Pokémon Adventures: Ruby & Sapphire
In case some of you aren't aware, I am a huge fan of Pokemon. I played the games when I was a kid, I watched the anime TV show as a kid, I even watched the movie, Detective Pikachu with Ryan Reynolds, which I thought was a terrific, entertaining movie fit for the franchise. It was just a massive phenomenon straight from Japan that played its cards right on the world, and I feel fortunate to be a part of that.
Well, how about when Pokémon played its cards right in manga form?
For me, this is where the Pokémon Adventures series, particularly the Ruby and Sapphire saga, comes in.
Why have I decided to look at this? Well, here's a funny story. Though I never read it as much as I either watched the anime series or played the games when I was a kid, this graphic novel series, from what little I understood about it, gained a following from devoted Pokémon fans who viewed it as Pokémon at its most artistically explored, with impressive world building, long drawn storytelling, and rich character development. It was way back when I was still in high school (wow! First, The Muppets Take Manhattan, now this?) when, as I was lollygagging on the Internet, I stumbled into the first issue of this specific saga of the manga series. The first time I saw it available for free online, I thought to myself, “eh, I might as well give this a shot. After all, knowing how the games work and how the show works, I can expect the same out of this one.” But then, something eerie, strange, unprecedented, and unbelievable happened: I was continuously being drawn into the story, to the characters, to the stakes at hand, and it’s gotten to a point where I just stared goggly-eyed at my computer screen, just flipping through the pages of the digital books to see how it would all have played out. I couldn’t have believed it. By mere chance, and from the most open and yet least expected of places, I actually witnessed something great unfold before my eyes from Pokémon! Pokémon, pray tell! It’s kind of incredible!
OK, so what exactly is the story anyway? Well, let’s start at the beginning. We start off with a young boy named Ruby, who moved to Littleroot Town, Hoenn, with his family from Johto. Ruby was none too pleased about it, because he had always wanted to pursue his dreams of being a top-ranking Pokémon Contest champion, in which he would’ve groomed his Pokémon into being one of the five classified categories: coolness, beauty, cuteness, smartness, and toughness. So, the day they moved into town, Ruby ultimately decided to run away from home, not only so he can pursue his dreams, but also since he knew that he was pursuing something that his father, Norman, Gym Leader of Petalburg City, wouldn’t have allowed. In so doing, he ran into a young wild girl named Sapphire, who, in cave girl clothing, was out studying Pokémon for her father, Professor Birch, who was a good friend of Norman. It turned out, unlike Ruby, who was more of a fashionista kind of guy, Sapphire was more into gym battles. So, after some quarrels between each other about which one mattered most, Sapphire then challenged Ruby to a bet: they both were to venture out into Hoenn, fulfill their dreams – Ruby to win all the Pokémon Contests of Hoenn, and Sapphire to win against every Gym Leader in Hoenn - and be the first to meet back in the cave in which they met in 80 days. Maybe the name of this bet should be Around Hoenn in Eighty Days!
Elsewhere, two suspicious teams, an earth-worshipping criminal organization called Team Magma, and a water-loving criminal organization called Team Aqua, were each plotting diabolical schemes that they believed would've brought the world into a state of being that they envisioned. To those of you who don’t know who those teams are, I think the most straightforward way to describe them is, imagine two elite mafia families butting heads over different methods they had of nationwide ecoterrorism. And I say that because they both had similar goals, but different pursuits: Team Magma wanted to expand the land until there was no water left, and Team Aqua wanted to spread out the sea until all dry land was covered up. All they had to do was seek out the orbs that would have awakened the legendary creatures they each were linked to: Team Magma sought out the Red Orb to awaken a land-dwelling beast called Groudon, while Team Aqua set out to find the Blue Orb, which would've awakened a marine beast called Kyogre.
As Ruby and Sapphire went deeper and deeper into Hoenn starting off with varied levels of success on their goals, they started to find themselves intertwining with the criminal activities of both teams. As they did, they caught the attention of Hoenn reporters Ty and Gabby, who, after witnessing Sapphire fight off the members of Team Aqua and Ruby cross paths with the members of Team Magma, set out to uncover the truth behind Teams Magma and Aqua’s criminal activities. Meanwhile, Ruby's father, Norman, decided to venture off into Hoenn, too, in order to find and track down Ruby so he can settle his score with him, with Ruby not aware that Norman's reasons of following him were for completely different reasons. And, once it became clear, especially to Ruby and Sapphire, that Teams Magma and Aqua were setting up for more catastrophic pursuits in Hoenn, many people battened down the hatches and prepared for what could possibly have felt like the end of the world as they knew it. So, Ruby and Sapphire decided to lunge into the travesties head on to try and put an end to Teams Aqua and Magma’s plans before they got too out of hand.
