tek's rating: ½

Pokémon, TV Tokyo
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Caution: potential spoilers.

Kanto/Johto (Red & Blue, Gold & Silver)
Hoenn Sinnoh Unova

I find this show funny and cute, and I dunno, I just really like it. I mean, the actual quality isn't necessarily that great, but it's okay. I'm a fan of the video games (though I haven't played all of them, and often in the show I get a bit annoyed by things working differently than they do in the games). The stories are pretty repetitive, but it's still a fun show and I like the characters, for the most part. Anyway, as for what the show is about... there are these friends, who wander around the Kanto region (and later Johto, then Hoenn, then Sinnoh, then Unova), occasionally capturing creatures called pokemon, of which they will become trainers. (At the start of the series, there are 150 known types of pokemon, though later on hundreds of other types will be introduced, from different regions. Pokemon can learn all sorts of different "moves," most of which are attacks. Pokemon, as well as moves, have specific element types: normal, fire, water, electric, grass, ice, fighting, poison, ground, flying, psychic, bug, rock, ghost, or dragon, each of which has different degrees of effectiveness or ineffectiveness against each specific type. Later on, dark and steel type pokemon and moves will also be introduced.) Once captured, pokemon are kept in pokeballs, which is incredibly convenient (regardless of the pokemon's size, from small to enormous, they all basically convert to energy when in their pokeballs, so size and weight aren't an issue). The pokemon are occasionally released to eat or play or engage in battles, or whatever. (While some people see pokemon as just tools, most trainers, particularly the main characters in this series, consider pokemon their friends, even though pokemon can't speak human- but they're clearly intelligent, so they're more than just pets.) Anyway, the trainers and their pokemon wander around, having cute, amusing, silly little adventures, helping folks out and stuff. (And occasionally they have pretty epic adventures.) The main characters meet tons of people throughout the series, some of whom become recurring characters, themselves. Anyway, every once in awhile the main characters reach one of the towns from the games, where they can have gym battles for badges, so that they may eventually compete in various tournaments.

But the only one who really has gym battles is Ash Ketchum, a trainer from Pallet Town (in Kanto) who wants to become a pokemon master; he's the one constant throughout the series. He leaves on a pokemon journey, which in the world of pokemon, kids are allowed to do when they turn 10. Which I guess means that the world of pokemon is supposed to be safer than the real world, in spite of the fact that there are criminal organizations like Team Rocket, not to mention countless wild pokemon who are powerful and may not want to be caught. But whatevs. Kids are also more self-reliant, apparently, and parents more trusting or whatever. Anyway, Ash knew a pokemon researcher named Professor Oak, whose grandson Gary is Ash's main rival, though they do eventually become friends. Gary pops up from time to time throughout the series, as does Prof. Oak. And Ash's mom, Delia. Well, new pokemon trainers are supposed to see a pokemon researcher to choose one of three starter pokemon. This is the same as in the games, of course, and in the original series those pokemon are Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. (Even in later seasons/games with different starter pokemon, the choices will still always be grass, fire, or water types.) However, Ash shows up late, and doesn't get any of these. Instead he gets a Pikachu, who, unlike most captured pokemon, never stays in a pokeball (because he was never really captured, he just chose to join Ash). Though their relationship is a bit rocky at the start, they eventually become best friends. Ash will also eventually get Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, as well as lots of other pokemon. But since a trainer isn't allowed to have more than 6 pokemon on hand at any one time, extras are left with Professor Oak (it's a simple matter to electronically transfer pokemon from place to place, as if they were emails or something). So throughout the seasons, Ash's party of pokemon frequently changes. Pikachu is the one constant.

