Exploring the Wonderful World Of Pokemon Anime
by, 9th April 2012 at 05:02 PM (208 Views)
One of the things the anime keeps on telling us it's doing, is 'exploring the world of pokemon' and with the anime having recently reached fifteen years, how far has it come in doing just that. We've been to five regions (six if you count the Orange Islands), met many different pokemon and their trainers but have why learned over all.
The anime has always been different form the games and how different was set out in Kanto. Many of the rules from the games were kept: that there characters that all look the same with Junsa and Joi, that there are battles, that some pokemon are rarer than others, ect. Some rules were different: you can carry more than six pokemon but all trainers carry six at the most (as part of Pokemon League rules), battles aren't turn based, dodging attacks, aiming for certain places is possible, and the pokemon were increasingly more human and less animalish. What made the anime gain a true sense of it's own though was that whilst the game character's personalities would amount to a few lines, the anime characters could say many things and show many things too. Imite simply through this alone has more personality than mimic girl.
So then what were the people like in Kanto, that being the basis for the rest of the show. I guess the place to begin is the main protagonist: Satoshi. He like all people in this world started training at ten. An idea which to us now we're older seems absurd. There is no way a ten year old can travel through a world filled with extra dangerous monsters and be okay. Actually, it's pretty fine. Sure, Satoshi and Pikachu didn't get along at first but Satoshi survived being continuously electrocuted. Plus Satoshi and friends got lost all the time but they found there way eventually. They did meet people with guns, perverts, and a strange psychics who wasn't past turning them into dolls but it was okay, they were nice really. The guy with the gun just lonely without his Miniryu. Perverts are funny and Natsume was just in need of a laugh. Oh, there are also people who try and nick your pokemon but that's okay, they're incompetent.
There is only one episode within Kanto where everyone isn't fitting in with this fantastic attitude: Nyasu's A E I O U in which we discover Nyasu's backstory but that all takes place in a movie.
That said that's not all we can discover from the Kanto saga though. This is also where it's most obvious that the culture of the pokemon world is based upon Japan. The kids attend Bon festivals, wear Kimono, use Kanji, reference Japanese pop culture. Kasumi and Musashi are based on a Japanese sterotype: Tsundere. Takeshi would not be created in the West with his girl chasing act. Satoshi is a typical Shouen protagonist. Kojiro looks like a bishouen though he doesn't act like one.
Next they go to the Orange Islands and things start to become tamer. The show looses some of it's Japaneseness. COTDs become more common. Takeshi leaves over fears of racism. There is one good thing that comes from this arc. It is confirmed just how obsessed people are with training pokemon. Even a little set of Islands has it's own league with Gym Leaders. This is also where if it wasn't apparent before, that the writers hate writing battles. Battles begin to leave the show and aren't even certain to appear in Gyms.
Takeshi returns in Johto. Johto the land of the Character Of The Day. It's always been the case that in the Pokemon World, everything is done with pokemon. Want to post a letter, use a Poppo or a Delibird. Want to stop Team Rocket from stealing an extremely dull guy's pokemon, use your pokemon on them. Want to save your pokemon from a poacher, get shocked from a Pikachu you're attempting to steal often enough to for a shock cage to have no effect on you. Want to explain Hᴪ=Eᴪ. There's probably a pokemon for that (I reckon polygon). Yes, this had been the case before but with the sheer amount of COTDs who need help with their occupations as pokemon electricians and whatever else, it's pretty clear how much people use pokemon from this sage.
What also becomes apparent is that these people can't ask each other for help either. It's always Satoshi and friends helping them out. There are some episodes where Satoshi and friends watch COTD wander around but throughout the whole show, Satoshi seems to be the main one to help people out. Of course we're not supposed to read it this way but I think that judging by what happens later on, the creators knew that we could.
Now Houen is where the show becomes more about exploring the world of pokemon again thanks to the introduction of a two new main characters: Haruka and Masato. Haruka proved that there were goals just as esteemed as training with her contests. Masato gave us the young child's view of the world. It's Haruka's view though that really opened up the world by increasing the amount of main characters. There had been rivals on the show before but this was the first time they were shown as being able to battle and more than comic relief. They were comic relief too but rather than being a collection of gags with arrogance attached. Suddenly the show was opened up to showing more ideas like romance with the heroes. Character interaction became far more important. Battles begun to improve at the same time contests were introduced. It was like the creators realised with the new excitement of Haruka that experimenting and trying battles would be the only way they could improve at them.
