Tag: Hidenori Kusaka

Manga Review: “Pokemon Black and White” Volume 20

Pokemon Black and White Volume 20 presents the conclusion of the story arc that takes place in the Unova region.

Pokemon Black and White Volume 20

Written by: Hidenori Kusaka
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: February 3, 2015

Volume 20 opens with the battle going on between Zekrom (alongside N) and Reshiram (alongside Black). In order to be able to battle with Reshiram, Black must first figure out what’s in Reshiram’s heart. He’s fortunate to get some help in the form of having data installed on his Pokedex from research that has been gathered on the two Legendary Pokemon.

When I saw Looker and a couple of other characters getting into a hot air balloon, I was really wondering what the point of it was, since there was no way for them to truly help out, even with the Pokemon they had brought up with them. But when I saw that one of the passengers asked Black to hand him his Pokedex in order to add information, I understood that the hot air balloon was actually an important plot point. Once Black gets that information, he’s able to take it and turn the battle around.

But Black learns the battle isn’t over when he’s confronted by Ghetsis, the leader of Team Plasma. Over the course of this final battle, some truths about N and Team Plasma are revealed.

While most of Pokemon Black and White Volume 20 focuses on Black, White also has an important scene as well. In her scene, we learn what N had done before heading off to his final battle, as well as receive backstory on N’s childhood and how he ended up becoming part of Team Plasma. White also has a reunion with Gigi, her former Pokemon who went off with N in an earlier volume of Pokemon Black and White.

I appreciated getting the backstory on N, but I kind of wish we could have somehow gotten it a little earlier than we did. If this backstory had been revealed earlier, I would have more than likely found myself caring more about N in the long run. The way the story was written for the manga, N’s redemption almost felt like it was “too little, too late.”

And I have to say that I’m not entirely happy with how the Pokemon Black and White series concluded. It ends with a character having a change of heart, and Black and the others just watch this character ride off into the sunset. While this was an OK ending, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. When the other arcs in the Pokemon manga ended, we were usually provided a kind of “epilogue” to show where the characters are at a little later after the final, climactic battle. Here, we didn’t get that. Instead, the reader is left to come up with their own ideas as to what happened. To me, it’s a little easier to guess what happens to White than what happens to Black. While Black may have ultimately defeated the baddies, I’m not sure that really counts as fulfilling his dream to win the Pokemon League. And since we don’t get to see anything beyond the final battle, the reader never learns whether or not Black truly achieved his goal.

As a reader, I admit to feeling a little cheated by this rather abrupt ending. I found myself wondering, “I spent all this time following these characters, and this is all that it led up to?” Oh well.

Readers who have enjoyed the Pokemon Black and White series and already have familiarity with the video games it’s based on may have an easier time accepting Pokemon Black and White Volume 20 and the ending of the series than I did.

The reviewer wrote this review after reading a copy of this item that was checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Pokemon XY” Volume One

Pokemon XY Volume 1 introduces the Kalos region, as well as new protagonists X and Y and their group of friends.

Pokemon XY Vol. 1

Written by: Hidenori Kusaka
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: December 2, 2014

X is the main character of the series, and he was once a highly skilled trainer who won the Junior Pokemon Tournament. This turned him into an overnight celebrity, but he couldn’t handle being hounded by the media or being in the glare of the spotlight. X no longer does anything with his Pokemon and just locks himself in his room. This is the complete opposite of what we normally see for the male protagonist in the various Pokemon series, since the male protagonist is usually gung ho about trying to become the best in their Pokemon league. In this case, X got his taste of fame at a very young age, before he had the maturity and ability to deal with the attention and the pressure. It’s actually a refreshing change of pace for the male protagonist’s personality, and this is probably the closest that the Pokemon series will ever come to having an emo character.

The female protagonist is Yvonne, who goes by Y for short. She keeps trying to get X to come out of his shell, but he continually refuses. Y has her own issues, since her mother is a famous Rhyhorn racer and everyone assumed she’d grow up to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Instead, Y has gone on to become a Sky Trainer trainee in order to do something that was the complete opposite of Rhyhorn racing. Y also has a dislike for the media and the paparazzi due to what she saw X go through. While we may have seen children of famous people in the Pokemon world, we usually don’t see them actively trying to distance themselves from their famous parent and not getting along with them very well. I also find her dislike of the media and paparazzi to be a realistic reaction as well, and it shows how much Y cares for her friends.

