Monthly Archives: September 2012

EToP, Part 6

Chapter 6: To Evolve or Not to Evolve That is the Question

For the curious, that’s the actual title.  And yes, for some reason, they omit the comma.

Probably the best thing about adaptations is that while they can make an exciting concept duller (cough, cough, Hunger Games, cough,) they can also do the reverse.  The last two chapters have demonstrated this point incredibly well, but for today’s chapter (as well as the next,) really drive the idea home.  If “The Flame Pokémon-athon” was average, “The Battling Eevee Brothers” was like watching paint dry.  It was an interesting concept for an episode, but the potential was squandered on yet another “Team Rocket tries to steal everything that isn’t nailed down” episode.  Okay, I realize that the show was just starting out, but this seems like one of the only cards they ever played back in Kanto.

So, with an opening like that, we can only have a good chapter of EToP.  And, true to typical EToP style, we have a completely different plot from the source episode.

We kick off shortly after the last chapter as Misty learns that Ash and Brock are going to the Seafoam Islands to go Pokémon-hunting.  She decides to tag along, on the condition that they stop at a place called Stone Town on the way so that she can pick up an evolution stone.  True to form, Brock acts like a responsible adult while Ash acts like a bratty child at the suggestion.  Bottom line, Misty comes along.

Cut to several hours later, on what looks like the coolest boat ever designed.  Ash gambles his lunch away to Misty in a Pokémon trivia contest.  In fairness to Ash, he loses his fries to a question that asks him to name every single one of Chansey’s attacks.  Poor kid.  Although, no matter how unreasonable Misty’s being, Brock’s no slouch either, refusing sympathy to Ash, who paid money for that food.

Cut to even more hours later when Ash loses his dinner as well to Misty over a question that seems justified this time around- naming all five evolution stone types in the 1st Gen.  Brock implies that he’s only doing it to flirt with Misty, and a thousand shippers squee’ed in delight.

Outside a shop window, Misty complains about the absurdly high prices that are being asked for evolution stones ($1000, and assuming that PokéDollars are analogous to the Yen, at the time of writing, she’s coughing up 77,770 PKD- funny how that happened.  Also, credit to Google for the conversion.)  Ash and Brock make fun of her for a while.  A passing young boy with an Eevee on his head taps Misty’s shoulder, hands her an evolution stone set, and runs away.

Some time later at what I assume to be a Pokémon Center, the group learns that the set is from a charity group called the Knights of the E-Stone.  The woman they’re talking to, who I assume is Nurse Joy, guesses that he didn’t want to evolve his Eevee.  Intrigued, the group decides to sit in on a meeting, where they watch the young boy, Mikey, being initiated into the group.  Or…  almost initiated.  Turns out, you need to use an evolution stone to evolve your Pokémon to join.  At the revelation that the poor kid’s Eevee is still an Eevee, the charity group becomes a mob in a matter of seconds, calling for a forced evolution.

Ash, deciding that he’s had enough, charges in, confronting the Head Knight about how there’s nothing superior about evolved Pokémon.  Talk to my Victreebel, kid.  Embracing a twisted combination of my logic and the classic bullying excuse of “I was only kidding,” Mikey’s own brother from the sideline tells Ash to take a long walk off a short pier.  Ash tries to get Mikey to walk out, but Brock puts forth an argument for Ash to find an alternative strategy in such a surreal manner, there’s no way that it isn’t an untranslatable Japanese pun.

Basically, the core of Brock’s argument is this- give Mikey a chance to battle Eevee against each of its evolved forms.  If he wins all three fights, he ought to be admitted without evolving Eevee.  If he loses, he has to abide by the guild’s rules for entry.  The Head Knight agrees to these terms, and makes the mistake of allowing Mikey to team up with Ash during the trial.  As a side note, probably the best part of this chapter is hearing Ash simply referred to as “that annoying kid,” as though his name doesn’t matter.

That night, Ash and company stay over at Mikey’s Mansion.  Ash spends most of dinner being Ash, and accidentally intimidating the poor kid.  Unfortunately, this ends up attracting the ire of Mikey’s brothers (Pyro, Rainer, and Sparky.)  Remember from above that ass hat who tried to justify the guild’s actions to Ash?  Yeah, there’s three of that ass hat.

