Wednesday, 7 July 2021

The Journey Starts Today!

When I first got into Pokémon, it was the anime that gave me my very first experience of the franchise, rather than the games. I quickly became hooked on the adventures of Ash, Pikachu and friends as they travelled around the Pokémon world, while being tailed by Team Rocket. I'd watch every new episode on the Sky One channel in the UK back then and found them incredibly fun and entertaining.

Around when the show got the the Black and White era though, while Ash was travelling through the Unova region with Iris and Cilan, I really began dropping off from watching it. I'd keep up with the goings on and watch the odd episode here and there, but it wasn't really grabbing me anymore. This remained the same through the X and Y era of the show too. Episodes also did get harder to watch for me as well, as I no longer had access to the channels it aired on, The show also tended to move around constantly on various channels, depending on who had the right to show it at the time.


[Pokémon Sun and Moon]

It wasn't until the Sun and Moon era of the show that I picked it up again. I was able to watch the episodes once more through the ITV hub, since ITV had the show at the time it was airing, but also, the format of the show changed just a little, enough to intrigue me back into watching it.


Instead of travelling around for gym badges, Ash was now attending a Pokémon school located in the Alola region, and instead of travelling companions, he had classmates. He also developed a very close family-like relationship with Professor Kukui, who he was staying with while he was in Alola, and later Professor Burnet, Kukui's wife. They became his Alolan family and it was a really heart-warming thing to see.

Honestly, Professor Kukui is probably the best dad figure Ash has probably ever had.

The animation for the show also changed, with slightly more simpler character designs, but it allowed for more amusing, goofy and at times, somewhat outlandish animation, that seemed a lot more dynamic and gave more life to the characters. At lot of people didn't really like this change in the animation, but I feel it's been an incredibly fun change to the series.

Each of Ash's classmates were memorable, fun characters to watch and each had a good amount of individual character development. Lillie was a character I especially enjoyed, as she begins the show absolutely terrified of touching Pokémon for an unknown reason, but she becomes determined to try and overcome her fear. What was even more amazing to see was the encouragement and support the rest of the class gave her. They never made fun of her, the never got frustrated with her and they never put her down over it. They generally encouraged her and even if she wasn't able to overcome her fear, they told her what a good job she did of trying.
It was a really lovely thing to see and a great way to show how to encourage and show positivity to someone who has a difficulty with something.

I really loved the episode where attempts to bond with an Alolan Vulpix, which she affectionally nicknames as 'Snowy', after it hatches from a Pokémon egg she was taking care of, despite not being able to touch Pokémon.

Lillie and Snowy

They even had a few episodes that focused on the difficulty of dealing with the topic of death. Even though they don't outright use the word, in these situations you knew what was happening and the emotions were quite real.

Ash dealt with a stubborn Litten, who after losing it's elderly Stoutland mentor, becomes incredibly depressed, so Ash refuses to leave its side. Sophocles and Ash's Poipole have to face the reality of sad goodbyes with the Pokémon, Minior, who eventually completely disappear as a natural part of their short lifespan, but the one that really blew me away was the episode where Mallow gets to meet her deceased mother within mist created by Tapu Fini.
Mallow's mother died when she was young and ever since she had carried guilt about the hurtful things she said to her mother when she was frustrated over her her constantly apologizing for being sick, which ended up being the last words she said to her before she died. Though after meeting her in the mist, they both decide to tell each other just how much gratitude they have for one another instead of apologizing.

The emotions in that scene are very raw and I can't get through the clip of that scene without tearing up. It was beautifully done.

But with all things, the Sun and Moon era of the anime ended, to make way for the Sword and Shield era.


[Pokémon Journeys]

I did wonder, when going into Pokémon Journeys, whether it'd be able to live up to the Sun and Moon anime, since I'd enjoyed it so much, but so far I've really been enjoying it!

Once again, they kind of mix things up with the format of the show and seem to be keeping away from the 'gym badge journey' format they had for so long.