But X and Y weren’t simply friends with each other; they grew up as part of a group of five friends. The other friends are Trevor, Tierno, and Shauna. Trevor hopes to become a Pokemon Researcher one day, Tierno is a big boy training to become a dancer, and Shauna dreams of becoming a Furfrou Groomer. In this first volume, the only other one of the friends besides X and Y that has any real importance is Trevor. Hopefully Tierno and Shauna will play more important roles in future volumes of Pokemon XY.

Trevor receives three Pokemon in Pokeballs from Professor Sycamore, which Trevor hopes will help X turn back into the person he used to be. But before he can deliver them, the Legendary Pokemon Xerneas and Yveltal arrive and begin fighting. X finds himself being dragged into the situation when a bracelet he’s wearing reacts to them and draws the attention of Team Flare, the main baddies of Pokemon XY.

After X’s Pokemon Li’l Kanga undergoes a mysterious transformation and drives away Team Flare, they see that Vaniville Town, their hometown, is essentially destroyed. The five friends start a journey to go see Professor Sycamore in order to try to get some answers about what just happened. Near the end of the volume, they make it to an inn at Aquacorde Town, where something surprising happens to the group.

For the most part, Pokemon XY Volume 1 is simply introducing the characters, laying the foundation for the story, and getting the series going. The first battle, which takes place between Xerneas and Yveltal, is primarily there to force X out of his room and to set the journey for the five friends in motion. There’s an action sequence that takes place in Aquacorde Town that establishes that Team Flare is following X and the others due to the bracelet that X has in his possession. Since Pokemon XY is being released in smaller volumes first, just like Pokemon Black and White have been, the story takes a little longer to get going, since you only get to read three chapters instead of the amount of chapters that appear in the regular sized Pokemon manga releases. I also made this complaint about Pokemon Black and White at first, but as that series progressed further into the story, the shorter volumes didn’t bother me as much. I expect that the same will hold true for the Pokemon XY manga as well.

When it comes to the art in Pokemon XY Volume 1, it has Satoshi Yamamoto’s look that has come to be associated with the Pokemon manga franchise since he stepped in and began illustrating the series. In other words, there really isn’t anything at this point to make the art in Pokemon XY to stand out when compared to Yamamoto’s work in Pokemon Black and White, Pokemon Adventures Diamond and Pearl Platinum, or his work in the main Pokemon Adventures series. When it comes to character design, I have to admit that I have to remind myself that Trevor is a boy, since the design of his facial expressions and hair make him look more feminine than I would have expected for a male character.

Even though the art may not have much to make it stand out, the changes in the character types and dynamics are very noticeable in Pokemon XY. I believe that these character changes have a lot of potential to bring new elements and plot directions to the Pokemon manga series, which, I have to admit, are needed to help keep the franchise from becoming stale. With the three chapters of Pokemon XY that I was able to read in this volume, it appears the series may have the potential to bring something new to the Pokemon manga. I hope that future volumes of the series will be able to manifest the promise that I saw in Pokemon XY Volume 1.

If you’re a fan of the various Pokemon manga series, you’ll probably want to give Pokemon XY Volume 1 a shot. While this series shows some differences from its predecessors, it still contains a lot of the same basic elements that readers have known and come to love in the Pokemon series.

The reviewer wrote this review after reading a copy of this item that was checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Pokemon Adventures” Volume 26

Pokemon Adventures Volume 26 introduces a new character named Emerald, as well as the Battle Frontier.

Pokemon Adventures Volume 26

Written by: Hidenori Kusaka
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 6, 2015

Volume 26 opens with a reporter who has come to cover the opening ceremony for the Battle Frontier angering a Sudowoodo and being rescued by an unconventional Pokemon trainer named Emerald. What makes this particular trainer unconventional is the fact that he doesn’t have any Pokemon of his own, even though he enjoys Pokemon battles.

I have to admit that when I first saw Emerald, I assumed he was actually a girl. So when Emerald was referred to as a “he,” I was genuinely surprised. At first glance, there are a couple of elements of Emerald’s design that makes him look more feminine: the hairstyle makes his facial features look more feminine and his baggy clothing has a design that made me think feminine as well. When I first saw just how long the sleeves on Emerald’s shirt were, I found myself wondering why he couldn’t get better-fitting clothes. There’s a revelation that’s made later in Volume 26 that explains why his clothes have to be so baggy; after getting this explanation, this design choice made a lot more sense.

