Pokémon Adventures Ch. 1-2
February 22nd, 2016
Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pokémon by watching someone get bird poop on them!
(Linkara is dressed like Ash Ketchum, which can only mean one thing: another Pokémon review!)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (pumps fist) YEAH, POKÉMON, YEAH!
(Footage is shown of Pokémon games.)
Linkara (v/o): It is the twentieth anniversary of when Pokémon Red and Green premiered in Japan...
(Editor's note: "Yeah, I know this is Blue. Blue was my first.")
Linkara (v/o): ...premiered in Japan in all their glitchy, misshapen sprite glory. Twenty years since an electric rodent became the mascot of a generation...
(Cut to a shot of an article from 1999 that states that a church in Colorado Springs is attacking Pokémon as occult)
Linkara (v/o): ...and had a sword put through its plushie by really stupid ministers.
(Another editor's note: "Pastor, but whatever.")
Linkara (v/o): Twenty years of creepypastas about cursed cartridges and being buried alive.
(Now cut to a shot of the Pokémon anime, emphasizing Ash Ketchum)
Linkara (v/o): Twenty years of questioning the age of an anime protagonist because the show has so many episodes that if each episode accounted for a single day, he should be, like, three years older by now.
(More footage of a Pokémon game is shown)
Linkara (v/o): It's admittedly a bit overwhelming to think that Pokémon is twenty years old now, especially since so many of us played it as little kids. It makes us feel that we ourselves have lost our childhood, that we got old.
Linkara: But the truth is, we didn't get old, we became masters.
(Cut to shots of early Pokémon manga)
Linkara (v/o): To commemorate this occasion, I was hoping to find the very first Pokémon manga ever made, or at least, one of the first. The earliest are apparently some four-panel gag strips, but in terms of an ongoing story, it's a series called "Pocket Monsters", or "Pokémon: Pocket Monsters". There seems to be some debate about the translations of it. A lot of sites say it was never made into English, yet still other sites say it was released in English – in Singapore. Regardless, I was unable to find scans of it in English, though, so we're out of luck there. "Pocket Monsters" was an odd beast already. It was apparently a bit of absurdist humor mixed with the overall adventure, with the main character, Red, traveling around with a talking Clefairy named Pipi.
(Another editor's note: "I'LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!")
Linkara (v/o): Pipi was apparently known as being crass and vulgar.
Linkara: Which brings about the wonderful mental image of (points to an image of Clefairy in the corner) this thing flipping people off and swearing.
(Cut to shots of a book called "Pikachu Meets the Press")
Linkara (v/o): Like I said, I couldn't find scans of it, but a fan pointed me in the direction of another bizarre oddity of Pokémon comics: a daily newspaper strips that ran for just over a year from 2000 to 2001. It was written by Gerard Jones and drawn by Ashura Benimaru as a gag-a-day kind of thing, following somewhat more domestic adventures of Ash Ketchum and his Pokémon. He lived with his mom alongside his team and got into mischief and sometimes hung out with Brock and Misty, who had a somewhat more open crush on him than was seen in the show. I was tempted to make this the subject of the review, but honestly, as we saw with the "My Cage" review, comic strips are very much a different beast than comic books. There's not really much in terms of an ongoing narrative, is what I'm saying. And I prefer reviewing something with an actual story to it.
Linkara (v/o): I could have done the next issue of "The Electric Tale of Pikachu", like I had planned to do until the Patreon request for "Reburst", but it feels odd doing a sequel episode for the anniversary. What's more, I couldn't even find a comic that was a straight-up parody of "Pokémon. Not like a one-time gag or something, but a straight-up, like, I don't know, Parodymon or something. Even Power Rangers has had some of those. Why the hell didn't Pokémon have any?
Linkara: So, while I did hope to find something Pokémon-related that'd be truly awful... well, might as well celebrate something good. As such, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) the first two chapters of "Pokémon Adventures".
