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Character Examination: Iris

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Note: While I would appreciate it if you guys pointed out any errors or something, and I don't mind any of you disagreeing with me, don't turn this blog into a flame war.

So far, we've examined Coordinators who had easily defined and reachable goals. But now it's time to go off the beaten path and focus on this generation's most controversial anime character. Oh joy.

I actually cut out a bit to make sure the blog didn't go on too long. So a lot of stuff was removed. (Such as tournament coverage, but we all know about the tournaments so there's no point in repeating it all.) Keep in mind that before I started writing this (which was just before I started writing May's examination, meaning I started this around four months ago.), I hadn't watched much of Best Wishes 2. So to get a better understanding on Iris, I'm going to force myself to watch this dolled-up attempt at an exciting season. The things I do for strangers who like cartoons.

You're such a kid, Iris

Character Overview
Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. I don't even know where to begin. She's a good character who often gets neglected. She often gets neglected, but this is poorly balanced by giving her a little too much spotlight. Giving her too much spotlight usually involves proving her strength and developing her character. Her character development episodes sometimes neglect to show why I even like Iris. But sometimes, there are times when you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Like Misty, she has a goal of becoming a master of a certain Pokemon type. And like Misty, her goal isn't a very detailed one. As I mentioned earlier, Iris's goal isn't as easy to monitor through Ribbons and Grand Festivals. But unlike Misty, Iris's more reachable and realistic goal is to fully evolve Axew, something that can be accomplished within Iris's tenure on the show.

Character Interaction

Now, I actually looked forward to writing her interactions this time around. Maybe because she interacted with much less characters than May or Dawn. Most likely because I wouldn't have to shift through a million+ episodes. And if one thing BW can do right, it's character interaction.






Weird Old Lady

Character Development/Has Iris Changed for the Better?

Iris started off as incredibly patronizing and all-around rude. She criticized Ash everyone, acted as though sh was hot shit, and really came off as vain as childish. But when she got a taste of humility (needing Cilan's help to train Axew, or being sidelined because none of her Pokemon could fight), we saw how ironic her bravado and condescension was. And when she let her walls down and showed her vulnerability, we learned more about her character.

I think two particular events in Iris's backstory really shaped her into what she is now: her time with Excadrill, and her school life. Since I'll be covering Excadrill later on, I will talk about her school life.

Iris left her small rural village to attend school in the extremely urban city of Opelucid. Iris did poorly in a school environment, couldn't adjust to the more modern city life she was immersed in, and struggled to make friends despite trying her best to be nice and accommodating. Her wild nature and upbringing pushed people away. Her time in Opelucid City amounted to the story of an extremely lonely girl in a world she knew nothing about.

I personally think that this is why Iris was so rude and condescending towards Ash earlier on: most "modern" and foreign people rebuffed her, and she didn't want to get hurt again. So she created his snarky facade to push people away so she wouldn't get hurt again.

Take this conversation from a show called Daria...

Helen: Daria, the easiest thing in the world for you is being honest about what you observe.
Daria: And...?
Helen: What's hard for you is being honest about your wishes. About the way you think things should be, not the way they are. You gloss over it with a cynical joke and nobody finds out what you really believe in.
This is a quite a bit of fanon on my part, but I think this is a great example of how Iris acts. She hides behind jokes and snark, but in reality she rarely shows what hurts her the most, unless it has to come up. Which is why she would have rather eaten snakes than bring Ash and Cilan to Opelucid City.

Part of Iris's appeal was how mysterious she was. When she was introduced, we knew nothing about her backstory. We got inklings of a higher power and sixth sense, but these weren't explored very much, only alluded to in subtle ways. Eventually we did learn about her, and that part of her character pretty much dissolved. While her mysterious qualities were probably the most interesting quirks about her, it would really be hard to connect with a character we know nothing about.


Iris only has four Pokemon in her party, but each one of them has had an impact on her. (Except maybe Emolga.) I'll examine most of them, despite the fact that I'd rather just write little blurbs and be done with these examinations within minutes.

I'm not gonna lie, Axew is a freaking mess right now.

