This was written before the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime started airing but most of what I say still stands
The Pokémon anime has been airing non-stop since 1997 (1998 in the US), animated by OLM, Inc. Many of us who grew up in the late 90s began our days watching this show. It obviously has maintained popularity or else it wouldn’t be still airing. For those who do not know, the Pokémon anime follows Ash Ketchum (Satoshi in Japan) on his journey to become a Pokémon master. Ash, along with his Pikachu, travel from region to region, catching Pokémon, and “earning” badges. Each new region means new traveling companions. Usually this means the female trainer from the current generation of games along with a gym leader. Sometimes younger siblings of one his friends come along. Ash has gathered a Persona level harem. He’s a bitch magnet. He has met several of these girls from Pikachu frying their bikes. Good advice for all you single guys out there, destroy your crush’s bike. Anyway, after he collects all 8 badges, Ash competes in the Pokémon league tournament. Spoiler alert: he never wins or comes anywhere near becoming a Pokémon master.
For many who love the games, the anime can be a very frustrating experience. It tends to handle plot points from the game rather poorly (save for X and Y). Every new generation Ash “resets” to fit the narrative of the new story. Pokémon follows a status quo formula where no matter what character development Ash undergoes, he will always return to square one. I know Pokémon is aimed at children, but that is no excuse for lazy writing. The formula is stale and a reboot is in order, or at least a spin-off. There are several possibilities for a good Pokémon reboot or spin-off series. Simply, they could adapt the plotline form the games. Another possibility is adapting the Pokémon Adventures manga. Both are viable options and will appeal to younger and older fans alike.
Simply put, the best option for a new Pokémon anime is to follow the plotline of the games. I’m not asking for a one to one adaptation of the games, that’s impossible and would be boring. Liberties need to be taken. If the animation studio stick to the main plot points, that would be satisfactory. Basically, the same concept as Pokémon Origins or Generations. The Generations shorts showcase the potential of the Pokémon anime. If they could showcase Pokémon’s epicness in only 4 minutes, imagine what they could do with a whole season’s worth of material. Such a cocktease.
Could you imagine how amazing the ORAS true ending would be? Riding a motherfucking Raquaza into space to stop Deoxys from crashing a meteor into the earth. That’s some Gurren Lagann shit right there! Or seeing the finale of Platinum’s plot. The player heading into the Distortion World with Cynthia, to stop Cyrus from obtaining Giratina’s power to create a world of nothingness. The final battle with Lusamine would be so breathtaking and heart wrenching, especially seeing how Lillie would react. Based on the direction of the Sun and Moon anime, it is unlikely it will touch upon the dark material found later in the game. Anime is a unique medium that allows for storytelling like no other medium can provide. The animators at OLM are not bringing to life the world of Pokémon. The potential is there, it’s only a matter of realizing it.
Ideally, the main cast would consist of the male and female protagonists along with the rivals, professor, gym leaders, Elite 4, champion, and villain team. Every region would get its own series. Each new generation would feature new characters. Some characters may reappear or make cameos. Callbacks can be made to past events in the series.
Several other successful anime franchises have done something like this. The most iconic mecha series, Mobile Suit Gundam, has been doing this since its inception in 1979. Gundam has the Universal Century timeline, which spans several series and movies, and follows different characters depending on the series. Old characters come back and past events are referenced or impact the plot. Despite these callbacks, anyone can pick up and enjoy Zeta Gundam without having seen the original. Then there are millions of Gundam spinoffs that require no prior knowledge of the series to watch. Some have had popularity rival that of the original timeline.
Another example of this working is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Each part is its own self-contained story. Characters from the past stick around and past events are referenced, but prior knowledge isn’t needed to enjoy the show. By the way, watch JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Especially if you like old-school manly anime with insane plots. Both franchises have been successful despite not having characters that stick around permanently. Pokémon can do the same. The Pokémon franchise is greater than any induvial character (except maybe Pikachu).
