Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Takeshi Shudo: The Tragic Hero of Pocket Monsters

I'd wager that most Pokémon fans don't know who Takeshi Shudo is, which is a damn shame. As the head writer for the Pocket Monsters anime from 1997 until 2002 (read: from Kanto to Jouto), he was one of the most influential forces in the writers' room...or at least he should have been. Clashing opinions between him and his producers led to his artistic vision being compromised time and again, which is a big part of why the show became so formulaic and boring in the Jouto saga. They kept going with what they knew made money, rather than what could have been a creative new direction.

Shudo always valued creativity over marketability, which is a guaranteed recipe for frustration when you work in television. He spoke about his experiences on Pocket Monsters in a series of blog posts several years ago, which have been translated at the RocketShipper Photo Album. Among the interesting behind-the-scenes nuggets to be gleaned from these journals:

- Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyasu were Shudo's favorite characters, and he deliberately gave them more depth of personality so that the adults in the audience could have something to enjoy about the show too. (He originally conceived the Lugia movie as a film about Musashi-tachi coming to terms with the fact that they're basically good people who work for an evil criminal organization.)

- In fact, his goal from the very beginning was to make Pocket Monsters a show that anyone could enjoy, young or old, but the producers steered it in a more kid-friendly direction, simplifying Satoshi's personality and arresting character development overall. The anime was originally meant to run only for a year and a half, so Shudo had planned out how the characters would evolve over time, but when Pocket Monsters became a huge hit, it was decided to keep the show going as long as possible, throwing Shudo's series outline out of whack.

- He felt Kasumi suffered the most from the limitations of character development permitted to the show, and in fact she was only added to the principal cast so girls would have a main character to relate to. When ratings began to drop at the end of the Jouto region, there was discussion among the writers about how to change the main cast; they could either get rid of Musashi-tachi or Kasumi. Of course, we know what they chose, and Shudo feels they made the right decision - Kasumi, in his opinion, had become "unnecessary".

- And speaking of Kasumi, Shudo never intended any sort of romance between her and Satoshi, implied or otherwise. The show was meant to be about Satoshi's Pokémon journey; Shudo felt that a romantic thread between two main characters would be too distracting. (As someone who despises PokéShipping, I can't help but smile at this.)

Tragically, Takeshi Shudo died of a subarachnoid hemorrhage in October 2010, at the age of 61. And even in his retirement years, I don't think he was ever fully satisfied with his work on Pocket Monsters - his creative vision had been compromised so many times, and there was basically nothing he could do about it. Imagine what a world it might have been if he'd been given more free reign over the show - if the characters had been more fully realized, if the formulaic fillers had been eliminated, if it had ended in 1998 after a mere 80 episodes, would it be as popular today as it currently is? Almost certainly not. Would it have been better? That's something to think about.


  1. I'm just posting to let you know that there is a reason why you (usually) receive zero comments. There is nothing to see on this blog that hasn't been said before by some other overzealous anime fan. Meh.

  2. I know this post is three years old but to me Shudo is a poor writer. His characters lacked development, unlike Team Rocket. We don't know why Ash wants to be a Pokemon master in the first place or why Misty wants to become a water Pokemon master and Brock as a Pokemon breeder. We don't even know why Ash's father was ever seen in the series, despite some novelisations of the series but are they canon to the series or not as they never mentioned the material on the show. We don't know the origins of Tracey (where he comes from or who his parents are) and we also didn't see why Pikachu hates being inside a Pokeball and why he hates Ash in the first place. Does he despise trainers because he had one who was abusive to him and does he despises Pokeballs because he was either trapped in one when his trainer abandoned him? We don't know it never explained in the series and the first episode who've been great to see that and it would develop Ash and Pikachu's friendship more better and so more of Ash being a respectable trainer.

    As for the Pokeshipping stuff, despite that Shudo hadn't intended it to happen, the hints are still there to show the signs that Ash and Misty do care for each other and even if it is for existence in the series, the feelings of Ash are still there for her and that of course in the Orange Islands saga they did have hints of the blush when Team Rocket lock them in a cage after James says, in the Japanese version, that Misty ditched Brock and she and Ash eloped. If that's no sign of a little romantic hint that I don't know what what is.

    Sure there is creativity vs. marketability but since Shudo was head writer of the series, he would've helped the other writer and himself on how to develop these characters from the original series. I'm sorry but this is how I feel about Shudo, he should've develop more of the characters with their goals and reasons and that way the audience would appreciate the characters more. Despite that I think Shudo is a poor writer I do hope he rest in peace.