Axew is a baby and extremely inexperienced in battle. Naturally, this was why he didn't battle. His main source of development was learning Dragon Rage - a story arc that spanned several episodes. It was a step towards Axew growing up and becoming a better battler. Over several battles and practice sessions, this move became less disastrous and self-destructive, culminating towards Axew mastering the move.

I remember a few people arguing that Axew's mastering the move in BW027 was a sign of poor writing because Iris wasn't there to make it master the move. I really don't think this a reasonable way to see the development; Iris was always there, working with him every step of the way. Axew mastered Dragon Rage because he was determined to save himself. He took the final hurdle and helped himself, much like how children should learn to do things on their own after they get the tools to do so from their caregivers. With Axew learning this move on his own, he could become more independent and battle-ready.

Sort of. Because although he mastered Dragon Rage, he still lost miserably to Georgia's more experienced Beartic. He did but up a fight, but he just wasn't a match.

Axew's next bit a development came from his battle with Luke's Golett. He did a little better against Golett than he did Beartic, but he was still getting clobbered. This is where Outrage comes in. Now, this is extremely controversial, and even I like to give it flak from time to time. But there are two ways of seeing it: one) a cheap DEM, and two) Axew going into a "fight or flight" situation, calling on his inner strength to preserve himself. It's probably both.

This is probably the biggest piece of wasted potential I have ever seen. Sure, they could have given Axew a weaker Dragon move, like Dual Chop or Dragon Pulse. But imagine if you will: in a pinch, Axew can risk it all by going completely berserk, losing his mind and attacking blindly with incredibly strong force. If it failed, it would leave Axew confused and vulnerable. If it succeeded, Axew would have likely done some serious damage, and might have endangered his Trainer. It would be a tough idea for Iris: would turning the tables on a match be worth the risk? Could it be mastered if they worked hard at it, like Dragon Rage?

HAHAHA DISREGARD THAT! Forget Axew learning Outrage. Just pretend that whole match was part of a script Luke wrote to spice up the tournament.

When Axew wasn't being kidnapped by a Scraggy, or kidnapped by Durant, or blasted away by Oshawott and put into danger, Axew's only battles came from sparring matches with Scraggy. And I won't go into Axew's relationship with Scraggy much, since Gotpika's doing a thing for Pokemon, and he'd probably cover their relationship better. But Axew did try to become more responsible for Scraggy, doing his best to watch over and care for him. But the fact that Axew's "little brother" has completely surpassed him in terms of battling, you can tell that Axew's not doing so well.

Axew's most recent development came from its battle with Cynthia's Garchomp. Dragon Rage and Scratch did jack to actually harm Garchomp, who was being lenient and letting Axew win. And Outrage doesn't exist anymore, so that's not even an option. In order to appease the tense Iris in front of her idol, Axew digs into his primordial energy and learns Giga Impact! ...Which also does jack against Garchomp.

Yeah, Outrage would have been a better option for this match.

Iris's job was to care for this baby and help it to grow up and become a competent battler. And for the most part, she sort of flubbed it. Iris had more development with Excadrill, and she's doing somewhat well with Dragonite. She's nurturing and coddling her Axew, and essentially stunting its growth, leading to rushed or awkward development so it can catch up to Scraggy. I really do like Axew. It's cute, friendly, creative, and protective of those he cares about. But I just gave up hope on Axew ever evolving at this point, unless it was a rushed evolution that occurs at the last minute of BW. Axew, you're a good Pokemon, but in my eyes, you're the epitome of wasted potential.

Iris's Emolga has the least developmental potential for Iris. That's not really bad, per se- not every Pokemon needs to be a huge character-building step. Emolga is just one of those Pokemon that are, well, regular Pokemon. Think of Dawn's Pachirisu, Ash's Palpitoad, Cilan's Stunfisk, or Misty's Goldeen. They're by no means bad, but they're for battling, having their own stories, or just good fun. Emolga's just in a more awkward spot than most, since she's right in the middle of Iris's team, and they all have a big effect on Iris as a character.