(The AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has the theme for the Pokémon anime playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the manga's cover.)
Linkara (v/o): "Pokémon Adventures" is probably the most popular and enduring Pokémon manga out there. While the storyline and main characters change with each generation, you can't help but appreciate how it goes about creating storylines that are often better than what the games sometimes have to offer. It helps that elements that are sometimes superfluous or forgotten in the games are expanded more and given deeper lore. We're focusing on the first two chapters here because, well, it gives us a little more to snark about, even if this is really good.
(The manga opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open...
Narrator: In a place called Pallet Town...
Linkara: Where there are much looser laws concerning animal experimentation.
Linkara (v/o): Some kids are trying to capture a Nidorino, which is kind of this poisonous rabbit thing... except, like, three feet tall, but are having difficulty.
Girl: I'm gonna catch this Pokémon... and make it my personal pet!
Linkara: (as this girl) With it, I shall conquer this puny town! All shall love me and despair! KNEEL AT THE THRONE OF CINDY!
Linkara (v/o): However, the Pokéball bounces right off of its head, much to their confusion. However, another child approaches.
Boy: Hahaha! You can't catch a Pokémon like that!
Linkara: (as this boy) Let me show you my technique! (holds up a gun and cocks it)
Boy: If you want to catch a Pokémon... first you've gotta weaken it... then throw the Poké Ball [sic].
Linkara: (as this boy) Again, let me show you (aims gun at camera) my technique!
Linkara (v/o): No, instead, he sends out his Poliwhirl, which I admit I always assumed to be much bigger than it seems to be here. And also to prove that I'm a weirdo, I always thought the spiral was supposed to be his mouth. And yes, I know what it actually is, it just confuses me, is all. Also, where the hell do Poliwhirls get the gloves they seem to wear? Also also, we get the title of this chapter: "A Glimpse of the Glow"!
Linkara: (singsong voice) I sense radiation in our future!
Linkara (v/o): Poliwhirl uses Water Gun on the Nidorino, weakening it enough for the kid to throw a Pokéball at it, which does capture it. Geez, people joke about Pokémon just waiting inside their cramped little Pokéballs, but this one actually shows it. But yes, success for our main character, Red.
Linkara: Named after what his mother was seeing when her husband was never around to raise him.
Red: (narrating) Huh? What are Pokémon, you ask?
Linkara: Incredibly marketable, it turns out.
Red: Strange creatures that live in the forests and lakes.
Linkara: (as Red) If it's from a desert or a city, (points at camera) screw you, it's a Digimon!
Linkara (v/o): It does make me wonder what poor, ignorant fool is living in this world and doesn't know about Pokémon. How exactly do you miss the giant fire-breathing dragons and literal ghosts that exist here?
Red: (narrating) Everybody knows me in Pallet Town. And why not? I'm the best Pokémon trainer around!
Linkara: (as Red, pointing at camera) I can buy and sell your ass! Cross me, and I'll summon a monster to drown you in your sleep!
Red: (narrating) I don't know how many kinds of Pokémon there are in the world...
(Cut to Dr. Insano)
Dr. Insano: Oh! Well, it seems silly to me, of course, but then, (leans in close) I WENT TO SCHOOL!
(Cut back to the manga)
Red: (narrating) But I know I'm gonna catch 'em all!
