This week, the world has been taken by storm as an entire generation of millenials have taken to the streets in order to make their childhood dreams come true. Two decades after its original inception, Nintendo have finally given us all the chance to catch those adorable Pocket Monsters in real life, causing hoards of grown men (including this world-weary writer) to take to the streets in search of their favourite beasts. Judging by the swarms of bearded blokes hanging about around Bournemouth Pier this lunchtime, desperately trying to catch enough bloody Magicarp in order to be the first to evolve the elusive Gyarados, it’s clear that I’m not the only one whose life was changed significantly by this monster of a Japanese export.
So, what better place to go for this week’s Retro Review than all the way back to the Kanto region and the story of the young boy who inspired a generation to be the very best as we take a nostalgic look at the very first genersation of…. (get ready tpo sing along…)
The story is a simple one; ten year old Ash Ketchum, at the behest of the eccentric Professor Oak, sets out to become the greatest pokemon master of all time. At his side are his loyalist of buddies Pikachu (who, lest we forget, was actually the booby prize for turning up late when the iconic starter pokemon Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle were being handed out to the local lads), as well as eager pokemon breeder Brock and gutsy gym leader Misty, each of whom keep the impetuous young Ash in line. Nipping at his heels, however, is childhood rival Gary, as well as the hilarious hopeless duo of Jessie and James, the world-reknowned Team Rocket.
Although other Japanese phenomena such as Dragonball and Naruto have managed to garner cliques of loyal fans in the West, Pokemon inspired an entire generation like few other shows ever have. The game itself had kids glued to their Gameboys, and pocket money was spent aplenty in search of that elusive Charizard card. What makes Pokemon truly wonderful, however, is the unique ability of the anime series to combine humour and cuteness with a truly compelling narrative. Ash’s story may be simple; catch, fight, be the best; but what makes the show shine is how much we truly care for the characters. The plight of our heroes is a story of courage against adversity, perhaps no better illustrated than in the unforgettable battle against the arrogant Lt. Surge, in which the overwhelmed Pikachu somehow manages to keep picking himself up, despite the unending battering from the far stronger Raichu.
Indeed, the idea of batting for the underdog runs strong throughout the show. During its original run, young Ash fought foes older, wiser and richer than him, but each with an almost Shakespearean fatal flaw that allowed our young hero to eventually come up trumps. Despite his youth and inexperience, Ash’s pluck and determination usually pull him through (making it even more heartbreaking when it doesn’t), making him a truly inspiring hero.
All this, mixed with rocking animation, and one of the most awe-inspiring theme songs of all time, and you have all the ingredients required for a show almost as legendary as an Articuno.
Pokemon Go may have fulfilled the life-long dreams of many of us, but nothing will ever quite beat watching Ash and his team fight their way to catch ‘em all.
Though bagging a Jigglypuff on the way to work this morning might just have been the happiest moment of my life.
Cast: Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ikue Otani,
Number of episodes: 913
Episode Runtime: 24mins