They berate him for not evolving his Eevee and joining the guild, as is apparently a family tradition.  Misty has to step in to defend the kid, which raises the question of their parents’ whereabouts.  They taunt Mikey, and then vanish in a puff of smoke (and you guys probably don’t need me to drop a “No, seriously” here- you know I’m not joking.)

Mikey and Misty hang out in the garden later, and Misty tries to return the evolution stone set.  Mikey states that as long as she’s happy with it he’ll be fine, and Misty realizes that he has a crush on her.  We get a not-so-subtle reminder that in this series, Misty likes little boys (Again?  Really?)  Thankfully, Ash shows up to stop this stupidity before it goes anywhere.

The next morning, Ash and Mikey show up at the headquarters of the Knights of the E-Stone, ready to battle.  Round 1- vs two Vaporeons!  We have geysers, skintight suits, and the power of the elements themselves!  Before the fight has a chance to get interesting, Pikachu curbstomps both foes, and they advance to the next room.  Round 2- vs two Flareons!  We have pyrotechnics, skintight suits, and the flames of damnation!  Before the fight has a chance to get interesting, Pikachu curbstomps both foes, and they advance to the next room.

Now, by this point you’ve probably noticed that one Pokémon’s been doing all the fighting.  Well, so does the Head Knight.  Now, in order for Mikey to be admitted to the order, he has to fight the final foe by himself.  And finally, we have Round 3- vs a single Jolteon!  We have lightning, skintight suits, and the thunders of damnation!  Okay, I take it back- the best part of the chapter is this exchange here:

Sparky: “Prepare for the Thunder of Damnation!!

Ash: “Is “damnation” all these guys talk about?”

Sparky: “Yes!  If you were hit by the Thunder of Salvation, you would be saved, wouldn’t you?”

Ash: “I’m looking for originality here!”

Anyway, the fight kicks off with Mikey revealing that Eevee only has Tackle as far as offensive moves go.  They try to go with that, but Jolteon turns its Speed stat into Evasion (which makes some sense, given that these battles aren’t exactly turn-based.)  Eevee’s about to take a hit, when Ash calls for time out to use a TM.  As a side note, the design used for TMs in this series (a box-shaped capsule that is opened and held on either side of the Pokémon to teach the move) is vastly superior and less nonsensical than what the games eventually went with.

Ash tells Mikey to wait until Jolteon attacks to use the new move, Mimic.  The reflected Pin Missile attack is enough to OHKO Jolteon, and Mikey is admitted to the guild.  As a side note, Mikey’s ass hat brothers are so very proud of him (note the lack of karmic comeuppance they so truly deserved.)  Ash is offered membership, but cuts out because of the ridiculous uniform.

This chapter is probably one of the best- along with “Haunting My Dreams,” it fits in the Top 3 chapters.  The story is a lot of fun, the characters are memorable, and Ash isn’t as annoying as he could have been.  It’s probably the second-best example of making a poor story thrilling.  Now, next time, we have the #1 spot- the best chapter, and the best example of an improved story.  Ever.

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EToP, Part 5

Chapter 5: The Human Race and the Pokémon Race

So, the last chapter was an unexpected success.  Riding off of that, we close the first volume, and kick off the next, which contains some of the better stories in the series.

One of the unfortunate things about a large anime with self-contained episodes is that with rare exception, we don’t get a lot of standout episodes.  The Flame Pokémon-athon is, in my opinion, a mediocre episode with an incredible EToP adaptation.  Some of you may be confused by this- didn’t I close the last review by claiming that this was the closest chapter in terms of accuracy to the source material.  How can one be good, while the other is strictly order-of-the-day?

The answer is simpler than you would think: Team Rocket.  They are completely absent in the EToP version of this chapter.  How does their removal help this chapter?  The villain is more menacing as a result.  By the time TFPaT aired, Team Rocket had completely lost any sense of menace that they may have once possessed.  As such, the main villain’s style was severely cramped by their inclusion in the episode.  Don’t get me wrong- I like Team Rocket, probably more than most of the rest of the cast, but the episode would have been considerably better without them.

Which brings me back to this chapter.  How does it fare?  Let’s pop it open, and take a look.

Our story starts on the road, where it turns out that Brock finally decided to follow Ash.  So, two-thirds of the party is assembled.  It took long enough.  Brock explains that every few weeks, he closes the gym and travels.  It seems like it’s an irresponsible move, but it doesn’t seem to bother Ash, considering that he already has his Boulderbadge.  Ash asks to tag along with Brock (what a twist!), and we’re given a brief reminder that Brock is a total horndog before actually starting the chapter.

