Reviewby Lissa Pattillo,
One year after the events of volume seven, it looks like the world has gone back to as normal as it can be after having been so dangerously thrown out of whack by Team Rocket and an army of attacking Pokemon. In New Brick Town, a young man named Gold, known for living in a house full of Pokemon (aptly called Pokemon House) runs into an assistant out to deliver some special Pokeballs to the area's resident expert. However Team Rocket is back to cause trouble and soon Gold is the one missing all his Pokemon and the local Center faces its own trials when a talented Pokemon-trainer and thief helps himself to one of their inhabitants. Pool-cue in hand and attitude in relative check, Gold sets out to retrieve his Pokemon, catch the thief named Silver and hopefully get his female-idol's autograph while he's at it.
This eighth volume of the Pokémon Adventures series marks the beginning of a new arc, moving on from the days of only 150 Pokémon and one-panel Pokedexes. Red, Yellow and the rest of the usual Pokémon Adventures cast are off continuing their own undertakings as a handful of new leads step up to the plate. New characters, new Pokemon and new reasons for crossing the continent to catch ‘em all (though that's never really been much of the series’ premise), this new arc of Pokémon Adventures really is a whole new place with a brand new attitude.
As far as trainers go, Gold doesn't really have the beat-all-the-rest-that's-my-cause attitude that can be expected of most Pokemon trainers, which winds up being one of Pokémon Adventures' most consistently interesting features. Like those lead characters before him, Gold sees Pokemon more as partners than he does possessions and he doesn't have any Real Drive to get out there and beat everyone or catch every Pokemon. This isn't say he doesn't take some nose-in-the-air pleasure in outwitting his opponents but it serves as bonus to his cause, not a driving force. He's out to catch some thieves, prove some points and work out some minor grudge-problems before they turn into full blown anger-issues. He's a different trainer in most respects from Red or Yellow, the lead trainers before him, with less patience and more attitude. It speaks plenty when he needs to beg on his knees and kick up a fuss to convince Professor Oak to let him have a Pokedex. He's a fun change of pace though, a humorous and snarky addition to the Pokemon-timeline. Plus he uses Pokeballs with a pool-cue which is just weird (in a good way).
While things definitely feel different with Gold at the helm, it changes things up in a way that offers something new with the new cast without alienating fans of the previous crew (who're already geared up for cameos). Resourcefulness of the trainers and the unexpected results remain the strengths of the series, offering up more than its share of surprises to those well-accustomed to the all-ages excursions of the anime or off-put by the tiny, round cuteness of the artwork. Pokémon Adventures loves beating up its trainers on a regular basis in a rendering where trainers are as much a physical part of the fight as the Pokemon themselves. In most cases the trainers leave as injured, if not more so, than the Pokemon they command. It doesn't seem quite accurate to say this feels more realistic when you're talking about a series like Pokémon but none the less it definitely offers more intensity to the seemingly run of the mill battle sequences.
That said, you'll find very few cut-and-dry 'let's battle!' moments – use of Pokemon is handled more practically for achieving goals like stopping a criminal, saving a little girl from a raging bear-equivalent and getting bags out of trees. Trainer versus trainer battles are confrontational and plot-driven in nature, more so than ever planned competitions, which goes a long way in keeping the plot moving forward and not succumbing to any heavily episodic layout.
Everything moves at a pretty brisk pace and coming in at a notably thicker-than-normal page count, there's a lot going on in this book. Sometimes things move a little too quickly and while for the most part it's all paced smoothly, moments where things suddenly get wordy or require some extra-explanation, can slam everything to a sudden and disorienting halt. Getting carried away in the story is easy but because it's all so unceasing, with even most chapter breaks offering few places to take a satisfying break, little trip-ups can feel much bigger.
Mato's artwork is as cute as ever though – an almost disarming if not remarkably well suited style to the subject matter. The ‘chibi-style’ looking character designs may be a deterrent to some but even if it's not you're thing, it's an attribute worth looking past to give the adventurous story a go. The Pokemon are spot on design-wise and the artist is good at meshing together all the different looks and attributes of Pokemon and humans alike while still maintaining a professional level of consistency across the board. This includes them in all situations be it casual chatter or multi-player fight scenes. A notable change of visual pace is Gold himself whose rough-edged and snarky attitude also brings about a whole new slew of facial expressions that it appears the artist really had fun with and, in turn, readers should as well.
It's evident that the series has taken on a somewhat different tone with this new cast behind the wheel but it still makes for solid entertainment. Sure, Gold's a bit on the obnoxious side but his heart remains in the right place, his comedic value undeniable and his particular brand of creativity maintains the charm of the series as he starts this new chapter in the realm of Pokémon Adventures.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ A series perfectly tailored to fans of the Pokemon video games' characters, plotlines and overall tone; adorable artwork continues to contrast well with some refreshingly candid content that earns the term Adventures
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