Reviews: Pokemon Origins

So astonishingly bad it had me pining for the actual anime.

If the main Pokémon anime (not counting the classic series, because at least it actually had some charm, warmth, memorable characters, a sense of humour, colourful visuals and a great soundtrack) is a laughable travesty that makes the modern-day Simpsons resemble a goldmine of creativity in comparison, then Pokémon Origins is what happens when you drag something down so low that the simple act of looking at it is enough to want to curl up in bed and fall asleep instead.

How any fan of this franchise can actually sit down and watch this 80+ minute embarrassment of programme and then class it as good entertainment is a concept that I cannot even begin to fathom. To get a rough idea of what it's like sit through this catastrophic mess, imagine that you're watching a sped-up YouTube video of someone playing and badly narrating Pokémon Red or Blue for over 80 minutes with large chunks cut out to the point where it becomes almost incomprehensible. That's what this is.

My expectations were low going in but it's substantially worse than I could have ever imagined. It's practically humourless, thinner than paper and written and paced so incompetently that it's baffling. Almost every line of dialogue is a tired cliché spoken by voice actors who you can tell are barely making an effort (and who can blame them?) and following this dork of a main character through his rushed, mindless quest is like watching a kid learn to spell. With the actual Pokémon games, you can ignore the typically bland story and take in the simple, addictive joys of catching, raising and training, and when watch Pokémon Let's Play videos, you can enjoy the commentary and perhaps learn something new from the video maker. There is nothing to be learned from watching Pokémon Origins. It's a bunch of glorified cutscenes, lame battle sequences and aimless side story ingredients smashed together into a failure. If it were released as a movie, it would be a good candidate for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture.

If this is what the people behind Pokémon think fans want for a show, then at this point I'm going have to give up and use my own imagination. There will never be a decent Pokémon television series. There are no companies out there willing to craft actual, meaningful original Pokémon stories that feature mature, complex writing, strong, developed adult characters and intense, varied Pokémon battles that are actually gripping. The only good thing about Pokémon Origins is that it made me appreciate that good old classic series (the first episode up to the end of the Orange Islands) more than ever. Say what you want about Ash's bizarre and occasionally controversial early adventures - at least the writers knew how to make them fun. Hell, even the Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh series are better than this. And maybe the rest of the main anime too, but I wouldn't know, as I haven't watched (and wouldn't want to watch) anything from the Unova series onwards.

A decent idea, without enough time to grow

This series had some pretty good ideas, but lacked the time to properly develop them. Because the decision was made to have a four episode ministries rather than a longer one,

- characterizations ended up either bare bones (Red, who comes off as a standard shounen idiot hero) or inconsistent (Blue, who seems to shift from "friendly rival to "utter jerk" and back on a dime)

- lots of telling, rather than showing (each episode starts with a couple minutes of "I did this, and this happened" type recap)

- a lack of struggle for the protagonist. We never really get to see Red work for his goals, which really cheapens any feeling of success. This is made worse by the decision to use the forth episode on capturing Mewtwo, rather than becoming champion.

In spite of the pacing issues, Origins still has some good points. The animation is gorgeous, Blue and Giovanni both showed some potential to be interesting, the Cubone episode hits all the right notes once you get through the "here's all trhe things we won't show you recap, the line about the move not being effective makes me laugh, and it gives some explanation for the escalation in gym leader ability. All in all, this could have been a good product if it had about 5-10 more episodes.

Reflections on Origins

When I first heard the news of a new Pokémon mini-series special (not from the main anime) based on the original games of Red and Blue coming around Fall of 2013, I had great skepticism and concern about it. The idea of another anime adaptation/reboot of the Gen I games was nothing new, since many have demanded one after they have grown tired with the 17+ year old anime and seeing that B 2 W 2 animated trailer. But the fact that it was happening right before the main XY anime makes it debut in Japan, just before Satoshi (Ash) was ready to rid himself of the BW stigma, makes me worried that this special was going to get praises and free passes just because it's not the Anime.

When I finally get to watch Origins, I was quite relieved that it was not some Darker and Edgier show that some people hyped it up to be, and that It's relativity a good representation of the original Red and Blue (with more references to the games more than other Pokémon adaptations). Red is not some Uber badass that is always silent and always winning battles as the fandom depicts him. Rather, he's more like Ash in terms of personality and traits, making simple mistakes even when he's approaching the finals as well as learning from them. The episodes themselves are good, but nothing special except for the central ones, Cubone and Giovanni, mainly because it's the first adaptation to actually explore the Cubone story (not even Adventures explored that story) and give depth to Giovanni's character (though I kinda prefer him as a ruthless crime boss as opposed to a misguided businessman he's depicted here).

However, the main problem of Origins is its tendency to tell but not show the events going in-between episode, often making it difficult to connect with Red and his Pokémon. I think it would work better if they had Professor Oak narrate Red's adventure instead of Red, because having Red narrate makes him look like he's just checking off the plot list of the game instead of giving the feel of adventure. Pacing is another issue since it makes battles like Giovanni feel too rush and one-sided for me to feel that Red earned them.

