Anime Review - Pokémon Black & White Collection 1
Everybody knows Pokémon (ポケモン), right? You know, the anime series about a young kid who catches cute animals before making them fight each other? Although this makes the series sound like the inner workings of a Vietnamese cockfighting den, Pokémon is the second most successful video game franchise of all time which, since its release in 1996, has gone on to spawn 14 seasons of anime, numerous films, games, manga and merchandise aplenty!
Welcome to Pokémon: Black and White (aka season 14). Ash Ketchum is back to his old antics with his ever faithful pal, Pikachu. They head over to the completely unexplored Unova region, battling other Pokémon trainers, wild Pokémon and of course, the ubiquitous Team Rocket.
"A whole new Pokémon journey begins for Ash Ketchum and his pal Pikachu! Follow along as they head to the distant Unova region, where they’ll meet new rivals, new challenges, and new Pokémon—not to mention two great new friends, Iris and Cilan. Together, Ash and his friends are up for any adventure, and plenty of surprises lie ahead as Ash sets out to challenge Unova’s expert Gym Leaders. His quest to become a Pokémon Master won’t be easy, but it will be exciting!"
To be completely honest, I haven't watched a single episode of Pokémon for years. This is purely due to the restrictions imposed on me by age and responsibility: I arrive at work at 6:30am, missing morning cartoons and sleep in on Saturdays... missing morning cartoons. These are the perils of being a thirty year old man-child. Thankfully, it appears that I didn't miss too much in the years that I was gone, like The Bold & The Beautiful before it, Pokémon appears to follow a reasonably simple story line that allows viewers to jump in and out of series with very little consequence. Plus, Ash is still trying to be the very best, like no one ever was. That said, I'm glad I returned.
My very first impression of this series was the theme song, Black & White, which was written by John Loeffler and David Wolfert while being performed by Erin Bowman and Joe Philips. This song, to be fair, is a Pokémon them song so you can't actually expect high art. Even with these more realistic expectations, this theme song is utterly cringeworthy. The lyrics are upbeat and cliché and the music sounds like it was played by a high school band, entirely on synth. This little disappointment is where the disappointment finishes and from here on in, Pokemon: Black and White is a whole tonne of fun.
The animation quality of the series, as a whole, is nothing to write home about but it is consistent and incredibly vibrant. The action sequences are much more complex than they used to be, kicking it up a notch and bridging the gap between the Pokémon of yore and modern day anime series'. As is the case with many long running anime series, Black and White has a tendency to recycle scenes, particularly battle scenes, but not so much as to be particularly noticeable. The picture quality is sharp and vibrant, a great DVD transfer from the good folks at Magna Pacific. The only issue that I found with the transfer was a slight wavering in the master volume although this may have just been an issue with my particular DVD. Even this issue was minor and only lasted for a few scenes on the first disc.
Pokémon: Black and White is every bit as fun as I remember. The friendship between Ash and Pikachu is just as strong as ever and adds a personal element to the series that would otherwise be lacking. Ash never quite seems to forge as close a bond with his fellow trainers and he did with his little, yellow spark-rat. Pokémon is a blast, an enjoyable romp through an all new region of the Poké-world which is the absolute perfect jumping on point for fans new and old.
Pokémon: Black and White Collection 1 and Collection 2 are available on DVD from JBHIFI, Big W, Target, K-Mart, Sanity and other purveyors of DVD entertainment.