Some time later, Ash and Brock arrive in Fuschia City in time for a famous Pokémon race.  The race is treated like a festival because it’s in commemoration of a local tribe of nomads’ independence day.  Well hey, that’s cool, a neat little cultural detail that we don’t often see.

They make it about ten feet into the city before Pikachu runs off and runs into the waiting arms of…  Misty!!!  So, now the group of three is finally together.  Misty’s in town with her sisters, who Ash immediately decides to charge at with hearts in his eyes.  Big mistake- not because he’s charging three competent Pokémon trainers who could curb stomp him if he gets too friendly, but because he charges past Misty.

She does not take this well.  She takes it even worse, trying to eat his hat (no, seriously,) when he only just barely remembers her name.  Brock interrupts their touching reunion to double-check the identities of the three women traveling with Misty before moving in for the kill.

Remember when Brock claimed to be embarrassed by his hormones in the last chapter?  Yeah, neither do I.

As a side note, this chapter begins the practice of little notes in between the panels, instructing that you pay attention to certain details, or making jokes.  It’s…  not really that intrusive or distracting, but it doesn’t help in any way, so I’m honestly not sure what to think of them.

We cut away to a Rattata race (my money’s on Joey,) where Ash is trying to butter Misty up.  He tries too hard, and ends up insulting her to the point of rage.  She challenges him to a Pokémon Battle…  and what they end up doing is competing to capture a possibly wild, possible captured Tauros.  Given that they’re targeting probably the most berserker-like Normal-type in the game…  Yeah, you know how this ends.

A passing trainer notices this foolishness, and instructs her Ponyta to stun the Tauros.  She brings Ash and Misty in for lunch, and introduces herself as Laura.  While Laura shows off Ponyta for them, Ash guesses that she’s going to be competing in the race.  Nope, she has a broken arm and head cast.  Not sure how he missed that, unless he’s just being Ash again.  Anyway, Misty expresses hope for Laura’s chances next year, but it turns out that this is the last year that the race is being run, thanks to how dangerous it is.

Later, Ash and Misty watch an interview with the new favorite to win the race, Dario.  Basically, all that it amounts to is passive shots at Laura.  Ash and Misty happen to hear a bunch of people talking about how Dario is responsible for the accident that broke Laura’s arm (and head?)  This is basically the equivalent of those playground rumors that “everyone knows about” but no one can prove.  However, this is a Pokémon story, and as such, it’s 100% correct.

Apparently, it’s not enough for Ash to sit down and grumble with all the normal people, as he proceeds to accost Dario on the way out of his interview, accusing him straight up of injuring Laura.  Dario does everything but confirm it, and walks away into the night, laughing evilly as he goes.

No, seriously.  He actually does it.  If I claimed that he was twirling a handlebar moustache while doing so, would any of you be surprised?

The next day, Laura confirms that Dario left no evidence of his crime.  Not to be dissuaded, Ash volunteers to ride Ponyta.  Something he isn’t trained for, and something that may even have humiliating consequences for Laura should he lose.  Because he’s angry at someone.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, for some reason, Laura lets him go through with it.  First, however, she puts him through training.  And by training, I mean “training that even Izumi Curtis would find just a tad extreme.”  In spite of her best efforts, though, Ash survives, and is ready to ride Ponyta on the day of the race.

We’re given some pregame predictions, and then the race kicks off with Dario at the lead.  Ash manages to lag behind, because hey, we can’t have an exciting chapter without evil triumphing in the middle.  Ash monologues to himself about how the race to the mountain matters considerably less than the race up the mountain.  That’s…  surprisingly well-thought-out for him.  Seriously, did he just pass the Ash Ball off to Brock for the day?

As racers become unable to continue for various reasons, we’re given some exposition that explains that the race was thought up as a way to stave of bloodshed from wars between tribes, and as such, it ended up being a massive test of strength and skill.  Next, they talk about the conditions of the race, and how the fog is thick enough that it often comes down to contestants riding Pokémon with sonar.  Again, this is very interesting stuff- you could write a whole comic series about this event, just with the backstory established here.

Back to Ash- he’s heading up a mountain, relying on Ponyta’s sense of direction, when all of a sudden- rocks fall, everybody faints.