So, at first glance, you could tell that the storyline, especially to those who either watches the show or plays the games, pretty much follows the basic plot, complete with battling the Gym Leaders, defeating the evil teams and proving yourself to be the best that you can be. However, ever since the first volume, there were plenty of things about it that I think helped it stand out.
The first thing about the series that blew me away was the storytelling. In the first four volumes, it played out sort of like the games and the anime show would have, except with slightly more interesting narrative progressions and with the characterizations to spice them up with. As it went on, Ruby and Sapphire‘s criminal intertwinements, as well as their budding awareness of the stakes at hand, only made the series more interesting, as they both had to deal with all that while still trying to maintain their bet in completing their goals before the other did. But by the time Kyogre and Groudon have awakened due to Team Magma and Team Aqua's efforts…
Oh. My. God.
What I witnessed from there had to have been Pokémon at its most epic!
What happened was, Kyogre and Groudon were subjects of a myth that went back to ancient times. It was said that the two of them constantly kept fighting each other for a long, long time, so long that the fighting started to tear the world apart, since Groudon always brought about sunlight and droughts, whereas Kyogre always brought about floods to the region, and both of them got more destructive the longer their fights against each other lasted. With the two Pokémon having awakened because of Teams Magma and Aqua, their arrival and presence in the series generally gave the impression that they were unstoppable gods capable of bringing about the end of the world with them being so hellbent on attacking each other to the very end. Even the consequences of their awakening were evident all throughout Hoenn; some of the towns and cities have been either dried up by the heat or engulfed in the incoming floods. Lilycove City, one of the destined city sites for one of Ruby‘s Pokémon Contests, was mostly destroyed due to Kyogre’s floods, Fortree City’s trees have immediately burnt to a crisp due to the rise in temperature courtesy of Groudon, and at one point, when Steven was fighting Groudon, he didn’t even realize that the sun was still up as he was fighting him at 1:25 in the morning! The two legendary Pokémon were that monumentally powerful. And the idea that their awakenings were the result of criminal pursuits only made the regional travesties feel all the more horrifying.
The point is, the story was very well told, and the way it was told was very massive and well-executed.
And this leads to the second reason why I like the series: the action. Even when comparing this manga series to the anime show, the action scenes in the show were plentiful, but they all seemed pretty generic on average. Even in the games, while the battle scenes were the most engaging and the most suspenseful, the action of the Pokémon and the humans were limited by the mechanics of the video games. They didn’t have the same kind of rousing scenery you would see in something like, say, Kingdom Hearts. But here in the manga series, the action scenes were some of the strongest and most marvelous I've ever seen from Pokémon. The speed and motion of the characters, the angles of each action scene, and the roughness of each blow, heightened the severity of the battles, and as a result, were mostly impactful. And because many of them dealt with characters you already identified with and cared about, anyway, that’s double the dose of the adrenaline to rev up the action with.
The way I see it, the eight volumes of the series told its story in ways that only made it bigger and better as it went along, and the payoff was nothing short of monumental… aside from a few bumps in the road, but I will get to that when I do. But, I will say that it was fearsome enough with Kyogre and Groudon causing chaos in the region wherever they went, at least until they met up with each other and prepared for battle. But it’s what it took for the main characters to band up and put an end to the fight that really kept me on edge. Every single little action they had to undertake to turn the tide in their favor, they really made the action feel a lot more titanic and the stakes that much more personal, and they did so with the intention of having the readers feel genuine concern for the well-being of the characters, regardless of the circumstances.
As a matter of fact, the last two volumes were where I think the scope of the battles reached its fever pitch. What happened was, Ruby and Sapphire had to train under Juan in the Mirage Island, both physically and mentally, in order to prepare themselves for battle, Steven summoned the three legendary Regi Pokémon (Regirock, Regice, and Registeel) to assist in keeping the explosive destruction emitting from Kyogre and Groudon’s fight no farther than Sootopolis City, Norman summoned Rayquaza with the help of Wally to help settle the fight, Ruby and Sapphire both had the two orbs to control the two quarreling beasts with, Ruby had to implant the orbs back into both Kyogre and Groudon, and because Steven and Norman summoned the legendary Pokémon accompanying them without orbs, unlike Ruby, they both died for their causes. Oh yeah. In this version of Pokemon, characters
actually die in this!
