So I’ve watched the entire four-episode special a few days ago, some hours after it had aired on TV Tokyo. I did enjoy it and it was a pretty good special, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied.
As a fan who is familiar/fond with Pocket Monsters across all continuities, such as the games, the original Japanese anime (not the dub), and the various different manga adaptations throughout my entire childhood, I feel that my opinions may be a little less bias compared to English fans who’ve only played the games, watched the English dubbed anime, and read one Pokemon manga (that is, Pocket Monsters Special, or Pokemon Adventures as it’s known in the west).
It was a fun little special, but it’s totally not as good as a Pocket Monsters anime should be, and I hope that I’ll help shed some critical insight for those who are blindly praising the special.
Much like the 1997 anime, the special adaptation begins with an animated variation of the Red/Green intro of the games. And just like 1997 anime, it’s actually a tournament on television being watched by an animated adaptation of Red (in the 1997 anime, their adaptation was called Satoshi, named after the creator of the franchise due to Red not having a canon name at the time).
The Origin version of Red’s personality is almost no different from his counterparts across the Pokemon franchise. It’s pretty much the same as Satoshi from the 1997 anime, Red from Pocket Monsters Special, Shuu from Pocket Monsters Getto Daze!, etc. All of these versions of Red share similar personality traits and the Red shown here does not break that trend. Clearly Ken Sugimori had some sort of officialized vision of his personality while designing the character. The only difference is that this Red doesn’t keep a constant Pikachu on his Pokemon team.
Which is why I find it silly that they cast him with Junko Takesuchi instead of Rica Matsumoto. She does a pretty good job here, but seeing as Red talks like Satoshi (he has the exact same mannerisms and speech patterns) and Junko provides the same infliction in her voice, he might as well have been voiced by Rica Matsumoto.
There’s an explanation for his color name here, which is an unusual name in a region where almost all of its inhabitants have Japanese names. His father named him Red because he wanted his son to grow up to be a man with a heart that burns like red-hot flames. I wonder why Green’s father named him Green?
One of the definite things about the special that brought it down were the direct references to the fact that it’s based on a video game, ones that were made in an unnecessary fashion. Now, I love nostalgic throwbacks to the Red and Green Versions as much as the next guy, but did they *really* need to do a throwback to how the players tried to toss Monster Balls at other trainers’ Pokemon during their first go-through of the game? It makes Red look like a complete dumbass in the world of Pokemon, which I’m sure he’s not.
A proper way to portray a rookie trainer would be how the 1997 anime handled its version of a beginner Red. Forgetting to weaken a monster before capturing it? Fine. Not even all too savvy about attributes and the like? Great, the special did this too. But thinking it’s OK to steal another trainers’ Pokemon? NO, that makes the character look stupid in context of the world rather than just making a novice mistake.
And the proper way to handle direct references to game mechanics would be in the style of Pokemon Special… as in not referencing downright idiotic aspects that ruin the game-to-anime/manga medium conversion.
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There’s not much to say about Green other than the fact that he’s… exactly the same as he is in the games. But he’s a lot less eccentric than his counterpart from the original anime, Shigeru (named after the man Shigeru Miyamoto, due to Green not having a canon name at the time), that’s for sure. And he’s a bit more friendlier. He doesn’t have the harem of cheerleaders, though.
He’s voiced by Takuya Eguchi. I wasn’t fond of his voice at first – I prefer Yuuko Kobayashi’s rendition of a “Green” character (Shigeru) and he sounded rather too old to be 11. But I got used to it. He acts the role well, and I really didn’t mind that some of the same-aged characters from Digimon sounded like they went through early puberty.
How many bites does it take to get to the center of a Hitokage?
I have to give this special credit for having this kind of… Generation I brutality. We haven’t seen this kind of thing in a Pocket Monsters animation in years.
The shrieking…. the shrieking…
Tomokazu Sugita voices Takeshi. Need I say more? Yuji Ueda will always have the better Takeshi voice to me, but Tomokazu Sugita always provides a fantastic performance. He made Takeshi sound rather distinguished and mentor-like.
Speaking of Takeshi, his battle was one of the only battles in this special that I actually liked. It really showcased how overwhelming the first Gym could be for first-time players who chose Hitokage. Plus, the victory music that played during Red’s turnabout was pretty sweet.