Starting over gives those working on the anime the advantage of a blank canvas for each new generation of games. New characters with unique personalities and differing goals. The main character of each series can undergo meaningful development by the end of his/her journey. You see them mature and learn over the course of the series. A definite beginning, middle, and end. Hopefully, this leaves to viewer with satisfaction. Unfortunately, the Pokémon anime usual ends in anti-climactic fashion. To quote Arkada of Glass Reflection, “the ending is paramount.” It leaves you feeling unsatisfied, just like graduating college. Ash loses in a way that feels like a middle finger to the audience. Like Charizard just giving up, losing to a guy who brought legendary Pokémon, or just the Black and White saga in its entirety. Either way, it’s bad storytelling. Their idea of character development and storytelling is resetting Ash in every new region he arrives in. This is laziness on the part of the writers. The formula is stale and needs freshening up.
The spinoff games could make for a good viewing experience. You have Pokémon Coliseum and Gale of Darkness. These games follow a somewhat different story than the main series games. Coliseum takes place in the desolate region of Orre. It follows the story of Wes, the Pokémon terrorist. He once worked for the evil Team Snagem but now he’s on the path of redemption (and blowing up buildings). Wes saves Rui, a girl with special power to see a Pokémon’s aura, from the clutches of Team Snagem. They go on a journey to stop both Team Snagem and Cipher from exploiting the shadow Pokémon for evil. Other spinoffs games that would make for an interesting anime include the Pokémon Ranger games, the Mystery Dungeon series, or the very obscure Pokémon Conquest. The games provide many possibilities, yet Nintendo and OLM limit themselves.
Another possibility is adapting the numerous Pokémon manga into an anime. The first manga that comes to mind is the Pokémon Adventures series. Pokémon Adventures is only loosely based on the main series games. The plotlines are more insane than what is seen in the games. I am most familiar with the Red and Blue, Yellow, Gold and Silver chapters. Half of the Gym leaders are working for Team Rocket, Pokémon die, and the legendary bird trio are fused together. The Pokedex holders have differing goals. Not all of them want to collect badges and become the Champion. New characters are introduced and old ones still appear. There are numerous other manga that could be adapted. Series like the Electric Tale of Pikachu or Pokémon Reburst (just kidding, Reburst is too weird). Just think of the possibilities.
Perhaps they can just reboot the current anime. Make it darker and edgier to appeal to today’s kids. Pokémon needs to appeal to the edgelords and their fanfiction. Ash is a brooding Pokémon trainer who has struggled to live in the light. His father abandoned him and he yearns to find him. Ash goes from battle to battle to fill the void that has overtaken his heart. He later meets Serena, who is the opposite of him. She is happy go lucky and only wants Ash to love her back.
Another possibility is Ash leaves Team Rocket to travel the road of redemption. The path to redemption is soaked in blood as he takes down key figures in Team Rocket and finally gets to Giovanni. Giovanni tells him that he is Ash’s father. Ash breaks down from the shock and is unable to continue the fight. His love interest convinces him to finish what he started. Giovanni and Ash face off in the final showdown. Ash overcomes his father and his redemption journey has come to an end.
How about there be a harem Pokémon anime. Pokémon with fanservice! Who doesn’t love Pokémon and boobs? Now you can get them at the same time. They could also keep the “gotta catch’em all” tagline. I got so many ideas for a reboot (most of them suck, though). Come on Nintendo and OLM, step your game up!
The Pokémon anime will continue to air if the franchise continues to print money. Many of my suggested changes have no chance of happening. The anime continues to be profitable. Switching up the status quo can negatively impact the bottom line. A mega franchise like Pokémon can’t really afford such risks. I just wish for something different. Something that fans of all ages can enjoy. Please retire Ash and Pikachu. New stars need to get the spotlight. One can only dream! I would to love to hear from you what would want as new Pokémon anime. Please comment down below!