(Forgive my incessant switching between Japanese and English titles in this post. Watching the anime in Japanese and playing the games in English mixed me up.)
I am a Pokemon lifer.
That sentence has never meant more to me than it does now. After all, being a lifelong fan implies that I’m still a fan, right? Between ages seven and eleven, Pokemon was my entire world. When I think of my childhood, I think of Pokemon Red and Silver. That’s why I so excitedly blogged my playtime in Red and last year’s SoulSilver. (Links at bottom.) And yet, I’ve been fighting all along with the question: do I really still love Pokemon, or is it a big nostalgia trip?
When it came to the anime, I fell off the wagon as early as the Johto league because it aired at inconvenient times—I was able to catch a lot more of Advanced Generation and Diamond and Pearl years later. I never cared for AG—May and Max were boring characters, and the episodic plots always seemed the exact same. What I saw of Diamond and Pearl I liked a lot more—especially Hikari/Dawn—but the show had gotten so bogged down in formula that it was annoying to watch. Team Rocket had to eat up screen time every episode, and they were usually shoehorned in—Brock’s eternal women troubles got increasingly old (though Croagunk punching him in the gut was hilarious)—it just seemed like the show was remaining in a permanent shark-jumped state.
Meanwhile, I never even touched the Diamond and Pearl games. I’d played a bit of Ruby when it came out and found it weak compared to Silver, so my involvement with the games basically ended until SoulSilver. When my brothers bought Black and White, I didn’t expect I’d find myself playing them; but when one of them didn’t show much interest in White, I picked it up and got vaccumed in.
My brother and best friend keep referring to generation five as a “reboot” of the original Pokemon. I both agree and don’t. Anime-wise, I had considered Diamond and Pearl a reboot, because its early episodes closely referenced the early episodes of the original show. Black and White the games, however, are more reboot-like in that they have no Pokemon related to the ones from any other set, and a lot of the Pokemon feel like the originals. That said, the anime is definitely a whole new beginning that finally sheds the traditions of the past generations—rather than a reboot, it’s more like a sequel.
Ash/Satoshi trades out his female companions with each new series, but for the first time since his brief absence in the Orange Islands, Brock is now gone as well. Ash’s new travel partners are the fucking bomb, helped in no small part by their being voiced by a couple of my favorite seiyuu, Yuuki Aoi, and the latest addition to my favorites roster, Miyano Mamoru. (You can get a pictorial view of their roles on my Seiyuu Cards page.)
Dent is amazing—he’s basically the smooth version of Brock. Whereas Brock was a super-cool guy you might want to hang out with, Dent is a super-cool guy you’d want to hang out with that will also probably get laid tonight. His character is clearly written with Miyano Mamoru in mind, given his frequent use of random English phrases that only he could make so sexy. (He’s the “it’s a piinchi!” guy, after all.) Brock’s knowledge as a Pokemon Breeder lead him to analyze Ash’s battles in a Krillin/Yamcha sort of way—Dent, however, is a “Pokemon Sommelier,” which leads to him analyzing everything in terms of “taste” and food puns, which is a more fun and interesting way of going about it. He’s believably mature and cool-headed and can be kind of a bastard when he wants to be—I couldn’t ask for a cooler male companion.
Then we have the adorable Iris, for whom Yuuki Aoi unmistakably uses the voice she used for Murasaki in Kure-nai. Her “kodomo ne!” catchphrase makes me laugh, even if I feel dumb about it, but she’s all kinds of dumb fun. Her ultra-weak Kibago is adorable, and it’s interesting to know that she’s purposefully training a weak and an unreasonable Pokemon even though she’s probably much stronger, being the final gym leader in the White version of the game. (My brother theorized that she’s not yet the gym leader, and that her Kibago will even eventually be the final-form version you fight in her gym battle.)
More than the characters, it’s important that the new generation of Pokemon are awesome. I hated the last two generations for the most part, and their representation in the show was usually boring. From what I’ve seen of Diamond and Pearl, the only non-Pikachu Pokemon to get consistent attention was Hikari’s Pipplup, which I found to be a punk brat. In Best Wishes, all of Ash’s Pokemon have been getting a lot of attention, each having their own distinct personality that gets developed across the episodes (i.e. the Pokemon are actually treated as characters). Even some Pokemon that don’t belong to the main team get development. For instance, a Sandile/Meguroko has made many appearances as a sort of misguided stalker/rival towards Ash.
So far, my favorite scene in the show was in episode seventeen when (spoiler?) Zuruggu/Scraggy hatched from the egg and started headbutting all of Ash’s Pokemon. This scene did everything right—focused entirely on Pokemon interactions, showed off all of the Pokemon’s personalities, and was bloody fucking hilarious to boot! Mijumaru getting pissed and retaliating, Pokabu being the ultra nice-guy and just being like “eeeeh, huh?” and Tsutaaja being a pompous ass was all so fun that I still can’t even decide which one’s my favorite!
Adding to all that is the good stuff that’s always been good. Pokemon battles kick ass, even though it still makes no sense how Ash’s Pikachu ever loses to anything. (I thought Gold and Silver made it canon that his Pikachu was level 81 or something, or maybe that was just the manga hero?) Ishizumai/Dwebble’s fight to get his shell back was amazing, and it was fun to see the strategies Mama used to hand Ash his ass.
