Anime Monday - Pokemon

And we're back with Anime Monday! Last week I was unable to do much with Google having issues, but thankfully that seems to have been resolved (mostly). That being said the week break was actually kinda nice, so I'm considering making this an every other week series. It's only a matter of time before I cover everything I can, and at this rate I'm going to reach that point sooner than later. So by making this a a 2-3 times a month thing rather than a 4-5 times a month it'll allow this series to continue on longer. But anyway enough about that. If you're reading this you're more interested in this weeks anime anyway, so let's get on with it. Although this week too will be a bit different. Why? Because shockingly my RNG chose something we all most likely know very well. The series that introduced many of us to the world of anime, and how I too got my start. This time around we're talking a look at Pokemon!

The Story of Pokemon:

Pokemon follows the story of a kid by the name of Ash (at least in the English Dub), who dreams of one day becoming what is known as a "Pokemon Master." You see in this world common animals are actually monsters known as Pokemon, and each Pokemon has special powers and abilities. Some people keep these creatures as pets just as we do in the real world, but others actually capture them using a handheld ball shaped device known as a "Pokeball," and then train them to battle other Pokemon. These people are known as Pokemon Trainers, and many trainers set out at the age of 10 to explore the world, catch Pokemon, and test their skills at the "Pokemon Gyms" spread out across each region. Back when Pokemon first started we only knew of the Kanto region, but the world has since expanded with each video game release and anime series adaptation. With each game/season of the anime comes a set of new characters, new Pokemon, and new gyms for the characters to take on, with most of them ending in a grand tournament known as the "Pokemon League" where those who have collected all of the gym badges may test their skills against other trainers and shoot for the title of league champion. And really, that about sums it up.

While there is an overall storyline, Pokemon is mostly an episodic series that focuses on different storylines as Ash and his friends travel across the region. Sometimes these story arcs are multipart episodes that push them to their next destination (typically a city with a Pokemon Gym), but other times episodes will be one off mini stories that'll introduce us to new characters and Pokemon and conclude the story it is trying to tell all within one episode. Sure sometimes these characters do appear again later, but most of the time they are one shot stories never to be brought up again. And that's fine, most of these stories didn't need revisited so it works out perfectly well -- and most importantly without feeling like pointless filler. This type of setup also means it's easier for newcomers to get into the series by simply starting to watch it when it's on, but there's no denying that it is better if you can start from the very beginning. Of course now days that's easier said than done.

Currently there are over 1000 episodes of Pokemon, with multiple movies, OVAs, and specials out there to watch. With each new game release comes a new season of the anime, and with the games not slowing down anytime soon, that means the show will continue on as well. It's a crazy popular series, and it's a huge investment if you're late to it. That being said it's also not a series for everyone, as it is aimed mostly at a younger audience. Ash remains a 10 year old kid even to this day (despite physically seeing MANY years and seasons passing throughout the show), and he doesn't seem to mature all that much. Sure there is some character development, and there are times where he seems to be more experienced, but that doesn't stop him from doing dumb things either. He learns right away all about the laws of electricity and how rock Pokemon cannot be harmed with said electricity, yet that doesn't stop him from trying to use thunder shock to destroy a rock many seasons later. But that's okay, that's just the type of series this is, and I'm sure the new fans still enjoy it. It's really made for them, and I completely understand that. (Although that doesn't stop me from being annoyed by it.) That being said, you may have issues with it as well, so just be aware of this sort of thing if you're trying the series out for the first time.

Getting Into Pokemon for the First Time:

So that basically covers what Pokemon is, but what I really want to talk about today is something I've never gone into before on this blog. How I actually got into the series to begin with. Yep everyone has their "how I discovered Pokemon story," but today I want to share mine. It was a series unlike anything I had seen before, and it's why I am where I am at today -- believe it or not. It's not a stretch to say that Pokemon changed my life.

The first time I had heard about Pokemon I was around 7 years old. I remember not having cable at home, so I was limited on what I could watch, but we did have access to local channels like Fox and this one channel called WB. They had a weekend cartoon block called Kids WB that I would watch once in awhile, and it's where I would see shows like the Animaniacs. I'm not sure what I was watching at the time, but I remember them airing a commercial for a Nintendo Game Boy giveaway, and I guess it caught my eye because owning a GB back then was like my life long dream. I really wanted to play Kirby, and I was excited about the idea of being able to play games off of a TV -- real games, not those Tiger Electronic toys you'd see. So yeah the GB giveaway caught my attention, but it was this whole "Pokemon" thing that they were giving away with it that was new to me. I think the contest had something to do with the anime now airing (I didn't know what an anime was back then), and I did kinda want to watch it. It's just when would I? I didn't know, but if I ever saw it come on I figured I'd try it out. And then one day it happened.

Saturday morning on Kids WB was the biggest cartoon block they had, and I remember sitting there in the living room at my mom's work as we waited for my grandma to show up to start her shift. That's when Pokemon suddenly came on the TV, and for the first time I sat there and watched it. It was Pokemon episode number 57, and the date was May 1st, 1999. I was just a month away from turning 8 years old, and now I was about to be sucked into my new addiction -- or not. Yeah that day will always be burned into my memory, but that doesn't mean I started watching Pokemon then. In fact I went that entire summer without watching a single episode past that. Instead I would wait until that following school year when I went into 3rd grade, and even then it wasn't really planned.

