I discovered this show because my wife and I have been using our Amazon Prime membership to re-watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. When I saw Pokemon Origins in the suggestion box, it struck me as a more mature version of the stupid Pokemon TV show starring Ash, the worst trainer in the world (this was a show which had a pretty big impact on my life by the way). And it was sort of like that… but not really.
Pokemon Origins is a TV show that is literally only 4 episodes long. It is essentially Pokemon Red Version abridged. In this abridged version, protagonist Red chooses Charmander and Blue chooses Squirtle.
In essence, Pokemon Origins is a fantastic concept that is horrendously executed. The dialogue is laughably bad, the voice acting is pretty awful, and the pacing is non-existent.
The first episode, however, is absolutely entertaining. Sure, the dialogue is still terrible, but it humorously reminisces on how I played Pokemon Blue Version as a kid. Red is catching every Pokemon he can find, mistakenly tries to catch other trainer’s Pokemon, and then goes to fight Brock with six Pokemon, and they almost all get knocked out because he mistakenly chose Charmander over Squirtle or Bulbasaur, both of which could have beaten Brock’s rock Pokemon easily. Even though the dialogue was still painful at points, I wanted to see this show all the way through because I was hoping that it would at least continue to poke fun at how the game was played by me and other gamers back in the day.
The soundtrack for this series is all redone versions of the 8-bit soundtrack from the original video games. On top of that, the beginning of every episode starts off with the “starting screen” of Red and Blue version where it asks if you want to continue the game. It then ends each episode with a screen that asks if you want to save the game.
Stuff like this dropped a huge nostalgia bomb on me, and it was really pleasant to experience. If only as much thought was put into the execution of the events.
Unfortunately, after the first episode, the rest of the series plummets into the same cliches that the original TV series is known for. The only differences are that Origins obviously has a smaller budget for animating and voice acting, and Origin’s takes the agonizingly slow pacing of the original series and speeds it up by a factor of 100x. Seriously, they skimmed over anything that could have possibly been interesting to expand on and just focused on trite points in the story.
The dialogue in this series is almost entirely exposition. Red spends most of his time talking about what he’s about to do in the next scene, or talks to people who tell him what he should do in the next scene.
The Pokemon battles are done quickly without any sort of tension. Considering most of show wastes its time with exposition, it was a massive let down that the interesting stuff they could’ve spent more time on was not thought about.
And the voice acting… holy crap, the voice acting. Red’s voice is obnoxious, and nearly every single Pokemon’s voice literally sounded like a human saying “graaaaaaar” or “rrrrrrrrr”. I thought there was no way that they could have made the Pokemon sound more ridiculous than how the original series just made them say their own name over and over again. (“Pika-Pika-Pikachu…”) However, Pokemon Origins somehow found a way to sound even worse. Whoever voiced Charizard and a few other Pokemon did a decent job, but the vast majority of voice acting was literally a human being failing to sound like an animal.
Episode 3, where Red faces the final gym leader was honestly painful to watch. It was so lame and cheesy and exhausting that I almost gave up on the entire series. However, considering I won’t be able to go to see a movie until finals week is over, I plunged into the fourth episode so I could review the entire series.
Episode 4 was slightly better than Episode 2 and 3, but I’ve seen this all before in the original series. Sure, Red is not nearly as useless as Ash is as a leading protagonist, but aside from being a competent trainer, they are almost identical characters.
This series seemed like a good idea; I wished they continued the premise of the first episode, where they seemed to be poking fun at how people played Red and Blue/Green version, but instead the rest of the season seemed to try to be Pokemon-the-show-but-faster. If they had slightly better writing, a couple extra episodes, and an attempt to delve into interesting concepts from the games, this could be a worthwhile TV show aimed towards children. Instead, Pokemon Origins is just a quickly abridged version of the original video games and the painfully cliched themes found in the entire Pokemon franchise.
If you have an Amazon Prime membership, or a Hulu membership, then you can give this series a watch; it’s only 2 hours of content, so it will not be a big time commitment. The first episode is certainly worth a watch, and the final episode has some entertainment quality to it, but the vast majority of the show is a waste of time, and I’m giving this series a 2 out of 10.