Linkara (v/o): I was gonna make yet another "collect living beings to satisfy my whims" joke, but let's be honest, the Pokémon universe is different from ours. Pokémon are thinking creatures with wills of their own, and when some of them can dig underground or fly away, there must be a reason why they stay with trainers. My theory is a socialization thing. Most Pokémon want to be caught at some point and battle to prove their strength. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, since we see Pokémon doing work outside of battles, like assisting in medicine, farming, manual labor, and etc., but since we follow the ones that go into battles alongside trainers, it's usually the fighting kind. And bear in mind, Pokémon can and do disobey trainers, both in the game and anime. In the games, the programming is based around which gym badges you have; in other words, showing off that the trainer himself is worthy to be a partner to that Pokémon. After all, why else would it care about some cheap man-made token? In the anime, we see this especially with Ash's Charizard, who needed to relearn to respect Ash before he finally came around. And as for Pokémon being trapped... Well, the anime has the answer there again: we see Pokémon being unable to leave their Pokéballs at will, in particular, Psyduck and Wobbuffet. Hell, even in the games, we see in Yellow, HeartGold and SoulSilver a Pokémon following you around instead of staying in their balls.
Linkara: This has been another edition of (the following text pops up...) "THINKING WAY TOO HARD ABOUT A FRANCHISE FOR CHILDREN".
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, the kids Red was showing off to ask if he's ever met Professor Oak, since people say he knows a lot about Pokémon.
Red: You don't need that old nut. I'll teach you everything you need to know.
Linkara: Says the kid who thinks that Pokémon only exist in forests and lakes.
Linkara (v/o): Another weird thing we see, since I guess, in these early days, they hadn't quite figured out how this worked yet: the top of the Pokéball is transparent, so we can see the Poliwhirl inside of it. Sure, it could just be artistic flair in this panel, but it seems odd to have it here, unless it's more about sunlight hitting it. In any case, Red, distracted by thinking about Professor Oak, bumps right into some black-clad fellows.
Black-clad fellow: Watch it, you worm!
Linkara: (as Red) What the hell is a (makes an "air quote") "worm"? (as black-clad fellow, arms crossed) Don't play dumb with me! There hasn't been a worm Pokémon yet, meaning it's okay to still refer to them like that!
Linkara (v/o): Seeing that they have Pokéballs on them, he figures they're trainers and thus wants to try to take them on. However, as we pull back, we see the big R written on their uniforms, revealing themselves to be members of Team Rocket.
Linkara: Because, of course your criminal organization should have a big symbol on your chest to indicate your affiliation with said ne'er-do-wells.
Linkara: By the way, over 700 Pokémon at the time of this recording; none of their Pokédex entries describe them as a (an "air quote") "Phantom Pokémon", not even the Ghost types. Weird, isn't it?
Linkara (v/o): Red decides to try to find it himself, carrying a bunch of Pokéballs with him, which is a pretty apt visual for how this should work in the games, but there you go. However, what he discovers is that the Phantom Pokémon is actually Mew!
(Cut to a clip of the Pokémon anime)
Ash: I wonder what Pokémon it is!
(Back to the manga again)
Linkara (v/o): And what is Mew facing off against?
(A snippet of "SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake plays as the answer reveals itself...)
Linkara (v/o): GARY... MOTHER... LOVIN'... OAK!!! However, at this early stage in his career, Gary... or rather, Blue, in this series... is trying to fight it with a Charmander and having no luck. He then quickly recalls Charmander, to Red's irritation.
Red: What do you think you're doing?!* You almost had it, you...
- NOTE: Red actually says, "What are you doing?!"
Linkara: (as Red) You screwed up my entire fantasy Pokémon League rankings!
Linkara (v/o): Deciding to take the opportunity, Red sends Poliwhirl out against Mew... aaand gets smacked back in an instant, Mew just flying off. Blue admits that he realized the vast difference in strength right away during the fight, and thus decided to recall Charmander rather than risk it anymore.
Blue: Know your limitations, or you'll only beat yourself.
Linkara: No, I'm pretty sure it was still the opponent that beat him up.
Linkara (v/o): Red is stunned that he actually lost, but the battles attract Team Rocket. The lead Team Rocket, recognizing Red, is wondering what the hell happened. But when their men realize that Mew could still be nearby, they run off. An so, the first chapter ends with Red approaching Professor Oak's lab, deciding he has a few more things he needs to learn.
Red: They say he's a mean old guy, so I always kept away...
