Pokemon: The Origin

Pokemon The Origin 016

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.

Pokemon The Origin 014Pokemon The Origin 004

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.

Pokemon The Origin 012Pokemon The Origin 011

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.

Pokemon The Origin 008

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.

Pokemon The Origin 006

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 ▼

Pokemon The Origin 007

Smell ya later!


A neuroscience graduate, black belt, and all-around nerd. You'll either find me in my lab or curled up in my rilakkuma kigurumi watching anime.
Blinklist BlogMarks Delicious Digg Diigo FaceBook Google MySpace Netvibes Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter

8 Responses to “Pokemon: The Origin”

  1. skylion says:

    My only connection to the Pokemon franchise is thru my former step son. He gobbled it up in the late Nineties and early Aughts. So I kept some connection to the translated manga and animated series. It never really was my bag, but I can understand how it appeals. It also reminds me of my age in relation to tons of other anime fans.

    I recall back in the post 1977 era, just after Star Wars came out, than any time I heard the 20th Century Fox fanfare, or saw that graphic, I was excited. It meant Star Wars was coming on TV! Only it didn’t. We had some Kenner Toys back then, clunky compared to the stuff today. We had no media saturation back then. And franchise ties ins meant collectible glasses from Burger Kings.

    So for me, Pokemon represents a time when I became aware of franchise power, media saturation, and toys out the wazzo. The kid in me feels quite ripped of. Stupid Seventies. I had a damn bowl hair cut and Corduroy from head to toe.

    So Peace to my fellow anime fans, and lets keep the fandom alive. No matter what we love.

    • Overcooled says:

      Aww that’s cute. I wonder if my mom feels the same connection in that she’s attached to it in a fond way simply because I was (and still am).

      As much as people complain about all those gosh-darned marketing schemes and tie-ins…they really are fun. So many things to buy! So many! I’m sorry that a little skylion didn’t get a Star Wars TV show.

  2. belatkuro says:

    Pokemon has definitely defined my childhood and my love for anime and games. I won’t say I’ve played every game but I went through most of them. Red, Yellow, Gold, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, Platinum, Heart Gold, and Black. I also had Pokemon Stadium in the N64.
    Dunno if this something to be proud of but I’ve watched the anime of Pokemon from the very beginning up until Diamond and Pearl. Crazy I know but it is how it is. Have also watched about 8 of the movies as well.
    A Pokemon lover through and through here.

    And so came Pokemon Origins. And it’s definitely a big nostalgia to me. From the Pokedex only registering captured Pokemon to the Magikarp salesman to Lavander Town to the gym battles to the Silph Scope to Green to Mewtwo. It’s like I was playing the game all over again, albeit in super fast forward and definitely with a different team pick than what Red used in the Indigo Plateau.
    Granted, some of the battles were pretty far-fetched and outright wrong, like that Rhyhorn defeating that Jolteon with a Thunderbolt when it has shit Special Attack stat, and Charizard surviving a Hydro Pump and in turn KOing Blastoise at half health with a Fire Blast. But otherwise, the whole special was pretty much a treat for a Pokemon fan such as myself. They even used the game music in it which adds more to the nostalgia.
    The Mega Charizard thing at the end was cool. It does take away the detail of the specials being solely about Generation 1 and Red but I understand it’s a promotion for the new game so I’ll forgive that.
    Definitely wish this was longer or we could have a new series or a reboot but you can’t catchhave them all I guess. It was still nice to have this special.

    I’ve put off playing BW2 for a long time but with this post I will probably start playing now(only in an emulator though).
    Been hearing very positive comments about XY and how there’s so much to do besides the Pokemon grinding. And the new features are pretty sweet(sitting on benches!!)
    I don’t have a 3DS though and I’m not sure if it’s worth getting one just for the new game. Still needs convincing on this part. Probably after I finish BW2. So yeah.

    tl;dr I love Pokemon.

    PS. That Charmander scream is still ringing in my ears. And Cubone and Marowak ;__; Though Marowak is immune to electricity so how did an electric baton kill it? Hmm…

    • Overcooled says:

      That is a looooot of Pokemon. I think I gave up on the anime after Pokemon Johto.

