Posted by psgels on 8 October 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. Pokemon was the first anime that I watched on Dutch television that made me aware of the existance of anime. Pokemon Yellow was the game that had me hooked, more than any other game when I was younger. So yeah, I am a fan, Pokemon holds an irreplaceable part in my childhood. And biased.

Here’s the interesting bit about this OVA: it’s got so many things that the television-series did really badly. And yet at the same time, it’s got some huge flaws that the TV-series was better at.

Let me start with the positives: finally, after more than a decade of pokemon, we’ve got it: a Pokemon anime without Ash. Team Rocket is present, but Jesse, James and Meowth are completely gone. in fact, the only regular characters who do return are Giovanni, Professor Oak, and Brock and Misty as Gym Leaders. This is what I’ve been waiting for: the pokemon universe is open to so many different stories and interpretations, so it sucks that it always has to be the same thing. I gave up on it years ago for a reason.

Next up: the length. At four episodes of just 20 minutes, finally Pokemon has come in bite-size chunks. The TV-series was absolutely notorious for wasting time, for running for way too long and including so many pointless stories that dilluted the experience. In these four episodes the creators picked the best parts of the game and brought that to animation.

All of the characters, in terms of acting at least improved from what we’ve seen of them: Giovanni actually has a personality, Brock stopped being the womanizer and now is just a gym leader, and all of the pokemon stopped trying to look and sound cute. They behave much more like animals. Heck, there was one brief appearance of Pikachu, and somehow the creators managed to give it mouse noises. That is one thing that I did not expect them to get past the marketing machine.

Now, the bad stuff: you obviously can’t stuff one entire game in four episodes. The solution of the creators is to have Red recap the things that happened off-screen. Great for fans of the game, but anyone not familiar will just scratch their head, wondering what the hell is going on. The only single reason I tolerate this is because it’s pokemon: any other show attempting this would have not worked at all. Adaptations need to stand alone, not give the message of “you need to check out the game/manga/whatever if you want the complete story”.

What also stood out was that this OVA became quite a good example of the difference in adaptations between today and fifteen years ago: adaptations today follow much closer to their original source material. On one hand this creates less obnoxious filler, but on the other hand this also limits the creators when they take over something stupid, or something that doesn’t work. This stands out especially in game adaptations.

There’s something bizarre in the entire game meta being visible in these OVAs, like pokemon have life bars now, they talk about level. People hand out sics with moves on them. Oh, and the battles themselves also become really weird because of this where the main focus is adhering to the game rules, rather than common sense. Take the fight against Brock for example: oh yeah, it may follow the game’s rules and all, but what we saw there was the equivalent of a big tank being drop-kicked by a hamster. Pikachu’s victory against the Onyx actually made sense. You can give the original series a lot of flack, but at least they looked at the different powers and used their heads, whereas in The Origins you have a Charizard whose tail keeps burning even when he’s underwater.

The characters also really suffered, and the creators I think made the explicit decision not to flesh them out or give them much depth. They get all their depth from the nostalgia with the games. This worked particularly strange with Giovanni, who behaves really weird throughout the parts he’s featured in. Heck, he loses to a kid and just abolishes his entire organization, even though losing to a kid just a few minutes earlier did nothing to him. But yeah, this entive OVA fails to make any ounce of sense. The original series has more logic in it than what we saw here.

But here’s the thing: When I first learned of this OVA, I imagined that it would be this big budgetted OVA, or at least something really solid. This was everything but solid, and the animation budget in particular wasn’t that impressive. This leads me to believe that this was a simple experiment: a test to see whether it’s worth it to also cater to the older fans of Pokemon. A pilot, if you will. And that idea, I really support.

