Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kid's Stuff, Part VI: Pokemon -- Pikachu Shocks Back #3





Want to see my Pocket Monster?

Pokemon is a huge part of toy revenue yearly for Nintendo and ranks somewhere near the highest marketing victory on my list of toy tie-ins. Pokemon’s popularity may even cause it to eclipse the top ranking unnamed tie-in at some time in the future, but because of its relative youth there’s still a chance that its star might fade. 





The best fansites I’ve seen (and there’s many of them) can be found HERE and a wiki of Pokemon can be found HERE.


Released in 1998 in the US, Pokemon began as game cartridges for the Nintendo Game Boy. Game play was simple, Players collected Pokemon or “Pocket Monsters”, trained them and then battled against other Pokemon to win them as well. Players had 151 creatures to “collect” and they could even trade and battle with other Game Boy users via a link up cable. Pokemon Red and Blue was such a success that Pokemon Yellow was released months later. Yellow entered the Guinness Book of Records for selling one million copies within the span of one month. Twenty-six cartridges later, Pokemon games still sell well on the hand held systems while the number of monsters in the game have swelled to 721.



As for branching out, Pokemon became a collectible trading card game end of year 1999. Since the first set of cards was offered for sale, as of 2015 there have been 63 different Pokemon trading card game sets released. Pokemon tournaments have sprung up nationwide and even though Magic: the Gathering was there first, Pokemon is still considered one of the founding collectible card games.

And it's kind of fun if you have enough cards to make a decent deck.

 


The anime (or cartoon on this side of the pond) aired alongside the release of the first two cartridges. From the get-go, Pokemon drew a large following. Currently it is in its 19th season and is the forth longest running animated television series in North America (beaten only by The Simpsons, Arthur, and South Park). It has even spawned spin off shows featuring side characters. Also, seventeen movies have been released and two feature-length TV broadcasts. A majority of the show and movies follow Pokemon newbie trainer Ash Ketchum and his poke-pal Pikachu as he attempts to “catch em all” and become a Pokemon Master. I’ve only watched bits and pieces of the series, but I really have to wonder what would drive someone to want to be a Pokemon Master. Maybe they get free breakfast for life at Denny’s or something.

The makers of the cartoon also hit upon the most ingenious way of introducing children to 720 unique creatures. Each Pokemon has a limited vocabulary and can only communicate by speaking its name or a portion thereof. This is so smart because it indoctrinates the youngsters into the language of Pokemon and dovetails right into them playing the video game or collecting the trading cards. What a way to eliminate the barrier of having to memorize which monster is which. Just watch a few episodes and you get a good idea of the basic Pokemon you’ll encounter and their powers.

Pokemon: Pikachu Shocks Back is a translation of a four part epic manga originally released in Japan as The Electric Tale of Pikachu. It’s all black and white art and is tightly interwoven with the anime. So tightly woven in fact that at various points in the story you are asked to see the Pokemon TV series for details on what happened to this or that character between panels.

As distracting as those kind of interruptions can be, nothing is more annoying as the manga art style in its purest form. I understand that artistic license lets you bend characters forms to show emotions or to set the scene. It’s just that manga takes these ideas and simplifies them to the extreme. It’s the difference between making a character’s face slightly more rounded with dreamy eyes while adding a soft filter around their head to show happiness versus replacing all facial characteristics with “ >v< “. Its lazy artistry, like shorthanding your work. To me it defeats the “show not tell” idiom. So I’m not fond of Pikachu Shocks Back’s pages.

The story in issue three, which is subtitled “Pikachu’s Excellent Adventure”, begins at a Local Pokemon Center where Ash and crew are kicking back. Duplica (a Pokemon trainer) is showing off the impersonation abilities of Ditto (her Pokemon).



I think that’s suppose to be some kind of joke on Saban’s Power Rangers franchise. It’s hard to be sure with these Japanese-to-English translations. Sometimes the words come across but the funny falls a bit short. I sure hope that Ditto has more powers than just impersonation. Can you imagine fighting a Pokemon battle against something that could breathe fire or shoot sharp quills and the only thing your Pokemon can do is make like Rich Little? Also it seems I’m not the only one that doesn’t get the joke.



Look here writers, if you have to explain the joke in minute detail, it’s no longer a joke; it’s just an embarrassment. These are more of Ash’s friends and thanks to the helpful arrows (whose appearance totally takes me out of the story) we know their names are Giselle and Joe. From Duplica, Ash and the gang learn of a hidden village where lost Pokemon go to.


