Hidenori Kusaka / Mato – Viz – 2010 – 44+ volumes
Whenever I start playing Pokemon games again, I get in the mood to read more of the manga. Of course, I’m still all the way back on Pokemon Yellow in the manga (the storylines roughly follow the versions of the game throughout the series), and playing the game Pokemon Black and White, so I have a ways to go. But it’s still a cute series, great for kids, and it scratches the itch for Pokemon manga nicely.
Yellow learns to be a better trainer, and with a handful of borrowed Pokemon, he begins following the trail of Red, who mysteriously went missing last volume. Along the way he tangles with the Elite Four and various members of what’s left of Team Rocket. Blue and Green are also on the trail of the absent Red, and we also get to meet Lance of the Elite Four, who’s so evil he takes out an entire village and an entire surfing contest while lazily looking for something that isn’t there.
We do get to see Pikachu surf, which is cute, and Yellow is an endearing character. Also, I thought it was quite creepy when they find a little ice-shell in the shape of Red as a clue to his whereabouts. That wasn’t right. There’s also a side story about Yellow helping out a family of Tentacool and their secret hideaway, and that was cute as well. Red’s Eevee seems to be a key to his disappearance, so I’m curious to see where that’s going as well.
Admittedly, it’s a children’s series, so there’s not much here that would appeal to adults. The story is simple, cheery, and full of as many different types of Pokemon as possible. It scratches the itch when I have it, but… I’m a grown woman, and probably the reason I haven’t read farther is because it’s a kid series. Great for kids, though!
Hidenori Kusaka / Satoshi Yamamoto – Viz – 2011 – 7+ volumes
Not that it really matters to anyone reading this, but this is actually a later volume of Pokemon Adventures. Pokemon Adventures is actually a nearly 40-volume series that is a pretty loyal adaptation of all the main RPGs and remakes in the Pokemon series, and it covers all of the games/characters in order. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl/Platinum is another section of the series being released in English simultaneously. My guess is that this just helps capitalize on the popularity of the current games. It works fine for me.
Actually, the fact that this is Pokemon Adventures should matter a little bit to anyone reading this, because that’s the best Pokemon manga in English. Hands down. Not that it would appeal to anyone looking for anything other than a Pokemon manga, but this is at least a fairly engaging and adorable story, rather than being a bland and abridged adaptation.
This volume is pretty par for the course in this series. We start off at the beginning of the Black/White game, with Professor Juniper deciding three young trainers named Black, Cheren, and Bianca should be the recipients of the three starter Pokemon from those games. Tepig escapes, and this effectively ruins the Pokedexes for Cheren and Bianca and puts Black ahead of them on the path to the Pokemon League.
This is an abridged volume, containing 100 pages and 4 chapters, so not much else aside from introductions and wacky hijinx from Tepig transpires. Black battles one trainer, and chases the temperamental Tepig into two different wild Pokemon battles after misunderstandings. Having said that, I think the smaller, kid-friendly volumes are a good fit for this series. The shorter length suits the much younger audience that’s likely to pick them up, and the price tag is also lower, making them a wallet-friendly purchase for kids as well.
I tend to like the Pokemon Adventures series best because of its close proximity to the plot of the video games, and the charm of the trainers and Pokemon in the stories carry over nicely, too, with nothing more dark than the bad trainers that pop up in the games making for fairly friendly villains that are always willing to show off more of the vast number of Pokemon. The subject matter isn’t deep or challenging, but it is exactly what it should be in a Pokemon adaptation. As a fan of the games, I enjoy reading these volumes occasionally, and again, the subject matter, format, and price all strike me as a great fit for kids. Plus, it’s not an insufferable chore to get through if you happen to have a young child that wants it read to them, or want to read it along with a child.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
Hidenori Kusaka / MATO – Viz – 2009 – 38+ volumes
This volume marks the start of a new character story, Amarillo de la Bosque Verde, or Yellow for short. The characters roughly follow the game versions, so this coincides with the release of Pokemon Yellow, which was based on the anime. This makes for one deep, bizarre adaptation black hole (a manga based on a game that spawned an anime that was then converted back into a game that was turned into a manga), but it’s still great since it’s only based on the rudiments of the plot of the game.
