REVIEW: ‘Pokémon Journeys: The Series’ Opens Up to a New Generation of Fans

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Pokémon Journeys Part 1

Pokémon is back on our televisions as a Netflix Original with Pokémon Journeys Part 1. The new series serves as a great jumping-off point for new fans of the show, as we touch base with Ash Ketchum for the 23rd season of the mega-hit series Pokémon series. It’s a strange occurrence for myself in particular as I’m now sitting and watching the show with my kids when I can remember watching the first and second seasons as a kid myself. The show has reached new levels of cross-generational appeal, but viewing it through my perspective as a father, I love this new season for the nuanced lessons packed into the show.

As mentioned, this is Pokémon’s 23rd season and follows on from the three Sun and Moon series. In these previous series, Ash was living on the Islands of Alola while attending Pokémon school, competing in Island challenges, and learning the power of “Z moves.” When the show ended, Ash went back to Pallet Town with his mother to look for a new adventure.

Now in Pokémon Journeys Part 1, Ash finds himself working as a research fellow for Professor Cerise in his brand new research facility in Vermilion city, along with a brand new character, Goh. The two undertake many investigations assigned by the Professor as they attempt to learn as much as they can about Pokémon.

The direction of this season has seemingly decided to press the soft reset button on the plot of the show. The very first episode is a dedicated flashback to a time when all our main characters were children, but the main focus on Pikachu. The electric mouse Pokémon, however, was just a Pichu during this time! I have to say, my kids flipped out when they realized that this was the Pokémon that would evolve into one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture. This episode was a great introduction for new fans into who Pikachu is, and they even recap on how he ends up with Ash. Similarly, the episode also introduces Goh as a young child as a precursor for what his motivations in the show will be.

There’s a large emphasis placed on the character of Goh throughout the series as the main protagonist, with the assumption that new fans can associate with him as their introduction into the world of Pokémon. Goh recently turned 10 years old and is of legal age to choose his own starter Pokémon. By utilizing this plot point, it recreates that classic feel of the very first season when we see Ash first embark on his adventure, again reinforcing that this season is meant as a jumping-on point for newer fans. The show even brings back some classic stories in new fashion such as Ho-Oh, Gengar, and Bulbasaur, and Ivysaur.

The show has other added elements such as the location. In past seasons the focus is primarily on one specific region, whereas in this series the two characters travel to multiple regions over each of the episodes. During these adventures, the two characters actually visit the Galar region which was first seen in Pokémon Sword and Shield to witness the event known as “Dynamax” in which Pokémon temporarily grow to a gargantuan size. Later in the series, one Pokémon even goes “Gigantimax”, to which my kids were flabbergasted as their jaws hit the floor.

Also back this season is the re-introduction of Team Rocket as a constant thorn in the protagonists’ sides as they attempt to wreak havoc in the name of their boss Giovanni. While they were featured in the prior series, they definitely served as more comedic break, or side characters, whereas in the current series, they’re back to their destructive ways.

Pokémon Journeys Part 1

For me, the big draw to this season is the message which is repeated throughout the show: friendly and healthy competition. At various stages, different characters are found competing and wanting to win, or beat each other, but it never gets violent or derogatory. As a father of three kids, this is exactly what I am excited for my kids to see. This is not an “everyone wins” scenario, no. And when they win, they show respect to the other participant. More often than not , a competitive nature or a drive to win is viewed as unhealthy in the media. The positive portrayal of competition is not something that would be visible to my kids while watching, but something I picked up on and truly appreciated on their behalf.

Some criticism I have with Pokémon Journeys Part 1 is that for long time fans, the cadence of the series feels like it has taken a step back, given its decision to use the show as a soft reboot. The previous series involved time travel, Ultra Guardians, and legendary Pokémon quite heavily, so it is noticeable that the pace is vastly different.

Overall, I really did enjoy Pokémon Journeys Part 1 as it invites a whole new generation of fans to hop on board and get invested in the phenomenon known as Pokémon. While some fans may struggle with the attempted reset, the show has gone to lengths to breathe new life into some of the story arcs. The season not tying solely into Sword and Shield also makes it more approachable for those not caught up on the game series. For me, my kids were just happy to have a new season of what is by far their most prized show.

Pokémon Journeys Part 1 is available exclusively on Netflix now.

'Pokémon Journeys The Series' Part 1
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Overall, I really did enjoy Pokémon Journeys Part 1 as it invites a whole new generation of fans to hop on board and get invested in the phenomenon known as Pokémon. While some fans may struggle with the attempted reset, the show has gone to lengths to breathe new life into some of the story arcs. The season not tying solely into Sword and Shield also makes it more approachable for those not caught up on the game series. For me, my kids were just happy to have a new season of what is by far their most prized show.