Pokemon deserves to have some stories in it that target a different demographic than the usual kids. There are plenty of adult players who would like to see a more mature storyline animated, I would definitely see a market for that. For future experiments, I would really suggest: try sometihng standalone. Don’t depend on the games. Make sense. Take yourself seriously. Have a main character who isn’t a kid. I know that the last point is really stretching it, but hey you made Pikachu talk like a mouse, so apparently you do have freedom.
One-Sentence Review: A nostalgia bomb and not much more; do not watch if you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green.
Suggestions:
– Pokemon, The Indigo League Season

17 Responses

  1. Avatar Juno says:

    Your review sounds like everything I said on the ShoutBox to Emma. XD
    I don’t think I could agree anymore or any less (well, my problem wasn’t just that Sakaki/Giovanni lost to Red and disbanded the group without a second thought, but that he started to call the battle great when he was kicking Red’s butt. Takeshi/Brock did the same thing… lol). It was made for nostalgia and to entice older fans who have stuck with the series until now, and to that extent, they succeeded wholeheartedly.
    So now I’m curious. What did you think of the Mega Stone and Mega Lizardon X/Mega Charizard X reveal? Like, had you seen it beforehand or… was this your first time? And what do you think of it being in The Origin?

    • psgels psgels says:

      Sorry, I have trouble keeping up with the shoutbox nowadays, due to the huge amount of stuff that’s being said there. XD

      I had heard of the mega evolutions beforehand, and I saw some comments floating around on the internet that they would feature in the Origin somehow, and yeah, it pretty much popped up where you’d expect it.

      Whether it belongs in the Origin: it entirely depends on what happened to those stones after Charizard’s evolution: if they just disappeared and Red just became a hermit afterwards, then it fits in the whole canon of the story: after all Ash saw a Ho-oh on his first day, which wasn’t supposed to exist, and if we just assume that at that time, those evolution stones were incredibly rare and mysterious, then it does fit somehow. But they were better off keeping them off, but I guess that it’s a neccessary evil as a commercial for the upcoming games.

      I do get behind the concept of Mega evolutions by the way. They’re something new for the pokemon games, which have been treading the safe path way too much.The question now is whether it will work: are the different mega evolutions creative enough?

      • Avatar Juno says:

        From what we know, Mega Stones are just items your Pokemon hold at the beginning of the battle to transform into their Mega evolution. At the end of the battle, they revert back to their normal form. As evident in The Origin, the wristband the protagonist wears in X/Y holds a Key Stone, which, when the Pokemon holding the Mega Stone and the trainer’s bond is strong, allows the Pokemon to evolve. The stone doesn’t go away or anything, so it can be used at will.

        Canon-wise, this obviously strayed a bit from the games, but only for the extra content that wasn’t a part of the storyline. We don’t know when X and Y take place in the Pokemon game timeline, but I don’t think that was a concern for the animators here. In the end, Pokemon is a product-based franchise, so this is only one interpretation of the world and game events, which intentionally coincide with X and Y.

        The “twist” with the Mega Charizard X only really works, I suppose, if you had been following the recent Pokemon news. Up to then, most of the revealed Mega Evolutions had one version, with Mewtwo as the only exception. Mega Mewtwo X had been revealed not too long ago, renaming the previous Mega Mewtwo to “Mega Mewtwo Y.” Those who were watching it live and expecting Charizard to Mega Evolve into Mega Charizard were shocked to find out… it wasn’t the Mega Charizard we knew. Thus, “Mega Charizard Y” and “Mega Charizard X.” Even more shocking, it turned black, which is the color a “shiny” Charizard is supposed to be (“shiny” Pokemon are really REALLY rare in the games. Your chance of finding one is about 1/8000-something. They don’t even have special stats or anything, but some Pokemon look really cool, including Charizard). Thus, most peoples’ reactions were “It turned Shiny!?” before they thought, “Wait… This doesn’t even look like Mega Charizard!”

        ‘Tis a shame that the whole point of that reveal ended up being lost on you… but at least, now you know why they added it in. =P

        • Avatar Juno says:

          Oh, but me and Emma did discuss one thing that would probably crush all of what everyone here wants out of a Pokemon anime… maybe. Pokemon anime are nothing but advertisements for the games and cards and the franchise as a whole. They don’t make money off of it (and frankly, they wouldn’t, even if they made something for older fans). That said, this and the Black/White 2 and Mystery Dungeon trailers were passion projects. They did it because they wanted to and do have the passion for this kind of stuff. They just can’t waste too much of a budget on them, so they’re limited. If we want more of it, we have to put our money where our mouth is. Otherwise, it’ll be determined pointless budget-spending and they’ll use that money somewhere else next time…