Anyway... Ash soon makes new friends to travel with. The first is Misty, a water pokemon trainer; her three older sisters are gym leaders in Cerulean City. (I don't recall Misty's age being mentioned in the anime, but I've seen it given as anywhere from 10 to 13, on different websites.) At first she mainly started following Ash around because she blamed him for wrecking her bicycle, and she wanted him to get her a new one. I'm not sure if he ever did, but they become friends, anyway. Though Misty definitely has a temper, she can also be really sweet. (I also feel like I should mention she has a pokemon called Psyduck, which constantly frustrates her, and is basically just used for comic relief. She has some other pokemon that she prefers, and her favorite is probably Togepi, a baby pokemon she acquires about halfway through season 1.) Ash and Misty are soon joined by Brock, the gym leader from Pewter City, who wants to become a "pokemon breeder." Not sure how old he is, but I'd say at least his late teens, possibly early 20s. (Bulbapedia says 15, but I find that hard to believe.) He's by far the oldest of his many siblings, whom he was stuck taking care of, until his absentee dad returned, thus freeing him to leave with Ash and Misty on their journey. But anyway, he is often lumped in with the two of them by others as "kids," so maybe he's not yet an adult. I dunno. He's constantly hitting on pretty girls they encounter in each episode, especially Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny. It seems every town has a different Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny, and while all Joys look identical, as do all Jennys, somehow Brock can tell them apart. I reckon many of the women he hits on are older than he is, anyway. But it doesn't matter, Misty will always drag him off by the ear when he hits on anyone. In spite of his goofiness when it comes to girls, he's much more mature and knowledgeable than Ash and Misty, as well as being a really good cook.

As I said, pokemon can't speak human, but it is apparently possible for pokemon to learn to speak human, as evidenced by a certain Meowth (who, like Ash's Pikachu, doesn't stay in a pokeball). This Meowth works for the nefarious Team Rocket, an evil organization that steals pokemon, and tries out other nasty plots from time to time. The head of Team Rocket is Giovanni, whom we rarely see (except in Meowth's imagination). There are lots of smaller teams which comprise Team Rocket, but we usually only see one of them: Jessie, James, and this talking Meowth. Their main goal throughout the series is to steal Ash's pikachu, though they frequently try to steal other pokemon, from Ash and his friends as well as random people in various episodes. Anyway, Jessie, James, and Meowth always seem fairly inept, but actually I think they're pretty cool and brilliant (even if they're mostly used for comic relief). They just have the incredible bad luck to always be up against the twerps (as they call Ash and his friends), who are the stars of the show. So who do you think the writers are gonna have win? Of course, I should also mention that every once in a great while, one or more of these three villains will actually do something nice for someone. And while they often insult or even hurt each other in a slapstick way, they're also often shown to genuinely care for one another. And, as much as they can't stand the twerps, they may sometimes side with them against some common enemy or other (even Butch and Cassidy, another subteam of Team Rocket, who are usually working for a scientist named Dr. Namba). Jessie and James basically hate Butch and Cassidy (and the feeling is mutual), largely because they are usually more successful than Jessie and James (and are therefore favored by Giovanni).

Now, about the different seasons... I guess they're broken up differently in Japan than in the U.S., though I'm not sure exactly how differently. So whatever I say here may just apply to the U.S., or... not. (Also, we may not get every episode that airs in Japan, so the number of episodes I mention for each season may be approximate.) Anyway, the first season, "Indigo League" (83 episodes), which takes place in the Kanto region, is based on the original Red and Blue video games. In the second season, the "Orange Island Adventures" (35 episodes), Brock decides to stay with a pokemon researcher named Professor Ivy. After that, Ash and Misty are joined by a "pokemon watcher" (he draws pictures of them) named Tracey Sketchit. So, the three of them travel around the Orange Islands, having more random adventures between episodes where Ash challenges more gyms. (They ride on a water pokemon called Lapras, which is one of my personal favorite pokemon ever.) At the end of the season, Tracey stays in Pallet Town as Prof. Oak's assistant (so we'll see him again occasionally), and Brock rejoins his old friends on their new journey, in the Johto region. Johto was introduced in the Gold and Silver video games, so it includes a whole new selection of pokemon. In season 3, "The Johto Journeys" (43 episodes), they meet another recurring pokemon researcher, Prof. Elm. Ash and friends continue their journeys in Johto in the fourth and fifth seasons, "Johto League Champions" (52 episodes) and "Master Quest" (65 episodes). The first five seasons are, I guess, collectively the original series. Each subsequent series will be based on different generations of Pokemon video games, featuring many new pokemon, as well as new friends and rivals for Ash and his friends, and more gyms for Ash to challenge.

