Friday, December 1

Pokémon Adventures Vol.1 Review

Written by Hidenori Kusaka
Art by Mato
Published by VIZ Media, LLC, San Francisco, CA (2009)
ISBN: 978-1-4215-3054-3

Most people know Pokémon from either the massively successful video games or the anime on TV. Some may even know it from the collectable card game that has started to increase in popularity recently. What is less well known are the manga series based around the story of the games. Pokémon Adventures are the most popular and loyal retelling of the video game story. I’ve been a fan of Pokémon since I was a kid in the 90’s but I’ve never read the manga until now. I was pleasantly surprised with it. Now I’m not really one for manga, in fact, I think this might be the first time I’ve really been invested in one. I want to mention this so that you’re aware of my preexisting knowledge of tropes and cliches in the medium. I’m reading these as a fan of the games primarily with almost no experience with manga. So, let’s continue.

The story begins with young Pokémon trainer Red showing the local kids of Pallet town how to catch a wild Nidorino. They quickly inform Red of Professor Oak’s return to the town with his grandson, Blue, who is also a talented trainer. Red shrugs off the advice to go and talk to the professor before bumping into a Team Rocket grunt hunting for Mew in the nearby woods. Red decides to explore the woods himself hoping to capture the rare Pokémon. He finds Blue fighting the Mew. Red jumps in with his Poliwhirl but is quickly defeated by the legendary Pokémon. This is where the manga begins to deviate from the story of the game. The player is never able to have an encounter with Mew without using cheats or glitches during the Red and Blue games. After this defeat Red is disheartened and so decides to talk to Professor Oak. He ends up accidentally releasing all of the professor’s Pokémon and has to help recapture them. After Oak witnesses the natural kindness Red shows towards Pokémon he decides to give him a Pokédex. This is where the manga realigns with the game’s story. Oak tasks both Red and Blue with finding all Pokémon and cataloguing them in the Pokédex.

While the first volume of the manga follows Red from Pallet town to the spooky Lavender town it doesn’t cover the whole of the story from the first generation. We get to see him take on 2 gym leaders, Brock, and Misty. The story is very obviously the same as the game but at the same time isn’t afraid to do its own thing. I love this as it makes the story feel both relatable and unique.

I’ve heard a lot of people online play up how much darker the tone of the manga is when compared to both the games and anime. This is true but it’s still obviously aimed at younger audiences. I don’t think any children reading this for the first time would be disturbed by it. That being said it is cool seeing things like undead zombie Pokémon. Death is mentioned a lot more than it is in the games or anime. I like this. Death is a real thing that both kids and adults struggle to deal with. This interpretation of the classic Kanto story not ignoring death while also not focusing on it feels like a good way for younger readers to become more comfortable with the topic.

The biggest difference I noticed from the games during the this first volume is various Gym Leader’s involvement with Team Rocket. So far both Lt Surge, the electric type gym leader, and Koga, the poison type gym leader, seem to be connected to the criminal organisation. I’m very interested to see how this affects upcoming events in the next couple of volumes! This change affects the story around the ghost haunting the Pokémon tower cemetery in Lavender town. In the games a ghostly Marowak is haunting the tower due to being separated from its child, Cubone, by Team Rocket. I don’t want to spoil the manga, but I will just say that the ghost is instead a ghost-type Pokémon being used by Team Rocket. I’ll be honest, this might be the one part of the manga I wished had gone differently. I love the story of the dead Marowak unable to pass on until it knows that its child cubone is safe. It does a lot to show the very real pain and damage that Team Rocket is inflicting on the world and Pokémon around them. The manga’s version of events just feels like another challenge for Red and Blue to overcome.

Lastly, I’d like to mention how much I love the art style for this manga. As I mentioned in my introduction, I’m new to manga but I’m very familiar with comic books. This art style is very different but in a way that felt very enjoyable. It’s much cuter than any Marvel comic I’ve read, and it really suits the world of Pokémon. Artist Mato seems to have perfectly captured the style and charm of Ken Sugimori’s original artwork for the first generation. Yet, when he needs to be, his artwork is bold and shocking. It’s even scary at times. I wish that it could have been in full colour similar to comic book and graphic novel art. That is honestly my only complaint about the artwork and it’s a small one. This is a gorgeous looking story.

Overall, I loved this volume of the manga so much that I’ve already ordered the next two volumes. If you’re a fan of the Kanto games, or the Indigo League of the anime, then you really should give this manga a read. It’s an amazing retelling of this classic Pokémon adventure that’s different enough to feel fresh and exciting all over again!


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