Okay, yeah, rocks fall, but only on Ash, and he and Ponyta survive thanks to dumb luck.  Ash happens to overhear Dario discussing the trap with a random henchman, and this motivates him to get back into the race…  somehow.  Um, what?  He was hanging off the edge of a cliff a minute ago, somehow carrying Ponyta on his back.  And two panels later, now he’s not.

Okay, then.

Dario’s henchmen (more than one, now) try to stop Ash, but he takes advantage of Fire Spin’s lack of balance in RBY to take them out.  Dario retalliates by dropping a bunch of Blastoise in Ash’s path.  He deals with most of them by having Pikachu attack thyem with the suddenly-Electric-type Swift.  He misses one, however, and it manages to OHKO Ponyta.  While Pikachu takes care of it, Ash narrates Ponyta’s condition.  Ponyta seems about to give up when a vision of Laura fills its mind, and then-

Cut to the finish line.  Ash and Ponyta are nowhere in sight, and it looks like Dario’s about to take the flag.  Oh, wait, here they come-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm0YmRHdyz4#t=0m44s

Ash comes charging out of the mist riding on Ponyta, newly evolved into a Rapidash.  From here, I don’t think I need to explain the ending of the chapter.  For those who can’t guess, Ash and Dario run neck-and-neck for a few pages, Ash gets the flag first, Dario demands it, Rapidash sends Dario flying into the sunset (really,) and a commemorative photo is taken.

I like this chapter.  It’s probably the closest to its source material, and the omission of Team Rocket from the plot helps it considerably.  Dario’s a bucket of villain cliches, but he stands on his own as a memorable villain.  The race is a lot of fun, and all the cultural details help give the setting its own character.

Next time, Ash is exposed to the Fire/Thunder of Damnation!  And all of you ought to know by now that I don’t joke in these next chapter blurbs.

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EToP, Part 4

Chapter 4: Haunting My Dreams

Do you remember what I was saying earlier about several chapters bearing only superficial resemblance to the episodes that they’re based on?  If there’s one chapter that best demonstrated this fact, this is the one.

Many of you may remember the Sabrina training arc (to be covered once the anime loops back around to the beginning on the official website.)  For those who don’t, the anime changed things up significantly for these three episodes.  In the past, whenever Ash fought a gym leader, it had been a one-episode affair.  He fights Brock, loses, and gets the badge at the end.  He fights Misty, is interrupted, and gets the badge at the end.  He fights Lt. Surge, loses, wins, and gets the badge at the end.  In each of these instances, it only took one episode each time, from start to finish.

Sabrina changed all of that.  Ash loses horribly the first time, his training takes up a full episode, and he comes back to experience some nightmare fuel.  The final battle with Sabrina is a cheap victory, but the arc establishes something that the anime has never left behind: multiple-episode training arcs.

So, it makes sense that when adapting this arc, Toshihiro Ono would have to pull out all the stops.  Our end result?  Something that tells a really, really good story, while injecting some darkness into a story that, while not necessarily needing it, benefitted considerably from it.

So, let me set some appropriate music…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLFW2t3JDzY

And let’s open this sucker up.

Our story kicks off with Ash arriving at the Saffron City Gym, tired and possibly dehydrated.  Sabrina finds him at the entrance and treats him to a meal.  Here, we see one of the approximately eleven thousand personalities available for Sabrina in the franchise- one of a sweet, loving girl.  May I just point out at this time that Erika never appears in EToP.  I thought you might find that interesting.

Sabrina demonstrates her Psychic powers by levitating a vial of soy sauce, and then Brock shows up again.  Yeah, he exists again.  He tries to insinuate that Ash is only here to try and woo Sabrina, but like 50% of all romance, it only serves to embarrass him (incidentally, the other 50% goes straight over his head.)

Ash challenges Sabrina to a battle, and they head to an arena that looks remarkably like the arenas used during the Battle City Semifinals in the Yu-Gi-Oh anime.  The result?  A total curb stomp.  Abra teleports randomly around to avoid physical strikes, and redirects Pikachu’s electricity right back at it.  See, I told you guys that Psychics were OP in 1st Gen.

Post battle, we discover that Ash has a weakness for cute girls.  Apparently.  And that Brock gets embarrassed over his own flirtatiousness.  Apparently.

So, a fairly innocent episode so far, right?  Haha, no.  Sit down.

