Well, that was a bit of a jump. Episode 2 of Pokémon Origins abruptly launches Red forward a few gyms, now with a bicycle in tow and Charmander evolved into Charmeleon. I guess there’s so much ground to cover from the games that it would make a true, moment-by-moment recreation take too long, but at the very least we could’ve seen Red meet Team Rocket for the first time, or show him fight Misty! Regardless, the episode begins in Lavendar Town, where Red is checking into the local Pokémon center. While Red had shown some considerable growth just from the beginning of the first episode to its conclusion, he’s quite a bit more matured beyond that. Facing Team Rocket and earning two more gym badges has given the kid some much needed confidence and makes Red more likable this time around.
As much as I would have enjoyed seeing some of the other material covered from the games, I’m glad the animators chose to highlight Red’s time in Lavendar Town. The creepy Pokémon cemetery provides for a much different tone than the first episode, and is one of the most memorable spots on a player’s journey through Red and Blue. Continuing with the more realistic presentation of the first episode, Cubone is introduced with a very tragic backstory involving its mother. There’s no blood and gore, but it’s a sad scene and really demonstrates how little kids aren’t necessarily the primary audience for Pokémon Origins. I also thought it was refreshing that Team Rocket were portrayed as genuine bad guys and not comic relief; they’re still the coolest enemies the Pokémon franchise has ever had.
Blue continues to be a prickly presence, though this time it was his turn to get some character development. There’s a key confrontation late in the episode where Blue demonstrates he’s more than a single note; he looses his frosty demeanor in a fit of panic, but is then quickly compelled to give Red a helping hand. He’s loathe to admit it, of course, but the hint of a bond seems to be growing between the two trainers. Mr. Fuji sees some screen time in this episode and has a very curious interaction with Red when the two finally meet. Like Ash (and every Pokémon trainer in every game!), Red gives off a certain aura that Mr. Fuji is inspired by, and I’m anxious to see what the payoff will be for helping the young trainer. Let’s just say a particularly lethargic Pokémon will more than likely be making an appearance soon!
One aspect of the show that’s still leaving me hanging is the impersonal relationship Red seems to have with his Pokémon, particularly with his starter Charmeleon. Whereas on the anime Ash’s bond with them is very powerfully and clearly asserted from the beginning, Red’s Pokémon come across as one-dimensional and more like pets than friends. I don’t doubt that Red feels strongly towards his and other people’s Pokémon (especially as this point plays a powerful role in the episode), but I still wouldn’t mind seeing it demonstrated rather than just talked about. Charmeleon by this point should feel more like Red’s companion, but sadly, doesn’t. To be fair, the Cubone situation does help establish Red’s big heart a bit, but I need more!
Two episodes down, and only a handful more to go. Pokémon Origins is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and I’m looking forward to what other pieces of the games are going to be brought in! Catch us next time for episode 3!