Emolga's laziness and disobedience is why I actually grew to like Iris. Her capture meant that Iris already had three Pokemon, and none of them were suited for battle. She had a team full of derps, she couldn't live up to her vain and bossy nature at the time, and that was hilarious. Iris wanted to fight along her friends or help out, but she was screwed over, team-wise.

Emolga eventually mellowed out and seems to obey Iris. She actually obeyed Iris and braved Sawk's vicious onslaught long enough for Iris to come up with a strategy to beat him. After that, Emolga just didn't really stand out anymore. She wasn't disobedient, she was less gluttonous....She still fought with Snivy, but for the most part, Emolga's fun story was basically forgotten. At least Iris now has another Pokemon ready for battle, but it was still sad seeing such an interesting Pokemon become boring.

Think of her as one of Iris's children, like Axew. She's the lazy teenage daughter.

I already covered the Dragonite controversy here. But basically, what's wrong with giving Iris a powerful Pokemon? We knew that Iris was a capable Trainer, and we did see her actually bond with it. Its strength can also work against her, and learning to overcome this is a new way for Iris to learn about Dragons and try out a new way of raising Pokemon.

I said that there were two things in Iris's past that greatly influenced her character. Now's the time to cover the other.

Before they met, she was just a normal, if a little magical girl from a little Dragon cult in the middle of nowhere. When she found out that a rogue Drilbur was stealing food from all her little woodland friends, she took it upon herself to confront the Pokemon. Naturally, she was throttled. Several times. Many, many, many, many, many, many, many times. So Iris trained in the woods, honing herself so she could finally defeat Drilbur, and in the process becoming the iconic jungle girl we all know today.

After rescuing Drilbur from a fall, the two became good friends. Together, they won over 99 battles before Drilbur evolved into Excadrill. Immediately after, Drayden and Haxorus appear to absolutely obliterate them. The thought of not living up to iris's expectations and failing her causes Excadrill to close his heart off to her.

This is probably one of the most notable times where Iris shows her vulnerability. At first, when Cilan points out that she might have been flawed with her approach to the situation, Iris was less than pleased. But she eventually does break down in front of Excadrill, apologizing for pushing Excadrill so hard and being insensitive to his needs. They forgive one another and spend the whole night practicing and perfecting Focus Blast. (Note that after this, Iris never suggests helping Scraggy out on mastering Focus Blast.) It appears as though Iris did get over herself a little bit.

Is Iris a Good Character?

I know that, no matter what I say here, I'm gonna have people vehemently disagreeing with me. And let's be honest, I'm sure many of you who read this wanted to see if I thought Iris was a good character. I'm going to say that she is.

Iris is very unique. While she was set up as a Misty clone, she did eventually diverge herself from Misty: she is a lot more mysterious, she has a rich and original backstory (that ties into and expands on her game counterpart's), and it's easier to see how she progresses towards her goal. Iris easily bounces off others with her sarcastic and childish attitude, but she can stand up on her own. She's a mystical, bizarre character with healthy ties to nature, a stark contrast to the other, more down-to-earth characters.

About her character development: many, if not most of the anime fans are very displeased with the way she's been handled. Now, a character's growth and development are huge reasons as to why one would enjoy a character. But for Iris, I think it's best to enjoy her when she's not being developed. She's really hit or miss with her episodes as of late, since the writers often either screw up her development her or ignore her completely. (Though BW100 proved that we can have a very good Iris episode that treats her well without being overly glorfied.) But I think that, when she's not the focus, she shines like a lighthouse. Because at heart, Iris really is a character made for a children's show. She has wild escapades, snarky comebacks and observations, and is just plain fun. And she shares this with Cilan, too.

How They Rank
This is a toughie. On the one hand, she easily outclasses Dawn for me. She's more entertaining, she's certainly changed more over time...But how about May? May was unique, in that she was original in her goal. Dawn was also a Coordinator like May, and Iris was modeled after Misty. With that in mind, I don't think Iris really shines as well as May did.

Iris is better than Tracey and Cilan because she and her team have grown and developed more. It's easy to focus on what's wrong with her story, but a story with a lot of flaws is better than nothing but stagnation or dullness.

