I still remember the day I first set out on my Pokemon journey. Of course, that was on Pokemon Blue version on my old Gameboy Color, but it was a moment that would help define my hobbies for the rest of my life. For all of us, old and new to the world of Pokemon, “Pokemon: The Origin” is a four-episode special that takes us through the first generation.
This is not an anime adaptation of the “Pokemon Special/Adventures” manga, nor is it a reboot of the anime. There is no Ash Ketchum, just Red (no last name given), although he shares the enthusiasm and love of Pokemon that all the series protagonists are known for. His rival is Green (although he might be renamed “Blue” when the dub comes out, to match the US release of Red and Blue versions) and while he’s no Gary Oak, the series does a great job of making him the proper levels of jerk to make us root against him.
Red is not an invincible main character hero; he is capable of losing, and does so at a few points. While that may be a different experience than those who played through the games had, it adds to the story by providing Red with room to grow and develop, so the viewers can root for him without knowing he’s going to win no matter what. He’s also learning about Pokemon, the same as many of us did when we first played the games.
The story has its moments of violence that one would not expect from Pokemon, such as Charmander’s cry of pain as Squirtle uses Bite, and the flashback to Team Rocket killing Cubone’s mother. Of course, it has its emotional moments as well, as very few eyes will remain dry while watching the ghost of Marowak bid her child a final farewell.
It wouldn’t be Pokemon without Team Rocket, and that’s completely fine by me. I admit, I like Team Rocket, which might have a little something to do with the fact that I cosplay Giovanni. There’s no Jessie, James, and Meowth going around in giant robots and trying to steal Pokemon here; Team Rocket is an actual threat to not only the characters, but to Pokemon and the entire Kanto region. You won’t hear anyone telling you to prepare for trouble and make it double, but you will see scenes of them forcing Silph Corporation scientists to experiment on hostage Pokemon.
The animation is nice, although the character designs are different from the usual anime or manga art that Pokemon has used in the past. When taken as its own entity though, there’s nothing wrong with it at all.
Of course, the Pokemon battles are excellent. The animation is fluid and beautiful, with each movement put to good use. The attacks look like they’d really hurt, and it even makes the trainers standing around going “Use Tackle!” “Use Growl!” seem intense.
It does occasionally skip past important scenes, such as many of the gym battles, but it’s a necessity in order to fit the entire game into four episodes. It can be forgiven, though personally, I would love to see more, and would not object to more episodes in order to showcase everything. The scenes we do get, though, are all filled with love and nostalgia. Everything from the music to the battles to the dialogue brings back fond memories of playing the original games.
Of course, with X and Y versions coming out, it had to include a little something new. Red receives an item that was never in Red and Blue versions, which leads to a new twist around the end. Purists might be upset that the game is working in a plug for the new games in an anime designed to showcase the old, but for those who are looking forward to Pokemon X and Y, and enjoy a little variation, it makes for an incredibly awesome scene.
There are many familiar voices in the Japanese version. It’s hard to listen to Red and not hear Naruto at times, but the voices are all fitting. The English dub has yet to air, but I’m looking forward to it when it comes to Pokemon TV on November 15th.
For anyone who’s a fan of Pokemon, especially those who grew up with the first generation, this is an anime worth watching. It’s only four episodes, but all four are amazing, and manage to perfectly capture the spirit of the games without being completely restrained by them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to dig up my old Blue version. I miss my Blastoise.