On the very next page, we see Sabrina in the emergency room.  No, seriously.  We follow up a page showcasing the two main men discussing romance with Sabrina close to death.  Ash and Brock have tagged along, and are told by what seems to be a traveling adventure party that Sabrina ran afoul of a massive Haunter called the Black Fog, a powerful entity that sucks the souls out of its victims using Dream Eater.  Yeah.  Seriously.  In a Pokémon manga.

It turns out that this isn’t a recent phenomenon, either.  This thing has been going around for years, murdering innocent people.  Sabrina was a member of the adventuring party, who are all fighting against it for revenge.  We’re told that a long time ago, it slaughtered all of her Pokémon.

We see Abra write down the words “Lavender Town” on a nearby sheet of paper, and Brock hypothesizes that Sabrina is somehow still able to communicate with them.  We’re told that the souls of those killed by the Black Fog will return to their bodies if the beast is defeated.  Ash starts thinking like Ash for a moment, and decides that he wants to catch it.  As in, let it live.  As in, travel around with this unstable murder machine.  The only thing he offers to back up this desire?

“Hey, it’s a Pokémon, right?”

Apparently, capturing it will revive Sabrina, as everyone just seems to agree with Ash’s idea to just use a gigantic Poké Ball on this massive, soul-eating monstrosity.  Over the next few days, they build the “Enormo Poké Ball- X1.”  In English, it’s a 15-foot Poké Ball.  Supposedly, it’s Catch Rate is lower than that of a normal Poké Ball, due to the fact that it was put together at the last minute.  Nevertheless, the operation to catch the Black Fog begins.

They adventuring party plus Ash and Brock charge into its lair, and start lobbing rocks.  Ash manages to get a hit in, and Brock is stunned that the thing appears to be solid.  We’re treated to a frightening image of the Black Fog charging Ash, and the battle begins.

…And lasts roughly ten seconds.  The Black Fog uses a Psychic attack to pin all the Pokémon fighting it to a wall.  Abra appears, and shuts down the attack.  The Black Fog moves in with a Night Shade, and Ash’s Fearow tries to counter with Mirror Move (translated here as Mirror Wave.)  No good.  It proceeds to L-cancel the Night Shade, and use Dream Eater on the incoming attack, and all of Brock and Ash’s Pokémon except for Pikachu.  It’s about to start on Abra, when Pikachu finally gets its ass in gear, and uses Agility to grab Abra.  They race for the exit with the Black Fog hot in pursuit.  They make it to the exit, and the Black Fog is snared by the X-1.

So, that’s the end, right?  Nope.  Just as most legendaries get yoour hopes up with three wobbles before breaking out, so does the Black Fog.  It’s too weak to keep fighting, so it flees to an alternate lair.  In full view of what appears to be a massive sarcophagus, the final battle for Sabrina’s soul begins.  Pikachu gets a hit in, and Ash lobs an Ultra Ball (translated as Hyper Ball.)  The Black Fog isn’t having any of that, and promptly uses Selfdestruct, killing itself in the process.  No, seriously.  The Black Fog just pulled a “better to die than to be captured.”

Sabrina teleports to the battle, and gets Ash out before the structure damaged by the attack can fall on top of him.  Before a giant stone sculpture of a Haunter, Brock explains that in ancient times, Pokémon used to be worshiped as gods.  This Haunter got used to that, and saw itself as above being captured by a human. Sabrina decides that now that it’s dead, she can be sympathetic, and breaks down crying.  Ash does too, but it’s for a much stupider reason.  Apparently, he didn’t like wasting money on that Ultra Ball that was blown up.

No, seriously.  That’s it.

This chapter is absolutely the best in the volume.  It tells a good story, and has a very dramatic tone.  It feels different from the preceding chapters, and it’s not just the soul-devouring abomination.  It’s the sense that you’re reading an actual story, rather than an adaptation of an anime episode.  It’s this feeling of being different that makes it stand out.  If it wasn’t for Ash being Ash every so often, it would absolutely be perfect.  It really is an incredible chapter, and it marks the start of EToP’s run of quality chapters.

Next time, we’ll open the next volume, and take a look at the chapter that’s the closest to its source material.

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EToP Part 3

Chapter 3: Clefairy Tale

Okay, so maybe the series will survive a few more chapters before it forces me to make raunchy jokes again.  Anyway, this next chapter…  I don’t even know.  It could seriously be any episode of the anime.  It doesn’t feel remotely like EP006, but maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be. Who knows?  Seriously, if you do, please let me know in the comments.

