Anime Spotlight: Pokemon

Pokemon is a media franchise owned by Nintendo and created by Satoshi Taijiri in 1996. The franchise started out as a pair of interlinkable Game Boy games developed by Game Freak, and the media franchise includes trading cards, manga, toys, and an anime.

4Kids Entertainment originally held the North American distribution rights for the anime series. In November 2005, 4Kids announced that it would not renew the distribution rights. The Pokemon Company International now oversees all Pokemon licensing outside of Asia.

Indigo League and Orange Islands

The first two seasons of Pokemon, Indigo League and Adventures on the Orange Islands, are considered to be part of the original series. Indigo League has 82 episodes, but only 80 of these episodes aired in the United States. Adventures on the Orange Islands has 36 episodes.

At the beginning of Indigo League, Ash Ketchum is just starting out on his Pokemon journey in the Kanto Region. Ash is late for his appointment with Professor Oak to get his starter Pokemon, so when he gets there, all of the regular starter Pokémon are already gone. Ash ends up with a temperamental Pikachu, but as they go on their journey, they become the best of friends.

Ash’s Pikachu accidentally destroys a bike that belongs to Misty, and she starts to tag along on Ash’s journey in the hopes of getting a replacement bike. They end up meeting Brock, who serves as the Gym Leader at the Pewter City Gym. After turning the operating of the gym over to his estranged father, Brock joins Ash and Misty on their journey.

Jessie, James, and Meowth of Team Rocket are interested in capturing a Pikachu for their boss, Giovanni. Team Rocket spends a lot of time trying to capture Ash’s Pikachu, but they keep failing.

During his journey through the Kanto Region, Ash must battle various gym leaders and earn the eight badges he needs to compete in the Indigo League Pokemon Tournament that’s held near Viridian City. Along the way, he has run-ins with his childhood rival, Gary Oak, the grandson of Professor Oak. Ash gets the badges he needs, but ends up losing in his first match at the Indigo Stadium.

After this, Ash makes a quick stop at home in Pallet Town, before heading on his way to the Orange Islands to compete in the Orange League. Ash’s original traveling companions are Misty and Brock, but Brock ends up leaving the group to work on Pokemon research with Professor Ivy. Ash and Misty meet Tracey Sketchit, a young man who enjoys drawing pictures of Pokemon. Tracey accompanies Ash and Misty as they journey through the Orange Islands. Unfortunately, the viewing audience didn’t seem to warm up to Tracey all that much, and wished that Brock would return to rejoin Ash and Misty.

Ash earns four badges and competes against Drake, the Orange League champion. After a hard-fought battle, Ash comes out the victor and earns a spot in the Orange League Hall of Fame. Even though Ash earns this honor, it doesn’t mean that this is the end of his Pokemon journey.

This era of the Pokemon franchise includes the films Pokemon the First Movie and Pokemon the Movie 2000.

Johto Region Seasons

The third, fourth, and fifth seasons of Pokemon (The Johto Journeys, Johto League Champions, and Master Quest) take place in the Johto region. The Johto Journeys has 41 episodes, Johto League Champions has 52 episodes, and Master Quest has 65 episodes; however, only 64 episodes of Master Quest aired in the United States. The Johto Journeys is also the first season to introduce a new series of Pokemon beyond the original 151 from Indigo League and Adventures on the Orange Islands.

After his victory in the Orange Islands, Ash, Misty, and Tracey return to Pallet Town. Here, they reunite with Brock, who has given up being an assistant for Professor Ivy. Tracey decides to stay in Pallet Town in order to work with his idol, Professor Oak. Ash, Brock, and Misty continue on their Pokemon journey by heading to the Johto region.

During his time in the Johto region, Ash acquires several new Pokemon: Heracross, Chikorita (which evolves into Bayleef), Cyndaquil (which evolves into Quilava), Totodile, Noctowl, and Phanpy (which evolves into Donphan). He, along with Misty and Brock, meet new trainers and become friends with many of them.

During his time in the Johto region, Ash also battles several Gym leaders to earn the eight badges he needs: Falkner in Violet City, Bugsy in Azalea City, Whitney in Goldenrod City, Morty in Ecruteak City, Chuck in Cianwood, Jasmine in Olivine City, Pryce in Mahogany Town, and Clair in Blackthorn City.

After earning all eight badges that he needs, Ash competes in the Silver Conference. He makes it through all the qualifying matches, and becomes one of the competitors in the Victory Tournament. Ash makes it into the Top 8, and even beats his long-time rival, Gary Oak. However, Ash ends up being defeated by a trainer named Harrison from the Hoenn region.