When Emerald goes to register for the Battle Frontier, he becomes lost and ends up in an area that’s not supposed to be accessible in the public. In the process, he encounters one of the Frontier Brains who’s running late for the ceremony. After getting past the Frontier Brain, Emerald accidentally crashes the opening ceremony and demands to challenge the Battle Frontier. Since Emerald made this declaration on live television, the Frontier Brains agree to the challenge, with the stipulation that Emerald must defeat all seven of them.

Once Emerald begins his challenges, the primary focus is on his first one. For this first challenge, Emerald must defeat Noland in the Battle Factory. While this battle sees the challenger using rental Pokemon, the pacing and the progression of this battle is what I’ve come to expect from the Pokemon Adventures manga series. The outcome of the battle is also what I’ve come to expect.

Right at the end of Volume 26, Emerald arrives at the Battle Pike to challenge Lucy. The battle is just about to start when the story stops, so I can’t comment on what this battle is like. I should be able to say more about Emerald and Lucy’s battle after I read the next volume in the series.

After reading Pokemon Adventures Volume 26, I have to say that at this point, Emerald isn’t doing much for me as a character. To me, he comes across as being an annoying loudmouth, and nothing is presented here that makes me want to care about Emerald or become interested in his character. Hopefully future volumes will do something to develop Emerald as a character; otherwise, this portion of Pokemon Adventures will be more of a chore for me to read instead of something I’m appreciating or enjoying.

The only thing going in this volume’s favor is that it’s setting up and explaining the Battle Frontier. Thanks to the screwy publishing order that VIZ Media has had for the Pokemon Adventures series, I’ve already seen the Battle Frontier in Pokemon Adventures Diamond and Pearl Platinum, which is supposed to come later in the timeline than the Emerald portion of Pokemon Adventures. Since these sections of the story were released in a different order in North America, readers who read Pokemon Adventures Diamond and Pearl Platinum had the Battle Frontier presented to them with little to no explanation. Volume 26 finally fills in this missing gap, and I’m starting to better understand what I had seen in Pokemon Adventures Diamond and Pearl Platinum.

Readers who are fans of the Pokemon Adventures manga series or are fans of the Pokemon video games that the manga is based on will probably enjoy reading Pokemon Adventures Volume 26. But for more casual fans, like me, Volume 26 may not be as enjoyable of a read as you were expecting or hoping.

The reviewer wrote this review after reading a copy of this item that was checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Pokemon Black and White” Volume 19

Pokemon Black and White Volume 19 is a manga based on the Pokemon Black and Pokemon White video games. The manga was written by Hidenori Kusaka, and the art was done by Satoshi Yamamoto. VIZ Media released this manga in North America through its Perfect Square imprint in 2014. Pokemon Black and White is rated “A,” which means that it is suitable for readers of all ages.

Pokemon Black and White focuses on two Pokemon trainers: a boy named Black and a girl named White. Black dreams of winning the Pokemon League, and White’s dream is working with Pokemon in showbiz; but after her Tepig Gigi decides to stay with N, the leader of Team Plasma, White trains in order to participate in Pokemon Battles.

Volume 19 opens with the battle between Chili, Cress, and Cilan and the Shadow Triad. At first, it looks the Shadow Triad have the upper hand, but Chili, Cress, and Cilan receive some unexpected help from Keldeo and Cobalion. Even though the action here is good and it’s an important battle, my favorite part of this scene is seeing the flashback sequence when Lenora makes Chili, Cress, and Cilan gym leaders. I thought this made for some nice character development for these characters, and it explains why all three of them are gym leaders.

The remainder of the volume takes place at the Pokemon League Championships. Black has won the championships, but the crowds had to be evacuated due to Team Plasma crashing the event. The light stone has also evolved into Reshiram. Meanwhile, Brycen is captured by Team Plasma and is imprisoned with the other Gym Leaders.

N makes an appearance at the stadium with Zekrom, and Hood Man returns and shows that he has the Legendary Pokemon. The volume ends with N and Zekrom getting ready to face off with Black and Reshiram.

Even though there was a more serious tone to this volume and it was more focused on building up the story to get closer to its conclusion, there was a line of dialogue in this scene that made me chuckle when I saw it. The line itself was amusing, but the fact that a Legendary Pokemon delivered it made it even more funny than it would have been if the line had been delivered by one of the human characters.

