodile definitely could have used more battles, it actually had some presence, which is more than I can say for Squirtle. Noctowl only had one Gym battle, but that's way better than what Pidgeotto got. Noctowl actually got a decent believable Gym victory under its belt and Pidgeotto was primarily used for searches and destroying Team Rocket's balloon after Ash got the Kanto starters. Charizard didn't really do much in Kanto and it got a lot of battles in Johto. Aside from not making it evolve, I thought that Cyndaquil was handled fine and while it wasn't a huge powerhouse like Charizard, that wasn't a problem to me. It was still a strong Pokemon and one of his better handled Johto Pokemon.
    Caseydia likes this.
  2. Hurricane Kishore's Avatar
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    At this moment -

    -The Anime need A Comic relief and A Straight Man as the cast member , not people with a Goal !

    -The Anime is focusing on too many separate multiple Goal of Multiple character and thats why nobody getting a proper development .[B]The Anime must focus everything in One goal![/B] Originally Pokemon anime was about Ash journey to be Pokemon Master So writer should focus on making Ash a great Pokemon Master and all other character will get their proper development automatically.

    -Writer need to bring cast member & referring Character who goal will get fulfilled as long as Writer focus on the main story ! Such as :[B] A girl who's a research assistant of regional prof and traveling with Ash to collect data for her Boss . Her Goal is to Meet & learn about every single Legendary Pokemon ! [/B]
    So Ash & co will eventually meet Karo region legendary Pokemon so in a way writer is fulfilling her dream !

    -Nobody like a underdog loser protagonist now !
    Now ,[B] People like Protagonist who act like a noob but actually much more smarter , mature , stronger ,perspective and cleverer then all other character ! Such as Luffy (One piece) , Goku (Dragonball) ,Yoh (Shaman King) , Izayoi (Mondaiji-tachi)) , Gold & Dia (Pokemon adventure) , Harata (Pokrmon DPA) etc [/B]

    -The chemistry of Bond between Character seem to faked ! it doesn't feel feel .
    That the problem .

    -Refreshing doesn't mean rebooting . People who seek a refreshing feeling in Pokemon are actually talking about the feeling they gets from watching K-on , One Piece , Shugo Chara , Sgt Frog , Sket Dance, Pokemon Kento series etc !
    Writer doesn't need to reboot anything !
    They just need to focus on the Bond between various character in the show .

    -Writer need to bring antagonistic character & rival with various issue but Ash turn them into his ally !
    In Paul case , It took Ash 4 year to make friend with him and Paul goes Bye-Bye just when he & Ash became friend So it didn't bring the refreshing feeling people seek .
    Those Antagonist Character must turn into ally at the the middle of the series and ASH MUST BE ONE WHO HAS TO TURN THEM INTO ALLY .
    Trip's case was a failure because it was Alder who fix him and the change within him was Too Faked .
    I Mean , The antagonist doesn't need to be a total nice guy after they become ally . I would be better if they still act cold and has friendly quarrel with Ash .
    Example : A beautiful Female rival who is Cold & rude toward everyone . She was friendless because her beauty make every girl jealous while Boy just try to hit on her . Pokemon is the only real friend she got .
    [B]However Ash turn out to be one of the few people who doesn't fawn over her and treat her like a real friend . She slowly lose her cold demure after meeting Ash and start to show her honest & Kind side . Later she develop feeling for Ash but doesn't admit it ! [/B]
    Or Ran (Shaman King) would serve a better example .

    -[B]ALL NEW & UNEXPECTED IDEA ISN'T GOOD ![/B]
    For Example : 10 year old Ash getting married to a girl who is in a Misson/danger ! Ash married her on his own will and they even wear wedding ring . The new Series is called Pokemon Doki Doki which focus on Ash and that girl becoming real husband & Wife .
    This is a completely new & Unexpected Idea !
    Nobody expect Ash to get married to a random new girl before turning into a Adult . Also Most boys will be fine with it if the girl is reallyyyyyyy beautiful and well-endowed !
    But [B]Is this a Good idea ?[/B]
    No , This idea is almost as bad as making a complete rookie superior then Ash .
    And I only need common sense to realize this .
    So Writer should think twice before trying any unexpected idea.

    -Writer must decide Pokemon XY series to be Ash last journey and focus everything on making Ash a pokemon Master.
    Updated 20th May 2013 at 05:27 AM by Hurricane Kishore
  3. P_S_B's Avatar
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    I really only have two main flaws with Johto:

    1. GS ball dropped - you don't build up a story. have episodes focusing solely on hyping that story, then simply drop it in favor of a mediocre movie and endless fillers. Sure, Team Plasma vs. Team Rocket got dropped, but that was due to a tremendous earthquake the likes of which Japan had never even dreamed of seeing, so that was justified. (however saying, "we will air these," then not airing them is considerably less justifiable, but that's a whole other rant...)

    2. Length - the Johto Saga was too long. Sinnoh is a great arc with a lot of good storylines, but it's still too long. Even with the repetitive fillers, if you take a few (well, more than a few at some points...) of them out, Johto is not a bad way to spend an afternoon/evening. And even so, the vast majority of those fillers were at least watchable, if not entertaining as stand-alone episodes, the problem was that there were just too many of them.

    If they had decided to do what the games did and make Johto 2/3rds of the length, then send Ash back to Kanto to re-challenge the gyms (or even some other gyms, we saw badges that aren't from the games, such as some of Gary's 10 and other trainer's non-game badges), while meeting old friends from Kanto such as AJ, Pidgeot, Anthony and Primeape and so-on (AKA: what Battle Frontier should have been, but once again that is a whole other rant), Johto would probably have been considerably better, even without the GS Ball.

    Long story short, it's not that Johto had too much filler, it's just that it had too many episodes period.

    The Gym Battles were generally good, and what mini-arcs they did have were generally pretty strong as well. Johto does have quite a bit going for it, it's just that it's too long with not enough overarching plotlines or mini-arcs.
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