Season 23 – Part 1
Enter Pikachu! – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Legend? Go! Friends? Go – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Ivysaur’s Mysterious Tower! – | Review Score – 3/5
Settling the Scorbunny! – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Working My Way Back to Mew!
The Battle Frontier Challenge!!
Don’t Give In, Pochama!
The Houou Legend of Johto!
The Kairyu Paradise and the Hakuryu Trial
Koharu, Wanpachi and Sometimes Gangar Too
Pokemon is one of the world’s highest-grossing media franchises. From its wildly popular video game iterations to soft toys and merchandise, Pokemon’s monster success back in the 90’s launched a surprisingly decent and faithful anime adaptation that’s continued to captivate kids and young adults alike. Armed with a host of colourful Pokemon, a simple story that stayed true to the premise of the games and an enigmatic trio of characters at the centre of this tale, Pokemon’s anime success is unrivaled. Moving into 2020 and marking the 23rd season of Pokemon action, Pokemon strikes a new deal with Netflix to bring the action to this streaming platform.
Over the years Pokemon, much like its Pocket Monster counterparts, has continued to evolve and transform many times while sticking to the same rigid design that’s made it so popular and endearing to kids. Pokemon trainer (and hopeful soon-to-be master) Ash Ketchum begins his journey with the lovable Pikachu in a bid to become “the very best, like no one every was”.
Along the way he battles Pokemon trainers and gym masters, eventually mustering up enough belief and fighting power to compete in the illustrious tournament for whichever region correlates to the games being released at that time. Of course, because of this rigid structure and the length of time the show has been going, Pokemon has a tendency to “hard-reset” itself every few seasons and restart Ash’s journey.
In a way, this is similar to Power Rangers (also wildly popular and endearing to kids) where the Rangers fight a series of different monsters every episode before the big-bad becomes too much and they’re forced to don new powers and suits, resetting the cycle. There have been numerous jokes and fan-based backlash toward Ash’s reset (especially given he never ages) but despite that apparent reset again in season 23, it actually feels a little bit different this time.
The story begins with an origin episode for Pikachu, as we see him as his first form of Pichu. From here, Ash begins his journey and runs into prospective trainer Gou. Together, they set out to explore the world but instead of a singular region and familiar pattern of play, Pokemon mixes things up and throws in every region for the duo to visit. The result is something that brings back that wondrous awe that the Pokemon world has always done so well to capture and brings with it a new wave of nostalgia.
The first 12 episodes that make up part 1 hops across numerous regions as Ash sets out on his journey to catch Pokemon. At the same time, Gou becomes determined to catch the mysterious Mew whom he encounters early on in the show. From here, the series essentially weaves both these character journeys together and across the first 12 episodes of this anime, builds up to a climax that leaves things wide open for the second part to come.
Aesthetically, Pokemon Journeys looks gorgeous. The hand-drawn animation is bright, vivid and well-animated, staying true to all those old Poke-quips as cutaway screens and exaggerated faces are a mainstay to keep the comedy high for kids. With over 900 different Pokemon creatures to choose from now, the artists absolutely make the most of that gold mine and feature a whole range of different monsters dotted throughout the episodes.
The actual core of each episode remains the same though although Team Rocket are used very sparingly. Their little back-and-forth introduction is a nice inclusion for when they do show up and their self-awareness has a nice touch of irony. It’s not the end of the world of course but their light use here feels more like a nod toward fans of old rather than a meaningful piece of storytelling.
With the sheer amount of Pokemon thrown into this, the episodes can feel a little busy and at times there’s a feel that the show is ticking boxes and trying to add every single creature before season’s end. That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course but when Lugia, Mew, Houou and other rare species all show up across the first 12 episodes, it does lose some of that magic this had in earlier seasons where seeing these Pokemon ended up as an epic and rare moment.
It should be obvious by now though that Pokemon Journeys is primarily designed for kids. It’s a show that’s constantly evolved over time but managed to reinvent itself to appeal to a whole new audience along the way. The visuals look great, the reset story manages to balance the old with the new and along the way Pokemon Journeys does its best to keep both new and existing fans happy. With a big cliffhanger ending and plenty to chew through, much like Ash and Gou, Netflix and Pokemon may just prove to be the perfect team going forward.