Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Pokémon Adventures: Heart Gold and Soul Silver
It's been three years since Gold and Silver last got together to fight Team Rocket, and they and Crystal have all gone their separate ways. Now, however, strange things are happening that all point to Team Rocket's return. Gold and Silver set out on their own to find out what's going on, meeting up with Crystal and others (although not yet each other) along the way. Can the old gang get back together to stop Team Rocket from collecting plates and doing yet more harm to the Pokemon world?
For those who got into Pokemon in the beginning, it's a little hard to believe that Pokemon Adventures: Heart Gold and Soul Silver is the ninth adventure in this particular iteration of the franchise. That's a lot of pokemon action and a lot of incarnations of the nefarious Team Rocket, and while there is a certain staleness to the story at this point, Heartgold & Soulsilver still manages to deliver a fun story with some ominous elements that should absolutely keep younger fans reading and will most likely hold the attention of older fans as well.
The story opens with Gold, and unfortunately these are the weakest chapters in the volume. Gold is on a mission from his mentor and stops by the Pokealthlon Dome to compete along the way. While this does allow for some impressive displays of Gold's training skills, it also isn't particularly interesting, as we only see snippets of each game and Satoshi Yamamoto's skill at drawing exciting action scenes is challenged by glorified carnival games. Gold himself is the most entertaining part of this series of chapters, but it is almost a relief when the story switches to Silver for most of the remainder of the book.
Silver has been looking for Lance, another pokemon trainer, with hopes of proving that Team Rocket is on the verge of reassembling. Much to Silver's horror, Lance seems to have disappeared without a trace, but his cousin Clair is there. Clair is also looking for Lance, and she reveals that just before he vanished, Lance left her a cryptic message about “plates” and “safari zone.” Silver recalls that “The Safari Zone” is a new theme park that's just opened up in the Johto Region, and so he and his pokemon head there to see if they can uncover Lance or these “plates” that he was talking about...or more evidence that Team Rocket is making a comeback. Because this is a Pokemon story, it really isn't a spoiler to say that they are in fact reforming under new leadership, and that this is causing Silver some understandable angst. He soon meets up with Crystal and the two set out to find the soothsayer in Ecruteak City, where Gold is also bound (albeit for different reasons).
While the Gold chapters are not especially exciting, the Silver ones are nearly everything that is fun about the Pokemon franchise. Villains are selfish and evil, using their pokemons' abilities to stymie the good guys at every turn and thinking nothing of endangering both human and pokemon lives. Silver and Crystal form close relationships with their creatures, enabling them to execute more complex moves and showing that the pokemon will in turn help their trainers without explicit commands. The fights are more skill than brawn, and in several cases the danger feels very real. There's also a forward trajectory to these chapters that the Gold ones lack, moving the story along rather than pausing to show off the trainer's prowess. Given that Hidenori Kusaka has been working within the pokeverse since at least 1997, he is adept at scripting these adventure stories and Heart Gold & Soul Silver does a good job of bringing at least Silver's struggles to life. Satoshi Yamamoto's art is pleasing the eye and will surely continue to appeal to child readers of the books with large, expressive images that are easily copied or traced by aspiring artists. Some of the pokemon are starting to look a little weird, but given that as of the book's Japanese publication there were 649 different pokemon in existence, it is easy to see how the wells of creativity might be running a little low.
Viz, who released this under their Vizkids imprint, has thrown in some bones for older readers while still making the book easily accessible to the younger set as well. The most obvious of these is the chapter titled “Weavile Wobbles but It Won't Fall Down,” a clear reference to the 1970s commercial for Weebles. There are some spacing issues with words running together in the bubbles, but otherwise this is a highly readable book.
Fans of all things Pokemon should find this ninth title in the “Adventures” series an enjoyable romp. It has action, a little humor, and strategy, and if the opening chapters aren't the best hook, the book quickly improves. With only two volumes in this particular series, this is an easy jumping on point for game fans who haven't read the manga, and while those unfamiliar with the Pokemon franchise might be a bit confused, overall this is an interesting and entertaining entry into the manga version of the franchise.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Silver chapters are engaging and full of all of the stuff that makes the franchise fun. Nice little references for older readers to catch and a storyline that all ages of fans can enjoy.
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