After school blocks were pretty limited back then, I always liked to watch WB as I ate dinner. We'd be at my mom's work, my dad would get "home" and join us, and we'd all sit there in the dining room with the TV on. This is usually when I saw shows like Batman or Superman, but suddenly something new was on in their place. WB had decided to start showing Pokemon weekly (instead of just new episodes on Saturday), and before I knew it I was hooked. This was around the same time pretty much everyone was getting into the series. After that I remember going to school and talking about it with my classmates (we sat in groups with our desks pushed together), and they were the ones who told me about collecting the cards. So of course I begged my mom to get me some, and so she went up to our local collectible shop and hand picked a few out for me. I loved those cards, and still to this day I have them sitting in the same collectors book where I placed them all those years ago. This was the real start of my obsession with the series, and it was something that would continue to grow as the years went on.

I still remember the day I went to Walmart and my parents bought me the Pikachu toy set. I trolled my cousins with them by asking them "guess what I got today!" and then refused to show it to them for what seemed like hours. Eventually I stopped playing my stupid kid's game and let them see what I got, and the three of us spent the rest of the night playing with them. They really didn't get into the series as much as I did, but eventually they too would collect the cards and play with the toys whenever they came to my house. Heck one of them even went with me to see the second movie, and I remember them renting the third where we would watch it at my house. But that's getting ahead of things. The truly important thing about Pokemon actually happened to me when I was 9, and is the reason I say Pokemon changed my life.

By the time the early 2000s came around Pokemon was still popular, but not quite like it was. I remember less and less kids at school cared about it, and you didn't quite see it in as many places. In the 90s we had the "Pokemon Store" that opened up in Sears, toys and merchandise could be found everywhere, our school offered a summer Pokemon class where you could go learn more about the game and what not, and the show was on every single day non stop. I'd wake up and watch it before school, then come home and watch it after school, and then catch the new episodes on Saturday. By the time the series got to Johto though? This kinda slowed down. It became more of an after school thing at this point, with new episodes still on the weekend, and you didn't see nearly as much merchandise in the bigger stores. Sure they still had an isle with a section dedicated to the newer Pokemon, but I think most people felt it slowing down. Even so, that didn't stop me from watching it non stop, and being excited to rush home each day to play by brand new Pokemon Silver game. (Nor did it stop me from being excited about Pokemon Stadium 2's eventual release). That being said the series was still popular, and I still liked it, but it wasn't quite the mass craze everyone was into like it was before. I think that's why I made the friends I still know to this day.

Back in school I did have some kids I hung out with at recess, but I didn't go to their houses or anything, and we didn't have that much in common. I actually shut quite a few of them out when I got a bit older, and so by the time I was 9 there weren't really too many classmates left I cared to play with. They were all into sports and things I couldn't care less about. But then one day that all changed when some random kid moved into our class named Ryan. Didn't know who he was or where he came from, but I remember wanting to play tag with him yet he didn't chase after us. Thought that was weird because he didn't understand the game we kids would play, but whatever. Didn't think much more of it until that next day when we got to talking. We were standing there by the blacktop and just kinda started talking. I forget how it got brought up but he told me how he liked Pokemon and it just kinda went from there. Before we knew it we were talking every single day, and one day when our class let out we saw our mom's talking as well. No idea how they met each other, but one thing lead to another and they became friends too. This was the first time this had really happened at school, and it's what lead us to meet another friend named Keith as well. We decided to form a "Pokemon Club" at school and we decided to ask some kids if they would like to join it and play with us. Our goal was to get as many people to join as possible, but the moment we met Keith our plans completely changed. He agreed to play with us, and before we knew it the three of us were best friends. It's funny to think that the three of us met because of the Pokemon anime (and not the game), and that it's what would shape the rest of our school life and lead us into our adult years. If me and Ryan wouldn't have met that day because of our common interest, who knows how things would be now.

After that day we would all watch Pokemon, discuss the new episodes with each other, and eventually we'd even play the games together. That went on for quite a few years, but by the time we got to middle school it started to fade out some. I remember stopping at Pokemon Advance, and only watching a few episodes every once in awhile when I saw it on. I'd also check out the movies (which were pretty good), but it was really only the games that kept me hooked. The same seemed to be the case for my friends as well, as well as the new friends we made when we advanced to our new school. Pokemon was something we still had in common, but ultimately it was put on the back burner as we found other things we liked even more.

So, should YOU watch it?

Yeah I owe a lot to the series, but that doesn't mean you should watch it as well. I've gone back to it off and on over the years and still enjoyed the older episodes, but personally I can't get into any of the newer stuff. It's just not for me, and I do think it would be harder for older fans to get into as well. That's not to say you won't enjoy it, it's just you have to understand you may not be the target audience anymore. That being said, there are some really great episodes in the series, and I do feel like those are worth watching even if you weren't originally a fan. Some of the stories (especially the goodbye episodes) will be burned into your memory forever, and still to this day are some of my favorite TV show episodes in general. They had a huge impact on me as a kid, but even as an adult the impact hasn't been lessened. That's just how good Pokemon can be, and how easily you can become attached to these characters. You follow them on this grand adventure, and when someone leaves for good it's never easy to watch them go.

So yeah, I recommend giving it a chance, but start with the beginning if you can.
Previous Post Next Post