After the Silver Conference, Ash decides that after a brief visit to Pallet Town, he will continue on his Pokemon journey by going on to the Hoenn region. Before they make it to Pallet Town, Misty receives a message from her sisters; they ask her to return to the Cerulean Gym and take over the gym leader duties. At that point, Brock decides that he needs to return home to Pewter City to help his father take care of Brock’s brothers and sisters. So Ash returns back home on his own to get ready for his upcoming journey to the Hoenn region.

This era of the Pokemon franchise also includes Pokemon The Movie 3, the Mewtwo Returns special, the Pokemon 4Ever film, and the Pokemon Heroes film.

Hoenn Region Episodes

The sixth, seventh, and eighth, seasons of Pokemon (Advanced, Advanced Challenge, and Advanced Battle) take place in the Hoenn region. Advanced has 40 episodes, Advanced Challenge has 52 episodes, and Advanced Battle has 53 episodes. The two main new characters introduced in the Hoenn region are also part of the ninth season, Battle Frontier. Even though Battle Frontier takes place in Kanto, I am including it as part of this write-up for the Hoenn region. Battle Frontier has 47 episodes.

After making a quick trip home after his travels in the Johto region, Ash sets out to the Hoenn region, and taking Pikachu as his only Pokemon. When he gets to Hoenn, Ash meets May and her younger brother, Max. It turns out their father is the Gym leader of the Petalburg City Gym. The siblings join Ash on his travels through the Hoenn region. Brock is reunited with Ash, and he joins the trio.

The concept of Pokemon contests is introduced in the Hoenn region. May ends up becoming a Pokemon coordinator, and competes at various contests to try and win enough ribbons to compete in the Grand Festival. Jessie, James, and Meowth have been sent by Giovanni, the head of Team Rocket, to try and establish a branch of the organization in Hoenn. During the course of these seasons, Ash and his friends also encounter members of Team Aqua and Team Magma. By the end of Advanced Battle, Ash competes in the Hoenn League and places in the top eight, and May competes in the Grand Festival.

After the Hoenn League, Ash and his friends take a brief break by going back to their respective homes. However, Ash, Brock, May, Max, and Misty all come together in Pallet Town after learning about the Battle Frontier and new contests in the Kanto region. They travel together and decide to compete. During the course of season nine, the group travels around Kanto. Ash defeats Frontier Brains, and May competes in the contests. However, during the course of the season, Misty decides to return to Cerulean City to continue training

At the end of Battle Frontier, May and Max head their separate ways from the group. While May says they are returning to Hoenn, she’s actually going to travel to the Johto region by herself. Brock returns to Pewter City, and Ash returns home to Pallet Town for a short break before heading off to the Sinnoh region.

The Hoenn era also includes the following films: Pokemon: Jirachi Wish Maker, Pokemon: Destiny Deoxys, Pokemon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, and Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea.

Sinnoh Region Series

The 10th through 13th seasons of Pokemon (Diamond and Pearl, Diamond and Pearl: Battle Dimension, Diamond and Pearl: Galactic Battles, and Diamond and Pearl: Sinnoh League Victors) take place in the Sinnoh region. Diamond and Pearl has 51 episodes, Diamond and Pearl: Battle Dimension has 52 episodes, Diamond and Pearl: Galactic Battles has 52 episodes, and Diamond and Pearl: Sinnoh League Victors has 34 episodes.

Ash Ketchum arrives in the Sinnoh region, and as expected, Brock joins him on his journey. They meet a trainer named Dawn, and she’s the daughter of a Pokemon Contest Coordinator. Dawn wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps, so she goes on her own Pokemon journey in order to work at achieving her goal.

As usual, Team Rocket follows Ash and his friends, still bungling in their attempts to capture Pikachu. Soon after arriving in the Sinnoh region, Ash made a new rival out of Paul, a stoic and strict Pokemon trainer. If Paul is dissatisfied with the performance of a Pokemon, he prefers to release it instead of trying to train it.

Dawn already had two rivals: Zoey and Kenny. Zoey is a top Pokemon coordinator, but she is helpful to Dawn and appears to be greeted as a friend. Kenny, however, is Dawn’s childhood friend, who she thinks is a pain. Dawn and Kenny compete against each other in Pokemon contests. As Dawn competes in Pokemon Contests in the Sinnoh region, she acquires a new rival named Drew.

Several new Pokemon were introduced in the Sinnoh region. Some of the new Pokemon introduced in the region include Starly, Turtwig, Piplup, Buneary, Pachirisu, Croagunk, Chimchar, and Carnivine.

During his time in Sinnoh, Ash battles all the Gym Leaders in the region: Roark in Oreburgh City, Gardenia in Eterna City, Maylene in Veilstone City, Crasher Wake in Pastoria City, Fantina in Hearthome City, Byron in Canalave City, Candice in Snowpoint City, and Volkner in Sunyshore City.

Ash competes in the Sinnoh League, and ends up making it into the Top Four. Ash and Pikachu return to Pallet Town before heading off to the Unova region.