Hoenn (Ruby & Sapphire)

The second series, "Advanced Generation," which is based on the Ruby and Sapphire video games, consists of four seasons. At the start of season 6, "Pokemon Advanced" (40 episodes), Ash travels alone (except for Pikachu) to the Hoenn region. Misty had returned to Cerulean to become the gym leader, and Brock had left Ash, too. And Ash left all his pokemon except Pikachu behind with Professor Oak. (It is around this time that the spinoff series of stand-alone episodes, Pokémon Chronicles, is set.) But Brock would rejoin Ash after a few episodes or so. Anyway, in Hoenn, Ash meets a pokemon researcher named Prof. Birch. He also meets a new trainer named May, the daughter of Norman, the Petalburg City gym leader. In the beginning, she didn't really like pokemon, she was just using a pokemon journey as an excuse to travel and see the world (since she just turned 10). She joins Ash on his journey in Hoenn, along with her 7-year-old brother, Max (who knows much more about pokemon than May does, but is too young to become a trainer, yet). Max also takes up Misty's old duty of pulling Brock away from the girls he hits on. Anyway, May sometimes pretends she's doing some kind of documentary show about the adventures she has on her journey, called "May's Expeditions," which I think is cute. And she soon learns to love pokemon, and decides to become a "pokemon coordinator," entering pokemon in contests instead of battles. She eventually gets her own rival coordinator, Drew, who shows up occasionally for contests. Another recurring coordinator is Harley, who's constantly trying to mess up May's chances in contests. And in Hoenn, the major criminal organizations are Team Aqua and Team Magma, but since Jessie, James, and Meowth must remain part of the show, Giovanni orders them to try to establish a Team Rocket presence in the region. (Of course, they don't have much luck with that.) Jessie also often competes in pokemon contests, though she uses various disguises and aliases.

The "Advanced Generation" series continues in season 7, "Advanced Challenge" (52 episodes), and season 8, "Advanced Battle" (52 episodes), and season 9, "Battle Frontier" (47 episodes). In the Battle Frontier (introduced in the Emerald video game), Ash will have to battle "Frontier Brains" instead of regular gym leaders. Plus a recurring character named Scott is introduced, as a sort of guide to the Battle Frontier. It's also worth noting that in season 9, the show moved from the WB to Cartoon Network. (Well, I guess it had aired on that channel before, but I don't think it was ever first-run there before.) And the characters got new voice actors because the show's dubbing company switched from 4Kids Entertainment to Pokemon USA and TAJ Productions. But they do a decent job of sounding like the characters are supposed to sound.

Sinnoh (Diamond & Pearl)

