Anime review: Pokémon: The Origin

Since the Pokémon franchise first debuted, its anime and video game incarnations have followed very different presentations. While the anime focused and the friendship Ash, his Pokémon, and traveling companions shared, the video games exuded more of a sense of adventure and strategy, as players discovered more and more Pokémon of varying types that might better counter opponents. However, with Pokémon X and Y just around the corner, a new Pokémon anime emerged, paying homage to the original Red and Green Gameboy releases (or Red and Blue, as they were known in North America). This four episode special, known as Pokémon: The Origin, follows the original games almost exactly as they played out, with a brief new addition at the end tying into the upcoming sixth generation 3DS games and the Mega Evolutions set to debut therein.

Red and Green, childhood rivals, are called upon by Green’s grandfather Professor Oak to choose a partner Pokémon and scour the Kanto region for any and all wild Pokémon they can find in order to complete the Pokédex. Red picks Charmander as his starter as its colors pay tribute to the name his parents gave him, while Green selects Squirtle due to its typing advantages over Charmander. The two set off on the same path, though they have notably different ideals in mind – Green wants to become the greatest trainer ever, while Red wants to learn as much as he can about Pokémon and see Professor Oak’s request through to completion.

Each episode of Pokémon: The Origin presents a play-by-play sequence of events like gym battles and wild encounters that – while important to Red’s journey and his development as a character – are not the core focus of any of the four episodes. The first episode sets the stage for Red and Green’s journey, and ends shortly after Red defeats Brock – one of the few gym or trainer battles that is presented in full detail. Episode two deals with the ghost that haunts Lavender Town, Old Man Fuji’s Pokémon orphanage, and the nefarious deeds of Team Rocket. Episode three focuses on Red confronting Team Rocket’s leader and completing the Kanto league, and of course the final episode sees Red and Green face off one last time for the title of league champion after besting the Elite Four.

Where The Origin deviates a little from the canon of the Gameboy titles is after Red has caught the 149 known Pokémon and then goes out of his way to seek out the mysterious and powerful Mewtwo. While Mewtwo is still encountered in the same location he is in the games, Red relies on a Mega Evolution for Charizard to defeat it, providing a quick (though not excessively forced) nod to Pokémon X and Y. The Gameboy ‘save’ and ‘load’ screens that act as bookends to each episode are a cute throwback, while the reorchestrations of classic Pokémon tunes sound phenomenal. Pokémon: The Origin is short, sweet, and very much a direct adaptation of the plot of the Gameboy games, yet it manages to convey a more human and engaging tale in four episodes than the 800+ episodes that Ash and friends have spent retreading the same simplistic challenges.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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