On its own, Origins is overall a good adaptation take of the games that started it all. But I would not say it is perfect or better representation of the games than the anime as many would say.

It’s OK if you’re already a fan of the series.

It’s ridiculously condensed and still had traces of video game logic that simply doesn’t work in a more ‘life-like’ setting. The excessive faithfulness also resulted in a terribly adapted soundtrack that improved the original far too little. Really, the only good thing about this is that existing fans can enjoy beloved scenes from the original games being brought ‘to life’; it has no merit past that.

Could have easily been it's own 13-26 episode series

The main flaw of Pokemon Origins is that it condenses Pokemon Blue/Red/Green into four OVAs. Secondary flaw is that almost all of Red's pokemon besides Charmander's line are near useless or just get pushed aside too quickly.

Outside of that, it's a faithful adaption of the Red/Blue/Green games that expands on certain character's motivations (Why Professor Oak chose Red and more on Giovanni as a trainer and a person) and I love it for that.

Pokemon X & Y advertisement.

The original(no pun intended) anime series didn't satisfy many people, whether it's due to being littered with fillers or the illegitimate victories Ash gets for his gym badges. Thus it's understandable most of us wished for an ideal Pokemon anime and when Origin was announced, it seemed as though our savior had come.

However, the point of this special wasn't Red's adventure. Yes, by the end of it, it turns out the purpose of the whole thing was to advertise mega evolutions and everything else was to attract attention. This explains why they wanted to rush the entire journey to reach Mega Charizard X vs Mewtwo, picking out only 5 key points of the game to go into detail.

The characters themselves weren't much. Red was the run of the mill Idiot Hero who happened to be badass and Green's character seemed out of place. Acts nice at one time then suddenly says douchey things, but overall felt lifeless. Giovanni was the one character I found interesting with his development during his battle with Red but that alone wasn't a saving grace.

Also another thing that disappointing me was how the way they went into battle mechanics early on against Brock, you'd expect to see more decent strategies but he was defeated with a basic concept everyone would have learned from reading the instruction booklet. So they wouldn't have many ideas for a full fledged series anyway.

The animation was decent though, but in the end, the appeal to this was mainly just visuals and nostalgia.

Too good, too short

Pokémon Origins is, to put it simply, vastly superior to the main anime series. The animation is overall better, the characters (especially Red and Giovanni) experience very good character development, battles are much more interesting, and most importantly, mature themes are explored (with one Pokémon actually dying, for example). It greatly helps it doesn't suffer from many of the anime problems, like fillers, or the main character losing battles against beginners to make way for a new season. Even the introduction of Mega Evolution at the end is portrayed well, while it could seem like a Deus Ex Machina at first.

But the problem is, Pokémon Origins is short. Too short.

The OVA feature four episodes, which only cover two Gym Leaders battle, Cubone's story, and the final battle with Mewtwo. As such, the anime is rushed. Important characters like Misty and co only get cameos, the anime doesn't have enough time to properly develop Red's characters beside Charizard, and good plot developments like Red's rivalry with Blue and Giovanni are rushed. Pokémon Origins could, no, should have lasted a full season to make use of its full potential.

Overall, Pokémon Origins is vastly superior to the main anime series, but should have lasted longer. I advise everyone to check it out and prey they make it a full/side series.

So close to being absolutely perfect

Like many others, I was so excited to hear that they were making a Pokemon OVA that would actually follow the games. For the most part, this did not disappoint. For the most part, this is an almost perfect tribute to the games that we look back on today with childhood nostalgia. Which only makes the few issues stand out more.

The first problem is in many ways an excusable one: the amount of focus Charizard gets relative to the other Pokemon Red has. Since this is a Compressed Adaptation, it's to be expected that they can't show EVERYTHING Red does, and in that case it makes sense to focus on the bond he has with his first Pokemon. But it would have been nice to see the others do a bit more.

The Charizard shilling reaches a ridiculous level, however, with the introduction of Mega Charizard X. I am no fan of Mega Evolutions, but even if I was I'm confident I'd still be mad that they put Mega Charizard X in this special. Mega Charizard X has no place in Pokemon Origins, for the same reason that Togepi, Munchlax, Scizor, or any of the other Pokemon we've come to know and love following Red and Green/Blue have no place in Pokemon Origins: they weren't part of the original games. They are not part of Pokemon's origins. But since everything else that wasn't in Red and Green/Blue was left out, the fact that they decided to put Mega Charizard X in simply as a shameless plug for the Mega Evolution gimmick speaks volumes. And for a special that is otherwise so dedicated to capturing the spirit of the games we fell in love with, it's nothing short of sad.

There are many hopes and rumors going around that Pokemon Origins will inspire its own anime, following Red's exploits in more detail. I'm one of the many hoping that this is true. But I also hope that, if they plan to make a full anime series about the original games, they make it about the original games. Red and Green/Blue, whatever their problems, are where it all began, and they should be treated with the respect they deserve. And that includes not trying to force in aspects that weren't a part of them.
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