But, one minor gripe: Why are they panting? Their Pokemon are doing the work – the trainers are just shouting commands. The only canons where this should ever happen are in series such as Pocket Monsters Special or Pocket Monsters RÃ©BURST, where the humans are actively participating in the battle as much as the Pokemon. Otherwise it’s rather melodramatic. I can understand that they were going for a shounen-ish “connection with your partner” type of deal, but the execution is silly.
The rest of the battles were pretty lackluster. I have no idea why some people are praising the battles within this special – it was mostly a 1HKO-fest of four Pokemon on Red’s team, leading him to rely on either Lizardon or Thunders (the only cosistent members on his team). And the HP bars? I don’t mind incorporating game mechanics, but this is an anime, and they should go with choices that would work well as an anime. Levels are definitely possible as strength CAN be measured (in no way do I agree with a level 100 cap for an anime), but HP bars totally take away from the suspense of a battle. Knowing that a character is near his/her breaking point visually is a lot more effective than relying on some HP bar on the screen. Also, gameplay/storyline segregation. What’s next, we’re going to have a bunch of NPCs that provide one-line gameplay expositions? It’s not too bad, but it’s a rather silly choice. Other anime adaptations of JRPGs are a little more smart in this regard.
And by the way, I hate how the made-up language from the internationally-poisoned current anime reared its ugly head into this special. Why the hell is Hitokage’s name so fucking long in Whatevernese? I know it’s a fantasy series. I can respect made-up languages like the Hylian language in The Legend of Zelda, because it was created as a readable, translatable language that the player can *understand*. The runes here are clearly just gibberish and would have just been better off being Japanese. The Gen I games based their region on an actual Japanese region and use å†† as the currency marker. Why not just use the Japanese language or simply romaji? 4Kids aren’t on your back anymore, guys…
The best part of this special has to be the second chapter about Karakara and the Pokemon Tower. This story arc from the games has never been given justice in any adaptation, anime or otherwise, and it was nice to see it being so focused on in this special. The scene where Karakara bids farewell to the spirit of its mother and helps Red avenge her is just so well-done and exactly as I imagined in my headcanon (and my planned reboot of the 1997 anime in manga-form), sans Karakara actually joining “Red”, which does not happen here.
Shion Town (Lavender Town) keeps its creepy atmosphere from the games here, and my favorite NPC line about the white hand being on Red’s shoulder is kept – with a twist. An even creepier twist.
Mr. Fuji is a grandbro
Oh my god. I can’t help but give this special props for having so much focus on one of the more interesting, yet almost never discussed, characters from Generation I – Mr. Fuji. That, and portraying him in an accurate role. His anime counterpart from the 1997-1998 Mewtwo Saga was a really, really interesting and well-written character with a great backstory – but he was in no way faithful to the Fuji from the games. And the Fuji from the Pocket Monsters Special manga sucked because he’s such a insignificant character that really had nothing to do with Mewtwo at all.
Also, he gives Red the Mega Stones and seems to have knowledge of the lore of the Kalos region. This supports my previous theory that Fuji will have some sort of role in XY. But I digress.
Reina’s such a cute character! It seems the theory I posted on Bulbagarden when she was first added to the character page was spot-on – she’s a meld of both the NPC that lives with Karakara and Fuji’s granddaughter.
While I did like her presence, there’s one female that SORELY needed to be in this special:
Why? Why does Game Freak hate her so? Despite being an optional Player Character, she’s rendered non-existent in the game’s canon, is not featured in any other continuity besides two manga series (one being a gag series and the other being Pocket Monsters Special), and might effectively be replaced by Serena as Satoshi’s (and by extension, Shigeru’s?) childhood friend in the upcoming XY anime series (I’m not gonna bother too much with it unless it really impresses me…).
And no, don’t even start with “this anime is based on RED AND GREEN”, “not FIRERED AND LEAFGREEN”. Terrible logic. They used the FireRed/LeafGreen character designs (aside from the Zukan/Pokedex and Takeshi) and incorporated aspects of XY into the special. If they really were doing a strict adaptation of Red and Green, the characters would have looked more like their 1997 anime counterparts, which used the Generation I designs.