And, accompanying Ruby on his mission was Courtney, one of the chief members of Team Magma, who eventually quit the team in order to help out in what she thought was a situation that got too out of control. And, in spite of helping Ruby calm the two beasts, she, too, died during battle.
But if that's not crazy enough, after the battle against Kyogre and Groudon came the battle against Maxie and Archie, and immediately following Pokémon at its most epic came what, as far as I know, felt like Pokémon at its grizzliest.
Get a load of how THAT showdown started: Maxie and Archie went off the deep end due to Kyogre and Groudon’s departure, they admitted to regretting not having teamed up and slaughtered anyone who got in their way sooner, they dragged Courtney to leave her buried underneath the falling debris at the Cave of Origin, they strangled and suffocated Ruby and Winona, they smashed Wallace around nearly to kingdom come, they even cremated Norman’s body (onscreen, mind you!) as a precaution to ward off any future arrivals from Rayquaza!
Even one of the quick little retorts Archie gave Ruby in the original (Asia-originating and direct) English translation as he and Maxie were strangling him was, to say the least, shockingly aggressive.
All who stand in our way shall die... and die... and die!! GO! TO! HELL!!
In fact, I was so slack-jawed over what I witnessed there, that I was personally surprised the volume from which this all occurred was never published in America with a disclaimer message that could easily have read:
The volume you are about to read of Pokémon Adventures contains scenes of death, brutality, and mental illness, and may be too intense for younger readers. Parental discretion is advised.
Granted, things got better for the main characters by the end of the series, but sheesh, this is some pretty hard-core material for a Pokémon comic series, let alone a kids' comic series.
Although, even then, being that Pokémon Adventures: Ruby and Sapphire is a comic book series, anyway, I think it’s safe to say that we were all familiar with the strength of the action thanks to the positioning and presentation of the panels from the superheroes of DC or Marvel. You know who I’m talking about; Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, and so on.
And this leads to the third thing that stood out to me the most about the series: the artwork and its positioning page by page. The way the scenery was designed, as were the landscapes of Hoenn, the Pokémon, their attacks, and especially the human characters, was truly marvelous and pleasing to the eye, whether I’m viewing them for the artwork or as part of the reading experience. I especially admired the series' efforts to tell half of its story visually, through the artwork. It’s one thing for the characters or the narration to spell out what’s happening in front of you or in front of them, but when you are shown the half of the story that benefits from it, that only adds to the richness value of the stories as they go along. Show, don’t tell.
Come to think of it, I find it interesting how this particular version of Pokémon had a tendency to have its characters go through certain scenarios, and then spell out to the characters exactly how they pulled it off. Usually, I remember that happening during the more hectic situations, like in Pokémon battles, or in battles against any one of the members of Teams Magma or Aqua. Well, in scenarios like this, I honestly found it interesting how the characters would’ve reacted under such stressful circumstances, and how they would’ve responded or taken care of the situation had they already known about it in advance. And this wasn’t done just by the bad guys. The good guys proved themselves to have a few tricks up their sleeves, too. To be frank, I love it when the characters, even if they were from both sides of the spectrum, have the capability to outwit each other, no matter whose side would get the upper hand first. It just shows that anyone can have certain capabilities of such tricks others may not have anticipated, and just go from there. To me, I find it more interesting when the good guys and bad guys have enough capabilities for their matches or confrontations to be more evenly matched as opposed to when one side always gained the upper hand over the other.
And the fourth, last, and not least, reason this stood out to me as much as it did? The characterizations. The characterizations were just amazing.
It would have been very easy just to put these characters together, have them follow the basic rhythms of the story, and that’s it. But, the writers and artists clearly went the extra mile to take the basic concepts of the characters from the games and establish them in ways that made the characters more believable and engaging than ever.
Ruby, the 11-year-old boy who wanted to be the champion of the Pokémon Contests in Hoenn, was very interesting, especially for having very feminine characteristics, and was more concerned about keeping his Pokemon beautiful and tidy, to the point where he usually would have avoided letting them partake in battles, just to keep them presentable the way he wanted them to be. He also showed interesting angles to him when he started to come across as pretty cocky and downright ignorant of the plights of others around him. It even got to a point that when he did experience those dire circumstances for himself, including his run-ins with Team Magma, he decided to merely shrug it off, keep on going with his thing, and stick to it like it’s the only thing that mattered to him. Now, there were times when he did acknowledge when his ego got the best of him, and when he did, he tried to do the best he could have to fix his mistakes. I find that a good example to live by.
