Some of you may or may not know this fact: I’m a giant Pokemon fan. Big, big fan, this guy is. My first video game I ever played back when I was 4 or 5 was Pokemon Diamond. Ever since then, I’ve been a fan, and I’ve played every game that has come out.
I’ve also seen quite a few of the anime series as well. All of gen 1-3, most of 4, and almost all of 5-7. I’ve also played many of the spin-off games, some better than others. Point is, I love Pokemon, and I’ve seen many different takes on the series.
But there’s one take that has illuded me for a long time. One very famous take on the series that a whole lot of fans love. That’s the Pokemon Adventures manga series.
So why is this so unique? Because you probably know that there’s a pretty big disconnect between the games and the anime. In each game, you take the role as one of the blank slate characters you can choose from. In the anime, it’s always Ash, the immortal 10-year-old.
I’m not as much of an Ash hater as some, but I do admit, I’m kind of sick of seeing the guy all the time. Well, all the way back in 1997, it seems like this was addressed. Pokemon Adventures is heavily based on the games, so much so that the main characters are actually the characters from the games. AKA, not Ash. This was risky.
Love him or hate him, Ash brings something new to the table. You watch the anime, you get a new yet similar experience to the game. It’s still fresh. By basing the manga more on the games, you have the risk of it being boring, not to mention working with the blank slate protagonists of the games could be a little tricky. But you already know why I’m writing this, don’t you?
I cannot stress enough to you how good this manga is. Pokemon Adventures (at least gen 1) is absolutely fantastic, and as a Pokemon fan for my entire life, just reading it makes me giddy.
There are many reasons for this, but if I had to say one reason above all else, it’s that’s it’s just so, so refreshing. It breathes a breath of fresh air into a franchise that has been pretty stale for a long time. That’s particularly great for gen 1. The generation that has been done to death about a million times. I was actually excited to see the story of Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow again. If that doesn’t tell you how much life was breathed into the Kanto region, I don’t know what will.
Let’s start with some of the smaller things the manga does. It follows (for volumes 1-4) the journey of Red, the protagonist of…Pokemon Red or Blue, and his rival is Blue, who many know as Gary from the anime. Yeah, the anime kinda screwed with the lore. Red is Ash if he was cooler, and Blue is just Gary.
Initially, the manga doesn’t do anything crazy. It starts with Red, and just like Ash, his last name seems to be “From Pallet Town.” Quickly, though, you learn that the manga, while heavily based on the game, isn’t afraid to step out of line.
Red’s first pokemon is not a starter or Pikachu. He starts with a Poliwhirl of all things. Red is not a new trainer. He is an already established and skilled trainer. Yes, he grabs a Bulbasaur and a Pikachu pretty early on, but they are far from generic.
Completely unlike the game, most of Red’s pokemon have personalities. Pikachu, for instance, absolutely bleeds it and is superior to anime Pikachu in almost every possible way, I hate to say. I don’t think this Pika would have lost to a Snivy, we’ll say that.
Red’s relationship with Pikachu is really just a taste of what’s to come. Despite being a story about a trainer from Pallet Town who is close to a strong Pikachu, Pokemon Adventures is infinitely different from everything else. Despite being based on the game with main characters named after them, Pokemon Adventures is its own thing.
Pokemon Adventures, for one, sheds a lot of interesting light on questions from the series. What happens when a Pokemon is in their Pokeball? Well, they just shrink down and wait, awake the entire time. How do the badges control pokemon? How do trainers know what moves their pokemon have? What about their levels? It shows us the game side of pokemon that the anime tried to ditch almost completely and did it in a way that doesn’t feel weird at all. It’s impressive.
But of all of the little details Adventures get right, it’s the big stuff that really sells it. It has a fantastic story. Yes, I’m referring to Pokemon, the series that is often “friendship trumps all,” as having a good story. Adventures is something, let me tell you.
Let’s start with the most baffling decision. Adventures wondered what would happen if you took the friendly gym leaders and turned half of them (including all of the Elite Four) Evil. Yup. Koga, Sabrina, and Lt Surge are all members of Team Rocket. Lance straight up murders people with his pokemon. Bruno has his Hitmonlee full power kick Red in the chest. They’re brutal.
Rather than the story being about some kid trying to collect badges in this sweet coming of age story, it becomes an intense struggle where the strongest trainers in the region are trying to destroy the world and claim ultimate power, killing all who oppose them, genetically modifying pokemon along the way.
If you couldn’t tell, Pokemon Adventures doesn’t pull any punches. See that image above? Yeah, that’s a dead zombie pokemon getting cut up in Lavender Town. Yeah, you thought the ghost Marowak was bad? Adventures will give you nightmares then.
Pokemon don’t just feel like friends in Adventures. They feel like actual monsters. Wild Pokemon attempting to kill Red and other people is a common occurrence. Hell, trainers commanding their own pokemon to attack people is common. That’s how half the battles with the Elite Four and gym leaders go. Bashing through their pokemon to knock the trainer out. This is no friendly game. We don’t shake hands at the end, believe me!
It’s an entirely new twist on gen 1. It has the general flow of the games. Red still collects badges and fights the elite four, but the stakes are so much higher. We’re treated to stuff we would never see in the game or anime. One of my favorite parts is when the gang fights Bruno on top of an Onix above a pit of acid, or lava, something you don’t want to fall in as they both try to kill each other. Good old Pokemon.
Adventures doesn’t only put a twist on the Pokemon formula, though. It’s not afraid to introduce brand new characters. Added in with the famous Red and Blue, we also get to meet Yellow and Green.
Green is the female lead of Adventures and adds a lot to the story. She’s smart, cunning, adds a lot of funny moments to the story, and is all-around one of the most interesting characters in the story. She’s a big part of Adventures but has ventured into the games a bit as well. In the post-game of Let’s Go, that’s Green from Adventures, complete with most of her pokemon from the manga. Why? Beats me, but it’s cool.
The bigger addition is the protagonist of volumes 5-7, Yellow. This is Adventures take on, you guessed it, Pokemon Yellow. But rather than having a new story begin, it’s tied into the previous volumes. Something Adventures is good at in general. It’s all connected.
Red is assumed to be dead after a fight with Bruno, and Pikachu was the only one who could escape. Along the way back to Oak, Pikachu stumbles across a young trainer in Veridian Forest, Yellow. Yellow dislikes battling and always finds ways to win without harming anyone’s pokemon and starts a journey to reunite Red and Pikachu.
Already interesting, but even more so when you add that Yellow and Lance are two trainers that can read the minds of pokemon and a whole bunch of lore about them being from Veridian forest. It all becomes so much more than just some 10-year-old collecting badges.
I could go on endlessly about why Pokemon Adventures is so good, but all you need to know is that you should read it. If you’re a fan of Pokemon, you’ll adore it. If you aren’t a fan of pokemon, Adventures may just be the thing that changes your mind.
It’s like a love letter to what Pokemon is and at the same time a complete shift from the formula without losing what makes Pokemon Pokemon. It tries to do so much and succeeds in pretty much every way. The best thing I can say is what I heard from some random comment somewhere. Pokemon Adventures is what the anime should have been. I honestly can’t disagree.
Thank you very much for reading
Just go read it, and if you have already, why do you think it’s good? There’s a lot of reasons, really.