Author: Hidenori Kusaka
Publisher: Viz Kids
Rating: All Ages
Release Date: June 2009
Synopsis: “Red doesn’t just want to train Pokemon, he wants to be their friend too. Bulbasaur and Poliwhirl seem game. But independent Pikachu won’t be so easy to win over! And watch out for Team Rocket, Red… They only want to be your enemy!”
Red has always loved Pokemon, creatures with remarkable powers who come in nearly every shape and size. After an accident turns out beneficial for him, Red sets out on the adventure he’s always dreamed of: to see and capture every Pokemon in the world! With his Pokemon-friends and partners at his side, and a sparky new addition to their team who is notably far less apt to cooperate, the group leaves their home of Pallet Town to traverse the big wide world and live all there is to experience about the multitude of Pokemon out there.
Looks like I spoke too soon when I questioned Viz’s decision to put out a ‘Best of Red’ collection instead of fully collecting the series chronologically from start to finish. A few months after the best-ofs were released, here comes the start of the full collection, Pokemon Adventures, volume one. Well played, Viz. You had fans of the series picking up the best-ofs, being the first real graphic novel collection of the series, and then put out the full-collection; viola, we fans have purchased them both. It was a cunning plan and I fell hook, line and Pokeball. But I’ll forgive you Viz, because I do love this series that much.
All the well-known main players are here, from Red (known more so to present day fans as Ash) to his rival Blue (known to most as Gary). Blue is pleasantly much easier to like as a character, though he isn’t in a great deal of the book. When he is, he’s got a chip on his shoulder, and an ego atop it, but he’s much more focused in his Pokemon training and less of a show boater than other versions of him are. He and Red continue to be rivals, both aiming for the highest goal a Pokemon trainer can have: to be the strongest Pokemon master. Misty makes an appearance as well, but is another acquaintance that Red makes on his journey instead of a travel buddy, and even Brock shows up for a short stint in his gym-leader origins.
Pokemon fans who only know the series from the anime may find the lacking involvement of some of the television show’s main cast a little surprising, but to those who’ve played the original video games, this will all feel really nostalgically familiar. The execution of the plot itself is very linear with Ash visiting each town, having an adventure of some sort and moving onto the next. It’s a strong formula when handled as lightly as it here however, never taking too long in each town and never overemphasizing an unbelievable amount of success on his part, despite his more-often-than-not triumphs over unexpected odds.
My favourite chapter of the book sees Red enter a bike race and this story has some prime examples of the creativity utilized by Pokemon trainers in this world, the practicality of which is wonderfully refreshing to behold after some more stagnant renditions.
While the art style of this particular interpretation of the Pocket Monsters is easily taken as a quick sign of the content, it’s worth making note that there is some violence and light gore in this series. Pokemon corpses, trainers being attacked in place of their Pokemon and occasionally Pokemon are chopped apart and killed, including the very-rarely ever seen, or considered, Pokemon interior structure. These moments aren’t often, most contained to the book’s last chapter where Red enters a haunted Pokemon cemetery, but they do stand out considerably in a story that’s otherwise pretty light-hearted both in plot and art.
Pokemon Adventures remains my favourite manga rendition of Pokemon, and a treat to read overall, because it’s so much fun to sit down with. A simple book with some good laughs, some oddly exciting moments of anticipation and a revitalizing amount of imagination that sits comfortably within the realms of the original source material. With an adorable art style that I can’t help but love and a story that offers up more than its share of good times, I can’t wait to finish experiencing each and every part of Pokemon Adventures because I just have such a great time doing it.