Sapphire, the 10-year-old wild child and Ruby’s rival, was quite a compelling character, and a total polar opposite of Ruby. In her case, she was a tomboy, would've gotten dirty, played rough, and got herself into dangerous situations to pull something off. After all, spending most of what she lived at that point of her childhood in the mountains, even if it was all just to gather research on Pokémon for her father, definitely played a big part in that. What was also pretty impressive about her was how astute she could've been when she was worrying about battle strategies, thanks to her naturally-induced upbringing, and that was really something to be admired. One other thing that set her apart from Ruby was, by the time she did get into complicated circumstances, like with Team Aqua, or even in top-secret missions, like when she was asked by an old man named President Stone to personally hand-deliver a letter to Steven, she eventually caught onto the high stakes brewing about and decided to slightly put her dreams of battling the Gym Leaders on hold so she could've taken care of the dilemmas the way she knew how.
But, the one part about both of them that I found so surprising, as well as effective, was the relationship they had with each other. Despite starting off as rivals who had different ideas of handling Pokémon, as they continued to cross paths and bicker with each other about them, there’s a certain twinge of passion that left them uncertain over how to really feel for each other. While the bickers they had about Pokémon Battles vs. Pokémon Contests were funny to watch, their feelings for each other, which often veered into borderline romance, were cute and often added to the intrigue of the story, as well as of their journeys.
What made it work for me was that during their times together, they never even hugged or kissed. The focus was kept on just their feelings for each other, which made their friendship feel more intimate. And the little romantic movements they did make on each other, they reacted to them similarly to how we'd expect twitterpating children to react. Take a look at this scene when Ruby and Sapphire entered the Seafloor Cavern while holding hands.
In some cases, this relationship even played a big, vital part in their personalities, too. In the seventh volume, both Ruby and Sapphire revealed to their masters (I'll elaborate on that shortly) and to us that five years before the plot started, they actually knew each other when Norman was gearing up for his examinations to pass in order to become an official Gym Leader. During their time together, Ruby was always ready for action, while Sapphire was timid, shy, and more into pretty stuff. But when a wild Salamence emerged and terrorized them, Ruby immediately reacted and tried to protect Sapphire, no matter what it took, and while he successfully scared it away with his Pokémon, Ruby was caught by Salamence's Dragon Claw and ended up with a nasty and surprisingly graphic gash on the side of his head, frightening Sapphire and leaving him feeling guilty. Of course, Sapphire felt guilty afterwards, too, because she felt that she was helpless during then, and that she pushed him away by being scared out of her wits instead of thanking him for helping her. This experience caused Ruby to not partake in any physical activities and associate himself with pretty things, while Sapphire decided to toughen herself up until she became the wild child who loved battles.
And if that wasn't enough, that same Salamence broke in through the nearest Pokemon laboratory, where scientists were working on the legendary Pokemon, Rayquaza, and, at that point, it allowed Rayquaza to break free. And when the head of the Pokemon Association went in to investigate it, Norman, upon catching on to the chaos, decided to take the blame for Rayquaza's escape and was suspended from ever partaking in Gym Leader tryouts for another five years. During then, he was instead requested by the head of the Pokemon Association to track down Rayquaza. In other words, Ruby was indirectly responsible both for letting loose one of the most powerful Pokemon in the entire region and for most of his family dilemmas. That kind of backstory and narrative twist was superbly played and tied in to the overall storyline tremendously while still sticking to the emotions and development of the characters.
Ruby and Sapphire's chemistry actually reminded me a lot of Simba and Nala, where the boy was eager to engage in action to protect his childhood friend in the face of impending danger, and when they reunited years later, they started to develop romantic feelings for each other as they each faced different adversities of their own. And the idea that such kids like Ruby and Sapphire would have been experiencing something that we would normally expect adults to do, like exposing criminal activity or even showing romantic feelings for another person - and all in spite of them being young enough, as we see them, to be starting middle school - was unheard of, but somehow, it was pulled off very well with these two, and that’s quite an accomplishment.
