The Best Pokemon Series Doesn’t Include Ash

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

As a child of the ’90s, I grew up obsessed with the Pokemon games which I’ve been playing on and off for most of my life. My love for the games led me to the trading cards, plushies, and merch. That said, I never fell in love with any of the various anime series until Pokemon Origins came out in 2013.

Pokemon Origins Leans More Heavily Into The Game

Pokemon Origins

I certainly watched a lot of the original anime featuring Ash Ketchum but even as a child I struggled with the inconsistencies between the show and the games. Narrative contrivances to overcome type advantages and moves working differently in the show bothered me and I always wanted an anime series that was true to the games. Pokemon Origins felt like that childhood wish finally coming true years later. 

Rather than Ash Ketchum, Pokemon Origins follows Red, the protagonist of the first generation of games. While they have roughly the same journey through the region of Kanto centered around defeating gym leaders, the newer show focuses more on the particular strategies and tactics of the games. It eschews the comedy of the more prominent series and is more of a straightforward adventure series. 

A Tightly Focused Mini-Series

Pokemon Origins

Pokemon Origins also has the advantage of being a mini-series instead of a full series, which allows it to have a much brisker pace. This pace fits better with the very simple plot of Pokemon, essentially boiling the game down to its most important moments over a scant four episodes. This makes for a more focused show, centered around key battles between Red, various gym leaders, and Team Rocket. 

A Fresh Take That Respects The Source Material

Pokemon Origins

Pokemon Origins is dedicated to recreating the games but still manages to flesh out the world in interesting new ways. When Red reaches the first gym it’s revealed that gym leaders choose which team they’ll use based on the number of badges their opponent has, answering why supposedly great trainers encountered early in the game only have low-level Pokemon. It also makes Team Rocket more nefarious villains by directly connecting them to Cubone’s dead mother. 

A One-Off That Deserves A Sequel

Pokemon Origins

While Pokemon Origins was generally well-received by fans in the West, it was considered a flop in Japan. The show had low TV ratings compared to other Pokémon anime series and the consensus is that fans weren’t impressed with the show. Western fans, however, praised the show on social media for its commitment to authentically adapting the games, with the only common complaint being that it was too short. 

A proper sequel to Pokemon Origins has never been made, though Pokemon Generations took a similar approach in adapting the games more authentically. As a longtime fan, I wish more of the series had been made, delving into future generations with the same fast pace and focus on authentically adapting the games. I haven’t watched a full Pokemon series since 2013, but I would gladly return for more of Generations. 

An On-Demand Endeavor

Pokemon Origins

The original Pokemon anime has plenty of dedicated fans but for me, Pokemon Origins is the high point of the franchise’s anime ventures. Unlike Ash’s very wacky adventures, Red’s story is told directly with minimal frills, recreating the childlike sense of adventure the games have always had. Sadly, fans who want to watch the all-time best Pokémon anime will have to purchase it through Apple TV+ or Amazon Prime Video if they want to watch it, as it’s not currently available through any streaming services.