Linkara: Nah, he's only mean if you try to ride your bike indoors.
Linkara (v/o): Chapter Two begins with Red entering Professor Oak's lab, which, despite being dark inside, has the door unlocked. And again, it is based on an RPG. Locks exist only in dungeons. Everyone else's place, go in and loot! The chapter title for this one is "Bulbasaur, Come Home!"
Linkara: (holding up right hand) All in favor of a Homeward Bound remake with the original three Kanto Starters?
(The title is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): (reading title) "Bulbasaur, Come Home!"
(Cut again to Ash in the anime)
Ash: I wonder what Pokémon it is!
(Cut back to the manga)
Linkara (v/o): And we soon see that, indeed, this is not artistic license with the Pokéballs, since Red finds one with Bulbasaur in it and can actually see what it looks like, even inviting Poliwhirl to take a look.
Linkara: Sooo, yeah, the Pokémon really do just... sit there all day, staring out at a world they cannot interact with. What the hell?
Linkara (v/o): Prof. Oak enters, and seeing Red holding the Bulbasaur ball, calls him a thief. In the confusion, Red falls backwards onto some controls.
Professor Oak: No! You idiot!!
Linkara: Professor Oak just called a main character in Pokémon an idiot. Maybe all those ROM hacks and fan games are right when they make him swear and stuff.
Linkara (v/o): Whatever Red touched causes all the Pokéballs in the lab to open up.
Linkara: Why the hell do you even have a button that would do that?
Linkara (v/o): Quick to escape this hellish existence Prof. Oak puts them in, the Pokémon all go running or flying off. A Pidgey even pooping on Prof. Oak's face for good measure!
Linkara: (singing) You teach me, and I'll teach you! Pokémon!
Linkara (v/o): Some time later, they've managed to recover most of the escaped Pokémon, but some of them managed to flee the lab altogether. The two head out after them with Professor Oak on what appears to be a bike for someone much younger than him. And considering Red is able to to keep up with him while he travels, it's probably not a very fast bike.
Linkara: The irony of this does not escape me, but...Professor Oak? This isn't the time to use that!
Linkara (v/o): They pursue the escaped Pokémon all the way to Viridian City, which, hey, the only other media to depict how short a time it takes to traverse Route 1. But yeah, the last one they need to get is Bulbasaur, which they chase all the way to the abandoned Viridian City gym. Inside, there's even a bust of a short-haired fellow, who I'm sure has no significance whatsoever to events. Professor Oak tries to get the Bulbasaur to come back to him, but it uses Tackle. It's... not super-effective, since Normal type moves are not super-effective against anything, but it does crush Prof. Oak's insides, so it is effective, at least. However, Red does a much better job of earning its trust.
Red: Of course you're nervous. It's the first time you've been outside! You were kept separate from the others in the Poké lab, weren't you? I'll bet you've never seen another living thing besides the old Prof, huh?
Linkara: Well, when you put it like that... it's even more messed up!! What the hell, Professor?!?
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, Bulbasaur is pacified... aaand then a wild Machoke appears!
(Cut yet again to Ash in the anime)
Ash: (slowly, with the camera zooming in on his face) Wonder... Pokémon... is!
(Cut back to the manga)
Linkara (v/o): It is apt that it's a wild Machoke, since I guess its natural environment would be a gym. Red, I think you're gonna need to re-evaluate your "they only live in forests and lakes" theory with this new data. You know, assuming it doesn't break your back and make you hanbo. Professor Oak is knocked out, but Red manages to evade getting hit thanks to Bulbasaur using Vine Whip on the Machoke. Red realizes that light is streaming in from outside, and thus opens a window right on Bulbasaur, allowing it to use Solar Beam on it. And I guess it scores a critical hit or something, since the Solar Beam knocks out Machoke, meaning Bulbasaur is now the heavyweight champion and gets Machoke's wrestling belt.