This chapter kicks off with Ash in hot pursuit of a bunch of Mankey.  This doesn’t last long, as one of the clumsier ones bumps into a Beedrill nest.  The Beedrill then decide to attack Ash.  Er, what?  We plainly see that a random Mankey knocked into it.  Maybe it’s the red shirt?  I hear those are known for attracting disaster.

Side note: That last joke won’t make a lot of sense unless you’ve read through the comic, or at least have seen the artwork.  Toshihiro Ono, the artist, took a lot of artistic license with the outfits and character designs throughout the comic’s run.  For example, Misty doesn’t look like Misty until Chapter 8, and Ash’s hat is solid red with a weird PM logo on it until Chapter 5.  One design change that never reverts to the anime version is Ash’s coat/vest, which is much simpler in design when compared to the anime version.  Also, it’s red with white sleeves.

Anyway, we cut to a later scene where we find that Ash caught at least one of the Pokémon from that opening scene.  Here, we get a weird quirk of the series that is not present in any other visual medium- your eligibility to challenge each Gym Leader hinges on the different kinds of Pokémon you’ve captured.  I assume that Pikachu’s relative rarity was what let Ash cruise past the first two gyms without this particular hurdle, but evidently, it’s not enough to stop it from becoming a problem now.

Ash contemplates throwing in the towel due to how Pokémon training now seems “no better than school.” (Personally, were it me, I would jump through any hoops necessary to travel around the world with a cute monster as a companion.  But that’s just me.)  However, a vision of Gary taunting him is more than enough to motivate him to continue.  He pops into some random store on the street, and is conned into buying a “secret map” that will tell him where to find a Clefairy, a Pokémon so rare that it alone will make him eligible for Earth Badge competition (the actual wording seems to suggest that it will make him eligible to enter the Indigo League right off the bat, but we all know how unrealistic it is to fight the Elite Four using Pokémon around level 20.)

Somehow, Ash makes it all the way into the wilderness before discovering that he was cheated.  Still, being the main character, he has to tough it out, and find a Clefairy.

21 days later…

No, seriously.  Ash spends three weeks in the wilderness, looking for one of these.  I can just poke around Mt. Moon for an hour and stumble across one.  Still, his hardship is rewarded when a Clefairy just bumbles into the clearing he’s complaining at the top of his lungs in.  It runs, and Ash gives chase…  right into an Onix nest.  Cue Yakety Sax as the chaser becomes the chased.

It’s here that we find out where Misty has been this whole time.  Turns out that Ash left her back in Cerulean.  Yeah, this series takes a while to get the whole group together permanently.  Ash pops his Butterfree out to hit the Onix with Confusion (a time-honored tradition for those who picked Charmander as our starter.)  Problem, though- Onix becomes confused, and begins thrashing around, hurting itself in its confusion.  Cue landslide, and one unconscious Pokémon trainer.

What, you thought he died?  Ha, no, not as long as he wears the mighty plot armor!

Ash wakes up, and the first thing he sees is an old man in a Clefairy costume.

Don’t worry, it’s just Professor Oak!  In his EToP debut, as well, given that Ash pretty much just dragged Pikachu along, rather than being given to Ash.  We are given a brief demonstration of how the Clefairy dug Ash out of the rubble with psychic powers (as a side note, I love Metronome.)  This is all well and good, but it leaves one question unanswered- what was Oak doing in that costume?  We’re never told why he had it on, and he’s around the Clefairy later on in the chapter without it.  Rule of Funny, maybe?

Oak shares an anecdote about his early training days, when he traveled with a Charmander.  Hey, that’s an interesting tidbit.  A little bit about Oak’s past beyond him being tough and handsome.  Does it advance the plot much?  No, not really.  Is it fun to read, and does it give validation to my constant choice of the little fire lizard as opposed to Squirtle?  You bet.

Bill shows up the next morning, and as is fairly predictable, looks nothing like he does in the anime, games, or TCG.  That night, they all head off to a gathering dressed up in feathers and beads.  Apparently, it’s an evolution ceremony.  Again, a very interesting idea.  Most of the time when we see evolution, it’s a quick thing, and then it’s over.  We don’t often see a Pokémon society that has its own rites of passage, so this is probably one of the more unique chapters in the story.