In Pokémon Journeys, Ash becomes a 'research fellow' at a Pokémon laboratory located in Vermillion City, that's run by Professor Cerise. He gets this position alongside a new trainer, a boy named Goh. Professor Cerise sends Ash and Goh out to investigate various goings on with Pokémon all around the Pokémon world, this means they're not stuck to just one region for this series which has been such an amazing idea.

This has also opened up the ability for them to occasionally bring back Ash's old companions and even past gym leaders, but they don't allow it to overshadow Ash and Goh's story. They only focus on the past characters for one or two episodes every now and then. This is something I've always wanted to see in the Pokémon anime. They've brought back former companions for an episode or two before in previous series', but this series makes it much more easier for this to happen and opens it up to a wider range of characters.

Ash and Goh with Ash's Alolan friends and family.

I'm really enjoying the dynamic between Ash and Goh, as well. They're almost like brothers in a way and it's interesting how they kind of bounce off each other, especially since they have such different techniques for understanding Pokémon, but it helps them learn off each other too. Ash is very much more about understanding a Pokémon from their own perspective, getting into how they feel or think, sometimes quite literally, where Goh tends to be a bit more focused on knowing the facts about them.

Their paths as trainers are different too. Ash is very much a trainer that's incredibly into battling and great at coming up with out-of-the-box moves, where Goh is rather indifferent to battling at first. Goh, instead, is a bit more of a collector. Originally, when starting out, Goh wanted to catch a Mew as his first Pokémon, but after meeting a very persistent Scorbunny that wanted to be his partner, he instead chooses Scorbunny as his first Pokémon and decides instead that he'll aim to catch every Pokémon and work his way up to catching Mew.

They don't make it a secret that Goh represents Pokémon Go and the Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee games. In both games you don't have to battle Pokémon to catch them and Goh very rarely tends to do this. Instead he often catches them just by throwing a Pokéball at them. Though bigger, more difficult Pokémon he does, at times, have to battle first.

Goh and his partner, Scorbunny!

So we have Ash who is mainly a trainer who likes to battle and Goh who is mainly a trainer who likes to collect Pokémon, but this isn't all.

We then have Chole, who is Professor Cerise's daughter.

Chole doesn't appear in every episode, but when she does, she tends to come off as very indifferent to Pokémon. She doesn't seem to have much interest in them, despite the family pet, a Yamper, being incredibly attached to her. She also gets very exasperated at Ash and Goh and their excitement over Pokémon.

Gradually, though, Chole begins to gain some interest as she gains more experiences with them. I guess you can say she is like someone who is just getting into Pokémon and doesn't quite know what the draw of them is until she starts seeing and experiencing them more herself. 

I've found the episodes with Chole to be quite fun and seeing this slow development with her has been interesting as she gradually gains an interest. One of the very first episodes that focuses on her is an episode where she admits she doesn't really have much thought on a goal in life, even though all her classmates assume she'll become a Pokémon Professor, simply because her dad is one.
It'll be fun to see where this all leads for her and just what path she ultimately decides to take.

Chole and an injured Pidove from the episode 'There's a New Kid in Town!'

I've been following the Pokémon Journeys series on Pokémon TV, but it also can be watched on Netflix.

As of writing I've seen up to episode 37 of Pokémon Journeys, 'That New Old Gang of Mine!' where Ash and Goh visit the Alola region and meet up with Ash's old friends there. It was a lot of fun to see Goh interacting with Ash's former Pokémon School friends, seeing the tension between Kiawe and Goh and also catching up with what the Alola group are up to.
The meeting between Ash and Lei, Professor Kukui and Burnet's baby son, was also completely adorable. Professor Burnet referred to Ash as Lei's 'big brother' which was really sweet and showed that Professor Kukui and Burnet still see Ash as a part of their family.

The main Pokémon anime isn't anything ground-breaking and never really will be, but these changes to the format of Ash's adventures has given me a renewed interest in the show and when I'm in the mood to watch something simply cute and wholesome, then Pokémon tends to be what I turn to.

I'm looking forward to continuing to watch 'Pokémon Journeys' and see where things lead for Ash, Goh and Chole.


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