Pokemon was born out of Satoshi Tajiri’s love for catching bugs with a net, and has since become a massive world-wide phenomenon that reached every corner of the globe. It spread like a contagious disease making young kids (and even adults alike) cry out brilliant lines at their GameBoy screens like: “Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!” or memorizing very useful data like the Strength of a level 13 Bulbasaur. This fad was seemingly here to stay. Unfortunately, those happy times are long over, and those same kids who knew the evolution of a Psyduck, when they couldn’t even remember all 50 states of their own country, left Pokemon in the dust. However, the impact that it once had can still be felt on the still ongoing anime series that has more than 600 episodes.
Story: (3/10) With a surprisingly simplistic plot, this show captured the attention of kids all ages, which left many people scratching their heads. How can such a depthless show such as Pokemon have so many fans with a superficial plot like that? Addiction? Loyalty to the games? Affinity to furry creatures? Perhaps, but the Pokemon anime had one thing going for it – enjoyable humor. With hilarious three-dimensional villains, a likeable cast of main heroes, a plot that was simple, but fun, exciting battles and a large ensemble of cute mascots and even a reference to Revolutionary Girl Utena in episode 28 named ‘Pokemon Fashion Flash’, this show seemed like a winner.
What went wrong then?
Its popularity, of course. Other anime have been ruined by it like Inuyasha and Dragon Ball Z, but the complete destruction of an anime thanks to its fans was even more evident here. What used to be a fun kid’s show that didn’t underestimate the intelligence of its viewers, became boring drivel of pure yawn-inducing morals only fit for little children under five; its flawed, yet amiable characters, transformed into these bland cardboard cut-outs whose only purpose was to smile dully at the camera and shout needlessly at Team Rocket every time they saw them (in other words, every episode); the dumb, but funny jokes got even lamer, and the prominence of new Pokemon took the spotlight from the human characters, and turned this show into an utter slop. Game after game – season after season, Pokemon became this endless cycle of irrelevant side-plots that constituted of Ash, Misty and Brock helping vapid trainers who had the ‘Pokemon-of-the-day’.
Pokemon tried to bring all its former glory with the Advanced Season, where everything was fresh and new and included the addition of two new characters – May and Max to the main group. But after viewers endured more than hundreds of fillers, this was not the kind welcome its producers expected.
Characters: (5.5/10) There are many character archetypes here: You have the reckless, but determined hero (Ash), the tomboyish, but sensitive girl (Misty), the perverted mentor (Brock), and the cute, stock mascot (Pikachu). You've seen them all in countless series, and are nothing special. But, for those who grew up watching this series, Pokemon's characters still hold a special place in one's heart because of their likeability.
The 'villains' here have more personality than the above (especially James - he's shamelessly flamboyant, loves art and dance, and has a great fashion sense), but they're not ground-breaking or entirely original. There are many other characters in this show, but they're so unremarkable that they don't even deserve a mention.
Animation: (5/10) I won't spare any words - Pokemon's animation is nothing short of terrible. It has reused backgrounds, repeated footage, unrefined character designs, and more still shots that you can choke at. The animation score is 'high' as it is because the designs of the original 150 Pokemon were brimming with creativity, and they're still undeniable icons that even people who don't know about the show still recognize to this day.
Sound: (7/10) While the dub is nothing outstanding (except for James' voice - he's hilarious), it's still bearable. As for the japanese version, Ash - or Satoshi, if you will - has a female seiyuu, Matsumoto Rika, who does an exceptional job. Though Misty's (Kasumi's) voice is shrill and annoying, and Team Rocket are nothing amazing, the original voices are quite good.
While you may not like the English openings (though you cannot deny that the first opening can stick to your mind for days on end), the Japanese ones are excellent: 'Mesaze Pokemon Master', 'Ok!' and 'Ready Go!' are all great.
Overall: (5/10) For critics and fans of the show I have one thing to say - accept Pokemon for what it is. It's a childish, cheesy, and silly show full of exaggeratedly haughty morals with no concrete plot, and yet, a good anime for kids. It's also a classic - it was the first anime to launch the whole monster-capturing concept.
Just ignore the obvious money-making aim that the whole show has, instead of being solely an innocent children’s show.
You’ll like Pokemon more that way.