The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
Pokemon Sun & Moon
What's It About?Sun lives in the beautiful Alola Islands, making his money doing whatever odd jobs he can with his Pokémon Dollar, Cent, and Payday.
One day while cleaning up the beach, he bumps into Moon, a young pharmacist traveling to deliver a special electricity-based Pokémon rarely seen in Alola to Dr. Kukui, and after she helps Sun deal with the nefarious members of Team Skull, he offers to bring her to see the professor.
The two of them aren't sure they get along just yet, but Team Skull isn't done with either of them, so before the special Pokémon battle coming up, they're going to have to learn how to work together!
Pokémon Sun & Moon is written by Hidenori Kusaka and illustrated by Satoshi Yamamoto. It was published by Viz in May and sells for $4.99.
Is It Worth Reading?Rebecca Silverman
For entertaining children's manga in English, it really is hard to beat the Pokémon franchise. It does just what a chapter book (intended for an audience of seven-to-ten-year-olds) is supposed to, and Sun & Moon's first volume is no exception: it introduces a story that's equal parts humor and adventure, throws in stakes just high enough to be challenging but not actually scary, and it's equally appealing to all genders with its fairly androgynous protagonist character designs and monsters that aren't too cute. That it ties in with a still-popular game franchise doesn't hurt either.
This incarnation takes place on the Alola Islands, which isn't likely to fool even a little kid that it's anything but thinly disguised Hawaii. (It even uses Hawaiian language words in the text.) Sun lives there doing odd jobs for an as-yet-undisclosed purpose, while Moon has recently arrived from the mainland to bring Professor Kukui, Sun's sort-of mentor, a rare Pokémon. She's been chosen because she's a licensed pharmacist, and as far as aspirational characters go, she's pretty great. Not only is it neat that she's specifically a pharmacist rather than the more typical kiddy lit professions of “nurse” or “veterinarian,” but she's also observant and clearly intelligent; over the course of the book's seventy pages, she throws together a painkilling lotion for Sun, learns about and helps a Rowlet, and stops the evil Team Skull from cheating Sun out of his wages. Sun's no slouch either, but he's perhaps got more enthusiasm than anything – it isn't that he's not smart, but rather that he'd prefer to act than think. Case in point: when Team Skull attacks, his first response is to decide that his broken leg must be healed enough and just smashes his cast. Needless to say, it's not healed.
By this point Kusabe and Yamamoto have these manga down to a science. The art is easy to copy for budding young artists and attractive enough that they'll want to. The story, even in this slim volume, is interesting enough to make even more reluctant readers zip through it and it ends in a place where you do want to pick up volume two. It's a good start to an interesting adventure, and if it isn't enough for most adult readers, it's a nice gift for the younger Pokémon fan in your life.
I don't think I've revisited the Pokemon manga since I bought the original floppies in the early 00s. In the last two decades, it looks like not a lot as changed. The story is still primarily concerned with creating a linear plot based on its tie-in game and the tone (and page count) is still assuredly for kids. At barely 70 pages, this first volume is focused on setting up individual personalities for our two leads, Sun and Moon, and establishing the parameters for their quest of quelling the awakened island guardians.
As leads, Sun and Moon are individually pretty cute and their chemistry as a team balances out. Sun is money-hungry and doing his best to earn 100 million yen while Moon is more serious and is studying pharmaceuticals to create new medicine for Pokemon. The volume's page count is focused almost entirely on the two meeting and then traveling to see Professor Kukui to give him a Rotom to create a more advanced Pokedex.
Structurally, I wasn't impressed with the manga's presentation. For a kid manga, I found the action pretty hard to follow due to cramped panels and jarring flow from image to image. I couldn't always easily tell what a Pokemon was doing; attacking or being hit by an attack and there's way too much expository dialogue for a really simple concept. Hopefully later volumes let the art breathe a bit more now that it's out of the way.
Though roughly half the length of a typical manga volume, Pokémon: Sun & Moon volume 1 paints a clear picture of the new setting for this Pokémon adventure, provides a good look at the main characters, and lays the groundwork for overarching conflict to come. Heavily inspired by Hawaii, the tropical setting of Alola makes the whole vibe of the proceedings more vibrant, from the tropical clothing the inhabitants of the island wear to the beachfront battles. Even within these limited pages, Sun's willingness to work extremely hard to earn an untenable amount of money is clear as day, though it's perhaps his singular defining characteristic thus far. Moon's more contemplative and cautious nature—she doesn't like the bright, tropical sunlight and prefers the night—takes more time to come across since she's so overpowered by Sun on the page, but by volume's end, it's clear their dynamic will make for a winning combo down the line. True, the hyper boy protagonist and his smarter, calmer gal friend are both tired tropes, but Pokémon isn't a franchise known for twisting common tropes and expectations, especially considering its young target audience. The consistently effective (though not gut-busting) humor that is one of the hallmarks of many a Pokémon franchise is present in this volume as well, making an already short tale speed by even faster.
Yamamoto's art perfectly encapsulates the adventurous but cartoonish style known throughout the Pokémon franchises. Sun and Moon look perhaps a touch younger than they act, but that doesn't detract from enjoying the manga too much, especially since Sun is rather wide-eyed and optimistic anyway. Much is made of the “brightly colored” flora and décor, but that doesn't mean much in a black and white manga. Despite the lush island setting, the backgrounds are often too devoid of detail. However, the cute and stylized Pokémon themselves are a highlight of the art, expressive and able to show off a variety of poses in battle.
Pokémon: Sun & Moon volume 1 has a lot to offer both long-term Pokémon fanatics and new fans, particularly those on the younger side. This installment brings something new to the franchise and promises to pay almost equal attention to its boy and girl protagonists, giving it a somewhat more universal appeal. If Pokémon has yet to garner your interest, this volume won't change that; however, it's a solidly entertaining first outing that is sure to appeal to old and young fans alike.
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