Alright, so Happy Birthday, Pokémon!
…So sorry about the wait…
Chapter 11: Days of Gloom and Glory
Can it be? After so long… is the plot finally back on track? Not yet, but it’s close enough for me!
I like this chapter. It’s post-30 Pages, but it tells a good (and completely over-the-top goofy) story. I never saw the anime episode this is based off of, but I guarantee it will never reach the level of awesome we see here.
Our first shot in this chapter? Ash’s now-full badge case. In the seven chapters since his last gym battle, he’s acquired all eight badges. Yay, I guess. Not to belittle him or anything, but this goes back to the “lack of attachment” thing I keep harping on about.
Ash has some time to celebrate before Brock and Misty depart- apparently, they’re interested in competing in the league as well, and want to get some training in beforehand. They pretty much just drop that bomb on him, and exit stage right, leaving Ash on his own for the first time since “Clefairy Tale.”
Well, now that he’s on his own, what’s our protagonist going to do? He begins by wandering into an area that’s been suffering heavy flooding, to the point where we’re seeing skyscrapers poking out of the water. Ash picks a spot to sit down, and begins flipping through the personal files of his other league competitors, courtesy of Nurse Joy. He notes that Gary’s also qualified for the league, and seems delighted.
He’s about to fire off an email to May, when he notices an oddly-shaped object off in the distance. It turns out to be some kind of futuristic, metal parasol held by a young woman standing amongst a group of Gloom. Ash is amazed that the Gloom don’t give off the typical stench associated with the species, and the woman tells him that the right combination of herbs mixed into their water can eliminate the stench.
Ash is surprised to find a large bunch of Leaf Stones, and is equally surprised to learn that they’re fakes. The girl was duped into buying them by “some bad people,” right after her house was destroyed. Apparently, it sank into the sea. I’m not going to make a Monty Python reference here, so let’s move on.
An intimidating man named Potter jumps twenty feet out of the water to reunite the girl (Florinda) with a Weepinbel plush and her diary. And no, that’s not a joke- he literally jumps 20 feet out of the water, and lands flawlessly. We’re given some blatant ship fuel (as though none of us have guessed by now that they’ll be together at the end of the chapter,) and Ash attempts to sneak away while they’re occupied with each other. Potter catches him as he’s leaving, and asks him if he’s seen the people who ripped Florinda off- Jessie and James. Big surprise, there.
Cut to Team Rocket, who are underwater, raiding the sunken ruins of the house for riches. Jessie and James are in the midst of celebrating the find, and don’t notice the Gyarados silhouette behind them. meanwhile, Meowth reminisces about the town, where he apparently grew up. He’s in the middle of remembering his first love, when Jessie and James alert him to the fact that they’re now being chased by no less that three Gyarados.
Back with Ash, Potter is furious that Ash appears to know Team Rocket. Ash tries to explain that they’re enemies, but is interrupted by the sounds of Jessie and James being attacked by the Gyarados. He then-
…Oh, mighty Arceus…
I need a moment to take in the amount of crazy awesome present here. One second, please…
Okay, so Potter hops off of the bridge…
…charges across the surface of the water to see what’s going on…
…jump kicks a Gyarados in the freaking face…
…dodges Hyper Beams for a few minutes…
…and presumably KOs the trio of Gyarados with nothing but his bare fists and feet.
He, Alex Louis Armstrong, and Kamina should have a drink sometime.
Anyway, shortly after this display of raw badassery, Jessie and James have been rescued. Florinda tricks them into eating the false Leaf Stones (as a side note, James appears to be continuing to attempt to eat the Leaf Stone one panel later,) and Potter attempts to threaten them into giving back the money they took. They don’t have it, so he lifts the two of them up, and hurls them off into the distance.
Later, Ash goes through the loot Team Rocket somehow managed to bring ashore. Potter prepares to bring it to a police station, when Ash discovers an inhabited Poké Ball. They open it up, and a Meowth pops out. Not Team Rocket’s Meowth, though. Speaking of Team Rocket, we flash back to them briefly, as Jessie swears that she’ll steal all the Gloom. Back with Ash, there’s no ID on the Meowth, and a price tag still left on the outside of the Ball. Potter leaves with the loot, and Ash stays behind with Florinda.