  2. Avatar gedata says:

    “Take yourself seriously. Have a main character who isn’t a kid. I know that the last point is really stretching it, but hey you made Pikachu talk like a mouse, so apparently you do have freedom”

    Isn’t this the closest Pokemon’s ever go to that?
    http://www.gamefaqs.com/gamecube/914973-pokemon-colosseumOf course it’s still just a game…

  3. Avatar Emma-hime says:

    In addition to agreeing with this review and Juno, along with the general consensus on this special I should add that forgot to add my reaction/thoughts on the megastone thing. I’ve not had time for games in the past couple of years so I’ve missed out on some later pokemon games after gold and silver and have pidgeon knowledge of the later ones. I’d know about the mega thing but I was seeing it properly for the first time here so particularly because it was from a future instalment and made its way into an adaptation of the older games it threw me for a loop.

  4. Avatar Emma-hime says:

    I would like to say one thing about the victory against Brock in the main anime though, that to me while logical and I agree with made sense also reeked of a lucky win. Whereas in the game fighting Brock with a charmander early on would never be that convenient.

  5. Avatar Firechick says:

    Hey Psgels. If you’re interested, read the manga Pokemon Special (or Pokemon Adventures). It has great, developed characters, and Pokemon that act like intelligent animals, and there’s always new adventures every arc. Check it out! It’s everything the anime and games should be!

  6. Avatar starry says:

    Interesting, I didn’t expect you to be reviewing this.

    I don’t think we’ll get a more “mature” story of Pokemon though, it’s fricking Pokemon and at the bottom line it’s suppose to appeal to children. It’s nice that they made this at least that can appeal towards all ages.

    I’d really like to see this fleshed out into a 12/13 episode series though, would be nice. I’d personally love to see a Pokemon Colleseum adaptation (which is somewhat more mature) but one can dream.

  7. Avatar petitorenji says:

    The plot here is so much more realistic than that of the series: the pokemon getting hurt, the relationship between characters, the technology, and the lack of repetitive BS from Team Rocket. It allowed me to go into that “suspension of disbelief” zone easier as well. The boom-boom-boom of the plot speed didn’t bother me because I knew it was a compression of probably 50+ original episodes, which means no filler, and for those who have stayed away from the series may just have enjoyed it for the ride. But the Mega-Charizard at the end was such an unexpected let-down. Ending with this deus-ex-machina hyper-mode reminded me of the many tropes that many children’s series seem cling on to. But this may be a promise to more Origins OVA episodes, running parallel with the original series. I would love a 24-ep series for the “grown-up kids.” I also didn’t understand why Red was able to summon so many pokemon against a constrained amount from the gym leaders.

  8. Avatar Ebisu says:

    Just to add one thing. About Charizard’s tail that keeps burning under water. In the original series it was clearly laid down that a Charmander whose tail stops burning dies, so the tail burning is normal. It should keep burning even under water or the poor pokemon would die.

    This is shown too when Charmander fights with Squirtle and it nearly dies because of the bite (by the way a ruthless scene, spectacular but not aimed at kids). When Red sees that his tail starts to lose flame, he knows he must retreat.

  9. Avatar Resh Lustre says:

    All i can say is that, what they made was awesome. Ive been expecting this for a long time. And i was in shock when i saw the videos in youtube! Ill let my future sons or daughter play pokemon and let em watch this. its fuckin awesome!!!! God bless the man who made it. haha it made my day, really. took all the stress away and put a gigantic smile on my effic face!!!!

  10. Avatar Resh Lustre says:

    Ill wait for your reply on my facebook account if you got something to say :) heres my account, resh lustre or heres my email add. raolustre@yahoo.com

  11. Avatar Shabbir says:

    I really liked it! I grew up with Pokemon and I stopped watching it at black and white because it was just annoying, but I gave X and Y and origins a chance and I really like them because they’re to me more realistic. Think about it the fact that trainers get hurt during battle is very realistic if you think about it. Also I likes how it’s life threatening at some moments and how not everything will be sorted out by a half a minute battle. The best part to me was the battles, it wasn’t just dumb attacks at each Pokemon it was a full on fight between two beasts or monsters whatever you wnat to call them. So yeah I don’t know why you’re being so harsh.

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