However teenage guy hormones being what they are means that Ash, Samurai (please leave the titles off!) and Brock have to find a way to ditch the girls because they have cooties or some nonsense. I guess it’s a guy thing and I wouldn’t understand. Except when I was a teenage guy, I was looking for excuses to spend time WITH girls not finding reasons to ditch them so I could play with my pocket monster. Ash says something incredibly stupid trying to get rid of the chicks which leads Misty to ask Ditto to imitate Ash.



That bit is kind of cute. I could do without the over exaggerating Ash’s features in panel two, but I’m willing to overlook it. This time. But don’t do it again (they will)! So Ash and the gang go looking for lost Pokemon to exploit in their oddly acceptable form of organized teenage cockfighting. Everyone except Pikachu, who gets left behind because he’s fingering a Squirtle. That sounds dirty doesn’t it? Here, see for yourself.



Since all the humans are gone, the two Pokemon have a nice long chat.



Don’t despair! I didn’t understand what they were saying either. Then I found the Rosetta Stone of the Pokemon language. I present for the first time anywhere, excerpts from “The Crapbox Guide to Speaking Pokenese”.

Brief Guide to speaking Pokemon:

Pika                                    Hello
Pee-Kaa                               Oh, shit!
Pikachu                                My name is Pikachu
Pika, Pika                             I have to use the bathroom
Pika, Pika, Pika                     I really have to use the bathroom
Pika, Pika Choo                     False alarm, I just have gas
Pee-Kaa-Chooo                     Take that, (fill in the blank)
Pee-Kaa, Pee-Kaa                 I just won the Publishers Clearing
                                          House Sweepstakes
Pik-AAAH                             I don’t want to go in the ball
Pika X 25                             That new Britney song isn’t that bad
Choo                                   God bless you!
Pi                                        Stuff you and the horse you rode in on

For a brief time this guide can by yours for the low, low price of $19.95. Just send a SASE to

                        Turning Pokenese
                        1110 Weathermen Way
                        Dallas, TX 75432

Luckily I can translate the rest of the issue for us.



Pikachu freaks at the news and ultimately decides to follow the Squirtle and a forlorn Charmander to the “Secret Village of Lost Pokemon”. Ash meanwhile realizes he’s abandoned his best friend (and most potent cockfighter) and high-tails it back to find Pika long gone.



*Nelsons Ash
“Ha-Ha!”

The Pokemon group is making good time when they suddenly come across a strange young boy who can speak Pokenese. He must have bought my book!



Or been raised by a wild Pokemon called a Kanga. Man that’s a bad hairdoo! I’m talking bed head for several days in a row. Poke-Mowgli and Mom agree to take the group to the Pokemon Paradise. Ash gets a full page of crying and being consoled by the other trainers. And then our Pokemon troop bumps into Team Rocket.



Meowth looks like he’s just used your best dress as a litter box. Team Rocket is the name of the idiot villains in the Pokemon series. It consists of Jessie and James, humans who may or may not be related. If they are related, I get an odd incestuous vibe from them. Oh, and Meowth, a cat type Pokemon who speaks English and seems smarter than both his human “trainers” put together.



No, no they won’t. That’s their job in this series. Their incompetence means that any plans they have are always foiled and usually by their own screwups. Like here, where they plan on hoodwinking the Pokeys to take them to the secret village by drumming up a cock-n-bull story about how they are outcasts too. The Pokemons are too smart to fall for this but realize that the odds are in their favor if Team Rocket isn’t on the level. Then we are treated to a …go watch the cartoon… break, which isn’t a distraction at all.


Yes, it really is. Stories should be self-contained, not forcing you to go read or view another source to get “the rest of the story”. Anyway they make it to the secret village, Team Rocket gets cocky and reveals their plan. They pull out all their Pocket Monsters (still sounds dirty) to combat our good guys. Pikachu Thunder Shocks them while Kanga delivers a Mega Kick and off Team Rocket flies…blasting off again. While they sail off, a stranger arrives.


Somebody should tell him that nobody talks like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins anymore. Not unless they want to get “cock-kneed”.


Please, make him stop! Pikachu gets the message that sometimes things happen beyond your trainer’s control and sets off to find Ash. He does and we have the standard “happy reunion” scene.



What with all the dolls, games and videos, you’d assume that the Pokemon comics would be huge sellers. Not so, it appears. I can find no info about any ongoing Pokemon comic series or manga. Viz comics did reprints of the Japanese manga in comic book form, but they only have one ongoing it seems. Appears that the anime and all the movies have created a case of market saturation. Either that or the property is so tightly held by Nintendo that creating a Pokemon comic book means dealing with a lot of red tape. Only Nintendo knows for sure

*goes off to play his DS*

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