The Sinnoh era also includes the following films: Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai, Pokemon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior, Pokemon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, and Pokemon: Zoroark Master of Illusions.

Unova Region Series

The 14th through 17th seasons of Pokemon (Black & White, BW: Rival Destinies, BW: Adventures in Unova, and BW: Adventures in Unova and Beyond) take place in the Unova region. Black & White has 48 episodes, BW: Rival Destinies has 49 episodes, BW: Adventures in Unova has 25 episodes, and BW: Adventures in Unova and Beyond has 22 episodes.

When Ash arrives in the Unova region, black clouds suddenly appear, and a lightning bolt hits Pikachu; it’s suspected that this bolt came from the legendary Pokemon Zekrom. Ash meets Professor Juniper, as well as his new rival, Trip. In addition to being a Pokemon trainer, Trip is also an amateur Pokemon photographer.

When Ash went to the Unova region, neither Dawn nor Brock came with him. As he starts his journey in Unova, Ash meets two trainers who become his new traveling companions. First is Iris, a wild girl from a village that has many Dragon-type Pokemon. Iris’ main Pokemon is the Dragon-type Pokemon Axew. The other is Cilan, an A-Class Pokemon Connoisseur and a Gym Leader in the Unova League with his brothers; however, he decides to leave his post to join Ash on his journey. Cilan’s main Pokemon is Pansage.

Team Rocket also make an appearance in Black & White; however, they have been promoted and take on a more serious role than in previous seasons. A new adversary called Team Plasma is introduced, and they believe in Pokemon liberation.

During his journey, Ash battles against Cilan, Chili, and Cress in Striaton Gym; Lenora in Nacrene City; Burgh in Castelia City; Elesa in Nimbasa City; Clay in Driftveil City; Skyla in Mistralton City; Brycen in Icirus City; and Roxie in Virbank City. Ash competes in the Unova League, and he makes it into the fourth round.

Ash and his friends encounter a young man named N, and he turns out to have a connection with Team Plasma. Ash and his friends travel with N for several episodes for a storyline that concerns N.

After this, Ash decides to head back to the Kanto region, and Iris and Cilan accompany him. As they head to Kanto, they travel to through the Decolore Islands.

The Unova era also includes the following films: Pokemon White: Victini and Zekrom, Pokemon Black: Victini and Reshiram, Pokemon: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice, and Pokemon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened.

Kalos Region Series

As of this writing, the Pokemon: XY series is just starting up. This series sees Ash heading to the Kalos region, and he will gain three new traveling companions: Clemont, Bonnie, and Serena.

Pokemon Chronicles

Pokemon Chronicles is a Pokemon spin-off series that shows what happens to some of the other characters while Ash was traveling in the Hoenn region. This series made its debut in the United States on Cartoon Network on June 3, 2006.

Pokemon Chronicles is made up of episodes from Shuukan Pokemon Housoukyok, an informational magazine show from Japan hosted by Brock and Misty. Pokemon Chronicles also includes episodes starring the Pichu Brothers and the “Pikachu’s Winter Vacation” episodes. The series ended its initial run on Cartoon Network on November 25, 2006.

The major characters seen in Pokemon Chronicles include Brock, Casey, Gary Oak, Jimmy, Marina, Vincent/Jackson (this is Jackson from the Silver Conference, but in this series he’s going by the name Vincent), Misty, Professor Oak, the Pichu Brothers, Tracey, and Richie. Minor characters include Delia Ketchum, Gilbert, and Sakura. The Team Rocket members who make appearances in Pokemon Chronicles include Atilla and Hun, Cassidy and Butch, Jessie and James, and Meowth.

I had the opportunity to view several episodes of Pokemon Chronicles during its run on Cartoon Network. To be honest, I thought it was a mess. It felt disjointed, and you never knew from one week to the next which characters you would be seeing.

Also, you never knew whether you would be seeing an episode focusing on the human characters with their Pokemon, or if you would be seeing one of the stories focusing solely on the Pokemon without their trainers around. Personally, I have never cared much for the Pokemon-only stories, and felt they were a waste of time when watching Pokemon Chronicles.

The Pokemon anime series is a franchise that has evolved and changed in its nearly 20 year run. I will admit that I believe that the older seasons are overall stronger than the most recent Pokemon seasons that I’ve seen.

Personally, my least favorite seasons are in the Unova region. When I started watching Black & White, I felt as if they tried to do a partial “reboot” of the franchise. However, since it was only a partial reboot, there were things I found myself questioning. While these seasons acknowledged that Ash had his adventures in the previous regions, he was making mistakes that amateur Pokemon trainers would be making. I also wasn’t terribly impressed with either Iris or Cilan.

I’m hoping that the forthcoming Pokemon: XY will appeal to me more than the Unova region seasons did.

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