The power of friendship! …and fire-breathing dragons!
|Inevitably, seasons will change, we will grow older, and Nintendo will keep releasing pokemon-related goodies to keep us all happy. Happy and broke, that is, but sacrifices must be made. Although many fans grow irritable when a franchise has so many sequels that it never ends, Pokemon has managed to maintain a huge following throughout the years. Since the old fans are such a big part of the fanbase, it really is smart to cater to us by inducing the greatest pokemon nostalgia trip since they remade Pokemon Silver.|
Most of my friends have been playing pokemon since the olden days of red, blue, and yellow – and their desire to become a pokemon master in every region simply hasn’t waned. It’s something we’ve grown up with and never felt like letting go. Pokemon is one of those rare franchises that has real staying power. While I’ve easily poured over 1000 hours into the various Pokemon games, the anime counterpart has always been a little lost on me. I loved the earlier seasons as a kid, but nowadays it’s near unwatchable. The animation looks terrible, the dub has a host of chain-smoking adults putting on the most unconvincing adolescent voices, and the plot has been rehashing the same friendship speeches for years now.
Pokemon: The Origin is different. It’s not a cheap cash-in to tempt kids to buy the games or the toys. There’s real heart and soul put into this special, 4 episode treat. I’d go as far to say that it’s a love letter addressed specifically to old fans. It’s something the fanboys and girls can get excited about again – ooing over the updated graphics and all the nods to game mechanics and events. It’s a show meant to follow the game more closely than the anime ever did with Ash Ketchum and his level god-knows-what Pikachu. It’s a dream come true, but not for everyone.
Anyone who isn’t familiar with the original game will likely be twiddling their thumbs as references fly over their head a mile a minute. All that’s left when you take off the rose-coloured nostalgia glasses is a rushed summary of a little kid getting badges and saving Pokemon from Team Rocket. Being only 4 episodes long, you don’t even get to see many gym leader battles. Instead, you get these hand-picked vignettes from randomly selected points in the journey. Instead of naturally flowing from one town to the next, we get a quickfire summary at the start of the episode…or even worse…in the middle of the episode. It’s really jarring and there’s never much time to develop much of an emotional bond with the gym leaders or the townsfolk. The end result is a messy, messy show that suffers from terrible pacing issues.
As much as I realize how flawed it is…oh my God, did I ever love it. It was like being a kid again. Admittedly, I had Yellow so things were slightly different for me, but I still found it to be extremely comforting and reaffirming. People like to share the same experiences of others and being able to relate so strongly to Pokemon: The Origin is the real charm. For example, the first pokemon Red runs into is a pidgey. In fact, the entire area has all of the pokemon you first run into when you start playing. That level of accuracy and detail impressed me since the original anime went off the rails right from the start. Also, true to the games, Green is still a little shit. He’s literally made to be the worst person ever, only second place behind the people who experiment on Pokemon with scalpels.
Or maybe it’s just a butter knife and they’re making him a nice sandwich
On that note, things do get a bit darker – such as showing Team Rocket killing a Marowak without even using a pokemon to do the dirty work. Red’s charmander also nearly dies because a squirtle bites into his jugular. The fact that pokemon can die is further emphasized by the Lavender town story about people visiting the graves of their lost pokemon and bawling their eyes out. To go with this kind of “adult” update, the pokemon no longer say their own names and instead make these weird animal sounds. However, animalistic is being kind. They sound traumatic at best, satanic at their worst. It works well for dramatic scenes and battles, I’ll give them that. But at one point an adorable vulpix is being pet, and as it looks up lovingly into its caretaker’s eyes it lets out a fiendish screech like a radio’s static squeal mixed with the sound of tires skidding sharply on the road. It’s very hard to connect emotionally to something that makes the same noise whether it’s being killed or trying to express happiness. Don’t get me started on charmander’s dying scream, which is traumatic at best.
Pokemon cries aside, I liked the concept of updating the series to be more mature without going so dark that pokemon got their limbs ripped off and spurted rivers of blood in every battle. It reinforces the idea in my mind that this is for the people who played pokemon as a kid and are now grown up. The child-like wonder is still there, but there is a more mature, realistic edge to what Red goes through to become the champion. Now, take “realism” with a grain of salt because Team Rocket takes over a company by raiding it and standing outside in their full outfits and the police doesn’t notice. It’s still a video game, after all.
The plot isn’t a strong point, but I do like that they chose the most memorable events to animate. Lavender Town had one of the best atmospheres, and the whole Silph Co. fiasco was an exciting change from just going from town to town and knocking on the doors of clearly-marked gyms. The few battles we do get to see involve a wide variety of pokemon (Red switches it up a lot) and is exciting to see. The animation quality is far from consistent, sometimes zooming in so close you could count how many scales Charizard has and other times forgetting where eyes are supposed to go on a face. For the most part, the battles look wonderful. It’s a shame they’re so painfully short! I would kill for this to have been a full series. Who wouldn’t want a pokemon action series with amazing animation? Wouldn’t you just die if Kyoani agreed to animate a full-fledged pokemon anime complete with moe trainers? Oh, the possibilities!
Unfortunately, there’s not much to this show other than how it relates to the game. As an isolate entity, it’s nothing special. In conjunction with a lifetime of memories, it’s magnificent. The timing of this with the release of Pokemon XY just makes me even more fond of it. I’ve been playing whenever I have free time (which isn’t very often…) and it’s been incredible. Pokemon XY represents the start of moving in a new direction for Pokemon games, while Pokemon The Origin exists to placate the fans who rage whenever they release a new generation of ‘mons. It’s the perfect balance! They even tip the scales towards the new gen a bit by showing the new Mega Evolution formula present in Pokemon XY. It’s a clever marketing scheme to convert the stubborn fans, but also a really exciting way to end Red’s adventure…for now.
I’d be curious to hear if other people were hit by nostalgia just as hard as I was. My prediction is that anyone who hasn’t played the old games won’t be quite as enchanted as I was. Think of it as an experiment of sorts – one where I don’t cut you open. Come on, you know you want an excuse to gush about how cute Pokemon are. Admit it.
Bonus Screenshots: Show ▼
Smell ya later!