And then we have Team Rocket/Rocket Gang, who’ve seen by far the biggest change in the series. For one thing, they finally started wearing the black uniforms that they were supposed to all along. Then, except for in a couple of the early episodes, they haven’t been making appearances in the main story at all. The speeches and the “blasting off” have all but disappeared, which I’m happy about. Moreover, our team has taken a few levels in badass—they’ve finally gotten on the boss’ good side and get to go on real missions in a set-up that actually feels somewhat threatening. Their side-plot has involved referencing every spy movie cliche imaginable, which has been a lot of fun, and I really just feel proud of them for coming this far. I thought it would be uncool at first, but it’s more like… “about time!”
Other minor notes: Nurse Joy’s design change is fabulous. They changed her hair to look cuter, and I think someone on the team has fallen in love with her, because the various Joys have been getting a ton of screen time; and in episode twenty-two, one of them commanded their Tabunne with a motion suspiciously similar to a magical girl attack. Also, the opening theme gives me chills every time.
Episodes twenty-three and twenty-four don’t seem to have had any RAWs released—it seems like the episodes weren’t cancelled by the earthquake, which means that the earthquake may have effected the RAW providers. I hope that’s not the case, and hope they’re alright.
I’ve logged some fifteen hours into this game in the past three days, and I haven’t even tackled the fourth gym yet. Whereas my brother blew through Black on a wind of “god I kick ass,” I’ve been taking my time and trying to fill my Pokedex. I’m the type who when I play a Pokemon game, I talk to everyone, find every item, and get all the things I need in an area before I move on. The fun part of that is that I get to know every area of the game very well and feel better about all the back-tracking I do. That said, this is the first time I’ve sought to catch every Pokemon in one of the games.
I don’t want to get into every aspect of why this game is great, but certainly the ease of transportation is a good one. I don’t have to go through any fucking caves or fields to make a run from, say, the fourth city back to route 2 to pick up a Pokemon in the daycare.
As anyone who plays the game can tell you, the cities are totally badass, especially the unforgettably three-dimensional third city that isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen in Pokemon. Crossing the giant bridge in and out of the city is actually fun just because it’s so damn cool-looking, regardless of the tedium it would be otherwise.
Interestingly, I haven’t had a concrete team at all in this game so far. I’ve been focused on my Pokedex, so I’ve got a lot of Pokemon that I just keep around long enough to evolve them all the way and then dump in the box. Right now the six in my party are a sturdy bunch, but I don’t see them all being permanent fixtures. Even my starter, the fire pig (mine is named Stardust), isn’t all that great for my team. The only absolutely permanent fixture of my team is my now-Boldore, Rocknrolla, who stomps absolutely everything and whom I’ve overlevelled lol.
I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that every gym provides the player with exactly the Pokemon they need to decimate it right before getting there. On the one hand, it gives me the opportunity to level those Pokemon right away, but it also makes the gyms easy as all hell to beat. The second gym leader was the only match I’ve lost in the game so far, because I made the mistake of not restocking on potions before the match (I then returned and destroyed her).
In any case the game is a ton of fun. I love having so many rivals to battle all the time, and N is a creepy but totally huggy-stuffy bisshie boy (fanart has done this to me), while his Team PLASMAAAAAAA!!! cracks me up every time. Seriously? The Pokemon Knights Templar? I love how N always asks me if his ideals make any sense and I actually get the option to say “no” in full earnest.
So, I may post on my playthrough in the future (not making promises because I’m unreliable), so here’s my current status. Also, I can’t seem to figure out what my friend code is, nor whether or not I can access wi-fi. This shit is confusing!
ID No. 45975 (does this have to do with the friend code?)
Pokemon Obtained: 32
Vageta (Whirlipede) Lv. 23
Attacks: Poison Sting, Poison Tail, Pursuit, Bug Bite
Stardust (Pignite) Lv. 23
Attacks: Rollout, Flame Charge, Smog, Arm Thrust
Wanko (Herdier) Lv. 23
Attacks: Odor Sleuth, Bite, Helping Hand, Take Down
Rocknrolla (Boldore) Lv. 27
Attacks: Smack Down, Rock Blast, Power Gem, Headbutt
Jawbone (Sandile) Lv. 24
Attacks: Mud-Slap, Torment, Sand Tomb, Assurance
BadassMofo (Dwebble) Lv. 23
Attacks: Bug Bite, Faint Attack, Smack Down, Rock Polish
As you can see, my party is loaded with ground and rock-type Pokemon, since I’m about to go up against the electric gym. I’ll probably be trying to level BadassMoFo up into evolution quick before removing him from the party, since Jawbone takes longer to evolve and is more useful anyway since Rocknrolla and Vageta cover pretty much all I get from BadassMofo. Even though Wanko has been an excellent backup fighter, there’s a good chance I’ll be removing him as soon as he evolves. Jawbone and Vageta take forever to evolve so they’ll be around for a good while, and whether or not I hold onto them will depend on how things go from there. Stardust leaves me torn because I’d hate to be without my starter, but he just hasn’t been great in battle. We’ll see how it goes.
That about does it—the rest of my experience with this generation can pretty well be summed up with the images in this post (I have a shitload of fanart of White).
If you’re interested, here are all my other posts on Pokemon:
What’s Your Favorite Pokemon? (11/18/09)