Pokémon was one of the first shows besides Miyazaki films that helped me gain an interest in Anime. While I remained a fan of Pokémon (or Pocket Monsters) since my childhood, I gradually lost interest in the Anime in the mid 2000s because it got dull and bland.
After watching and reviewing Pokémon the Origin special late last year and reading this controversial thread on Bulbagarden Forums, I have a feeling that Game Freak should revamp the Pokémon Anime to be more like Origins and make Satoshi age or change the protagonist every few years.
Back in the late 90s, I felt that the Pokémon Anime was enjoyable when it first aired in America since many finally got to see a trainer go on his own adventure earning badges, and battling other trainers on television. Not only that, the battles felt more like a fighting game rather than a turn based fight, which made it exciting. While the characters are nothing to write home about, they were still entertaining.
From my experiences, the show become less interesting shortly after Shinoh started because I felt that the show got really repetitive because of the main protagonist. Satoshi has remained the main protagonist throughout the show’s existence. Because of this, his character development feels stagnant as it reset every time he goes to a new league. One can argue that Game Freak decided to have the characters this way so that the viewers, especially children can jump in without watching previous episodes. However, I am not buying it since other ongoing shounen shows still manage to remain interesting in some shape or form.
Even if that is the case, I still feel that they aren’t doing enough to make the show engaging to the viewers. This is perhaps the same reason they are reluctant to let Satoshi age so that he can gain new experiences. As a result, this alienates fans that watched or followed the show for a long time because he/she would experience the same thing over again, just in a different league and traveling partners. Of course, the movies have the same problem like the Anime. As much I liked the 2nd, 6th, 8th and, 9th movies, one has to admit that they also feel repetitive for the fact that it follows the same formula of Satoshi and company saving the world with some legendary Pokémon thrown in. This gives me an impression that Game Freak is not willing to take any risks because they are afraid of alienating their target audience and that the Anime in their eyes is meant to advertise the games.
While it’s understandable that Game Freak wants to maintain the status quo and keep things the same, I feel that they shouldn’t be obligated to keep Satoshi the same age and get rid of all his character development when he sets off a new league. There are many franchises that characters graduate, age, be killed off, become part of a spinoff, etc. For instance, the directors of Love Live School Idol Project allowed Muse to disband and the senior members graduate. Despite these changes, Sunrise is still making a film with the full cast. Furthermore, Namco allowed their characters to age by 1 for Idolmaster 2 while making subtle changes to some of the girls’ appearance.
Even with these changes, did the fans complained and plan to boycott their merchandise because it’s not the same? Not really for the fact that Love Live still sold a lot of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays while Idolmaster 2/One for All managed to sell over 100,000 copies of the game. While these examples are not equal for the fact that these franchises don’t have the luxury of having a continuous anime series to promote their stuff, it just shows that nothing stays the same forever. Trends changes all the time, thus young viewers may not be interested to see the Pokémon Anime after a few years. To me, I think it’s better for Game Freak to allow the protagonist to age and after a few years, replace it with another to keep it fresh. As a result, the show would gain a wider appeal and attract more people to play the actual games. Considering that they have a lot of protagonists from the main video games at their disposal, I don’t see why they would have an issue.
At the end of the day, I think the Pokémon Anime can improve if Game Freak took some risks by changing the protagonist and allow him/her character to develop. While Pokémon the Origin is far from perfect since it had a lot of pacing issues due to only being four episodes long, this show brought something new that the main Pokémon anime doesn’t have. Red unlike Satoshi has become a competent trainer by becoming the Pokémon League champion while managing to catch every possible Pokémon. Aside from following the game closely, I think Game Freak should do the same by giving each main protagonist from their respective games a chance to become just as good as Red in their own way and have them show up as cameos once in a while.
In short, I think Game Freak needs to change things up once in a while for obvious reasons. Not all fans of the Pokémon Anime are children and even if they are, they certainly don’t want to watch the same adventure over again with some differences. Not to mention, doing so will have a positive effect on the franchise as a whole.
So what do you think? Should Game Freak retire Satoshi and give other protagonists a chance along with a revamped story every few years? If this actually happened, would you still watch it? Feel free to share your thoughts.
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