Trainer Red disappears, and Yellow shows up mysteriously to find him. There are hints that the Elite Four challenged him and made him disappear, and Yellow intends to help Red’s Pikachu find the trainer. Yellow has mysterious powers to communicate with pokemon and to battle without doing harm. He also doesn’t like talking about himself, and stirs up all kinds of trouble among Red’s friends when he refuses to explain why he’s doing what he is, or why he needs to keep Red’s Pikachu with him.
The Elite Four are the enemies in this volume. We catch a brief glimpse of Bruno, the trainer that may have fought Red, but Yellow has a lengthy battle with Lorelai, an ice pokemon trainer, and then with Agatha, an older woman who trains ghost pokemon.
I might have been reading this on the wrong day, but the battles in this volume were slightly less engaging due to their length. We still get to see quite a few pokemon in play, but the fight with Lorelai seemed endless. It does move faster after that, and after another relatively varied battle, the action switches over to Blue, and we see him face off against his own opponent. I liked that about it, too. As long as the fight with Lorelai was, this series is very good at mixing up opponents and the types of pokemon used. That’s one of the things that makes it so fun and a great read for kids, the variety. The cute art doesn’t hurt, either.
I’m less fond of new main character Yellow so far, but I like that the story still has ties to all the old characters. At this point, I think most young children probably don’t know that there’s a yellow cartridge version of pokemon, and that’s both sad (because I’m old) and interesting. It’s still pokemon though, and it’s still a lot of fun, and I think the simple and battle-heavy plot makes this a better read than some of the plot-heavy pokemon manga that gloss over a lot of detail in only a few pages.
Hidenori Kusaka / MATO – Viz – 2009 – 35+ volumes
This is one of those times where I worry about the sequence of reviews I’ve just posted. Kaikan Phrase and Blade of the Immortal on the same night as Pokemon? I realized as I was pulling this out of my stack that I was probably going to have to leave my Kizuna and Ai no Kusabi reviews for some other time.
Anyway. You know, I still like this series a whole lot, and it’s books like this that make me think I shouldn’t have to make excuses for series aimed at kids. If a book is boring, it’s boring, and series like this one prove you can make a good all-ages series that’s readable by adults and kids alike. Do I think this would be of interest to a good number of adults? No, but it is a lot of fun to read, and I think it’s probably a good series to share with a younger child, as opposed to something they would read themselves. Plus, you know, there’s the Pokemon fan appeal. Can’t deny that. I’m a card-carrying member of the video game cult myself, which might also explain why I find this series so enjoyable.
But it stands on its own merits, anyway. Some of the plotlines are pretty simplistic (stop Team Rocket, find ways to work with your Pokemon team, be the best, be the champion, et cetera), but they all have just enough to them to make them enjoyable. During the fight with Team Rocket, both Red and Blue have to figure out a series of puzzles to first get into the city, then to defeat their respective opponents. Then there’s Green, the queen of outfoxing people, who’s running around on nobody’s side. She’s a good wildcard, and a strong female character to boot. She can be deceitful (that’s kind of her thing), but the fact she holds her own just as well as Red and Blue is something in what is usually a male-dominated series.
The Team Rocket Plotline finishes, then the story goes some strange places. It bounces around to the last gym leader, to the legendary Pokemon Mewtwo, and to the Pokemon Championship matches. It’s a strange mix of stories, and the leaping around is a little jarring, but I also liked the change of pace, and it wasn’t hard to follow since most of it is stuff that’s covered in the game. The Pokemon Championship in particular was cool, it reminded me a lot of the Budokai matches in Dragonball, with the anything-goes style of playful fighting and humor mixed in. Along with venerable mystery opponents.
I think the next volume… changes protagonists? I think the story switches over to the Yellow trainer, but we also have the Elite Four yet to meet, so… you know. Plenty more on the horizon. This is the type of series that I can’t see getting any more developed plot- or character-wise, but what’s here is still very engaging for a wide audience. It’s got a positive message and is a lot of fun, and has a lot of different storylines to enjoy across its long run, too.
Hidenori Kusaki / MATO – Viz – 2009 – 35+ volumes
More light fun, with Red venturing deeper through the Kanto region, catching more Pokemon, battling Team Rocket a little more, running into trainer Green the thief, and encountering the legendary three birds, as well as Mewtwo and Mew. Next volume: a showdown with Team Rocket!
