On June 12, 2020 Netflix brought over the first 12 episodes of the latest Pokemon series. I’m home. School is cancelled. Hours later my son and I had watched all 12 episodes. Then he started rewatching them. Over the last couple years the whole family has gone deep into Pokemon lore. The movies, the many seasons of the cartoon, the video games, the mobile game, toys, cards, and more. So how does this latest series match up?
This is the 23rd season of the Pokemon cartoon and these episodes are 1081-1092 overall. There are a few more episodes in Japan that have never aired in the US for various reasons. Yes, there are over a thousand episodes of Pokemon. And counting.
The series always follows Ash and Pikachu as they make friends and battle across the world. Different areas of the world feature different Pokemon. Ash starts out near his home and over the years has crossed borders and oceans to discover new creatures. All of which are then sold in new video games with new toys and cards.
Journeys is the first series showing the all new Galar region. Based off the United Kingdom, with Pokemon that echo real world animals from the land, the Galar region debuted in last year’s Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield games. My son, along with the rest of us, expected this entire cartoon to take place in the new Galar region. Much like previous seasons like XY, XYZ, and Sun and Moon, have all been confined to the new land that debuted in that game.
Instead, this is an open world soft reboot of the Pokemon franchise. Ash and his new friend Goh are research assistants for a Pokemon professor. When they get news of something interesting happening in the world the two kids along with their Pokemon buddies Pikachu and the brand new Scorbunny, travel the world. They will slowly debut all of the new Pokemon, trainers, and the new special move – Gigantamax – over time but not overwhelm little viewers who are not only new to Galar but new to all of Pokemon.
Goh acts as the learning viewer. He is starting to catch Pokemon. He knows a lot but also very little. Much like any kid who knows of Pokemon through classmates and pop culture osmosis. Ash’s previous adventures aren’t directly mentioned but shown as Easter eggs. Longtime viewers know this is the next step in Ash’s journey but brand new kids won’t be weighted down by over a thousand episodes worth of history.
When the new video games were released I read somewhere I can’t remember that no one has favorite Pokemon until the cartoons come out and give reasons to love them. That could not be more true after only 12 episodes. Only one or two new Pokemon are focused on per episode, but it already works. Even ones introduced over 20 years ago get their moments. Kangaskhan was never a Pokemon that mattered to me. But to see the familiar Pikachu when he was a young Pichu raised by a family of Kangaskhans is amazing. This adds a previously unknown backstory that fits perfectly and adds another layer to Pikachu but also Ash and their new friend Goh.
The previous version, Sun and Moon, ended with an evolution for Team Rocket. They aren’t evil. More like they weren’t given any other option in life. They’re a weird family. They love their Pokemon. They have a certain code. Ash and Pikachu are their enemies and no one else is allowed to mess with them.
In this latest series Team Rocket coincidentally is going after the same Pokemon Ash and Goh are researching. Jessie and James now call both heroes “twerps” and battle against them with the always faithful Meowth and the returning Wobbuffet. This time though they have special Pokemon drop shipped to them. This is my favorite part of the new series. A Pelipper flies above and drops down a Gashapon machine. A gashapon is the name for a Japanese capsule toy coin operated machine. Put the quarter in and a plastic ball drops down with a cheap toy inside. Gashapon is a onomatopoeic word created by the sounds the machine makes as the toy is chosen and comes out. Team Rocket receives an entire machine when needed and stick Meowth’s head – which includes a coin – inside the machine then opens up their capsule balls to reveal which Pokemon are joining the battle. I am beyond entertained every time I see this happen on the show. Whether one day I get to go to Japan or even a Japan-town like in San Francisco I will be looking for one of these machines. You know they exist now. That is leaving money on the table otherwise.
I know Pokemon is an overwhelming world for adults. Before my son was into it I was familiar with the first 150 from the original video game because I played that over 20 years ago. Otherwise I didn’t have a clue who any later character was or even the details of the mythos. Team Rocket, evolution, legendary, all of it was a mystery to me. The Pokemon Go game helped but then I started enjoying it with my son as he was getting into it. If I can learn hundreds if not thousands of super heroes across multiple publishers, then learning some Pokemon details is nothing. I think they’re around 800 Pokemon now.
We’ve been able to use Pokemon to help him too. The app game is a great reason to take walks and explore new places. He isn’t losing his teeth, he’s evolving. Let’s learn about the countries of the real world through the Pokemon version of them. There’s always a lesson in trying your best, not getting too upset over a defeat, and learning from that defeat to be more successful next time. This has become a mantra while doing homework and online lessons.
New episodes will be released on Netflix every three months. We’ll be sure to plan the day around these debuts and fall in love with another group of Pokemon. Greatly recommended series if you have any kid at home with a bit of interest in Pokemon or if you’re looking to get back into the franchise.