As the volume progressed, I was getting the sense that the end had to be getting closer; the arrival of N and Resihram only reinforced that idea to me. So when I saw that the teaser text for Volume 20 included the words, “final volume,” I wasn’t surprised. But from the description for the next volume, it feels like that either a lot may have to be squeezed into that final volume or that the ending will have to be rushed in order to fit everything in.

I missed seeing White since she didn’t make any kind of appearance in Volume 19. The teaser text for Volume 20 says that she will be involved in the story, so I hope she has a major role to play. Over the course of the series, White seemed to go from being Black’s co-star to being a less important character for the overall story, and I have found that to be rather disappointing.

At this point, I’m just hoping that Pokemon Black and White can receive a satisfactory conclusion to make the journey through these volumes worth it.

Manga Review: “Pokemon Adventures” Volume 25

Pokemon Adventures Volume 25 is a manga based on the Pokemon FireRed and Pokemon LeafGreen videogames. The manga is written by Hidenori Kusaka and illustrated by Satoshi Yamamoto. This manga volume was originally published in Japan in 2007; however, it wasn’t released in North America until VIZ Media’s Perfect Square imprint released this volume in 2014. This portion of Pokemon Adventures focuses on Red, Blue, Gree, Yellow, and Silver.

Volume 25 sees Deoxys tracking down where Silver is for Giovanni. Carr, meanwhile, is upset about Silver being found, since being Giovanni’s son would make him next in line to lead Team Rocket; apparently. Carr’s been coveting that position for a while. Carr rebels and causes problems for everyone later in the volume.

This volume includes several surprises for the characters. Silver finally learns who his father is; the way his reaction is drawn to learning this, I swear it looks as if poor Silver’s brain broke. This volume also sees Red not only learning how Deoxys came to be, he also learns that the two of them share a connection. Mew also makes a surprise appearance during Volume 25.

There’s also quite an epic battle between Deoxys and Mewtwo. I really liked how Kusaka kept changing which side seemed to have the upper hand for a while, so it left me guessing as to which Pokemon would ultimately prevail.

And when Carr takes over Team Rocket’s airship with the intent of crashing it into Vermilion City, it’s up to Red to try to save the day. I have to say that not only this portion of the story, but the whole volume in general, ended up being a rather intense read. I was getting so engrossed in what was going on that I didn’t want to put the volume down. At a little over 250 pages, it was a longer read for a Pokemon manga, but it had a lot going on in it. The story just moves so much over the course of this volume that there really was no good way to split it into two volumes. It’s very action-packed, and a lot happens to progress the story. But that ending… oh my God, what a cliffhanger!

There’s also some very powerful art in Volume 25, and this is especially true for the panels that include close-ups of characters’ reactions. As I’ve read more and more Pokemon Adventures volumes that feature the art by Satoshi Yamamoto, I feel that I can say with a lot of certainty that close-ups are a strong point for him as an artist. My only real complaint with the art is the top panel on page 258. Red has his back to us and he isn’t wearing a shirt; with how he’s drawn here, he looks so thin and scrawny that it almost looks like he could easily be snapped in half.

From what I understand, Volume 26 will be introducing a new character but will ultimately continue the story in this portion of Pokemon Adventures. But when it comes to that cliffhanger, all I can say is, what a way to end the volume!

If you’ve read the various volumes of the Pokemon Adventures series and enjoyed them, I expect that you’ll also enjoy reading the story that’s presented in this story arc. And I think that long-time readers of this series will enjoy seeing Silver finally learning the truth, as well as reading some of the revelations that appear in Volume 25.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Pokemon Adventures Volume 25 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Pokemon Black and White” Volume 18

Pokemon Black and White Volume 18 is a manga based on the Pokemon Black and Pokemon White video games. The manga was written by Hidenori Kusaka, and the art was done by Satoshi Yamamoto. VIZ Media released this manga in North America through its Perfect Square imprint in 2014. Pokemon Black and White is rated “A,” which means that it is suitable for readers of all ages.

Pokemon Black and White focuses on two Pokemon trainers: a boy named Black and a girl named White. Black dreams of winning the Pokemon League, and White’s dream is working with Pokemon in showbiz; but after her Tepig Gigi decides to stay with N, the leader of Team Plasma, White trains in order to participate in Pokemon Battles.

