The reception of the Johto saga in the anime, and why it was the shows downfall
by, 11th March 2013 at 01:53 PM (11037 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.