Character Examination: May
by, 29th August 2012 at 05:14 PM (3219 Views)
I probably should have started with this one first, since I compared Dawn to her repeatedly in the last examination. To better understand Dan and the characters to come, it's best to tackle her sooner than later.
This character was under a lot of pressure just for existing. Replacing a long-time cast member, she is the first replacement character (after Tracey, but no one cares about Tracey.) But was her existence a step in the right direction, or just a fizzle that continued the show's demise?
May, take the stage!
May was always one of my favorite characters. Even though Misty was my favorite of the original trio in Johto, I immediately found myself liking May. Whether or not she was good was irrelevant to me: she was something new, something unexplored. At the time, she could have been anything.
This is May's biggest virtue: she was new. W never had a Coordinator. She was the first newbie trainer on the main cast since Ash. She was the envoy of a fresh, new generation that would separate itself from the old one. Unlike Dawn, who already just had to build on what was set up just before her, May had to carve out a new path for herself, Dawn, and the show itself.
It would also be a problem. She had just joined the cast after the departure of a character who's been in the show since the very, very beginning. Being fresh wasn't enough, as she hadn't acquired a fandom yet. If she failed in entertaining and growing as a person, then who knows how the series would have suffered? AG had to pull the series up after it started its descent, and May was key to this. That's a lot of pressure to put on her. Luckily, Gen III was a good generation, with bright new ideas.
May was given more focus, more of a story than Misty. Her goal of being a Top Coordinator is more easily defined and clear than being a Water Pokemon Master. We actually have a definite meaning as to what a Top Coordinator is and how to achieve this goal. From there, it's easy to do episodes that show May's progress and her getting closer to her goal (episodes where she participates in Contests and obtains Ribbons.) I'm not saying Misty is a worse character. But from a storytelling point, May had more of an impact to the quality of the show.
Ugh. Do I have to? I just want to be done with these examinations. And this part's always gonna be big and long. D: And to make matters worse, May had a lot of characters who shaped her to what she is today.
May with her Beautifly.
Unlike almost every single character in the entire franchise, May wasn't really into Pokemon when she started out. (I'm thinking her embarrassing and frrightening encounter with a school of Tentacool had something to do with it.) This was actually a pretty good way to relate to people who were new to the series. May was lost in a world she wasn't familiar with, and over time she had come to love it. Having her like Pokemon was really easy, since it's a magical word, full of opportunities and dreams. Plus, she was trapped in a world of Pokemon, and didn't really have a choice in the matter.
The reason why she decided to become a trainer is so that she could travel. This isn't just an excuse, as it is mentioned a few times. Her eye for nature and adventure is showcased with May's fake documentaries, May's Expedition. Unfortunately, it appears her series met with cancellation before it's time.
Even though May slowly started to enjoy Pokemon, she still didn't really have a major goal in mind. She was given a Badge Case and pointed towards Gym Battles, but her heart wasn't really into the idea. After having her first encounter with Contests, however, she found something she was interested in following. And thus began her journey to become a Top Coordinator. And the rest is history.
May's growth over the course of AG was shown in the last two episodes of the Hoenn saga. Once a newbie trainer who didn't care for Pokemon, now a professional, confident Coordinator who could go toe-to-toe with her mentor, Ash. She easily passed the appeals, showing how talented she was in performing, and how confident she had become over time.
Have her Character Changes Been Good?
This is a rather pointless question at this point, but let's answer it.
The obvious answer is yes, her changes were for the better. She learned to love Pokemon, found her goal in life, and met wonderful people because of these changes. She had quite a bit of time to think about what she wanted before she discovered Contests, and when she did discover them, we can actually see how she became interested. May growing to love Pokemon was inevitable, because if she didn't like them, then what would the point be in having a character that didn't like Pokemon, in a show revolving around Pokemon?
The heart-warming tale of a girl and her pet
Let me say right now that May's team was rather independent from one another. Largely, they worked better when May worked with them solo, rather than as a real team. Her team has impacted her, but not as much as Iris's team. While all of them had big roles, I'll just focus on a couple of notable Pokemon.
Beautifly was probably May's signature Pokemon when it came to Contests, arguably trying with Skitty for the role. May was inspired by Janet to get a Beautifly, and I feel that her using it all the time is a symbol of how much of an impact Janet had on May. Both Beautifly and Skitty were overused, but this was remedied when May left them both with her mother at the Petalburg Gym, giving May room to showcase the rest of her team, including her new Eevee, Munchlax and Squirtle.
May's starter, Torchic, suffered from a lot of neglect. While Pokemon like Beautifuly shined in Contests, Torchic didn't get much of a chance. But when it evolved into Combusken, that's when things changed. Torchic evolved, and like May at the time, became stronger, more confident, and a viable fighter. Come Battle Frontier, Combusken was May's battling powerhouse!
Blaziken was the perfect example of how far May had come. Even though it evolved late, its evolution cemented May's growth as a character, and how May had reached the apex of her potential.
Is This Character Memorable?
This is another easy section to write, and one I really looked forward to writing. She was the first girl after long-time cast member Misty's departure, so naturally she'd be remembered. But beyond that, she does set the bar high for all the female protagonists after her.
When compared to the other three girls, she's firmly in the middle ground. She's not wild or a tomboy like Iris or Misty, and she's not a girly-girl like Dawn. Her battling skills were focused on more than Misty's, but she wasn't portrayed as incredibly strong, like Dawn and Iris were.
How They Rank
As I harped on numerous times, while Dawn did improve on what May set for her, May was the trailblazer for Contests and the role of female characters from then on. She had her flaws, but she was unique. Her existence was a definite benefit to the show. And if May replaced Dawn in Sinnoh, I don't think the show would have really suffered for it.
Is May a Good Character?
Do I really need to explain why I think she's a good character? I think I covered it pretty well earlier. So to pad this out (and to keep it from just being May worship), I'll just put in one of my big gripes with May.
May's skills in a Contest aren't spectacular. Her appeals were average at best, and her battle round performances were more about power than beauty. At the time, it was good, since the writers were experimenting with Contests for the very first time. But her Contest performances aren't as extravagant as Dawn's, so they haven't held up well as time passed. That being said, May still had many memorable performances under her belt.
Next time: The perfect storm. It's the Iris examination, you guys.
Looking back, there's a lot of things I missed about Dawn, and I wish I covered them earlier. Oh well.
Credit to Bulbapedia for most of the image in this and Dawn's examination.
Credit to @Human; for beta reading this examination. He was a big help.
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