      There was a lot of inconsistencies with the damage done to pokemon (Charizard’s tail didn’t go out when completely underwater either…) but I didn’t really mind because the fights were so intense. The only thing that really confused me was that fire blast you mentioned…That was a cheap win.

      I played White 2 on an emulator for a bit and then gave up because it wasn’t that different (and I had a lot of work) but it’s fun at first. XY is incredible. I would pay for just being able to pet my pokemon!!!

  3. BlackBriar says:

    Oh, the nostalgia!! Pokémon is the first franchise I got into right before even Dragon Ball Z as a kid, about five years old. Nearly 20 years and 6 regions and still going strong. Personally, it doesn’t bother me how many sequel games come out. They can keep going because for some reason I never get tired even though I haven’t watched the series as much lately. It’s something I grew up with. At the time, I found the second region, Johto, that Gold and Silver were based on was the best so I really got happy when they remade those two.

    As for the games themselves, I started off with Pokémon Blue, then Gold. However, I don’t remember whatever happened to those two. Even now, there’s still some of them in my possession. For GBA, there’s Pokémon Sapphire, Emerald and Fire Red. For Nintendo DS, I have Pokémon Platinum, Soul Silver, Black and Black 2. And with all of these, I’ve still never been able to complete the Pokédex. The feeling is ironic.

    Pokémon: The Origin was awesome. All the old music fans grew up with. It was like watching Pokémon Red, Blue, Yellow, Fire Red or Leaf Green being played out in front of you. I almost felt like a little kid again. Not to mention you actually see the game character instead of Ash for a change. Red was alright but knowing his seiyuu is Junko Takeuchi, known for playing Naruto, was distracting. I was put off a bit when they added the Mega Evolution in the battle against Mewtwo toward the end which is a feature exclusive the new Pokémon games X and Y. It makes you jealous that the feature wasn’t there for the previous versions.

    I hated Green the entire run of the four episodes. He was worse than Gary even was and they’re supposed to be the same person if comparisons are made between the game and anime.

    As much as I realize how flawed it is…oh my God, did I ever love it. It was like being a kid again.

    You’re a diehard fan so even if it’s flawed, you wouldn’t give a damn in the slightest.

    I heard for X and Y, you start off with two starter Pokémon: One from the new region (Kalos) and one from the first (Kanto). As if the other features didn’t already make it seem better. I still need to get my hands on a 3DS to play.

  4. Karakuri says:

    The only real reason I ever got into Pokemon was because it was the show that aired right after Sailor Moon. Yep. Though I’ve played at least one of every generation since Red/Blue/Yellow and almost every ‘spin off’ game so I’m… I’m in pretty deep. xD I’ve been really bad with the last few games though. Black 2, I made it to whatever the movie production place was and said “SCREW THE PLOT, I’M BECOMING FAMOUS.” and haven’t progressed since. I was the same with the contests in Ruby, but at least I actually beat the elite 4 on that one…

    So yeah, this was fantastic for the sheer nostalgia it brought back. I remember the days of raising my Blastoise (or whatever the water starter was) to ridiculous levels (completely ignoring the rest of my team) and then steamrolling through the entire game with it (screwing myself over if I ever faced anything super effective that could withstand 2 rounds of surf)… I eventually became smarter about things in LeafGreen. I feel like I’m rambling a lot, but I have such a long history with this series and this just brought that all back~.

    Red sure had a lot of diversity in his team, I’ll give him that. I can overlook the fact that Charizard took out Blastoise despite the poor type match up, since that was pretty much how I played the game. I just assumed that Charizard was ridiculously over levelled.

    The progression speed and plot aside (I really wonder if someone who hasn’t played any of the games really got the same out of these OVAs), I really appreciated the darker tones to this. The concept of Pokemon is great and all, but there are reasons why I’m not following the anime series any more. I kind of hope the games go in this direction too. Not too much, mind you, but I heard that the majority of X/Y purchases in Japan were university/college students, so I don’t think it would hurt if they upped the maturity level a little bit.

    I bought X yesterday, so we’ll see how that goes. 99% of that purchase was due to the fact that you can change outfits.

  5. TheVoid says:

    I liked Green in this and even wish the final battle between him and Red had been a tad longer.

  6. Mose Kapanke says:

    if you want, I’ll publish you posts. Copywriter searching for operate

Leave a Reply