As it turns out, it may have been a much better idea to reverse who goes where, as Team Rocket takes advantage of Potter’s absence. They wait until Ash leaves, and show up to try and scam Florinda one more time. Before she can be conned again, Meowth is shocked into breaking character by the appearance of the other Meowth that was rescued earlier. Meowth notes that this young one resembles the first love of his that he mentioned a while back, and we’re treated to a sequence that seems to imply that Meowth has an illegitimate child. For kids!
Ash happens to come back at this point, and prepares to battle with them. Team Rocket gets an early upper hand this time by inflicting psychological damage to him, telling him that if he never graduates from school (remember that he’s on trainer’s leave,) he’ll become evil like them. Apparently, Ash takes this pretty hard, and is no longer able to battle. However, Pikachu is still in the fight, and proceeds to… do absolutely nothing to Team Rocket, and focuses on trying to cheer Ash up. Seriously, he’s lucky that Potter shows up a few panels later, otherwise Florinda would have been robbed blind.
Potter grabs Tea Rocket in a headlock, and Jessie throws out Arbok in a fit of desperation. Ash shouts that Arbok’s a pushover, but it seems that Team Rocket has drawn the “Get out of Jail Free” card. Potter, like so many other awesome people that jump to mind, is terrified of snakes. Florinda plays her own awesome card here, and has all twenty some-odd Gloom fire a Solar Bea each at Team Rocket. Now, I know that Grass is weak against Poison, but if there’s anything that Monster Houses, Xellos from Slayers, and the Fragile Speedster page on tvtropes have taught me, it’s that many small hits are devastating if they all connect.
Team Rocket blasts off, and Florinda and Potter realize their love for each other. Ash receives an email from his mom, and is re-energized to enter the league.
This chapter is probably average. The characters are interesting, but the plot throws a bit too much at you at once. Besides, the subplot about Meowth’s possible love child is a bit on the weird side for this comic. But I’m sorry, all I see is Potter. Truly, if the day ever comes where I can kick a sea dragon in the face…
Chapter 12: Welcome to the Big Leagues!
And here we arrive at our climax at the Pokémon League! It’s been a long, fun ride throughout the Kanto arc, but here we are, nearing the end. This is the two-part arc finale, followed by a chapter from the Orange Islands arc, and then we’ll have progressed as far as we can (because no lottery win for me.)
So, here we are, at the beginning of the end. The chapter throws us right into the action as we see Ash win a battle using his Kingler. Do I really need to drone on and on some more about the emotional disconnect? Well, don’t worry- it won’t last much longer.
We zoom out to an aerial view of the stadium, and are told that this is the first round of the novice tournament. Mikey, May, and Ash’s mother are shown watching, and Team Rocket is shown selling snacks in the crowd.
Ash takes a breather in the lobby. There, he runs into Gary, who he’s surprisingly friendly towards, especially considering, you know, he’s Gary Oak. We learn that Gary’s won his first round match as well, and the two part ways.
At lunch, we discover that Misty and Brock were both destroyed in their first matches, thus making most of the time they spent training completely pointless. So, they’re now relegated to moral support for the remainder of the arc, curiously mirroring most of the Johto arc. We get a throwaway line that indicates that Ash has a secret weapon right before Pikachu runs off and starts mooching off of another Pikachu. Ash lectures Pikachu, but is interrupted by the arrival of Designation Satoshi Beta Ritchie. The two hit it off pretty nicely, and Ritchie runs off to his match.
I’ll give you three guesses who Ash ends up losing to. Oh, come on. We all know that’s not a spoiler. Ash is like the Philadelphia Eagles of the Pokémon League- he can’t win a title, but he can accidentally do well often enough that he ends up in high-level competition. Some of you may be alternately mentioning the Orange Islands or pre-Super Bowl championships. I ask both of those groups this: do either of those really count? Orange was filler, and most people I know only think about Super Bowl wins. I could go on about either, but I get the sense that I’d end up going off on more of a tangent than I already have. Bottom line, Ash does not win tournaments.