But nowhere in the series was I left completely awestruck than with the Gym Leaders. In the games, whenever I thought of them, I simply thought of them as just top-ranking trainers and obstacles that the player had to overcome in order to move farther up and become the best trainer possible. Even in the anime, every time a new Gym Leader, except for Brock and Misty, came along, Ash simply beat them, claimed a badge from them, and moved onto the next one, without a word about the Gym Leaders they beat before. Here, the Gym Leaders were given a more interesting role in the story, and a good portion of them even had very interesting personalities.
Norman was a mysterious father who appeared to have no concern about the strange phenomena in the region, or even for his family, until certain circumstances cropped up to show us Norman for who he really was. For example, by the time Norman did finally reach Ruby at the Weather Institute, they had a pretty severe fight going on between them, but when they both calmed down, it turned out that Norman, since he and their family moved to Littleroot Town close to Ruby's birthday, was going to tell him that he would have given him permission to compete in Pokémon Contests… had Ruby never run away from home so soon. This added layers to his character, and his mysterious nature, combined with some of his oddly noble qualities, made him a very interesting character to watch.
And like I said, the other Gym Leaders were nicely portrayed, so nicely portrayed, in fact, that they just knocked the other interpretations of them in the other versions of Pokémon out of the water. Roxanne, the Rock-type Gym Leader, was a fanatic in reading books and gaining knowledge, and Tate and Liza were the skillful sisters who bought cleverly in double battles. But in terms of uninteresting personalities, they ended there. Here’s how it played out with the others – Brawly, the Fighting-type Gym Leader, was a surfer, and had a knack for trying to learn both the soft and hard styles of fighting, especially when he admitted later that he was doing so out of respect for his mentor, Bruno, one of the Elite Four of Kanto. Wattson, the Electric-type Gym Leader, was a complete goofball and constant jokester who would always have been prone to crack a lame pun every now and then.
But besides Norman, there were three Gym Leaders who absolutely amazed me.
One was Flannery, the Fire-type Gym Leader. She's a passionate, emotive rookie gym leader who put a new spin on the word 'fiery' and was just getting the hang of the responsibilities that came with being a professional gym leader. And by the time she failed, along with Sapphire, to stop Team Aqua from destabilizing Mt. Chimney, she told Sapphire about how she was inspired to become a gym leader after watching her grandfather's amazing Pokémon battle skills. On top of that, she felt that by failing to stop Team Aqua's schemes, she felt like she let Lavaridge Town down. These were nice little details to add to her character, and I really like how this series made the role of Gym Leader look like it carried some power to it, if not mayorship.
But neither she nor the others were as interesting as Wallace, the Water-type Gym Leader of Sootopolis City, and Winona, the Flying-type Gym Leader of Fortree City. Wallace had a knack for establishing the showmanship of his Pokémon, and because of that, was the host of plenty of Pokémon Contests throughout the region. Winona was actually the leader of the Gym Leaders of Hoenn, and usually called off the shots as to what must be done in certain crises that arose in Hoenn, especially when they concerned Teams Magma and Aqua. What added to their collective flavor was that they shared plenty of similarities to Ruby and Sapphire; Wallace was into Pokémon Contests, Winona was more of a combative woman, and they both had romantic tensions that they could not quite get off their chests to each other. In fact, they shared so much in common with Ruby and Sapphire by the time they met them, that Wallace allowed Ruby to be his pupil, as did Winona with Sapphire. That kind of chemistry and connection was so engaging, and should arguably serve as a good example of how to take otherwise generic characters and make them complex and interesting.
One such good example I can think of was in "Chapter 222: Short Shrift for Shiftry", where six out of the eight gym leaders were summoned to a meeting by Flannery to discuss about the abrupt inactivity of Mt. Chimney. As soon as they all discussed amongst themselves about Team Aqua being behind this natural manipulation, the meeting soon dissolved into a debate about who was the bigger threat: Team Aqua or Team Magma. The idea that they all had different opinions about whether the land or the sea was important to them, especially when talking about two of the biggest criminal threats in Hoenn, it allowed the Gym Leaders to express themselves from an entirely different and more interesting angle. I especially love how Norman decided to participate in this debate by NOT participating in it at all, knowing that the meeting would have been fruitless if it ended up in one disagreement after the next. Think about it: this kind of ties back to the classic quote by Abraham Lincoln, doesn't it?
