I remember watching Ash Ketchum travel the Kanto region: I'd be playing my Game Boy Color and not have a care in the world whilst doing so.
Now, a little under 20 years later, I'm playing Pokémon on my 3DS.
However, when the anime became a little to childish for me, I began to invest my time in reading the Pokémon Adventures manga series; so, I thought, why not go ahead and compare the two?
The story follows a young trainer named Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town. Arriving late to the ceremony of young trainers leaving Pallet to start their journey, he is unable to receive one of the three starter Pokémon. Because of this, he receives a wild and disobedient Pikachu. After overcoming trial and error during an attack from a flock of Spearow, the two become friends and travel the Kanto region as Ash tries to become a Pokémon master. Upon traveling, they become friends with the Pewter City gym leader, Brock, and the Cerulean City gym leader, Misty. This trio is constantly met with annoying challenges from the goofy villains of Team Rocket, but never fail to send them "blasting off again!" Eventually, Ash would go on to defeat all of the gym leaders in Kanto but fail to win the Pokémon League tournament. Ash would go on to challenge many other regions following the same formula for years to come.
The story also follows a young trainer from the town of Pallet. However, much like his video game counterpart, he is known simply as Red. With Red already being a pretty decent trainer, he knows how to catch Pokémon. In addition, he has a pretty powerful Poliwhirl to start off with. Much like the games, Red battles the evil terrorist group, Team Rocket, who will stop at nothing to capture legendary Pokémon. Throughout the manga, he finds himself in confrontations or defending Pokémon like Mew, Mewtwo, and the legendary bird trio. In the end, Red and his rivals defeat Team Rocket on their path to the league. Red also bests his rival, Blue, and is recognized as the league champion. Red's role throughout the later arcs would change, but he always remains a constant in the Pokémon Adventures series, even if he wasn't the focus of the story.
Winner: The Manga. It seems as if the anime series would always save the huge confrontations with legendary Pokémon for the movies, which would be fine if they made an effort to acknowledge the movies in the regular series. The Manga just did such a good job of keeping the action fresh and giving us awesome moments against Team Rocket, making them feel like a legitimate threat as a opposed to comedic relief bit. All of those confrontations with legendary Pokémon would play into the plot line for arcs to come, too. In addition with Red taking a back seat later on in particular arcs, he never overstayed his welcome, keeping the manga fresh.
Ash Ketchum is a young, naïve character who is headstrong. For a series about creatures kicking the crap out of each other with weird powers, this seems appropriate and can make for some memorable moments. However, he is still just that years later: young and naïve. While he does show some glimpses of maturity, you never truly feel the character grow; and while you can appreciate that they're trying to keep him accessible to the same demographic each series, it does make it difficult for the viewer to connect with him at the beginning of a new series. To make it even more difficult, not only does he not age, but his Pikachu becomes incredibly weak at the beginning of each season…URGH!!!
The enemies suck—at least Team Rocket does. Don't get me wrong; I have a special place for Jesse and James in my heart, but with their inclusion as the main enemy in the series, their act gets old and redundant. You know they're never going to one-up the heroes, and you know they pose no real threat. Now while some of the enemy groups were taken more seriously and kept your attention longer—outside of Team Galactica and N—none of them seemed to have any damn personality.
Red starts the series as quite the cocky and enthusiastic trainer. He is 11 when the series starts off, and is 16 as of right now. You truly feel you go on a journey with Red as he starts off as a rookie and makes his way to becoming a champion, by which time he has matured and tackles situations with more understanding in addition to not being so cocky. During the series, we even see Red lose his confidence after coming up short against Deoxys. It's always a roller coaster with him and he never really overstays his welcome when the focus shifts to a new cast of main characters.
The manga takes a bit of a different approach to the rivals: besides Blue, they're toned down quite a bit. More often than naught, rivals either take more of a back seat to the story or find themselves working with one another during the series. It benefits the plot in the long run, but they're not the most memorable characters.
The enemies in Pokémon Adventures are goddamn amazing! In fact, it's where the bulk of the plot line is driven from and it never disappoints. Team Rocket are such a legitimate threat with several of the gym leaders actually being members of Team Rocket. In addition, Lance and other members of the Elite Four want to destroy humanity for the sake of the Pokémon's well being. The main antagonist of the series is the Mask of Ice: Pryce of Mahogany town, often thought as nothing special in the games, in fact plays this role. He became cold and distant after the death of his Lapras and kidnaps Green and Silver as children along with various other people. He later becomes the leader of the second coming of Team Rocket and is the reason for all of their horrible deeds, including creating an army of Gyarados at the Lake of Rage. I could give the Mask of Ice his own article if I continued on, but he truly is a fantastic villain with a more fantastic back story than is game counterpart. He truly benefits from a variety of characters and their personalities. Having a true antagonist is awesome!
Winner: The Manga. I'm not exactly biased or anything, but—and it's hard to argue beyond the cast of rivals—the manga just does a much better job of not only building the enemies up as something special, but it gives you a refreshing supply of them throughout the duration of the story. Plus, the main character is so much easier to connect to.
I'll wrap things up here saying that I'm a big fan of both, and maybe I'll tackle this subject again later on down the road, but for me, I just enjoy the manga so much more. Until then, if you want to hear my and other Fanboys Anonymous members' thoughts about Pokémon, go and check out Addicted to Anime this Sunday, April 27th, at 8pm EST on Mega Powers Radio as we discuss Pokémon.
I'm also interested in your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with my review? Let me know in the comments section below!