Hey little monsters, happy weekend to you all!
It’s Saturday so anything goes! Which is a perfect summary for the topic I would like to talk about. The Manga depiction of Pokémon is….different to say the least. Those who are used to the regular games and anime are in for a wild ride. Like I said before in the manga, anything goes. This series is written by Hidenori Kusaka and illustrated by Mato.
A different shade of Red
The manga starts of introducing us to red, which looks quite a bit like the game boy sprite, but not a lot like the boy we came to identify as Red. First of all, this guy has already been a Pokémon trainer. He and his pokemon Poli, the Poliwhirl are shown demonstrating how capturing pokémon works. He catches a Nidorino, just from the four opening pages of the manga you already know this story is going to be totally different. Red already has access to some two evolved mon’s after all. Or does it? Red doesn’t seem to take the Nidorino on his journey after all, once again establishing we are dealing with a different kind of beast.
Sharing his love for Pokémon with both Ash and game-R (gR after this for convenience) he is also a lot more arrogant. Seeing a mysterious trainer we know to be Blue battling a Mew he gets extremely angered when the rival withdraws his charmander to keep it safe after he realises Mew is to strong. Sending in Poli, Red gets completely destroyed. Much to his disbelief that he could possibly lose. In many ways he resembles Blue from the games more than he does gR. Yet a different protagonist is only the tip of the iceberg.
A different set of rules
I will try not to spoil too much but I will address some basic plot outlines which are fairly common knowledge. So though these won’t actually spoil the outcome of events I will name a few events. We won’t go into spoiler territory just yet though, not until the next block but warning people ahead of time seems like the nice thing to do. First we will talk about some of the rules of the series though, these are quite different from both anime and game. Biggest changes is that attacks actual DO what they should do. Slash doesn’t just do damage it rips flesh apart. A self destructing Pokémon does not faint… it gets blown to smithereens and is dead. In the anime an attack does health point damage. If a Pokémon gets hit in the face, that damaged is spread over the entire body. In the manga you can target specific body parts to blind or cripple making damage a lot more visceral. Damage matters. As a result , this leads to a somewhat secondary rule. Pokémon in the manga are a lot more throwaway. It’s by no means impossible for them to die in battle and people sort of accept it. Early in the series we see a Pokémon that looks like it fell apart. Several pieces being scattered throughout a ring. Though not confirmed it is actually dead,by everything we see later in the series, it should be. People cheer for the victor regardless that the arena now is filled with pokemon parts. Maybe that specific pokemon can survive stuff like that but later we see pokémon get cut in half and be actually dead. Their trainer just abandons it without remorse, only feeling bad about losing. Owned Pokémon can also be captured by other trainers as long as they are not in control of said monster. That whole game mechanical aspect the anime copied is no where present here. This is a more realistic approach to Pokémon. Evil guys will attack trainers and attempt to kill them as much as they will try to knock out their pokemon, whatever wins them the battle. This results in a much more exciting world where there is a lot more to lose and to gain. You can’t just battle until your pokemon gets spinny eyes, you have to actually be careful and protect them from harm. So for those who like Pokémon but do not like the low stakes, this manga is an excellent read.
A different story (mild spoilers)Though the manga still tells about Red getting his Pokedex and getting send out by Oak to catch as many pokémon possible this story has a completely different tone. Where gR’ and Ash’s journey feels like it is about catching them all, Red’s journey here feels a lot more altruistic. Respectively meddling with the Rocket Situation a whole lot more , he feels more heroic than his two counterparts. Quickly we discover that this world isn’t as nice and happy as those others we grew up with. Many gym leaders work for Team Rocket, like lieutenant Surge and master Koga. This manga is also not about challenging those to honourable combat. Many of the gym challenges are more presented like obstacles for Red to overcome, once done so he doesn’t need to do it in a gym. If he defeats an evil gym leader Red wil loot the badge from their (unconscious?) body. No gym puzzles and at times not even a gym. Defeating your opponent is all that matters. We get a feeling that this Red is saving the world and on his path to become the champion in doing so. This feeling is even further enforced in later installments of the series with the Elite Four trying to destroy the world and removing some main characters for a large part of the series. Though never going completely over the top dark the series does enough to make the stakes feel real. Establishing much more flawed main characters, with Red being quite ignorant and arrogant, Blue being massively uptight and controlling and Green being a swindler and thief. Yes Green is in this series as well, she is a great character that I wish we could see more off. Yellow is introduced near the end of the first series and this time it’s a she as well. While the first series focus on Red becoming the champion while he fights Team Rocket, the second series follows Yellow on her quest to defeat the elite 4. This means the Elite 4 are not part of the league challenge, instead it’s a tournament much more like in the anime. Keeping that more realistic feeling to it as well. The orders badges are acquired is very different (though starting similar) and the journey throughout Kanto takes a fairly different route then what you are used to. All in all, except for some staples, this is a completely new thing.
