Thursday, October 27, 2011

Golden Smile and Silver Tears (Mostly Tears)

In the spring of 2000, my dad's cable provider stopped carrying the WB, which meant I missed about half of the Orange Islands saga. That was bad enough for a die-hard Pokémon fan like myself, but what made it worse was knowing that the Johto Journeys saga was going to begin that fall - a whole new region, with exciting new adventures and characters, and I was going to miss it! I couldn't let that happen! Fortunately, my dad finally agreed to switch to Comcast, and in October 2000, I got Kids' WB back just in time for the start of Johto.

And about half a season into it, I was beginning to wish Comcast would drop the WB too.

Don't try to pretend like this saga is going to be exciting, guys.

Jouto still remains the darkest days of the anime for most fans, and for good reason - I'd estimate more than 60% of the episodes were exactly the same. Satoshi-tachi happen upon a trainer with a Pokémon that can't do something, Satoshi-tachi help the Pokémon try to learn how to do whatever that something is, Musashi-tachi show up to steal said Pokémon, said Pokémon masters the skill just in time to send Musashi-tachi blasing off. Lather, rinse, repeat. Anyone who's ever called the Pocket Monsters anime boring and formulaic, this is the saga they're most likely thinking about.

But Jouto's problems hardly stop there. It's like the show's writers forgot they had to give these characters personalities. Satoshi just wants to collect badges, Kasumi just carries Togepi around, and Takeshi just...exists, I guess. They brought Shigeru back, but why? He showed up just a handful of times and barely did a damn thing. And the one new recurring character they did introduce, Nanako (or Casey, as the dub called her) looked like she was going to be a spunky new rival for Satoshi...then made all of three appearances in 157 episodes and didn't even make it to the Final Conference.

"Hi! I'm a new character! You'll never see me again!"

About the only characters who remained interesting in Jouto were Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyasu, who pretty much saved all the most boring episodes from total oblivion. I don't think I'd remember the Kereihana episode at all if it hadn't had that subplot about Musashi and Kojirou putting Nyasu in a stage show where he tells horrible jokes.

Besides, I couldn't forget this even if I tried to.

Even from an aesthetic standpoint, this saga was boring. What did it do visually to set itself apart from the Kanto saga? Virtually nil. All the characters still wore the same clothes they'd had on since day one. Maybe I've been spoiled by Houen and Shinou and Isshu giving Satoshi a new outfit every time, but I really think new clothes would have done wonders for the principal cast in Jouto, as a way of visually reminding the audience that this is a new region with new things to see. A casual viewer might tune in to a Jouto episode and not even realize Satoshi had left Kanto. And it doesn't have to stop at the clothes - Kasumi got a new hairstyle in the Gold and Silver video games. Why not in the anime too?

No more implausible than her previous hairstyle, really.

And let's not forget the Pokémon themselves. Did Satoshi really need to get all three starters again? And if he did, shouldn't at least one of them have evolved all the way to its final stage? Wouldn't you think Kasumi and Takeshi would have captured more than just one Jouto Pokémon each? (Think about that - 157 episodes and they only caught one Pokémon each. I don't care what you think of the characters, that's just mean.)

Well, it's all long behind us now. Jouto ended in 2002, and not a minute too soon. Then we got Pocket Monsters Advanced Generation and the Houen saga as the writers' way of apologizing for three years of mediocrity. Still, it hurts to look back on a saga with so much potential that was casually thrown out the window as the writers took the lazy way out. I stopped watching the anime halfway through Season 4 (right around that mind-numbingly boring Teppouo episode), and resumed once the Houen saga began, but I've had no desire to go back and watch the Jouto episodes I missed. And I'm perfectly OK with that.

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