Her backstory was also a big swaying factor for me. Iris's backstory is the most complex and detailed out of any of Ash's friends, next to Brock's.

1. May
2. Iris
3. Cilan
4. Misty
5. Dawn
6. Tracey

Yes, Iris is flawed. Her team's development isn't the best we've seen. But I like her. She's hilarious, snarky, and smart, but has quite a bit of depth to her name. Her Pokemon (sans Axew) are all cool and interesting. She's not the best, but I'm glad with what we got.

For the record, I prefer Iris to May, and both to Dawn.

If I had to describe Iris in two words: (Two, because they both describe her well) Overrated, and underrated.
Okay, time to deliver the generic "Why can't we get along" PSA like the whiny little bitch I am.

She's underrated because a lot of people just won't give her a chance. Maybe they were disenfranchised with her development, maybe they just never gave her a chance. But I do feel a lot of people are unfair with her, being condescending towards her, reading all her actions in the most negative light possible, and acting like she's the anti-Christ. She's just a little girl with attitude on an adventure with her two best friends, trying to achieve her goals.

Likewise, she's overrated because she's not freaking God, guys. She's flawed, her and her team's developments are even more flawed, she can be abrasive, and she often needs to eat a big slice of humble pie. Maybe she can't defend herself against unfair insults, but she doesn't need anyone to defend her.

I'm not aiming this at other people, but more towards myself. I've been on both sides, and I'm sure everyone knows how annoying I've been on both. But with Iris, you should act around her like you would around a bomb that's about to explode - carefully, or not at all. Sorry, but there's been a cold war between Iris fans and haters, and we all know it. And it's because people don't shut up about her. Either they go into every thread and insult her just because she was mentioned in the summary and act like she's a spotlight hog simply because she gets focus, or make long tl;drs about how she's an under-appreciated princess-goddess oppressed by da hayturz.

And yes, I am the absolute worst person to comment on this. What right do I have to think this, much less preach about it? But I think things would be a lot friendlier if people stopped going nuts over her. We heard you the first time you ranted about her. No need to post your feelings 10 more times in every place. No need to shove it down our throats.

Next time: Probably Paul or whatever. His examination thing showed me that there's quite a bit I don't give him credit for.

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Updated 5th December 2012 at 03:40 PM by Karamazov

Character Examinations


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  1. Karamazov's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    If it weren't for Iris' interactions with Cilan, I honestly wonder if Iris is going to wind up being the most forgotten Pokemon girl in the next couple of years after she leaves.

    As someone who has been in the online fandom since almost the beginning, Iris just doesn't seem to have that huge fanbase (and number of fanboys), that Misty, May and Dawn had when they were around. She really does seem to be the least popular pokemon girl in the fandom overall, its especially noticeable for those of us who lived through every generation as it aired and remember the reaction to each Pokemon girl as the saga was airing.
    Iris may not be all that popular on Bulba or Serebii, but she's actually very popular on other sites, like Tumblr. I felt the same way as you first until I explored the fandom outside of the same few Pokemon sites.

    Incidentally, the show seems to be get more love from people outside of Bulba.
  2. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    Kinda late, but i accidentally came across reply to me not even knowing about it until now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gotpika
    Er....just outta curiosity, how do we get wider ranges of sides to her, her insecurities, and tomboy-ness? ^^;; I'm asking because I never really saw wider ranges to Misty's personality, I mean she just seemed more like "for the sake of" at the time. What I mean is, seems like she was thrown in there just for the sake of having a girl protagonist in the show ._. The writers didn't really do anything with her and I don't dislike Misty either, just curious.
    I feel she wasn't your typical flat "happy go lucky" character having multiple clashing sides which gave her balanced and substantial persona. She was hotheaded and snarky, but also showed to have caring and compassionate side to herself. She was tomboy but also girly being interested in perfumes, dresses and other things girls would normally like being deep romantic. She was outspoken not being afraid to stand up for herself and others helping them about problems(like Mikey, Joe, Sakura etc), but also had trouble in expressing her feelings and thoughts masking her fears and motives with tough approach not falling under ordinary genre. She was passionate and highly dedicated toward battling and water types but showed to be quite timid herself with older sisters rubbing leaving big mark of her.