Next, we get a bit of Bill’s backstory.  It’s totally not at all like Professor Oak’s backstory.  How?  Well, Bill started with a Bulbasaur.  Oh, and it’s a bit less bland, and more fun to read.  But Professor Oak round 2 seems like a waste of panels to me.  This chapter may have flowed better if they had chosen to do one or the other rather than both.

Anyway, the ceremony begins, and Bill demonstrates by touching a Clefairy with a provided Moon Stone.  How the stones were given to them without evolving the Clefairy who set them out or distributed them is never explained.  Ash recognizes the Clefairy that he’s supposed to evolve as the one he chased earlier, and presumably the one that rescued him.

The next morning, Oak gives Ash an updated version of the Pokédex, and sends him on his way.  In the next chapter, we have high-octane nightmare fuel!  Hooray!

This chapter presents an interesting concept, and it’s unfortunate that they never come back to it, or expand it at all.  It drags a bit near the beginning, and seems like it glosses over the most important part.  Overall, it’s not bad, but there’s nothing stellar about it.

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EToP, Parts 1 and 2

Well, at least I know I have one regular viewer.

Moving right along, here we have the Electric Tale of Pikachu.  Some background here- there are about half a million Pokémon mangas, most of which never left Japan.  When most people talk about “the Pokémon manga,” they’re most likely referring to Pokémon Special, or as Viz Media has decided to call it, Pokémon Adventures.  This manga is based on the games, and is actually very good.

Pokémon Special (or PokéSpe) had one hell of a poor release stateside- only the first six or seven volumes were released in America.  Viz later came to its senses (in 2009,) and decided to release all of the volumes in their back catalogue- oh, wait, just up until the end of the GSC arc, and then skipping about nine years of plot to speed out the BW chapter.  All I can say is, I hope that they end up falling flat on their faces when the characters and events of the RS era-onward become important again (and this is PokéSpe- you know they will.)

But while Viz was screwing up PokéSpe in the states for the first time, they were also working on the screwing up of another manga- this one based on the anime.  This manga was drawn by Toshihiro Ono (a hentai artist- that just blows my mind,) and loosely adapted from selected TV episodes.  And when I say “loosely,” I mean that they bear only superficial resemblance to the episodes they’re based on.  As in, Misty doesn’t regularly follow Ash around until the events of “The Flame Pokémon-athon!,” and Team Rocket don’t show up until…  “The Kangaskhan Kid?”  “Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village?”  “Ditto’s Mysterious Mansion?”

…Um…  Look, I said it was a loose adaptation.

But, the weird thing is that even though it’s a loose adaptation, some of the stories contained within are actually really good.  Some even manage to be better than their source material.

Now, before I start this one, I want to make something very clear- there are some chapters I cannot do.  The entire final volume, “Surf’s Up, Pikachu,” apparently ran in very, very limited quantities, and as such, is GODDAMN EXPENSIVE.  My collection of the first 3 tankobons probably cost about $10.  By itself, “Surf’s Up, Pikachu” costs about $65.  So, unless I win the lottery by the time I finish tankobon 3, it’s not happening.

In addition, I will be skipping the first chapter.  This is not due to any financial reason, it’s simply because Linkara from Atop the Fourth Wall did the first issue (equivalent of the first chapter of the tankobon.)  I don’t know how good I am, but I’m most likely not as good as Linkara, and don’t want to be seen as a copycat.  His review is located here.

With that, on to the review.

Chapter 2: Play Misty For Me

Okay, so this chapter starts off with Ash sending an email to Daisy Oak, who is bafflingly referred to as May, not to be confused with Ash’s traveling partner from the Advanced Generation saga.  One would think that this was unique to the US version, but apparently, she goes by a different name in the original Japanese as well (again, thanks Bulbapedia.)

Anyway, Ash talks about a bunch of new Pokémon that he’s caught…  offscreen.  Yeah.  Rather than show some kind of montage of the captures, we’re given brief, vague descriptions of their captures.  This is probably my biggest complaint about EToP- a lot of captures (read: most of them) occur off-camera to streamline the stories.  This wouldn’t be such a big deal if every other bit of narrative media (such as cartoons, comics, and the like) treated captures this way.  here, we don’t have the same amount of time to care, for example, when Caterpie evolves into Metapod.

Misty cuts into Ash’s thought process by stealing the portable computer (which makes the iPhone look like a joke with its size,) and taunting Ash about a possible preference for older women.

