Yes, we’re back to talking about Pokemon, a franchise so long running that there are adults who weren’t born yet when it started. I was, but I’m old and crabby. Any way, I was asked to review this particular part of the anime. So, all of you get to read me ranting about all the aspects of this anime franchise that get on my nerves. Besides, with Sword and Shield coming out soon and eliminating the Megas, it seems a good time to talk about when Game Freak was super proud of that element.
We open with Satoshi travelling over to the Kalos region leaving Unova and all the Pokemon he “befriended” there behind. He meets the siblings, Citron & Eureka, and begins his journey to beat all the Kalos gyms while catching new Pokemon he’ll inevitably leave behind when he moves on to Alola. Unfortunately for him, Musashi, Kojirou & Meowth are still following him to steal his Pikachu.
I should note, the anime does not follow the game’s mechanics as much as it makes nods to them. Which I can’t really complain about. It would be even more boring if Pikachu had to dodge every attack because any hit would smash its frail defences and knock it the fuck out.
The biggest problem with the series is just that it’s all very repetitive and formulaic. You can pretty much tell exactly what’s going to happen in an episode the moment the scenario is introduced. Satoshi will even say he hasn’t decided which gym to go to next after every gym match, even against the 7th gym when there’s literally one option left.
In all fairness, the series can have a real sense of fun to it. And Team Rocket’s goofy schemes can be entertaining even if we know every one is going to end with them getting blasted into the air and saying “this feels bad.”
This is where the big problem in the series lies. The main characters are dull. Really, excruciatingly dull. Satoshi has no personality whatsoever. He’s just vaguely amicable. Which is part of the problem with the franchise keeping the same protagonist from region to region. The dude can’t learn any lessons without repeating old territory. He also can’t develop as a character because every writer who works on the anime has a cemented image of him and what he’s supposed to be. And it is hard to see him as having a real connection with his pokemon when he has a long history of saying goodbye to them at the slightest provocation.
Then there are his companions. Citron is a boring sciencey boy who makes machines that blow up and is vaguely nice. Eureka is an excitable child who thinks every Pokemon ever is cute. Even the shite ice cream cone no one likes. And tries to get her brother a bride whenever she thinks a woman is pretty. Serena is a girly girl with a crush on Satoshi because they met once in camp when they were all of eight.
The best characters are Musashi, Kojirou & Meowth. Just because they’re allowed to be bad and revel in that but there’s also a real attempt at making them sympathetic. Every member of the group gets some episode or other that showcases the better part of their nature. This also serves to make them more enjoyable than the main cast as well as more complex.
The artwork is fine. There are some pretty cool battles. The characters look fine. And the Pokemon look like their game counterparts. I don’t really care for most of the 6th generation Pokemon personally, but that may be because I’m old and grumpy. You damn kids and your cotton candy pokemon and your slime dragons and your key rings and your pogs and your street sharks.
The acting is fine. Everyone is perfectly competent but most of the characters are so boring they don’t have much in terms of complexity to convey. Which is why our best performances come from Hayashibara Megumi, Miki Shinichiro & Inuyama Inuko. The music is decent enough too. Not great but functional enough.
There are some moments with Serena and Sana. Eureka’s obsession with pretty women also seems to be a strong indication that she won’t be dating men when she gets older.
Areas of Improvement:
- Ditch Satoshi as the main protagonist. Honestly, I think the Pokemon anime franchise would be a lot better if each region featured a new protagonist. You could get more complexity for the character without having to undermine their bond with their pokemon to show off the new region’s creatures.
- Have some surprises. I get it, this is a children’s anime and they can’t get too complex with it. But at least have some events that are mildly against the grain or that subvert expectations. Maybe even let the villains win in some minor way that isn’t too bad for the heroes.
- More personality for the protagonists. A big part of the issue with them is that the writers try to make them too squeaky clean good. Give them some real flaws to overcome that can lead to some interesting interactions. It would make the series a lot more interesting.
Pokemon XY isn’t a bad series. However, it’s not a good one either. It’s like that last Pokemon film I reviewed. It’s a mediocre series that’s probably enjoyable enough for the target audience, but doesn’t provide much for anyone older. Even slightly older like teenagers. I’ll give it a 5/10.