(Cut to Bone Button, with the Pokémon Wrestling League logo in the screen's bottom right corner)
Bone Button: (growling) Bulbasaur! You ain't gonna be seeing any more sun, brother, when Bone Button buries you at Lavender Town Arena!!! (growls while flexing his muscles)
(Back to the manga again)
Linkara (v/o): When Oak recovers, he asks Red how he knew about Bulbasaur's Solar Beam.
Red: Nah. But I figured...you know...plants turn sunlight into energy, and this guy has a plant on its back, so...
Linkara: Of course! Bulbasaur could've just used photosynthesis and not done anything else! Brilliant strategy, Red!
(Cut to the obligatory clip of the title character in Patton)
General Patton (George C. Scott): (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK!
(Cut back to the manga)
Linkara (v/o): Oak gets a good laugh at that and later gives Bulbasaur's Pokéball to him, since the starter has taken a liking to him. Red explains the real reason he came to the lab: to learn how to be a better trainer and to ask about the strange Pokémon he saw.
Professor Oak: I see... But do you know what it takes to be great?
Linkara: (as Prof. Oak) Performance-enhancing drugs! Here's an HP-up for Bulbasaur!
Professor Oak: Does it mean using a lot of clever tricks? Does it mean having a Poké powerhouse in your arsenal?
Linkara: (as Prof. Oak) No. It's about having perfect I.V. stats after having bred, like, 4,000 of the things!
Professor Oak: If you think so...you're wrong. What counts is what's in your heart!
Linkara: (as Prof. Oak) Your blood! Pokémon feed off your blood and get more powerful!
Professor Oak: That connection you had with the Bulbasaur...that feeling from deep within is the key to becoming a great Pokémon trainer.
Linkara: (as Prof. Oak) Although that feeling might also be a heart attack. Better watch out for that.
Linkara (v/o): The Professor also hands over a Pokédex to him.
Professor Oak: This is a Pokédex...an encyclopedia of Pokémon. Whenever you meet a new Pokémon, enter your data here. By the time you've input all our Pokémon data, you may well have become one of the truly great trainers.
Linkara: (as Red, looking at Pokédex) Wait, if it's an encyclopedia, why am I entering data into it? (as Prof. Oak) Well, because (makes "air quotes") "encyclopedia" marketed a lot better than "glorified journal".
Linkara (v/o): And so, our manga ends with Red beginning his journey, thinking he could indeed become one of the greats.
Linkara: Or he could end up sequestered on the top of a mountain. Or service the whims of thousands of voices telling him to bump into walls. (holds up manga) In any event, this manga is great.
Linkara (v/o): Both chapters are short and basic, but they get the point across well. Having a connection to your Pokémon is more important than physical strength. Introducing the technology of the world and creating a likable protagonist in Red, who's a bit arrogant while not being annoyingly idiotic about it. It also sets up the long-term story down the line involving Mew and Team Rocket. I think it does well to introduce people to Pokémon, and if anyone was interested in getting into the franchise without necessarily play a game first, "Pokémon Adventures" would be a great first step into it. Pokémon has stood the test of time these last twenty years because of its ease of entry, its solid themes of friendship and collecting, and just some really cool mythology and mystique to its world. Whether you started into it in the early days or even the most recent games, it's just a fun part of both our childhood and our adulthood. Or, in the case of Ash Ketchum, his eternal childhood.
Linkara: Next time, we stick around for more anniversaries of a Japanese franchise as a Patreon request gets us to look at the first five episodes of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.
(End credits roll)
The only explanation I can think of for a button to open all the pokéballs would be to save them in the event of a fire, but then maybe it shouldn't be something one can hit by accident?
Some could argue that a pokéball is a form of mind control over the Pokémon, but then they should never be able to disobey.
(Stinger: Red holding the Pokédex is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): Gotta love mid-'90s technology. The Pokédex is as big as an iPad and four times as thick.