Manga-ka: Hidenori Kusaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: All Ages
Release Date: November 2009
Synopsis: “Red is improving rapidly as a Pokémon trainer–and so is his competition. But now Red must team up with his biggest rival Blue and thief Green to defeat a common enemy! And watch out for Team Rocket, Red… They won’t let you into Saffron City!”
In this third volume suddenly Pokemon Adventures starts feeling much less episodic. From the beginning there has always been a continuing plotline, but though each one is connected to the next, they still felt fairly self-contained. All previously present characters return in this book and it’s one long string of events. It includes a number of the classic Pokemon staples – fighting against Team Rocket, rescuing Pokemon and a showdown between Red and Blue tournament-style – but also hits hard with its share of surprises.
The bulk of the book is Red and co battling their way through Team Rocket, hoping to halt their plans to create an army of Pokemon for their nefarious purposes. The good guys are all split up and must survive their own battles but there are plenty of come-together-to-kick-butt moments that provide the book’s most exciting moments.
Some new characters are introduced in this volume, preparing the story for a different story arc shortly after this climatic chapter reaches its finale. Introduced is a sweet young girl with a strong affinity for Pokemon. After being rescued by Red, she becomes inspired to become a real Pokemon trainer as he is. Then on the darker spectrum, this third volume re-introduces Giovanni in his true role as the leader of Team Rocket.
Thanks to aforementioned organization, various moments of this volume are surprisingly brutal, even in light of the occasionally violent moments from past installments. Pokemon and their trainers alike are stabbed, slashed, electrocuted and suffocated through a combination of battle and torture at the ends of the sinister Team Rocket. The cute art style and high-constitution of the characters keeps these scenes from completely soiling the books’ All Ages rating but it does remain a solid reason why parents should still flip through any book before they purchase them for younger eyes.
On the flipside, moments such as these offer a real sense of danger to the situations that make the whole story much more compelling to older readers. To borrow a quote: ” Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren’t like those guys. They won’t exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance.” (Helen, Pixar’s The Incredibles). Yes, yes they will and it helps lift the story up from its entirely-for-kids typecasting.
Still the series as a whole remains an enjoyable journey, well deserving the name of Pokemon Adventures. The contrast between its darker themes and adorable art style allow the book to appeal to a multitude of audiences, all of whom could find entirely different aspects of the story to their liking. Those who enjoy the original Nintendo games will still find the most to their taste however, as the books follow the tone of the handheld games very closely.
Red’s quest to befriend the Pokemon of the world while defending them from the evil Team Rocket still manages to feel refreshing in this incarnation of the story, bringing together a facet of entertaining characters and a fun new angle to a series long since associated with a mere Gotta Catch ‘Em All motivation. With all its gusto and cute, Pokemon Adventures’ volumes remain among my most anticipated and I really look forward to the direction that previous Best Of books have shown are coming.