Wednesday, December 27

Pokémon Adventures Vol.2 Review

 Written by Hidenori Kusaka
Art by Mato
Published by VIZ Media, LLC, San Francisco, CA (2009)
ISBN: 978-1-4215-3055-0

The Pokémon Adventures manga roughly retell the story from the classic Pokémon Gameboy games from the late 90’s. Volume 1-3 of this manga cover the story from the games Pokémon Red, and Blue, in the West and in Japan Pokémon, Green, and Blue. Adventures Volume 2 picks up right from where the first one left off. Red, a young hot-headed Pokémon trainer from Pallet town has left on an adventure to complete the Pokédex given to him by Professor Oak. Fellow Pokémon trainer, and personal rival to Red, Blue is also on the same mission.

We open with the 15th chapter of the story introducing us to the trainer known as Green. She is not endorsed by Professor Oak like Red and Blue are. In fact, we learn that she broke into Oak’s lab and stole the third starter Pokémon, Squirtle. That sums up Green’s character pretty well. She is a con-woman, and grifter, that uses her charm and smarts to trick those around her into scams that benefit her personally. Her main motivation isn’t the Pokédex, it’s making cold hard cash. She’s an interesting character and I’m looking forward to seeing where her character goes. Unlike Red, and Blue, she’s not in the original game’s story which makes her journey fresh to players of the games like me. It’s a wonderful feeling not knowing what happens to a new character in a story I know rather well from the original games, and both of its remakes.

Then we have Team Rocket that continue to run amok across all of Kanto. We’re introduced to the head of this villainous organisation, Giovanni. Once again one of the gym leaders from the Red and Blue games has had their story changed so that they are now connected to Team Rocket. This time it’s the Psychic type gym leader, Sabrina, that’s in league with them. I really like this change to the story as it allows Team Rocket to feel more threatening knowing they have some of the strongest trainers in the region among their ranks. The clone Pokémon MewTwo has escaped leaving Team Rocket to hunt down other legendary Pokémon. Of course, Red gets caught up in the middle of this. He has to go up against 2 of the legendary bird Pokémon and this was a real treat to read. I’ve always felt that these powerful birds were underused in the games. They felt like they were dumped in random locations, waiting for the player to come along to capture them. Now they have a proper place within the wider narrative.

If you will allow me to gush about another aspect of this manga that I’m really enjoying. The art and presentation. It’s simply fantastic. I love the expressiveness of everything. The battles feel energetic, Team Rocket feel brutal, and the Pokémon feel cute. While you’re in the middle of a chapter this manga is a pleasure to read. It’s honestly just a pure treat for the eyes. Seeing Kanto and it’s connected story, lore, characters, and Pokémon brought to life in such a wonderful way is a real treat for a fan such as myself.

Sadly, this fantastic quality isn’t consistent across the entire volume. The biggest problem is how unconnected certain chapters feel from each other. Red will leave one location and then the next chapter will begin with him somewhere else with no narrative bridge. This becomes even more of an issue if you’re familiar with the Kanto region from the generation 1 games. This is because Red will just teleport around the map in ways that don’t make a lot of sense. For example, chapter 20 ends with Red leaving Celadon City, then chapter 21 begins with him in the Safari zone. To get from one place to the other Red would have had to have travelled south through Vermillion City all the way along the coast, and then through Fuchsia City. It gets worse when chapter 22 ends with him leaving the Safari zone and chapter 23 begins with him leaving Diglett’s cave in Pewter City all the way in the North of the region. Then chapter 24 begins with Red diving for HM’s off the coast of Fuchsia City in the South. This would mean that Red jumped from one side of the region to the other, twice. It makes the story feel really disjointed and sporadic. With any fictional world it’s important that it feels believable and grounded in its own logic. The geography of Kanto feels broken and that harms the rest of this story. Each of these volumes have a map of Kanto at the back of them. Red’s journey through each volume is tracked on this map. During the first book this was a solid line that made a lot of sense. When you look at it in this second volume it’s just a mess that’s hard to read. Nothing brings home the point I’m trying to make better than this.

Ultimately while the first volume was an absolute pleasure to read, I found that the quality of the second volume was diminished. It’s still a fun reimagining of the original Kanto story. The changing about of certain gym leaders’ allegiances has also gone a long way to improving the narrative. The art is as great as it was in the last volume. It’s a shame that Red’s nonsense journey across Kanto ruins that experience. Suddenly what was a wonderfully fleshed out interpretation of a classic video game story starts to fall apart into unconnected adventures happening at random across the Kanto map. Still a fun read for the new characters such as Green, and the amazing art, but a disappointing reduction in quality from the last volume.


No comments:

Post a Comment