The third series, "Diamond & Pearl," which is based on the video games of the same names, consists of four seasons. Season ten is also called "Diamond and Pearl" (51 episodes). Ash travels to the Sinnoh region, once again leaving behind all his pokemon except Pikachu, though one of his newest, Aipom, follows him. Brock had left, but he rejoins Ash again very soon. May and Max had also left, but Ash and Brock are joined by a new trainer named Dawn. She soon becomes a coordinator, like May. (Dawn's mother, Johanna, was a former top coordinator, herself.) Of course she'll acquire various pokemon, but the one she'll always be closest to is Piplup, much like Pikachu is Ash's favorite. Well, I feel like I should say something about Dawn's personality, but I kind of can't think of anything to say, except that she has a catchphrase, "No need to worry!" (And as is often pointed out by other characters, when she says that, it's time to start worrying.) Anyway, as is the case with any of Ash's traveling companions over the years, she's basically a sweet person. Most of the time. Um, and I wanted to mention that at one point, Meowth says to Dawn, "We've been in Pika-pursuit since you've been alive," which brings up an interesting point. Since she did just turn ten, and this is the tenth season (at least as seasons are reckoned in the U.S.), he may be about right. But while people in this show often talk about years passing, the characters never really seem to age much. It's possible Ash might be a few years older than when he started his first journey, but he's clearly not ten years older, so... I dunno. I suppose cartoons are always like that, talking about years passing without bothering to have characters age. But it's just weird, and weirder still to imagine that Dawn could theoretically have been born around the time of the first season, even if the original characters haven't significantly aged. But whatever.

Another coordinator we occasionally see is a girl named Zoey, who becomes a friend of the group. And Brock gets a pokemon called Croagunk, which assumes the role of pulling Brock away from the girls he hits on (after hitting Brock with poison jab). The season also introduces a new pokemon researcher, Professor Rowan. Meanwhile, Jessie, James, and Meowth are still chasing the twerps, so they'll also try to establish a Team Rocket branch in Sinnoh. Plus there is a new rival for Ash introduced, named Paul, who likes to just catch pokemon that are already strong instead of raising them to become strong, the way most trainers do. He really doesn't treat his pokemon well at all, and simply releases them if he decides they're not strong enough. By the end of the season, he does this with his Chimchar, which Ash then takes on for himself. Another important recurring character in this series is Cynthia, the Sinnoh League champion, who becomes an occasional friend and ally to the main characters.

The eleventh season is "DP: Battle Dimension" (52 episodes), which is much the same as season 10, but there are new villains in the form of Team Galactic, who show up from time to time. They have a big plan for world domination (of which legendary pokemon Palkia and Dialga are an important part). We also sometimes see a character called Pokemon Hunter J, who sometimes works alone (or rather with her own team of hunters) and sometimes does jobs for Team Galactic. I should also mention that in season 11, TAJ Productions was replaced by DuArt Film and Video as the series' dubbing company. Though I think the main voice cast stayed pretty much the same, in spite of this change, probably because of the continued involvement of Pokemon USA (which is now The Pokemon Company International, or TPCI). Season 12 is "DP: Galactic Battles" (52 episodes). It's much the same as season 11, but by the end of the season, Team Galactic is defeated. Season 13 is "DP: Sinnoh League Victors" (34 episodes). There are more random adventures, battles, and contests. At the end of the season, Dawn remains in Sinnoh while Ash and Brock return to Kanto. Brock decides to head off on his own to study to become a pokemon doctor.

Unova (Black & White)

The fourth series is "Best Wishes!", which consists of (so far) four seasons. Based on the Black and White video games, the series begins with season 14, "Black & White" (48 episodes). It's odd that the narrator says Ash is 10 years old, but like I said before, it's not unusual for cartoons to fail to age their characters. I will say so far the animation looks sort of... shinier, or something. I'd almost say Ash looks younger than he has in recent seasons, and also acts less experienced. Anyway, Ash, his mom, and Professor Oak take a trip to the Unova region (though soon after they arrive, he goes off on his latest journey without them). He only brings Pikachu with him, and it turns out that Kanto pokemon are quite rare in Unova, so everyone seems excited to see a Pikachu. Ash meets Professor Juniper, as well as a boy named Trip, who becomes Ash's main rival in Unova. He also soon meets a spunky girl named Iris, who becomes his new travelling companion. She comes from the Village of Dragons, and wants to become a dragon master. Her main pokemon is Axew. Iris's catchphrase is "You're such a kid!", which she often says of Ash as well as others, though I'm not sure if she's any older than him (and I do know she'll say it of people who are older than her, whenever they're acting immaturely). She also sometimes moves like a ninja or something (I occasionally think she'd be a natural at the flash step technique from Bleach), as well as swinging from vines like a jungle girl.