A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Now, it was a little hard to wrap my head around how I thought about the villains, Team Magma and Team Aqua. They both were made up of different members, with different leaders, and, like I said, they both had pretty basic goals, except what made them so interesting was not only their commitment to their causes, or the things they would’ve done to accomplish them, but also the severity of the consequences.
It was also interesting to watch as the two teams seemed to have differences in characteristics. Archie, the leader of Team Aqua, was subtle, soft-spoken, and was mostly a calm, collected guy who knew how to control parts of Hoenn in order to further their goals, such as control its media outlets or even put an end to the volcanic activity of Mt. Chimney. The members of Team Aqua were not very interesting, though; they just continued to pull off criminal activities for their cause. With Team Magma, however, it was the exact opposite. The leader, Maxie, was wild, rambunctious, and a little reckless, and what the team lacked in terms of compelling schemes, they made up for with interesting team members. Tabitha, the brawny guy, was always a whiner, especially when dealing with the shortcomings of his fellow teammates. Blaise was interesting based on his skills, which was to have his opponents undergo fire-induced illusions that would have turned their strengths against them. And Courtney… man, was she something! She was even more mysterious than Norman, with her modestly but audibly complaining about the situations concerning her teammates, mostly had tricks up her sleeve when concerning mixtures she made of berry juice, and my interest in her only intensified whenever she crossed paths with Ruby, like there was something going on between them, and that made the situations feel even more suspenseful. The same can be said about Tabitha when he crossed paths with Flannery after Mt. Chimney was robbed of its volcanic activity. Little moments like those were interesting to see, and they made the debates concerning whether Team Magma or Team Aqua was the bad guy as continuously compelling to the readers as they were to the Gym Leaders.
Ty and Gabby, the news reporters who followed Ruby and Sapphire around, would not have necessarily been crucial characters on paper. They just looked like they were there to provide some comic relief for the story. But, while they did do that, they also established themselves to be fairly admirable characters for their commitment to their profession. It got to the point where Gabby, the news reporter, was developing a near obsession with finding the truth behind the criminal activities in Hoenn, even if she had to gather them through either Ruby or Sapphire, and they mostly left Ty, the camera operator, questioning her motivations and being the voice of reason in the midst of her pursuits for the inside scoop. You know some of the side characters are nicely developed when even the alleged comic reliefs actually contributed more to the story in the long run in a way that left them more respected than when they first started out.
Some of the other side characters in the story left behind unique impressions in the little time they had in the narrative, including a sailor named Briney who, along with his pet Wingull, Peeko, wanted to seek a legendary Pokémon that lived for millions of years (AKA Relicanth), a swimmer who helped Ruby out but had a secret urge to fish for a Feebas so he can make a Feebas farm out of it, a sickly young trainer Ruby met along the way named Wally, who was just getting set to train as a Pokémon Trainer by Norman in spite of his conditions, and Juan, Wallace's trainer who eventually trained Ruby and Sapphire for the great battle.
Now, the biggest and arguably only misgiving I noticed plenty of people had with this series, was that the introduction of Celebi as Ruby's secret sixth Pokémon was a mere deus ex machina to transition to series from its more grim showdowns into its more upbeat, positive happy ending. And... yeah, I guess that kind of introduction was too out of nowhere, and considering that, from what little I read about that, Celebi had a role earlier in the manga series as a whole, it probably was a little too contrived. But, even with that in mind, I think it was both a pro and a con. It's a pro because after three or four volumes of constantly heavy-handed dilemmas and confrontations, it was nice for the series to go out on a light, breather moment. But it's also a con, because...well, why have Celebi pull a Jumanji on the deaths of Courtney, Norman, and Steven? Were the writers afraid that if they let the characters stay dead, that the readers would've been left too traumatized by it? I don't know, but for something that others claimed to have come right out of nowhere, perhaps it could've used a little more buildup while still remaining inconspicuous.
But in the grand scheme of things, what I witnessed was...beyond belief! It so floored me when I read this eleven or twelve years ago, it's not even funny. The story remained faithful to the games while pulling out all the stops, the villains, though rather simplistic in their goals, still remained interesting through a variety of means, the action was, to say the least, mind-blowing, the side characters, especially the gym leaders, were FOBAR (fleshed out beyond all recognition), and the dynamics of Ruby and Sapphire, right down to their prepubescent relationship, were just fantastic. I loved it for the same reasons I loved Total Drama Island: it started off with a basic premise that could easily have delivered what was expected out of it and went beyond the call of duty to deliver something that was unique, well-written, well-characterized, surprisingly edgy – but not excessively so – and would only linger with its audience, in a good way, long after they've finished it.