They were taking one of the morals they'd been telling us from the start and following it themselves: the only way to improve at battling is to practice them. This was the end of wussing out them.
Contests gave them battles were they were forced to think about how the moves looked and gave a new element of realism to them.
The world no longer contained guns but the characters were more human. Haruka and Masato argued like a real brother and sister. Masato wasn't a typical 'cute' kid but a 'geeky' kid who tries to show off to Satoshi his knowledge of pokemon. There's actually an episode where they worry about Senri having an affair (yet it's not played too heavy handedly either). The world still had it's 'fantastic' characters that would still appear in the forms of COTD and Gym Leaders and would continue to do so.
Haruka and Masato stayed on during the Kanto Battle Frontier. This point it would be worth noting how much Satoshi had matured. He was now a mentor, an experienced battler and getting no more 'pity badges'. He still had a lot to learn but he was able to do far more.
By the time DP came around the creators had well and truly learned their lesson. Haruka left the show but showing the world from new prospectives hadn't. In fact the show introduced it's grayest character yet: Shinji. He's possibly the most realistic character to appear on the show yet: his back story is pure pokemon world but his personality makes complete sense. There were trainers who trained harshly before but never had there been not a sign of friendship in one of them like there was with Shinji. With Shinji the relationship was more like business but often looked like abuse. So how does this world of happy trainers react to Shinji? Satoshi reacts like he reacts to any problem that isn't Team Rocket: friendship attempt. Hikari and Nozumi shout at him once then upon getting no reaction from him stop. Most people who see this 'abuse' simply do nothing since 'if you don't understand it, don't interrupt' has been a moral since Kanto. Not only that but why should they help Shinji with his grumpy attitude? If Johto proved anything, it's that Satoshi is unusual for helping others all the time. Reiji also is like this therefore he is “Satoshi like'. It's not a surprise that far rather than anything else, Shinji gets praised as a strong trainer: they don't know how to deal with him otherwise and know he'll be on his way.
Contests continue in DP but now the appeal element is looked at far more. Also Hikari has a more realistic contest arc with more loses. Her arc also inspired Satoshi's and they were actually working together. Whilst the majority of Hikari's rivals are a let down, there is one who really shows how far the show has come: Musashi. She deserved to win the Grand Festival. She didn't but she should have. In Houen, her placement in contests was pure comic relief. In early DP though, she accidentally doesn't cheat in a contest and with all the experience under her belt, wins. Ever since she continues to enter legitimately and does brilliantly often having the best appeals and... This is very much showing her growth as a character and the writer's growth and comfort in how they show Team Rocket. From comic relief villian with sad moments and character moments, they were now being allowed to win and win well. Team Rocket had always been an important part of the show but here their development felt complete. I doubt we'll ever see Team Rocket as well done again.
DP has the best battles in the entire show. By this stage it is possible to talk about character styles, techniques and things like that. In fact they become an important plot point. The show becomes battle driven but the universe around it... Most of the strong trainers (Elite Four and above) are shown to be well and truly nice people. COTD still exist. The show still contained lots of humour from Kouhei, Jun, and pretty much all the characters, even Shinji. We even get a very funny episode featuring a Togepi.
Mentioning evil characters we get the first non game introduced reoccurring villain here, Pokemon Hunter J. This further darkens the show and the culture in it. She doesn't repent either. She dies. In fact at this stage, it's like the creators were trying to see how far they could develop characters without completely changing their personalities which they do extremely well at.
DP deconstruted the pokemon world taking on ideas from each season but still retained the flavours that had attracted us in the first place. It took on took on the character driven humour from Kanto and set the characters free. Satoshi was no longer making friends with everything because 'friendship is good' is a really easy moral to write but because it was an important part of his character. They looked at Johto and saw how frustrating it would be for a normal person, never mind one whose already bitter. Houen though gave us the real characters. DP had it's faults no doubt: the trio did there job but weren't that much fun to watch, Hikari could have done with more personality instead of just development, the character match ups weren't always taken full advantage of. However I doubt we'll ever see the culture of the pokemon world looked at in such an interesting way again.
So now what else can we look forward too. We're six badges into Satoshi's Isshu quest and in all honesty I'm not sure. It seems like some of the rules have changed. It's no longer 'work hard and you'll get there' but 'training isn't everything.' Best Wishes may all come together at the end into something very tasty though.
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