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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6 Comments… read them or add your own.
I agree with you that Pokemon should get a new protagonist. Or maybe just end altogether.
As much as I enjoyed Pokemon growing up, it seems to me that the entire franchise is losing its soul. Game Freak keeps making new games, new anime, new Pokemon etc, but even though the quantity of Pokemon is increasing rapidly, the quality seems to have gone down. Pokemon is living off of the power of its brand. It seems to me that Game Freak doesn’t care about it, the games nor the anime, they’re going to make money anyways.
Sorry, kinda off topic. I haven’t watched the anime in a few years, I gave up because 500000+ episodes is more than I can fit in to my schedule. Besides, it’s poorly animated, and when the sentimental value wears off in the later episodes that I missed out on because I was “too old to watch kids’ tv”, it’s not very interesting to me. Sadly.
As a matter of a fact, the first season was supposed to end after Ash/Satoshi got to the Pokemon League. Of course due to its popularity, it continued up to this day, which is the main reason why the Anime is in the shape it is. Since it’s makes money, why fix it?
On the other hand, I do agree that money plays a big part on why it’s stagnant. Sure, the Pokemon anime would be better if it’s only 2 or four Cours long or rather a yearly Anime with new protagonists rather than being continuous as it would allow the studio to focus more on quality and making an interesting story rather than worrying about coming up with ideas for a new episodes . Then again, since I’m used to shows that being 1-2 cour which have better production values,
I admit that I feel cynical that Pokemon manage to have the luxury of having hundreds of episodes that it probably doesn’t deserve when series that are begging for more episodes to wrap up their plot doesn’t receive more. But yes, besides the battling, gameplay mechanics and the Pokemon themselves, they are really the only reasons I still play Pokemon as the story besides Pokemon Black and White and the first two games has been pretty mediocre, especially with Pokemon X and Y. Team Flare was kind of… well, disappointing.
You brought up something that I as a long-time Pokemon fan have thought about from time to time. And I always come to the same conclusion that although most of us older fans would like to see the anime branch out, I don’t think it’s going to happen easily. The old Kanto episodes were memorable because they didn’t stick to a formula and were actually more “dark” and creative in terms of episode stories because the series was new then and no one had any idea how popular it would become outside Japan. But once Pokemon became such an international success, the anime creators started tailoring the show not just for Japanese viewers the way they had originally, but for international viewers. So gone were all the references to Japanese holidays and scenes of Japanese writing that were in the original series, not to mention other things like making the pokemon battles less violent (and no more James cross-dressing!) The new episodes eventually fell into the formula we see today which is, as you said, safe and easy for kids and new viewers to follow because it’s so episodic.
And because Pokemon has been so successful all these years, my guess is that the anime creators see little reason to risk making grave changes like having Ash/Satoshi age or getting rid of him altogether. If Pokemon was just a popular Japanese series then I think they wouldn’t be so hesitant to change things up a bit, like how things go other popular family series in Japan like Naruto and One Piece, where there are big time-skips and significant changes over many episodes. But because Pokemon has become a much more international franchise than just a Japanese one, the creators want to go with what’s going to be the most universally appealing and easy to follow for a worldwide audience. So if they won’t even have the kinds of changes kids’ anime like Naruto and One Piece have, the things we see in otaku-aimed niche anime like Love Live are probably out of the question.
But I actually think that the Black and White anime series is when the creators broke away from the formula a bit. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but there was an ongoing ark with N that was actually a continuing plot and didn’t follow the typical episodic structure. The post-N episodes and the XY series have kinda fallen back into it, but there is still hope in the form of the Pokemon Mega Evolution special. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but the first episode aired a while back and I thought it was great. If you liked Origins you’d love this one – a new cast of intriguing characters and a more mature plot/feel. I feel like the anime creators are using the special as a testing ground to see if they can get older viewers to watch the anime if they take Ash/Satoshi out of it. Unfortunately only one episode has aired but episode two has been announced. If they do decide to make something like this an ongoing series, that would be great since they’re still making the regular Pokemon anime for the mainstream fans, but can also appeal to older fans with an additional anime series. So yeah, definitely check out that special if you haven’t already 😉 I’m hoping it turns into something great for the Pokemon anime.
I think you have a point considering that some of the episodes were controversial that they didn’t bother airing it such as the infamous Dratini episode that had guns because it’s not deemed appropriate in west. The same with the infamous beach episode. But I do get why they eventually dumbed it down for the because of international popularity. Not to mention, the last two generations aren’t even based off Japan anymore, but western countries such as America and France.
At the same time, I feel that dumbing down made the show take a big hit in quality, thus feeling more like a children’s cartoon rather than a shounen Anime. While it’s understandable that they want to reach a wide audience, but I would rather see them go back to their roots and change things up. While this might loose some international viewers, but at the same time, it will make the show more interesting to watch and possibly attract more viewers. I think Game Freak needs to remember that children aren’t the only ones that play Pokemon, but also adults as well as seen with the tournaments they hosts and the vibrant competitive battling community. I would think they would realize the same with the Anime.
I agree that they made some good choices with the Black and White Anime with Team Rocket, but I think they need to change things up once in a while. Origins and Mega Evolution spinoffs are a pretty good start, but I feel that they also need to do the same for the main anime, especially when other Anime out there are begging for more episodes to finish their stories while Pokemon has the luxury of blowing off a lot of money on similar filler episodes with an occasional episode for some important battles and Gym matches. Then again, by focusing on this subject, it makes me wonder if Anime is just a gloried advertisement for a franchise or promoting a source material, but that will be a subject for another editorial.
Aside from that, once the Mega Evolution special finishes up in the future, I will probably write a review for it like I did for the other special.
I pretty much agree with you. It has lost its charms a long time ago, they have milked to much on the Ash series. They should just make a new one of Red or Silver that would be so cool as a series. I was watching Pokemon again and marathoned it from season 1 to the Orange League and I just stopped there, it was alright but I don’t think i’ll go up until all the other season..Ash just don’t win it all, never grows up and the series will probably never end.
Yep, it’s a sad reality considering how many times did Satoshi/Ash lost. 6-7 times? To me, it makes his character feel pathetic in comparison to others, especially Red who manage to beat the Elite Four and even his rival!
But coming from a person who watched up to a part of Diamond and Pearl, I agree that they are milking it for reasons Yumeka said earlier. To me, I would rather see Game Freak finally break the mold for the 7th Generation and finally retire Satoshi so we can finally have a new protagonist or even a dual one staring both the male and female trainer. Then again, I can always dream because they are not going to do that anytime soon.