No matter how much Pokemon fans may enjoy the anime at any point, no can argue that it isn’t heavily flawed and game mechanics and their interesting storylines aren’t showcased to the fullest. The miniseries, Pokemon Origins was an attempt to be a more faithful adaptation to the original Red and Blue games. The premise involves a young boy named Red on his journey as a Pokemon trainer with his starter Pokemon Charmander. As he races to the top against his rival Blue, he gradually evolves his Pokemon and his way of thinking about them.
The first episode established things rather brilliantly. Blue picks the stronger starter in comparison to Red and overwhelms him as a result. At the beginning, Red is oblivious to the Pokemon-trainer bond and basic battle techniques and this cost him gravely in the battle against Blue. The first gym battle also gave way to a neat idea of how gym leaders approach trainers: the amount and kinds of Pokemon they use largely depends on the trainer’s skill level. There’s a nice touch with a health bar being shown on the scoreboard next to each Pokemon. And they show how the adrenaline of the battle is felt through the Pokemon and the trainer. They do their best to translate move mechanics like Bide but do a complete 180 when in the last battle Charmander knocks out Onix on merit of being faster. Trying to mesh both was rather distracting. With that being said they do use some nice renditions of the classic game music which continued into subsequent parts.
Part 2 is where things took a tumble down. So much that could have been interesting such as Red’s battle with Misty, Charmander’s evolution, Red’s new captures, etc. are all show in a recap. And this is something that would continue in subsequent parts as well making it really feel like a video walkthrough of the game rather than a miniseries. The battle against the Rocket Grunts at Lavender Town was fun to watch and the scene with the Cubone and the ghost of its mother was a tearjerker but it’s all we get and in comparison to how much was established in the prior episode it’s rather underwhelming.
Part 3 helped establish Red’s beef with Giovanni and included the second full gym battle in the series. Giovanni takes a different approach to battling Red in response to this by using a different set of Pokemon. While it’s understandable to show a gym leader’s strength by being able to counter type advantages it is completely unbelievable that a Victreebel, Kabutops, and Hitmonlee all fall in almost instantly to a Rhyhorn and a Jolteon falling to a single Thunderbolt. I admired the deviation from the games by having Giovanni remember his love for Pokemon it gets really heavy handed. It is however, admirable that in a sort of poetic way, Charizard started Red’s journey to collect the badges as a Charmander and that it followed through.
The final part made the horrible mistake of merely showing the battles against the Elite Four through a couple-second montage. Even the battle against Blue (up until Charizard vs. Blastoise) is done so as well. The fact that Red’s Charizard survives the Hydro Pump was a neat touch showing just how much Red’s raised it (as we rarely see any of his other Pokemon). But Charizard’s moves in taking on Blastoise once again lose impact as it falls to a mere couple of fire-type moves (the mega punch did little damage). The one sequence of where the montage worked was in what happens afterwards through Red continuing to catch ‘em all (there’s even a nice joke with the elusive Chansey). It also builds a great suspense with the identity of Mewtwo. This led to introducing Mega Evolution with Charizard. On the one hand it can be considered bad to incorporate such a concept back when it wasn’t even invented yet. But it did help further the magnitude of the battle against Mewtwo and served as a testament to its strength back in the days of Gen 1 as even Red’s legendaries cannot defeat it. And it ends with another mystery of the elusive Mew. I liked how they didn’t show whether or not Red captured it as for a long time, Mew was considered uncatchable outside of a glitch.
Pokemon Origins has some neat voice acting and incorporates some good aspects. But it misses so much of what makes the journey of Pokemon engaging. Is it something worth watching more than once? Probably not. But is it worth watching? Absolutely!