A bit later, after Ash wins his first Unova region gym badge in Striaton City, one of the three gym leaders there, Cilan, joins Ash and Iris on their journey. (He must be at least as old as Brock, probably a few years older.) His main pokemon is Pansage. Cilan is an A-class "pokemon connoisseur," which means he evaluates the compatibility of trainers and their pokemon, as well as delivering eloquent commentary on pokemon battles. (He's also a food connoisseur, which means that, in addition to taking on cooking duties for the group, his commentaries always have a food-theme.) And he frequently claims to be a connoisseur of any number of other things, as episode plots demand. All this frequently annoys Iris, which is why she sometimes calls him a kid. (But of course she really does like both Ash and Cilan. And in spite of her occasional irritation, most of the time she's a very sweet and friendly person.)

Meanwhile, Giovanni sends Jessie, James, and Meowth to Unova to set up a Team Rocket presence in the region, though he actually is hoping their actions will lead to some secret organization revealing itself. Meanwhile, they're not allowed to bring their old pokemon with them, as the rarity of non-Unova pokemon would draw too much attention, so they have to catch new ones. It seems like they may actually pose a more serious threat than they have in previous seasons. We actually begin to see a lot less of them than we used to, and when we do, their plans (devised by a Team Rocket scientist named Dr. Zager) are usually more complex, and darker. And they come a lot closer to winning than they used to, though of course they still always lose. (But even then, they don't do their trademark "blasting off" anymore; instead they escape with jetpacks. Which is awesome.)

Also this season, Ash, Iris, and Cilan will all make new friends and rivals. The friendliest of these rivals is a girl named Bianca, who's kind of ditzy (and is always accidentally knocking Ash into the water when she runs into him). And there's a girl named Burgundy, a C-class pokemon connaisseuse who peppers her dialog with random bits of French, and who becomes obsessed with beating Cilan. And there's a girl named Georgia, who calls herself a "dragon buster," which means she's only really interested in defeating dragon-type pokemon (and dragon masters). So of course she becomes Iris's rival. And there's a guy named Stephan, who's another friendly rival toward Ash, though he's constantly annoyed by the fact that everyone mispronounces his name. Another recurring character is Don George, the owner of a chain of "battle clubs" throughout the Unova region, where various unofficial tournaments are sometimes held. And there's Alder, the Unova League champion, whom both Ash and Trip are eager to battle. (Alder reminds me a great deal of Jiraiya from Naruto.)

Um... I want to mention that I lost access to Cartoon Network partway through season 14, in 2011. Then sometime in 2013, I realized the series could be watched online at Pokemon.com, where they put up five new episodes per week from each region (Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, and Unova, for a total of 25 episodes). At the time I discovered this, the earliest Unova ep that was online was about four episodes beyond the last thing I'd seen on TV a couple years earlier, so it's a shame I didn't find out about it a week earlier. But whatevs, I've had fun catching up since then, as well as watching some old eps from Kanto and sometimes Hoenn. Also watched season 15, "BW: Rival Destinies" (49 episodes). It's pretty much the same as season 14, of course, and aptly titled, since we see a lot more of all the new rivals Ash and his friends met last season. Also, Ash is befriended by a pokemon called Meloetta, which can turn invisible and also sings a song that can calm down people and pokemon. The only reason I mention that is because its song reminds me of Aisling's song from The Secret of Kells. But Meloetta does play an important part in Team Rocket's latest scheme, at the end of season 15. ...And then the site started over on season 14, so I have no idea when I'll get to see season 16.

And I guess that's all I can say for now. Though I also want to mention that are countless important recurring characters throughout the series whom I haven't even mentioned. And countless important pokemon. And that occasionally, former main or recurring characters from one series can pop up for a few episodes in a later series, which is always fun, like being reunited with old friends.


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