Volume 18 focuses on the Pokemon League Championships. First, there’s a match between Black and Iris; not only do we get to see the match between these two, we also see a flashback of Iris’ that provides some background and character development for her. After seeing this backstory, it made me realize that I like the Iris that appears in the videogame and manga much more than the Iris that’s portrayed in the Pokemon anime. I feel her character is much stronger and better developed here when compared to her anime counterpart.

White is also important in this volume as she tries to investigate Hood Man. While White is doing this, we see Inspector Looker watching her investigation. Looker’s appearance in the Unova region had been hinted at during the end of the Pokemon Adventures Diamond and Pearl Platinum manga series, so it’s nice to see that VIZ’s Pokemon Black and White releases that have come out since the final volume of Pokemon Adventures Diamond and Pearl Platinum have included Looker in them. I don’t know if this was simply a coincidence, or if VIZ Media had tried to time the releases to work out that way. Either way, I have to say that this was well played.

Up to now, it had also been hinted that something was different about Black’s friend, Cheren. After Cheren wins his match and becomes Black’s competitor for the finals, the truth about Cheren and his recent behavior are revealed. I hadn’t predicted the reason for Cheren’s change, but I should have known that it would somehow tie in with Team Plasma. Near the end of the volume, something surprising happens during Black and Cheren’s battle; it’s also hinted that something major is about to happen.

Unfortunately, since this volume focused exclusively on the Pokemon League Championships, we didn’t get to see anything in regards to what happened to Cilan, Cress, and Chili with their battle against three members of Team Plasma. However, since I did mention in my review for Volume 17 that I was most interested in seeing how the story around the Pokemon League Championships would evolve, I wasn’t disappointed in how this volume focused on that aspect.

Fans of the series who have enjoyed reading it up to this point will probably also enjoy reading Pokemon Black and White Volume 18.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Pokemon Black and White Volume 18 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Pokemon Adventures” Volume 24

Pokemon Adventures Volume 24 is a manga based on the Pokemon FireRed and Pokemon LeafGreen videogames. The manga is written by Hidenori Kusaka and illustrated by Satoshi Yamamoto. This manga volume was originally published in Japan in 2006; however, it wasn’t released in North America until VIZ Media’s Perfect Square imprint released this volume in 2014. This portion of Pokemon Adventures primarily focuses on Red, Blue, and Green; however, Yellow and Silver also make appearances in Volume 24.

At the end of Volume 23, Red is hit by Deoxys’ Psycho Boost while he’s battling against this mysterious Pokemon, which ultimately brings about Red’s defeat. Red takes the loss hard, and this usually hot-headed Pokemon trainer becomes unsure of himself and spends some time in this volume contemplating why he’s a Pokemon trainer. This was such an interesting change for Red, and I think this provided a great opportunity for some character growth.

Meanwhile, Green reveals to Red the truth about why Professor Oak took away their Pokedexes, and she also enlists Ultima’s help to practice Hydro Cannon. Red also gets some unexpected help from Mewtwo.

Giovanni gets his hands on Deoxys with the intent on using the Pokemon’s special ability, and then lures Red, Blue and Green to Trainer Tower in order to keep them from disrupting his plan. And Yellow has an unexpected meeting with Silver in Viridian City.

I was actually surprised to see that Green’s reunion with her parents took place in this volume. But at the same time, seeing how the action and revelations have built up over the course of this volume, I expect that this particular arc may be on the shorter side. But I have to say that I do like how the story is progressing, and I especially enjoyed seeing the character development that Red underwent in this volume. I also liked seeing Yellow making a return to the series, because it had been a while since we last saw her.

And I find it interesting how much more Deoxys has been developed here in comparison to the anime. Of course, this is probably due to the fact that this story is based on the videogames rather than on the anime, so the Deoxys that’s presented here will have the attributes and traits of the Dexoys that appears in the videogames.

I expect that Silver will be learning the truth about his family rather quickly in the remaining portion of this arc, and I’m very curious to see how he reacts when he learns about it. I’m also curious to see how this arc will ultimately conclude.

If you’ve read the various volumes of the Pokemon Adventures series and enjoyed them, I expect that you’ll also enjoy reading the story that’s presented in this story arc. And I think that long-time readers of this series will feel rewarded and pleased by some of the revelations and plot points that appear, as well as the characters who reappear in Volume 24.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Pokemon Adventures Volume 24 that I checked out through the King County Library System.