Red’s Lizardon against Green’s Kamex… it wasn’t a bad battle alone, I suppose, but it pales in comparison to how another continuity handled the “Red’s starter vs. Green’s starter” battle. That is, the original anime, which had the very same set. The version of Red there, Satoshi, actually found a unique and kickass strategy that managed to turn the tides of battle despite the type disadvantage against Shigeru’s Kamex. Here, Red is bombarding Green’s Kamex with a bunch of fire attacks and finished it off with Daimonji (Fire Blast). Not… very impressive, despite the pretty visuals.
I love seeing at least one animated instance of a Player Character becoming Champion, though. The Hall of Fame scene was absolutely glorious.
Red’s battle with Mewtwo was complete bullshit. As cool as Mega Lizardon X looks, you can’t possibly convince me that it could curbstomp Mewtwo.
Not only that, but Mewtwo as a character is terribly underwhelming compared to the Mewtwo characters from other canons. Mewtwo (Masachiku Ichimura), from the Japanese (not butchered/dubbed) original anime written by Takeshi Shudo, had an interesting/tragic backstory and had considerable depth as both an antagonist and an ally. Compared to his previous anime adaptation, this Mewtwo is truly underwhelming. Perhaps it would have helped if he had at least spoken – they kept its backstory with Mr. Fuji from the games, and it’s a really interesting backstory – but the character itself lacks personality compared to his cross-canon brethren. The Mewtwo from Pocket Monsters Special also started talking, with the writers taking cues from the 1997/1998 anime character because it was so well-done.
Masachiku Ichimura gave a perfect rendition of what I imagined Game Mewtwo to sound like in Melee (and it’s totally different from his performance as Takeshi Shudo’s Mewtwo!). Why couldn’t they have done that?
Not an interesting final antagonist at all. But at least it’s easier to stomach than the feminine, walking-plothole of an uninteresting attempt at a tsundere that the new Mewtwo from the ExtremeSpeed Genesect: Mewtwo Awakens movie is. Takeshi Shudo is rolling in his grave.
My final story-related gripe is the complete lack of explanation as to why Red is on Mt. Silver (or, since this is supposed to be “Gen I” nostalgia, portray the collapse of Hanada Cave). I refuse to believe that this boy left his mother alone and lonely at home for three years for a generic excuse such as training. We already have enough of a child’s disregard for the feelings of their (only) parent in the current incarnation of Red’s anime version, Satoshi (who, was previously characterized as actually giving a shit about his mom whenever he had the chance). We don’t need it for a Red that’s supposedly a closer representation to the game version.
Overall, despite some of my negative comments towards this special, I REALLY enjoyed it otherwise. It’s much easier to watch than the current Pocket Monsters anime, which is only a shell of its former self. One thing I must note is that this is certainly not canon to the games, as certain things are changed to the point where it can’t simply be the canon version of the game’s events with acceptable liberties. I liked the hidden depths Sakaki’s character had as the Rocket Gang boss in this special, but his characterization here really contradicts his event from HeartGold/SoulSilver. Overall, it’s a nice little special for fans that manages to provide a load of nostalgic fanservice to those played the Generation I games, but it certainly isn’t the godsend of a Pocket Monsters anime people were hoping for.
To end this off, I’ll do a 1997 vs. 2013 character ranking, just for fun.
Original Satoshi / Anime Red = Origin Red
Original Shigeru / Anime Green > Origin Green
Takeshi = Origin Takeshi
Kasumi > Origin Kasumi
Natsume > Origin Natsume
Erika < Origin Erika (she retains her sleepy moe game character)
Sakaki > Origin Sakaki
Dr. Fuji = Mr. Fuji
Dr. Orchid > Origin Dr. Orchid (eccentric old men are more amusing)
Hanako/Satoshiâ€™s mama > Redâ€™s mama (Hanako is spunky; Redâ€™s mama only appeared for like, 10 seconds.
Not gonna lie, sheâ€™s just as hot.)
Shudo Mewtwo > Origin Mewtwo (easily)
The Gym Leaders (other than Takeshi and Sakaki) on the left get an easy win mostly because the ones on the right don’t get any speaking roles other than a game textbox (I’m serious!) within quick montages.
As for the OST – the only tracks that stood out to me were the original stuff (such as the victory theme played whenever Red is turning the tides) and the Silph Co. theme. I’ve already heard better remixes of the game music from the 1997 anime series:
Image Credit: raemz from Pixiv.