    Way i see it Misty was complete character having one of richest personalities in this show.
    Only downside was that lot of potential to do more with her never got chance to be used or ended downright wasted.

    Er....when did Misty actually grow? I mean, we never got an "in your face" growth episode like we have for May, Iris, or Dawn. She's just sorta......unidentified in a way. I just felt like she was just a fad of her era so to speak, thrown in for the sake of having a girl. I don't care that she really didn't get the same thing all the other girls got because she clearly was meant for the sake of being a protagonist since the Original Series was pretty much Ash 24/7.
    Do you really believe Misty was nothing more than "obligatory token female"with no growth, story, role?
    Opinion from one writers can hardly speak in everyone name and judging by mr. Shudo blogs he often came in conflict with other members of writing staff with different opinions confronting his own desires.

    Personally i dont care what someone who stopped writing for anime years ago said because Misty is in my book great character who became accepted and liked by many because of great chemistry within group,unique goals and all that small things she provided making anime better.
    She wasnt developed enough, but Misty had her own story too. To become water pokemon master, she had complex of feeling less worthy compared to Daisy and others and wanted to explore world and learn as much as she can about water types.

    She had more of role than just being "tag along" , serving as Ash coach and mentor(especially in earlier seasons) helping him to grow from greenhorn to somewhat competent trainer, she was there to provide moral support to cast and often played "voice of reason" balancing out Ash immaturity and Brock's obsession over girls giving identity to group .

    And she grew actually quite a lot as person gradually changing in more mature and confident character with various sides being exploited over time having more to her than eye met at start . Which led to some great character development gaining sisters respect overcoming complex of feeling inferior to Daisy and others, got over Gyarados fear, grew as water trainer with top 8 in Whirl Cup, winning Seaking championship, Alto mare race etc being testament to her improvement etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karamazov
    Incidentally, the show seems to be get more love from people outside of Bulba.
    I noticed this too, and i also noticed people on other sites are generally more open minded toward anime ideas and characters.

    Which could be one of reasons why Iris tends to be more accepted there.
    Updated 11th December 2012 at 11:52 AM by pokemon fan 132
  3. The Fighting Misty's Avatar
    The opinion on the main pokemon girls is roughly the same on Serebii as it is here to be honest. There's not much difference besides a handful of Iris fans who seem to only be on that forum, (but even then most like the previous girls too).

    On various gaming forums or other anime sites its only slightly different, if only because there many people didn't watch the whole anime and are only familiar with Misty. Granted if you never actually sat down and watched the anime with the other characters, you're not going to really have much of a valid opinion.
  4. pokemon fan 132's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by The Fighting Misty
    The opinion on the main pokemon girls is roughly the same on Serebii as it is here to be honest. There's not much difference besides a handful of Iris fans who seem to only be on that forum, (but even then most like the previous girls too).

    On various gaming forums or other anime sites its only slightly different, if only because there many people didn't watch the whole anime and are only familiar with Misty. Granted if you never actually sat down and watched the anime with the other characters, you're not going to really have much of a valid opinion.
    So your basically implying how only reason some people prefer Misty or Iris is because they don't know for "better"?
    I can assure you how that's far from truth with many of this girl fans being familiar with May or Dawn following new generations. Yet they still prefer Misty or Iris not having any less valid opinion than those who think otherwise.

    Speaking of Serebii judging by poll results and hype interestingly enough most of time Misty had most votes , while on bulbagarden fandom is leaning more toward May. Ironically mindset was exact opposite on this two sites about this girls 5 to 6 years ago.
    But this two sites are far from whole fandom. There are many other forums like pokecommunity, pokeelite, pokemopolis, deviantart, youtube etc. And from what i noticed Iris tends to be more popular than people would think.

    Just because she isn't much liked around here doesn't mean same mindset prevails on other places.

    Though i will admit this, Iris doesn't have as strong following like May and especially Misty. But than again she wasn't in show for so long and there didn't passed enough time to build such popularity.
    Updated 12th December 2012 at 02:31 AM by pokemon fan 132
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