Pokémon Journeys: The Series
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Pokémon Journeys: The Series (TV 2019) ?
How would you rate episode 12 of
Pokémon Journeys: The Series (TV 2019) ?
It seems like only yesterday that our time with Pokémon Journeys: The Series began, but alas, we've reached the end of the line for Ash and Goh. By which I mean, we've reached the end of the twelve-episode batch that Netflix has chosen to grace us with for the time being. The series itself sure as hell isn't ending; human society may very well collapse into long forgotten ruin before Pokémon does. So don't go into these last two episodes looking for any sense of closure or anything; in fact, if you're like me, and not already one of the Pokémon Faithful that was already bound to love this show from the start, you would do well to just lower your expectations all around.
Episode 11, “Best Friend…Worst Enemy!” gives me something I've been asking this series for all season: A Chloe episode! And wouldn't you know it, the show somehow finds a way to do less with her character than the episodes she only gets a couple of lines in. Depending on how you look at it, the episode is split into either two or three “plots," and they have almost nothing to do with one another until the very end of the story. The most useless of these is Ash and Goh messing around in Ceriese' laboratory habitat, because it's just an excuse to remind viewers that Ash and Goh have caught some Pokémon, and they're still alive, waiting in this cramped garden while their Masters gallivant across the country making newer and more interesting friends. There's a cute bit where Dragonite makes friends with Stantler and Scyther, I guess, and I will admit to cruelly laughing at Goh's disappointment when his Wurmples all evolved into Cascoon. Even in this world of the cartoon, Trainers get shafted by the cruel gods of RNG.
This is all essentially pointless, however, as the main story of the episode is technically Chloe's struggle with her Poké-ambivalence. I will spare you all my incredibly long rant about how ridiculous it is that people in Poké-World are seemingly honor-bound by society to be positively obsessed with all things Pokémon, but still: Chloe's problem is that she just doesn't know if she wants Pokémon to be her life's passion, and you know what? That's fine. She's ten, and not everyone wants to be a glorified veterinarian/kennel-fighting enslaver of sentient creatures. She has this conversation with her mom about how her mom followed her dream to become an artist, but you can't tell me that the poor woman doesn't look just a little bit dead inside, resigned to obscurity because she had the gall to direct her talents towards something that wasn't explicitly centered on Pokémon.Oh, and there's a Gengar screwing around in the lab, and the lab technicians waste time trying to contain it until the kids show up to beat it into submission. This is also essentially a time-killer, at least until it dovetails into the climax to Chloe's story. After being ridiculed by her peers and she bonds with her Wampler in battle and catches a touch of the Poké-fever? So, what's the lesson here even supposed to be? “Follow your weird non-Pokémon dreams, I guess, but don't get too uppity and think you can live outside of the system! You will occasionally use your magical Corgi to beat up ghosts and maybe steal some money from the local kindergarteners, and you will learn to like it!”
Then there's “Flash of the Titans!”, which is your average battle-focused episode, though it's the kind where Ash and Goh just sit on the sidelines all episode while two other characters from the games show up to duke it out. The tournament is one that encompasses all of the regions, called the “World Coronation Series," and it speaks to Pokémon Journey's general attitude of “Who's even paying attention at this point?” that such a monumental event is treated as just another random pit-stop on Ash's eternal and Sisyphean quest to become a Pokémon Master, whatever that is. I do remember Lance from the original Poké-Trilogy of games, though, and I'm at least hip enough to recognize Leon, the soccer-themed oligarch from Galar, so their match didn't fly entirely over my head. I maintain, however, that battles are only interesting insofar as they are connected to the plot and characters; Lance and Leon are already super-mega Poké-celebrity heroes, so why should I care who wins or loses between them?
I'm being facetious, of course; it's all just a commercial to get kids into Pokémon, and “Flash of the Titans” does that job well enough. If you'd told me as a ten-year-old that an episode featured a Red Gyarados the size of a kaiju squaring off against a Charizard, I would have punched out every one of my classmates and teachers if it meant scrambling home early and watching it at least six times back-to-back. And I'm not going to lie to you and say that Leon doesn't wear the hell out of that cape, either.
Mostly, “Flash of the Titans” struggles because of Netflix's choice to split the series up into arbitrary twelve-episode chunks. Team Rocket shows up to the alongside Ash and Goh to cause trouble, but said shenanigans—unleashing a Gigantimax Drednaw onto the stadium and wreaking havoc—don't occur until the very end of the episode. That's right, everyone: the last episode of Pokémon Journeys available at this very moment ends on a cliffhanger. So if something more interesting than Ash and Goh watching a battle for twenty minutes is coming out of this visit to the World Coronation Series, we won't know what it is for who knows how long. Until then, we will have to be satisfied by repeatedly going back to that scene where Dragonite gives Scyther and Stantler a big hug, and if we really need a laugh, there's always that scene in Episode 12 where Ash is too stupid to notice the obscenely large and bright Pokémon Stadium that is right in front of his face. Good times.
Odds and Ends
• The Weird World of Pokémon: The existence of regular school in the Pokémon universe broke my brain in a big bad way today. I'd tell you to check out the extent of my breakdown on Twitter, but nobody should ever go on Twitter, for it is a dark place that will make you feel bad. Instead, I'm going to nitpick a different inconsistency about this frivolous cartoon that absolutely nobody should take this seriously: How in the world does Goh, a trainer who has expressed virtually no interest in battling fandom, know about the World Coronation series, but Ash doesn't? I know that the other regions of the Poké-World don't even exist until the God Kings of Pokémon Lore decide they do, but the World Coronation Series cannot possibly be all that new if we're pretending like the other regions have been around this whole time. Battling in tournaments is maybe the one thing Ash is functionally competent as an adult 10-year old, and you're telling me that he's never in his life known about Literally the Biggest Pokémon Tournament in History? Ash may be a terminally dense forever-boy that has spent most of past two decades covered in dirt and wild animals, and spending many of his nights camped out in a tent on the side of the road, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
• I hope you all enjoyed my incredibly overlong and altogether too-serious breakdowns of a beloved anime that makes more money in a single day than I will ever see in my life! I definitely had fun revisiting Pokémon from a new lens, and I'll miss these ridiculous critters, not to mention the dorks that somehow keep capturing them. Perhaps we'll meet again when the rest of the show is released from Netflix Jail. Until then, stay safe, keep healthy, and never stop catching 'em all.
Pokémon Journeys: The Series is currently streaming on Netflix.
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