Pokemon, or Pocket Monsters was a part of my generation’s childhood and every subsequent generation given that the series has continued with a new version being released every couple of years and that isn’t even including the spinoff games like Snap, Conquest, or Ranger. The original pair of games, Red and Green, was released in Japan during February of 96. (Blue didn’t come until later. We didn’t get them until 99 and we didn’t get Green at all. The games quickly grew into a major franchise with an anime that started broadcasting in 97 and has never stopped, getting new series added with every new game release. In addition to that it has a trading card game, a manga and a whole lot of merchandise. October of 2013 was pretty big for the series. Not only were the newest titles, X & Y released but so was a special hearkening back to the games that started it all. That being Pokemon: The Origin, a four episode piece. Brought to us by OLM, the same studio behind the rest of the anime, Production IG and Xebec. So, is this worth looking into?
The narrative opens at the same place as the original games, Professor Oak introduces himself and the world of Pokemon, although he doesn’t ask if you’re a boy or girl. It also shows the brief snippet of Gengar and Nidorino fighting that played before the title screen. Enter our hero, Red. He’s summoned to Oak’s lab along with his rival, Green. The two are given pokedexes and their first pokemon. Red chooses Charmander because of the connection to his name. Green calls that a girly reason and picks Squirtle, because being a dick is the manly thing to do. Red decides to focus on completing his pokedex while Green makes an effort to become the world’s greatest trainer. After losing horribly against Green, Red realises that he’s going to have to become a stronger trainer if he’s going to have a chance to complete his pokedex and he decides to take the gym challenge. From there, it follows the same narrative as the games with the gym battles and encounters with Team Rocket.
Now, there are quite a few things in the story that I do like. One of the big things is the way they show the gym leaders pick which pokemon to use. They only show two gym fights, the first being against Takeshi and the other against Sakaki. Takeshi asks Red how many badges he has and decides which Pokemon to use based on it, which implies that Gym leaders base their pokemon on their challenger’s progress. Which is an interesting addition to the universe and I’d really like to see it used in an actual game. It wouldn’t be difficult, they’d just have to give you a more open world where you could challenge the gyms in any order and have the pokemon used by the gym leaders be dependent on when you fight them. They skip over a lot out of necessity, but the moments they do hit on are handled pretty well and get some good dramatic tension. I also like the usage of game imagery throughout the special and I do appreciate that Pikachu barely appears. I don’t hate Pikachu, but it’s so over-used in most Pokemon media.
Now, there are flaws too. They use montages to explain everything they’ve skipped and these are entirely pointless. They show you the loading screen at the beginning of each episode, which tells you how many badges Red has and how many pokemon he’s caught. They rarely show the scenes of him catching pokemon so why do they need to explicate on how he beat gyms and got badges? It just takes time away from the moments they’re actually focusing on. They could have spent more time on Sakaki’s story arc so it didn’t feel so rushed. That’s another problem, Sakaki’s story arc is taken care of over the course of a single battle. It lasts for maybe five minutes and the result feels forced as a consequence.
Red is a great lead character, unlike certain other Pokemon protagonists who are incompetent and have trouble with the basic idea of actually catching pokemon. Red grows as a character in a way that makes sense and seems realistic for what he’s going through. Green is overconfident and arrogant, but he’s not a bad character either. He seems like a brash and abrasive teenager. I also like the bond between Red and his starter. Unlike some incompetent twits who can’t even keep their pokemon from attacking them, (okay that’s the last swing I take at Satoshi), Red develops a strong camaraderie with his Charizard over the course of the series which culminates in a very strong scene when they face their greatest challenge. The biggest weakness in terms of major characters is Sakaki, who undergoes a radical change for flimsy reasons.
This special looks great. The character designs are nicely detailed while staying fairly faithful to the source material. The pokemon battles can get surprisingly brutal and they just look awesome. At least what they show of them. The battles are another area where a lot of stuff gets skipped over.
The voice acting is pretty good. Red is voiced by Takeuchi Junko, who played Dieter in Monster. She gives a strong performance. Green is voiced bu Eguchi Takuya, who gave a decent performance in Chokotan as Arima and gives an even better one here. The music and sound are frequently reminiscent of the soundtrack from Red and Green which is really cool.
There’s no romance at all, homo-erotic or otherwise. 1/10.
This special is actually really good. They do skip a lot of material, but it’s understandable and necessary given the length of the special. Red is a great protagonist and they manage some really good send ups to the original game. There’s a lot to like about it, especially if you were or still are a fan of the Pokemon games. It’s not a perfect series, but it is a great one. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Next week, another anime based on a Nintendo property. This one involving blades and sorcery. That’s right, Fire Emblem had an OVA.