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Pokemon Origins Review

Pokemon Origins is an anime (a Japanese Animated Production) created by OLM, the animation studio responsible for the Pokemon television series since it’s inception in 1997. Also working with them is anime production studio I.G, who have worked on the 14th Pokemon movie, and Xebec, who helped produce the 14th Pokemon Movie as well. The series is comprised of four episodes, with each one receiving a different director for the different themes covered in the episodes. Pokemon Origins known in Japan as Pocket Monsters: The Origin, was originally broadcast in Japan on October 2nd to promote the release of Pokemon X and Y, which were scheduled to release 10 days later. The first episode of the series is being released in the US for free to watch online on The Pokemon Company’s website, Pokemon.com as of the 15th November 2013. No further information has been released at this time but it’s likely subsequent episodes will be released on a weekly basis.

 

Choose-your-Pokemon

You each get a Pokemon, what happens to the last one is none of your business.

 

The Story of Pokemon Origins is centered around the narrative of the games that spawned the series, Pocket Monsters Red, and Pocket Monsters Green which released in Japan in 1996. Pokemon Red and Green’s story is about two young teenagers who aspire to become Pokemon masters, and they receive a starter Pokemon from a Pokemon Professor called Oak on the condition that they assist with his research by recording data from any Pokemon they catch through the use of a special device called the Pokedex. The story in the anime is quite faithful to the games, and it goes further in expressing details on account of the different medium used to convey it. The first episode makes reference to the introductory sequence in the first generation of games, and is demonstrably a learning curve in the hero’s journey. It figures, that most people getting to grips with the games 15 years ago could really get behind this episode on, at the very least, a basic level of nostalgia.

 

Charmander-Swipe

Fights in Pokemon Origins make for some good eye candy.

 

 

I try not to get influenced by the media I consume when I do reviews, but I felt the production quality of the series was really good. I felt that the animation was more mature and fluid, and perhaps that was the creators’ intention, to appeal to teenagers and young adults who remember playing the first generation games. I still love the fact that the anime is more akin to the game’s storyline, as the reverse, trialed in Pokemon yellow, didn’t work as well drawing inspiration from what I felt was a marketing ploy to bolster sales (I’m saying the original anime’s story is weak). Pokemon Origins is a bit more Avant-garde as well, as it’s not afraid to get more graphic, a bit like the manga, to make the immersion of conflict in the story feel more genuine, as opposed to the original anime which would censor anything graphic or with violent connotation at every opportunity in favour of appealing to young children.

 

Brock is totally not Ichigo Kurosaki

He’s totally not Ichigo Kurosaki guys.

 

 

The music and sound production is great, as well as the writing, and not much was changed in the transition to the American release. They dropped voice actors from the original anime, which I’m really grateful for, because like a lot of other people I dislike Ash’s english dub voice with a passion. Sorry Veronica Taylor, but I do prefer the main protagonist, especially if he’s a predominantly male character, to have vocal chords that don’t sound like they’re being torn every five seconds. Though Ash’s voice is considered by many to be infamously bad (it’s just an opinion, okay?), I’m not entirely sure why some other voice actors were switched out, in favour of others who hadn’t worked on the show before. As of the first episode’s official release, no details about the list of voice actors have been included in press information, thus far. However, I have an ear for this sort of thing (only facial recognition has failed me before) and was able to identify with confidence Brock’s voice actor. For someone with Brock’s complexion in the anime, the last person I expected to fill the voice acting role in the english dub would be Johnny Yong Bosch, the guy who voices Ichigo Kurosaki in Bleach.

 

Red-and-Green

“Hey Gr-I mean Blue, how are things?”

 

 

I do have a few pet peeves with how localization was handled though. In Japan, Pokemon Red and Green were released, so it makes sense that the main character and the rival are called “Red” and “Green” right? It also makes sense that they wear clothes which show us which one is which and it makes sense that Red would take great pride in his name and choose a Charmander as it is the pokemon with the closest shade to red, and Green picks a blue pokemon as he doesn’t choose things on such a pathetic pretense. Ok, I buy that, but you know what happened when the first gen games released in the United States and the rest of the world? We got Pokemon Red, and Pokemon Blue. Green was referenced internationally as Blue, and this was poorly addressed in the localization of Pokemon Origins, his clothing was not changed to reflect the decision, and the remark about not choosing a pokemon based on it’s colour (he said that to get an advantage over Red while saving face), was changed to something along the lines of “I’m not weak like you, I’m going to pick a pokemon with a type advantage”. But they did at least make an aesthetic change in the title sequence to reflect the regional difference, so that was a nice touch.

 

Brock

Brock in Pokemon Origins, with his videogame incarnations displayed in the top right corner.

 

I spoke a little bit about the animation, but not the artistic direction that was drawn from the games. I said the animation was more mature compared to the original anime, and that same saying goes for character and environment art. One thing Anime excels at, is not necessarily animation, but emotive conveyance of the genre-specific art style, in other words, the nature of the narrative tends to tie in more directly about how the anime would be drawn, and would determine the shade of colours used. You look at Battle Angel Alita for example, and it’s very discolored to describe the harsh nature of the world, likewise, an anime series like Sonic X, would make use of brighter colours, and would seek to broaden features of the character’s faces to appeal to children. In Pokemon Origins, much of the character art is inspired from the Generation 4 sprites in the HeartGold and SoulSilver games, and that is much more consistent with the original artistic image than the character art inspired by the original anime in the Generation 3 games FireRed and LeafGreen.

 

Cubone-and-Marowak

Marowak defends Cubone

 

 

With a different director for each episode, Pokemon Origins has episodes which seek to please everyone. Though I said the point of the series was to remain nostalgic, and appeal to older players, the target audience tends to shift with the content the directors specifically chose to expand on. The first episode is obviously catered to people who remember playing the first pokemon games, the second episode however, seems to appeal more to people who watched the original anime. I say this because the second episode draws more deeply on a relatively irrelevant story element (which deals with a minor character’s individual circumstances), which is atypical of the original anime, but not the games which would normally skip over such intricate details in pursuit of the main objective at hand. I feel like this is further supported by the fact that they chose to omit other, more significant events in the game, instead of this one, which suggests their goal was not to expand the longevity of the series with a weak plot device, but rather to appeal to a certain group of people they didn’t want to leave out. The third episode shifts the focus back to the games, and seems to appeal to those who had progressed a significant amount into the games. You can interpret it from Red’s side, who represented the group of people that only put training into their starter pokemon, or from Giovanni’s side, who clearly invested a lot of time in his hobby, but had to give it up to pursue business.

 

Lizardon

Bonding is like staring at you underwater while not drowning.

 

 

Finally, the fourth episode is by far the most appealing to the newer generation of people who had decided to take an interest in the Pokemon series. The end of the series warrants a significant improvement in animation, putting it on par with the films, it should come as no surprise though, since the purpose of the series is to market X and Y. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it will be different to the traditional ending first-gen veterans most likely expect, and this may disappoint you as a result. Up until the ending, I was hooked into the series, but I felt slightly cheated at the end of it, and it was an unnecessary blemish on an otherwise perfect anime series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying “it had the potential to be great”, and I understand why they did it, but if the Pokemon movies were directed like Pokemon Origins, they might get a lot more attention.

 

So to sum it up, Pokemon Origins was the anime Pokemon gamers were waiting for all these years, instead of the alternative we got to help market the games. Clearly, an anime series based on a videogame works best when the story is based on the videogame, but not when you try and do the opposite without breaking core game mechanics. I give Pokemon Origins a rating of:

 

Pokemon Origins: 9/10

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