Well…  uh…

Wasn’t this supposed to be for kids?  I mean, when Viz released the comics in tankoban format, they censored a lot (Misty’s swimsuits, a hot springs incident in the second volume, and everyone’s breast size immediately jump to mind.)  However they managed to get this through?

Um, anyway, Misty drags the conversation to her bike, which is a parallel to the anime.  Assuming for a minute that you didn’t watch the anime, Misty followed Ash around early on for one reason- to make him pay for her bike, which Pikachu incinerated while fighting off a flock of Spearows.  They cut out so much from the manga, so I’m actually surprised they kept that.  It’s certainly a nice touch.

Ash can’t pay, and is too prideful to get his parents to pay the sum Misty generates as the cost of her bike (10,000, with no indicator at to the currency.)  We’re given a brief blurb about how trainers have to collect badges, and Ash enters his first gym battle- the fight against Brock, one of the most important fights in the anime, because Brock is motivated to travel with Ash afterward.  Here, we get two pages dedicated to a curb stomp battle, Brock telling Ash he’s awesome, and then…  nothing.

Riveting, huh folks?

Brock will not follow Ash for a while.  So, let’s put this major character’s official debut on hold so that Ash and Misty can snark at each other in the aftermath.  Ash derails the shipping fuel for a moment to discuss what each of his Pokémon’s favorite snack is (there’s a reason I mentioned that- remember it!)  The topic of nicknames comes up, and Ash drops punny nicknames that we’ll never hear again for all of his Pokémon (Jean-Luc Pikachu, you will be missed.)

It’s here that we come back to the lack of emotional attachment that I mentioned earlier.  In the anime, when Caterpie evolved, there was a sense of accomplishment.  You had a whole episode to learn about the character, and to understand his motivation, even if the delivery of said motivation is embarrassing to watch with other people in the room.  Here…  Ash has a Caterpie.  Caterpie evolves.  Ash has a Metapod.  Yay.

Ash announces that he’s heading to Cerulean City, acts like a jackass on his way out, and we then cut away to Cerulean.  Let me remind you that this is still the second chapter.  So far, we’ve covered episodes 4, 5, and now 7 in short order.  3 happened offscreen, and 2 and 6 never happened.  Still with me?  Good.

Ash arrives in the Cerulean Gym, the Leaders there waste panels, and Misty shows up to challenge Ash, as well as to reveal herself as the fourth gym leader sister. As a side note, the face Ash makes immediately after discovering that last fact is probably the most unintentionally hilarious thing I have seen in any manga.

Misty makes her Gyarados steal Ash’s hat, and tells him that he’ll get the badge if he can reclaim it.  Okay, seems simple enough, but we’re forgetting one important fact that makes the outcome of the match a foregone conclusion.

Ash is an idiot.

Pikachu’s terrified of Gyarados, Fearow’s asleep, Pidgeotto took a vacation (no, seriously,) and METAPOD used HARDEN!

Of course, we’re also forgetting one other important fact that makes the outcome of the match a foregone conclusion.

Ash is the main character.

Misty’s in the middle of giving Ash a massive lecture, when Metapod evolves out of nowhere.  Yay.  Gyarados is KO’ed by a Sleep Powder attack (no, seriously,) and Ash sends Pikachu out to grab the hat.  Then, it turns out that Misty actually listened when Ash was talking about his Pokémon’s favorite snacks, and distracts Pikachu with a rice ball.  Ash uses this strategy as well, however, waking up Fearow by tossing a dumpling at the hat.  Victory, Ash.

Later, we cut to Misty calling bullshit on rules that she herself placed, and her sisters slap the “thing for younger men” label on her.  Wow, I didn’t think we could sink the bar any lower, but now we’re making multiple kinds of creepy sex jokes!  For kids!  In the 1990s!

Anyway, that’s our chapter.  Next, we’ll be looking at old men who abduct unconscious children while wearing creepy costumes.  And no, that’s not a joke.

EDIT: While a very stylized plot summary is all well and good, this is a review site.  As in, I have to tell you guys what my opinion of the material is.

This chapter could have been worse.  The art is really, really good, with a particular favorite of mine being the artistic license taken with Gyarados.  The unusual Gym Challenge is a really good idea.  On the other hand, we have uncomfortable jokes thrown around by ten-and-twelve-year-olds, and we spend far too much time on Ash and Misty’s bickering.  Overall, it’s a solid chapter, but it’s not really what I would call good.  Read it for yourself, and decide if it’s worth re-reading.

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