Anyway, Ritchie handily wins his match almost off-screen, and we cut to Ash later, contemplating the secret weapon mentioned earlier- Charizard. He pulls it out to show Misty and Brock, and tells them it has one problem. Say it with me now, folks- it has a gigantic independent streak, and won’t listen to a word he says. However, unlike anime Charizard, this one can be temporarily tamed if Ash hypnotizes it with a Moltres Flame signal flare. It could be used to make Charizard league material, but there are three problems- Ash will be penalized if he uses it, it only lasts about a minute, and Charizard’s back to normal the second it no longer sees the flare. After evaluating the risk involved, Brock tells Ash that it’s best to use Charizard only as a last resort.
Day 2, and Ash kicks the day off with a victory. He and Ritchie (who also won his round) bond on a hillside, and we discover that neither of them is truly confident when battling.
Already, we skip ahead to Day 3, and Ash narrowly wins a battle with a girl trainer we were never given any reason to care about. He remembers that Ritchie’s also made it to this round, and is currently battling Gary. He dashes over to discover the result- Ritchie has won, and they’re facing each other in the next round.
Okay, so this chapter’s an excellent start to the only real story arc we got in this manga. I’ve skipped over Ash’s Day 3 battle (due to the fact that we’re told nothing about his opponent ever,) but its not a bad fight. I think the strength of this chapter mainly lies in Ritchie’s character- here we have this genuinely likeable character who pretty much drives the Indigo Leage plot by himself.
Considering how much I owe you guys for making you wait, let’s not waste any more time, and segue straight into…
Chapter 13: The Indigo Finals
I find it difficult not to feel a bit let down by this chapter. Then again, endings rarely impress me, so I’ll actually sit back and evaluate this one before I jump to any conclusions about the quality of this chapter.
We’re treated to a shot of Indigo Plateau Stadium, and are given a brief comedic bit in which Team Rocket goes nuts over the prospect of peanuts (yeah, yeah, I’ll start a line for author punching right here.) Then, the battle itself begins. Round 5- Ash vs Ritchie. The wait is over- Round 1!
Ash kicks off with Squirtle, and Ritchie with Butterfree. Their melee lasts roughly a page before the mutual KO, and if you’re even remotely familiar with how clone battles tend to go, you’ve probably figured out the next round, too. Both send in their Pikachu, and tie again.
Ritchie pings him on the intercom about how they should both throw their secret weapons into the ring. Ash agrees without a second thought, and throws in his loose cannon. Charizard pops into the ring, and it gets a good reaction from the crowd. Then Ritchie sends his out.
I’ll give you three guesses what Ash’s clone who also happens to have a secret weapon decided to throw out.
So, we have a Charizard battle. Even though the crowd appears to love it, an obvious problem begins to emerge very quickly- it’s a pair of fiercely competitive DRAGONS that have been unleashed to fight. So, barring a fatality, there’s no way outside of a surrender that this fight is going to end.
The two go at it for a while, right up until Ash loses control of his, and it goes for the jugular. Ritchie tries to recover his and surrender, but guess what? The return mechanism on his Ball is broken.
You heard me. Ash is forced to surrender because of a technical fault.
After the match, Ash and Ritchie talk casually about the event. The instant Ritchie leaves, however, Ash completely loses his cool, and enters hardcore angst mode. It takes some serious consolation and words of inspiration from Brock before Ash snaps out of it. He decides he’s going to buck up, and root for Ritchie all the way to the finals.
Overall, this chapter was… eh. The art was really good- in particular, the Charizard battle is where the budget went. Same time, though, not a lot happens plot-wise. The battles take up the entire chapter, and they absolutely should, but it doesn’t leave the plot much room to progress. Furthermore, the bit about Ash losing due to factors beyond his control… I’m not sure if it’s a good thing (for leaving his skill level ambiguous,) or a bad thing (for exactly the same reason.) However, no matter what, it’s an end to the arc.