Yeah, this ran in… what, fifth grader magazine? It’s a very simple story. But I still enjoy it immensely. Each chapter usually features several new pokemon, even in Red’s team, so we’re saved watching Red zap Pidgeys with his Pikachu over and over again in each chapter (a trap the games fall into). And the plot moves very quickly, with a couple chapters spent on each story arc, then moving on to the next thing. Playing the game also helps the enjoyment of this series, though I don’t think it’s a necessary thing, since the adaptation is pretty loose, fast, and easy to follow. At least as far as I can tell. At one time, I’m pretty sure I thought the same thing about the X movie.
I think another thing that makes this a better adaptation than most is that there’s a lot of fun to be had in Pokemon. Unlike a regular RPG adaptation, where you meet the side characters and they stay in your party, Ash’s pokemon party constantly changes, which is a feature of the game. That they don’t really have personalities is a blessing, since we can’t get worn out on them, and it also helps that pokemon themselves are the usual RPG fodder, since you get to see if Ash wants to add them to his party, and they aren’t completely faceless like some slime. It also helps that the original games had characters that came in and out of the story, like Blue and Team Rocket, and that defeating neither isn’t the real goal. The goal is, of course, to be the best, like any good shonen hero. And the ambiguous goal at the end is not a weakness, as it would be in any other series. It’s kind of interesting in the context of a children’s series.
I like it. Of course, I’m leveling up a Jynx with my other hand right now, so my opinion may not be totally objective.
Hidenori Kusaka – Viz – 2009 – 35+ volumes
True fact: Toshihiro Ono’s (hilariously censored) Pokemon manga was my introduction to Japanese comics. I’ve been a fan of the Pokemon games longer than I have manga, which is hard to believe at this point. Back then, I also read the individual issues of Magical Pokemon Journey, mostly because I was so horribly desperate for girls’ comics (I was far, far too old to be reading them). Pokemon Adventures came out with those two all those years ago as well, but I skipped over it at the time. I found out later it was considered the best. Viz recently re-released this from the beginning, and I finally swallowed my pride and decided to pick it up. While I do love Pokemon, I also have a healthy dose of shame that goes along with saying anything about it.
I liked it. I genuinely liked it. Much like the games themselves, the first volume of this was highly polished and made to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The storytelling style is extremely simplistic, but it is genuinely fun to follow the characters around on all the different little side quests they engage in. There’s not a lot of overarching plot, either (Red wants to be the best and complete the Pokedex for Professor Oak), but I think it benefits from that since the episodic chapters are so oddly diverse and fun to read. It also follows the plot of the game really closely, too, which may put it in a different category entirely (episodic, but pre-determined?).
In any case, it’s fun, and really kid-friendly without being intolerable for adults. This is a hard balance to strike, but this does it pretty well. Again though, that’s probably to be expected of an adaptation of a game that appeals to such a wide audience.
Basically, Red starts off in his hometown as a big fish in a little pond, thinking he knows everything about Pokemon. He runs into Blue, who has a lot more experience than Red, and after being humbled by him and a new acquaintance named Professor Oak, Red decides to take his Poliwhirl and embark on a mission to catch all the Pokemon in the world. Along the way, he makes friends with a lot of Pokemon, escapes Team Rocket twice, goes looking for a Moon Stone, participates in a Gym tournament for a badge, breaks up a Pokemon smuggling ring, and befriends a strange girl he helps out of a tight spot. Said strange girl and rival Blue serve as the only characters that reappear from chapter to chapter aside from Red, but it’s mostly all focused on Red and the pokemon he catches and trains. All of this is interspersed with little Pokemon factoids and battles and whatnot, so fans of the game (likely small children) looking to find their favorite ‘mons won’t be disappointed.
The art is also clean and easy to read… I can’t say I take issue with any part of it. Again, it is a little simple, and perhaps I’m fond of it because I beat that first Pokemon game so many times that everything here is very familiar to me and I take comfort in it. Whatever the case, I’m sad I only picked up the first volume, because part of me does want to snag the rest of the available ones and play catch-up, just to see how Red fares in the other gyms and against Team Rocket and the Elite Four and whatnot. It sounds strange, even to me, since I so rarely am eager to pick up new volumes of even the best kids series I’ve read… but all the same, that’s the power of Pokemon. If you have any love at all for the game, no matter your age, you might consider taking a look at this.