Pokemon’s manga; the unsung hero of the franchise


The general separation between the anime and manga for Pokemon does not differ from any other popular Japanese cartoon. However, the appreciation of Pokemon’s manga does not receive the praise it deserves.

Pokemon has been one of the largest fads of the country of Japan since the middle of the 1990s. Aside from the video games, trading cards, and merchandise, there are other major components that have kept the popularity of the franchise still at large. The animated series has been running since 1997, a year after when the original Pokemon games were released with Pokemon Red and Green Versions. The anime is derived from the main manga that started with The Electric Tale of Pikachu and has been going on still, with the anime being reflected with the Pokemon Journeys: The Series. Though there is plenty of manga of Pokemon, there should be more special attention directed towards these pieces of work.

Pocket Monsters; the first manga

Everyone knows that the translation of Pokemon comes from the words “pocket monsters” which in turn is what the franchise is traditionally called in its homeland of Japan. Pokemon Pocket Monsters is the first true manga of the franchise and was loosely based on the original core games of the series. The shonen manga has carried on alongside the main animated series that is still popular; however, this was not the primary manga that was taken into consideration when making the primary series. The series features Red as the primary protagonist, which Ash Ketchum shares plenty of characteristics. Red’s original partner is not the main mascot of the franchise, Pikachu that everyone knows well. Instead, his primary partner is Clefairy, which is drawn to look more cartoonish than it normally does in its video game sprite. This adaptation of Clefairy is considered to be more comical looking, which in turn makes the series more the feel of a comedy.

Red acquires his Pikachu when it is gifted to him from Brock, so the famous electric-mouse was never meant to be the main sidekick or the face of the franchise. That was most likely a change when the new series of The Electric Tale of Pikachu was distributed and before airing the first episode of the animated series. The release of this exact manga was only exclusively, to the Asian market, with translations for China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Indonesia. A North American release was first made in the works in the last 1990s, but the deal fell through and was never sent to the west. Probably a bigger reason why the series does not have a bigger appreciation than it should, but it not the primary staple for manga when it comes to Pokemon.

Photo: Pokemon: Twilight Wings. anime/manga Image Courtesy The Pokemon Company International
Photo: Pokemon: Twilight Wings. anime/manga Image Courtesy The Pokemon Company International /

Pokemon Adventures, the most popular manga

Perhaps the most popular Pokemon manga illustrated for the audience happens to be Pokemon Adventures. Where there is a major separation between anime and manga, this series is completely independent and unrelated to the main anime that is known worldwide. Pokemon Adventures has a major dependency on keeping the plot of the story directed to the main core series games, staying close to developing stories of the playable characters of the game, and naming them after the colors of each version they are known to debut in per generation. The series has been ongoing and has kept a great deal of connecting all the stories of each generation together; something that the main core games have barely done for all games.

Pokemon Adventures keeps to the strict concept that trainers have a great deal of difficulty becoming Master Trainers, a feat that takes a more disciplined and dedicated process. The manga also has more dark themes than other series have, especially in comparison to Pocket Monsters and the main games. The plot is strict enough to handle the processing of catching a Mythical or Legendary Pokemon are events that are extremely difficult for any trainer to accomplish. This manga has been so critically acclaimed, that even the creator of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri, has claimed, “This is the comic that most resembles the world I was trying to convey.” and a very important detail to keep in high regard.

Pokemon Adventures is the most popular manga that has been translated the most being distributed all over the world. It has been translated into fourteen different languages, thus being just another popular branch of the Pokemon franchise as a whole. One can assume that the short five-part series Pokemon Origins and the anniversary shorts with Pokemon Generations derived the majority of their inspiration from these series of manga. There is a great deal of dedicated Pokemon fans that truly wish the animated series was more like Pokemon Adventures; however, keeping the childhood audience and satire presence would be difficult when they are the direct audience the franchise is aiming for. Being as popular as it is, the manga holds for its own being their own staple of the Pokemon franchise.

Manga for Pokemon as a whole did not just stop at these major pillars for the franchise. There are stand-alone manga series for the spin-off games, the movie, the trading card game, and even stand-alone stories for individual Pokemon. There has even been a panel of gag comics illustrated that is most known for as 4Koma. The Pokemon world has a great dependency on the main franchise games that eventually some of these series will be made into an anime. Who knows? Maybe even more manga will be made for a wider audience, especially for the adults that have grown with the franchise since they were younger. The best way to adapt to your audience is to know who has been dedicated the most. Manga is one of the most popular forms to relate with their audience that way, and even more so with Pokemon.

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