There’s one more chapter in this tankobon, but I’m going to skip it. It starts an arc off, and doesn’t do much else. For all intents and purposes, this is where the manga ends.
Eight out of ten.
The stories throughout EToP are high-quality adaptations, often taking a lot of liberties with the stories, but almost always keeping enough of the story to keep it reasonable. However, it is not without its flaws, given the rather high number of chapters in the middle that range in quality from really, really good, to really, really bad, and then to the middle ground of very, very bad, but fun nonetheless.
The art is almost always beautiful, and the liberties taken with the Pokémon designs are never distracting.
Overall, this is an excellent manga, based just on what I’ve seen. Should I ever get my hands on a reasonably-priced copy of Surf’s Up, Pikachu, you’d better believe I’ll finish up the review.
Okay, so I promised something special on the tail end of my EToP review, so here it is.
The Pokémon TV app released recently, for those who haven’t heard. It’s unlimited viewing of everything on the Pokémon TV section of the website, and it’s free- anyone who enjoys the anime has no excuse not to download it.
But what I’m here to talk about isn’t the app. What I’m here to talk about is the launch celebration material- namely, the Meloetta Short, which is being dubbed specifically because of the app.
Now, you’ve heard me trumpet the praise of Pikachu shorts before. They’re cute, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and they usually come with an order of innocence. The Meloetta short is no exception, but it takes a very strange route compared to what was the norm.
We’re dropped in the middle of a forest where a Meloetta is set to give a dazzling recital. As it starts, however, we see a Meowth and Wobuffet (who are totally not affiliated with any evil teams associated with space travel, in spite of the fact that the Meowth speaks flawless Human) start trouble, and end up enraging a Crustle. Rather than just attacking the pair of them, the Crustle in question (who in no way resembles a Crustle owned by a certain traveling Gym Leader) launches them straight forward with a Sandstorm attack. This sweeps across the stage, scattering a set of five MacGuffins called Melody Berries across the four winds. It’s now up to Totally-Not-Ash’s-Pikachu and his group of friends (who certainly have nothing to do with the main cast’s Pokémon) to track them down.
Okay, so as some of you have already figured out, I’m not a fan of the fact that they clearly use the main cast of Pokémon outside of their normal roles. You could make the argument that this is actually Ash’s Pikachu, but we’re never told this. You could say that they’re suspiciously similar counterparts, but Meowth speaks perfect English for no easily discernable reason. You could also say that I should just sit down and evaluate the short, but I just find it incredibly jarring.
Now, there is one absolutely wonderful thing about this short that could not be done without the removal of human trainers- the sheer number of cameos. Just to name a few, we get to see Dawn’s Piplup, May’s Torchic, Misty’s Togepi, and a good chunk of Ash’s unevolved roster. And yes, these are all the same characters- Piplup picks fights with Oshawott, Croagunk doesn’t react to anything, and Togepi sits back and giggles at the near-death experiences of those surrounding it. These cameos make it seem like the short was written more for older fans, people who would see and understand these references.
Now, as for the story… It’s less than stellar. The group finds a cameo or three, who points them to a Melody Berry. They retrieve the Melody berries in a comedic fashion (with plenty of hijinks and shenanigans all around.) Rinse, lather, repeat. Is the payoff good? Well, we get to see Meloetta’s Pirouette and Aria formes, but that’s really about it. So, not an especially good plot.
However, the aesthetics of the short are another story. The locations they’ve designed- the forest and the crystal stage- both look really, really good. There’s always something that looks good in each shot. The Pokémon aren’t really drawn any differently, but it seems like everything else is.
So, is it good? Well, yes and no. The plot is awful, but their execution of it works. The cameos are a delight, but they suffer from the writers filing the barcodes off of the cast. The one thing that works without being detracted by something is the art, and it certainly is worth watching just for that.
Final Verdict: 5/10. Watch it, but don’t go in expecting the best short film ever.