Hey how’s it going everyone,
Today I’ve decided to take to write a shorter piece discussing the first manga I read. It’s a prompt I borrowed from the “30 Day Manga Challenge”, where a person responds to a prompt every day for a month. While I don’t think I’ll be committing to the cause, I thought day one’s prompt was intriguing enough to share.
My First Manga
At the age of eleven, I was encapsulated in the world of Pokemon. There was a time where I could list over five-hundred Pokemon, their attributes and their weaknesses. Whether that is something I want to publicly disclose is another story, but to say I was obsessed would be and understatement. Suffice to say, when I read in a magazine about a Pokemon comic, I entered another realm of excitement. To think, my two favourite things in the world, Pokemon and reading, would be combined so perfectly! After months of badgering, pleading, bartering and subtly implying (when I didn’t want to come off too strong), I received volume four of Pokemon Adventures for Christmas.
Pokemon Adventures is essentially a complete retelling of the Pokemon Video games. It diverges completely from the anime, and all its protagonists are named after games in the series. For example, the first three characters we follow, Red, Green and Blue, named after the first three Pokemon games. Volume 4 introduced the character yellow, and the addition of game-based characters has continued all the way up to the current generations. We follow our protagonists as they catch Pokemon, defeat gyms leaders and prevent evil organisations from taking over the world, all in the hopes of becoming the strongest trainers on earth.
The most important aspect of any Pokemon game, anime or manga is its world building, as it allows Pokemon to show off its most valuable asset; Pokemon. The manga attempts to copy the classic shonen action template, but doesn’t do it very well. The art isn’t particularly detailed and the pacing can be inconsistent, as the creators didn’t want the readers to experience five volume of grinding. But this manga, without a shadow of a doubt has the best elements of world building out of any Pokemon creation. Though the art was limited, Satoshi Yamamoto does a great job at illustrating a world where Pokemon and humans co-exist, as opposed to a world where Pokemon exist, but only a handful are sprinkled around the world. This was also built on via trainer-Pokemon interaction. Until recently, technological advancements prevented the mainline Pokemon games from establishing proper relationships between trainers and their partners. But this sense of connection, this indescribable bond felt between these two entities is skilfully weaved throughout Pokemon Adventures. It becomes easy to understand why Pokemon fight for their trainers; simply put, they’re their friends. And together, these groups of friends work hard to achieve their goals, that is, being the best Pokemon trainers they can be.
Even thought I was 11 at the time, I had reached a point in my development where I was ready to experience darker stories. This isn’t something you usually find in the Pokemon franchise. As their primary demographic is younger children, the Pokemon company is limited in the stories it can tell, which can be frustratingly apparent for older fans of the series. This is what made Pokemon adventures so special to me; it took a franchise I loved and added darker themes to create a refreshing and immersive read. There were actual stakes, something you don’t often feel in shonen manga. From the beginning, the manga makes it clear the Pokemon die, people die. Evil organisations actually do frightening things. It isn’t a situation where a trainer who loses can train, become stronger and return to defeat their adversary. That could potentially be their final battle, their final moment on earth. It wasn’t dark enough to depress, but its contrast from the current Pokemon brand meant it was somewhat unpredictable.
I was absolutely obsessed with the manga. I tried to ration the volume on Christmas day, but every time I would leave it for 10 minutes, I’d have to keep reading until it was finished. It was like nothing I’d ever read before. As I continued to buy more and more volumes of Pokémon adventures, I believed it was just because I loved the series. But one day, when I went to go pick up the newest volume of Pokémon, it hadn’t been brought in yet. I decided to pick something else out, and had heard of a series called Dragon Ball, so I decided to try it out. I slowly realised that it wasn’t just Pokémon Adventures I had fallen in love with. It was manga.