A different Style
The manga unlike the anime has quite a quick pace. A bikerace is resolved in a single issue. Pikachu terrorising a town, done in an episode. Same goes for nearly every battle. Though some may like battles for a large span of manga I vastly prefer this format. It makes the manga so easy to pick up. You don’t need to keep track of where you left off, this is just nice series of mini adventures that have some more oomph to them compared to those we see in the anime. No adventure feels pointless, they all contribute but they are just as easy to resume a week or a month after reading your last one as they are to binge. Visually , though I am not a fan of Red’s design the battles are appealing, although somewhat confusing. Due to the fast pacing, and much like in the games, battles are decided by a few moves. Yet the manga can depict a move in a single still frame, just to move to the aftermath and let you fill in the blanks. Which means at times it can be hectic and it would be preferable if you had some notion of how these attacks work and thus some pokémon knowledge to fill in the blanks. Then again, their names are pretty descriptive. What the manga manages to capture perfectly though is the intense visceral style of battling. It doesn’t shy away from depicting a rotten zombie psyduck (yes that’s a thing) as it is supposed to. We can see eyes shriveled up in the socket and bones sticking out the softening decaying flesh. We can see pain when a human is hit by an electric attack and fear when said person is tossed of a certain ship paralysed. Even the comical scenes get a bit of gravitas around them. A snorlax chasing a honey covered bulbasaur is cute… but there are consequences to when it goes wrong preventing the comedy from ever becoming slapstick. The batman like “CHOOOOM”S and “FWOOOOOOF’s when a move connects convey their respective typings great as well. If you ever not only want to see the power that’s inside pokémon but also feel it.. the manga is the place for you.
She’s sweet but she’s psycho!
Normally I am not the biggest manga fan. Anime is just a much more a full experience to me. Not only does it offer the visuals, it offers the soundtrack to go with it, the emotions in the voices. I do get the appeal of a manga and your imagination filling in the blanks but I just can’t get myself to consume as much manga as i can with anime. Yet this manga seems to be exactly made for me, with short chapters, nicely divided hurdles for the hero to overcome bound by the length of the medium. It makes it into an ideal little snack. With a good balance of lightheartedness and a world filled with more tangible risks and a whole lot of additional villainy it makes for one of the most compelling pokémon narratives know. The art may not always be that impressive and in fairness the pokémon, aside from Pika the pikachu do not show a ton of personality. Saur and Poli have their moments but you will never truly be able to grasp what they are like. The whole communication skit is left behind, pokémon appear and do their thing and occasionally give Red a certain look to convey how they are feeling. Which are single panel interactions. It manages to create a not so static pokémon world, a world of duality. A world of childlike wonder and whimsy, while being mature and somewhat grim as well. Exploring things none of the other media cared to explore. While Ash journey, i tend to remember the beginning, with Red’s journey I mostly remember the middle, when the tonal shift begins to take place and when i first saw that rotting Psyduck. Oddly enough that image was the thing that told me I had found yet another Pokémon thing I could enjoy but something that is very different.
So ends yet another post and we have discovered yet another thing to love about Pokémon.
With a poisonous gas alert for my home area , I found myself quarantined for a large chunk of the day. I actually read a bit more the manga! Dang..Red gets the harsh end of the stick in some later parts! I shall surely venture deeper into Yellow now and possibly further beyond. Have you ever read the manga? Let me know, and leave a like before I sick zombie Psyduck on you all… Mwuhahahahaha.