Thoughts: Pokémon Origins: Episode 1

The first episode of the Pokémon special has arrived, and is well worth a watch for fans of the anime and games.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/18/2013 11:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Despite not becoming a Pokémon fan until well into my teens, I have very fond memories of watching the anime with my sister every day after school. Ash, Misty, and Brock’s adventures were funny and sometimes even poignant, and there was no resisting the bumbling antics of Team Rocket or, best of all, the catchy theme song. Game Freak’s newest foray into animation, Pokémon Origins, is very interesting as it’s not a reboot of the long-running TV show, but an adaptation of the story from Pokémon Red and Blue. Rather than play loose with the plot of the games as Ash’s stories do, Origins is specifically intended to celebrate the original Game Boy titles’ story and introduce it to new fans. This past weekend, I got to watch the first episode of Origins, and found myself very pleased with it.

Adhering to the story of the games meant the loss of Ash, who is replaced with Red. I had trouble connecting to Red, as he was specifically created as a cipher and not a deliberate character in the games. His personality here is hard to buy into when I, like so many people, have my own opinion of what it should be. Even in relation to the Pokemon anime, Red is portrayed as a meeker protagonist than Ash ever was/is, which made him less than endearing as a lead, at least at first. As the episode progressed, Red showed some potential, compensating for his initial shortcomings and demonstrating a level of determination that’s much more becoming of a future champion.

Red’s rival (or Gary, as he’s perhaps more commonly known) has also been tweaked, but only in name, as he’s still Professor Oak’s grandson, but is instead dubbed Blue. Blue serves as a foil to Red, handing the trainer his first defeat and spurring him to the needed introspection that eventually sets him on the right track. He’s a cocky jerk, too, which ironically makes him endearing; Pokémon games and cartoons have no shortage of nice characters, so it’s always refreshing when a character like Blue spices things up, if for no other reason than to have someone to root against.

Pokémon Red and Blue bicycle trainer artwork

The animation is great, especially during battles. There are a handful of them to enjoy during the episode, and are more hard-hitting than what fans are accustomed to in the anime. At one point, Squirtle and Charmander go at each other in a battle that truly conveys the physicality of these altercations in a way that hasn’t been seen much outside of the mangas. I particularly appreciated how the animators made a point of matching the effects of moves with how they’re portrayed in-game. String shot, for instance, is shown to last multiple turns, as it does during real Pokémon battles. The attention to detail in both the storytelling and presentation is very well done.

I was surprised by Pokémon Origins, as it touched on the mythology of the games in a way I never expected from Game Freak. The special plays to fans’ memories of the games while still cultivating an identity reminiscent of, but also distinct from, the anime. It’s a testament to the magic of Pokémon that it can be interpreted in so many different ways and maintain its core essence. With the second episode on the way, I’m eager to see Red continue to grow on his journey to complete the Pokédex and become a Pokémon Master. Be sure to watch Pokémon Origins for free on the Pokémon TV App for iOS and Android, and we’ll be back to talk about the next episode!

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