I’m not one of the many impatient Pokemon fans that have already watched the Japanese episodes of Pokemon Origins and have finished the series, but when I heard about this mini series that was going to be based on the Red and Blue Gameboy games, my elementary school self did a leap for joy on the inside.
The Pokemon anime holds a special place in my heart; every day after school I’d come home, turn to our local channel 44, grab my Pikachu stuffed animal, and watch the latest episode. As I got older, it moved to channel 20 and I’d wake up at the crack of dawn every Saturday to catch it. To be quite honest, the only reason I stopped watching it was because the original voice actors (except for Pikachu’s, of course) got replaced with people that sounded like they were doing poor imitations of what I was used to hearing for years – and yes, I was that attached and loyal to the original cast that when they left, I left too. It just wasn’t the same experience.
It’s been quite a number of years since I parted ways with the Pokemon anime, and as every batch of Pokemon that have come out have gotten, frankly, stranger, I’ve found myself missing the Pokemon from Kanto and Johto more and more. So hearing that Origins would be making a return to the roots of the series, I was thrilled to take a trip back to the Pokemon I grew up with and that any other game has yet to top.
Episode I introduces Red as the protagonist, the original trainer from Red Version, and his rival Blue. It’s hard to not compare Origins to the Kanto episodes of Pokemon, but I will say that Ash, for all of his bumbling along in the first episode (and frankly, throughout the entire series) seemed more competent on the outset of his journey than Red. Red is eager, enthusiastic, but absolutely oblivious when it comes to Pokemon; Blue, as much of an overconfident douchebag as Gary was and just as good of, if not a better, trainer, lets Red choose his Pokemon first when they get to Professor Oak’s lab. Red goes with Charmander, saying that his dad named him Red in the hope that he would have the fiery spirit of a fire Pokemon, so Gary chooses Squirtle, already understanding the advantage of types and feeling that any Pokemon he chooses he can raise to be stronger than Red’s.
Red is likable as a protagonist, albeit whiny at times, and has a realistic lack of knowledge once he begins on his journey. While Blue is focused on being the best trainer in the region, Red is more concerned with simply completing the Pokedex, in comparison to Ash, who dreams of becoming a Pokemon Master from the get-go and defeating the Elite Four. Red doesn’t even learn about badges until after his first battle with Blue; I won’t get into too much detail (don’t want to ruin it before you see it!), but I will say that battling in this series is represented much, much more realistically than in the original anime, and the Pokemon don’t say their own names, but instead make the more animalistic cries that they make in the games, though not digitized of course. And when I say it’s more realistic, that goes hand in hand with being more brutal than the original series; when Blue’s Squirtle uses Bite on Red’s Charmander, you actually see Squirtle chomp into Charmander’s face and won’t let go as they struggle. Definitely not the Pokemon we grew up with.
Red doesn’t understand the concept of type match-ups and continues to use Charmander in battle even when it’s at a distinct disadvantage; he spams Ember over and over, not taking the hint that it’s not always working, nor is Charmander ever hitting its target, until he learns the hard way in his early battles. A familiar face appears to give him some advice (again, not here to spoil too much) and train him in the knowledge he lacks, helping to build a stronger bond between Red and all of his Pokemon, and to help Red and Charmander become more in-sync in battles.
Players of the original games will be happy to see locales and Pokemon from the Red and Blue games, like Viridian City, Pallet Town, and the Pokemon we all tried our hand at the first time we set out to capture one in the wild, like Pidgey, Rattata, Caterpie, Metapod, and a handful of others that threw me right back to my childhood, and back to when I would think ruefully to myself while playing, “Another [insert one of the aforementioned Pokemon here]?!”
Quite frankly, I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen from the first episode of Pokemon Origins. It’s got the same charms and allure to attract the current generation of Pokefans that are growing up with the ongoing anime now, as well as the nostalgia and trips down memory lane that fans that grew up with the original 150 (or should I say, 151?) have been missing for a long time now. With great art, more realistic portrayals of battles, and references to things used in the games that weren’t discussed in the original anime (like TMs – which are contained on floppy drives, for that real sense of being thrown back into the 90s), I’ll be tuning in for every episode and reveling in the Pokemon of my generation. Even if it makes me a little choked up at times.