ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Pokémon: Sword & Shield,’ Volume #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pokémon: Sword & Shield

Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1 is published by VIZ Media, written by Hidenori Kusaka, with art by Satoshi Yamamoto. The translation was done by Tetsuchiro Miyaki, the English adaptation was done by Molly Tanzer, and touch-ups and lettering by Annaliese “Ace” Christman. Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1 adapts the Sword & Shield video games for the Nintendo Switch. 

Taking the place of the characters the player would control in-game, there’s computer hacker Casey Shield and repairman for Pokémon gear, Henry Sword. Both of whom are studying under Pokémon Professor Magnolia. In addition to Casey and Henry, there’s a new character named Marvin joining their journey. Marvin is like a stand-in for the player. In the game, the player would be controlling ‘Casey’ or ‘Henry,’ and the other characters in-game would explain things to them. But in Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1, Casey and Henry are already experienced in the world of Pokémon and take on the role of teaching Marvin the basics. 

Sadly, there’s not a lot that’s enjoyable about Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1. Kusaka has good ideas. Giving Casey and Henry more depth to their characters by making them Professor Magnolia’s helpers? A good idea. One can hope these interests become more developed in the future. 

The setup for the rest of the story makes it apparent that Casey and Henry intend to join the gym challenge. And this is when elements from the story readers will recognize from the games comes into play. With the introduction of Leon, the reigning champion of Galar, Kusaka begins to build the world and build hype for the Gym Challenge. And in contrast, Casey and Henry meet the antagonistic Team Yell. It’s a glimpse of what will hopefully become a more exciting story in volume 2. 

But if the story is going to start following the storyline of the games more, what’s to become of Marvin? He doesn’t serve much of a role, aside from giving the other characters someone to explain everything to. Marvin feels like a blank slate, almost like he’s just there act as the self-insert for the reader.

One thing that did stand out about Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1 was the art. Yamamoto’s art captures the cute and fun feel of the Pokémon world. Characters have great facial expressions and dynamic movements. And there’s plenty of Pokémon, mostly new ones from the Galar region.

The stilted, awkward flow of the dialogue holds the story back. It reads like the tutorial part of the games, where you’re learning the basics of how to play. This can be a bit of a slog in the game, especially if you’re a veteran Pokémon player. But at least within the games, the storyline unfolding at the same time. And the immersive feeling of pretending you are setting out on the journey yourself keeps things moving. These elements are, unfortunately, missing in Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1, and the story suffers for it. Hopefully, the manga storyline will begin to pick up the storyline from the games and while adding to it in an interesting way.  

 At the end of volume 1, this story isn’t strong enough to stand on its own as a full experience without playing the games. Despite providing an alternate beginning to the story from the games, Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1 fails to add more to the world of Galar.

Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1 is available wherever books are sold on August 10th, 2021.


Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1
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TL;DR

At the end of volume 1, this story isn’t strong enough to stand on its own as a full experience without playing the games. Despite providing an alternate beginning to the story from the games, Pokémon: Sword & Shield Volume 1 fails to add more to the world of Galar.