And, believe it or not, I mean no shred of humor or sarcasm when I say that this was what got me interested in writing. Yep, you read that right. Over the past ten years or so, I always had a burning urge inside me to try something that kind of resembled what I witnessed here. You know, to play my hand in stories that defied expectations and went all out there with what it had in its arsenal. And it didn't matter if it was in visual storytelling, like graphic novels, or if it was in regular writing, like books, or if it was in a medium that took advantage of both, like in movies or television.
The Ruby and Sapphire saga of Pokémon Adventures was the spark that ignited it.
Who says something so marketably massive can’t deliver on some unsuspecting masterpieces?
— I seem to be catching on to a pattern here. Pokémon Adventures: Ruby and Sapphire, just like the rest of the series, isn’t the only story originating from Japan to feature well-developed child protagonists. You also have the Pokémon anime show, as well as movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of Fireflies, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Ponyo, as well as shows like Digimon, Naruto, Sailor Moon (for high school students), Medabots, and so on. I mean, it is just everywhere in Japan! I wonder what it is about them that had Japan using it in their stories so many times? Is it just a different cultural perception? Or is it just great storytellers who happen to rely on child protagonists? Who knows. If I’m not mistaken, I remember reading from somewhere that some shows in Japan wanted to reach out to as many demographics as possible. As in, the shows made their protagonists children so that they would’ve attracted the child-oriented demographic, while they’re still made wise beyond their years so that they would catch the interest of the older viewers as well. What do you guys think?
— The artist, Sasashi Yamamoto, admitted that he drew the scenes of Kyogre and Groudon in inspiration of some of his favorite monster movies. And, in that sense, I can see where he’s coming from. The idea of evil masterminds intending to harness the power of natural giants for their own gain is another way of portraying what happens when people abuse the power of nature, similar to say, Godzilla. Of course, I will admit, the idea of people trying to control something so massive, so malevolent, and with something so small, yet power-filled, and, in some cases, in the midst of an enormous, wreckage-laden battlefield, kind of made the story look like the characters were suddenly transported to Middle Earth half the time.
— Just like Total Drama Island, the series also wasn’t without a share of some genuinely nonsensical censorship. During Volume 3, when Ruby was found by his father Norman at the Weather Institute, Ruby and his Marshtomp were being horced around physically during their duel with Norman and his Pokémon. Of course, the translation, as well as the panels themselves, insisted that it was because they were being pushed back by the force of the thunderclaps around them. Oh, please! Look at these two slides of panels showing the two of them being flung against the wall behind them.
The first time you look at it, what’s the first impression you get off this quarrel? You could tell that he was flung back, sure, but you would never believe it to be because of some thunderclap, would you? In the original version, it was made pretty darn clear that Ruby and his Pokémon were horsed around and even assaulted by Norman. It’s stuff like this that convinces me that people need to rethink how they want to edit questionable subject material without making it into something so illogical. Plus, this wasn’t the first time Pokémon Adventures was hit with this kind of censorship. In the Gold and Silver saga before it, a girl was being reprimanded by her mother, and in the English version, the girl flinched because her mother leered at her, whereas the Japanese version, the mother slapped her. I mean, wow! Those guys find Maxie and Archie strangling other people, smashing them into the ground, and even cremating Norman's body okay, but find parents beating their own children to be too far? Simply put, this is just ridiculous. Either the English editors should’ve thought this through before tackling the harsher material, or they should have just not bothered about any of it and just let the story play out on its own merits! Just like I said, if some questionable material arose in a fictional work that would raise the eyebrows of potential readers or viewers, you know whose problem it really is? It ain’t the story's problem, but the consumers! They have a problem with it? Then just leave it alone! Can you handle them? Excellent! Any work of fiction should be allowed to tell a story on its own merits and not be so micromanaged by the touchy sensibilities of those who want to safeguard their own children from anything that would leave them unsettled. Because if that unsettling material is shown in a way that is meant to help other people, then that would be a more admirable, braver way to entertain them while also opening their eyes a little more. Look at some of Disney‘s films, for instance! They may look like they're for children, but there ways of storytelling are acknowledged as such that they are prone to be a little light and fluffy every once in a while while also taking bold risks and showcasing unsettling material to provide food for thought about the real world.