Do you love Pokemon? Did you play Red and Blue when you were a kid, pitting Charizard or Pikachu against the forces of Team Rocket’s goons as you journeyed through the pixelated world that the GBA game offered? Did you watch the anime, following the adventures of Ash alongside Brock and Misty as they tried to catch ’em all? Maybe Detective Pikachu blew your socks off as you got see dozens of Pokemon lovingly brought to life on the big screen this year? I bet you’re hyped for the release of the newest game, Sword and Shield, which will bring in a new batch of Pokemon creatures for you to fall in love with all over again! But sometimes I bet you’ve craved a desire to not just play and watch Pokemon but read it too? If only there were some Pokemon books, telling further tales of the world in the eyes of literature?
Well, there’s nothing like that but we’ve still got a recommendation for you nonetheless? Do you like comics? Then prepare to dive into this incredible manga.
Image via Polygon
Pokemon Adventures, written by Hidenori Kusaka, is a manga series based on the popular games that began publication in 1999. The series was an immediate hit and has been an ongoing series ever since. In fact, its still going on today! Each volume in the series follows an arc of the games, with the first arc following the young trainer Red and adapting the basic plot of Red and Blue. But the series differs from the actual considerably, offering perhaps the most ‘realistic’ take on the franchise while deepening the characterizations of beloved longtime characters and monsters.
image via Bulbapedia
In fact, the manga series makes the Pokemon universe really feel like a living, breathing world, as opposed to merely a ‘game’. Each Pokemon protagonist has nuanced goals and ideas for their respective journeys. Far from just catching them all, each protagonist has an idea of what he or she wants to accomplish in the Pokemon world. Some want to be the best Pokemon breeders, some want to win the beauty contests, and some want to be the greatest that no one ever was.
What else makes the manga stand out? Its realism makes it much darker than other adaptations. Instead of the bumbling Team Rocket trio of the anime, the antagonists of the manga are very threatening. Giovanni, the boss of Team Rocket, doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone who might stand in his way. Yep, that’s right…kill. His establishing chapter ends with him killing two Magmar by freezing them alive and shattering them into pieces.
image via bulbapedia
The series doesn’t hold back on showing how dangerous the world can be. Pokemon can hurt you and hurt each other. Instead of merely being knocked out or fainting, battles can be life or death scenarios. This makes fights much more intense and exciting because they are real stakes in face offs. It really gives a sense of scale and true ‘power’ to the monsters that the trainers command. They can be cuddly but they can also be majestic, terrifying, or dangerous and the manga doesn’t hold back on the depictions of the latter. Such as this infamous moment, where a Charmander chops an Arbok in half.
image via Bulbapedia
But these dark moments only help the lighter and human moments stand out all the more. Characters who are just one off bosses in the games (the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four) are examined as three dimensional people. We see Gym Leaders such as Winona and Wallace falling in love or Erika engaging in hobbies like archery. Grief and sadness are part of Adventures but the series isn’t weighed down by it, as it also mixes in great amounts of humor, charm, and cuteness, creating a fleshed out narrative that can appeal to anyone.
If you’re a Pokemon fanatic or a casual fan just interested in a more mature take on the setting, give this manga a try! There’s a lot of it but pick any arc you want and start from there, as they work fine as standalone pieces for the most part. Or you could follow a Trainer’s example and catch ’em all, starting from beginning to end!
Image via Casting call
Featured Image Via Polygon