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Japanese TV Special: Pocket Monsters The Origin "Report 1 - Red"
Pokémon TV Special: Pokémon Origins "File 1 - Red"
Japanese Air Date: October 2nd, 2013
American Air Date: November 15th, 2013
Important Characters: Red (Red), Green (Blue), Orchid-Hakase (Professor Oak), Takeshi (Brock)
Important Places: Tokiwa City (Viridian City), Nibi City (Pewter City)
A young boy named Red and his childhood rival Green are called to Orchid-Hakase's Pokemon Laboratory to undertake a special mission: travel around the Kanto Region and fill out the professor's newly completed Pokemon Zukan, an electronic picture encyclopedia containing information about various creatures known as "pokemon." To start them off, Orchid-Hakase gives Red the Lizard Pokemon Hitokage and Green the Tiny Turtle Pokemon Zenigame. Some time later, Red and Green face off in their first pokemon battle. Red's pokemon isn't able to keep up with Zenigame's quick movements and its Trainer is eventually forced to forfeit the match. Once Green leaves his defeated rival, a young man named Takeshi appears and reveals that he had watched the entire battle. He points Red to the nearest Pokemon Center and tells him that when he's finished tending to Hitokage's wounds he should stop by the Nibi City Pokemon Gym to find out more about pokemon battling. Red obeys and, before long, finds out that Takeshi is actually the Nibi City Gym Leader! A battle between the two of them begins but Takeshi's Iwaku completely demolishes the majority of Red's team. The battle eventually turns around in Red's favor, however, when a leftover String Shot attack from earlier in the battle slows Takeshi's pokemon enough to allow Hitokage to strike a finishing blow. Red has earned the Grey Badge and, now with a better grasp of the many challenges that lay before him, continues on his journey to complete the Pokemon Zukan.
When I first heard about Pocket Monsters The Origin, my first reaction was "Wow! That's really cool!" My second reaction? "But wait...why is this coming out now, in the year 2013?" The promos and whatnot for the special talked about it commemorating the sale of the Pocket Monsters X & Pocket Monsters Y video games, but that seems really weird to me because while X & Y do tend to lay it on a bit thick with the Generation I nostalgia it's not like it ignores any of the other generations either. And this special just seems like the sort of thing that you'd expect to see for an anniversary year, y'know? Why didn't we get this to celebrate the franchise's tenth anniversary (2006) or its fifteenth (2012) instead of its...sixteenth and a half-ish anniversary?
Regardless of why this thing exists, I'm happy it does because it's a pretty damn good special. Well, other than this first episode. I feel like this one is probably the weakest of the four because there are only so many times you can watch the story of a Trainer picking out his first pokemon or watch someone struggle with type advantages before you get sick of it. Red sucks so freaking bad here, and while it's still watchable it does sort of feel like a chore you have to get through in order to enjoy the later, much better episodes that come after it.
Pocket Monsters The Origin has a different take on the Red & Green games that I think both delighted people and threw them off at the same time. The pokemon in this special growl and squawk instead of saying their names. The sound effects of the Monster Balls opening and closing are different. The voice actors are all different. The arrangements of the video game music aren't the same as the ones that Miyazaki Shinji did for the TV series. My kneejerk reaction was "ew, this isn't right" but the more I watched the special I became amazed at how quickly I got used to this "new" way of doing things. The fresh approach to material that we all know like the backs of our hands gives the special an energy that the current TV series can't provide.
It reminds me of reading the dozens of Pocket Monsters manga series that are out there; so many different takes on the same world and a lot of them offer new and exciting ways of looking at the franchise.
One other thing, something I hesitate to bring up because I don't want to give them any more attention that they've already gotten; the fansubs. If I'm being nice, I'd say a good 95% of the fansubs for this special are absolutely shit. Pocket Monsters The Origin is one of those projects that attracted fansubbers who wouldn't normally touch anything with the Pocket Monsters name on it because it was the hot topic of the week and so we started seeing all these people who had little to no experience with the franchise (or with the Japanese language, apparently) jumping into the ring and providing laughably inaccurate work. It seems like the majority of the "translations" out there are just people maybe being able to pick out a word or two here and there and then making educated guesses on what they think the characters are saying. I guess what I'm saying here is to do yourself a favor and just avoid them altogether.
The English dub is actually really very good. The voices are all quite fitting (I love Professor Oak's voice in this), all the Japanese music is kept, and the script is fairly accurate. My only real complaint is changing Green's name to Blue, but I'll get to that later in the comparison. I would also complain about how they changed all the pokemon cries in this even though everything's just making unintelligible noises no matter which version you're watching but then I remembered that this is the same franchise that changes English names into different English names (Grey Badge to Boulder Badge, for example). So really this whole pokemon cry thing is actually very in-character of them.
Cut - 20 seconds
The special opens with a look at a history of the franchise, from the newest games Pocket Monsters X & Y to the very first games, Pocket Monsters Red & Green. The dub cuts this retrospective out.
The Pokémon Company International would have had to redo this from the ground up because all of the box art and most of the release dates would have to be changed, and I guess they just couldn't be bothered?
This cut is particularly noticeable because the English version of the special starts at what is obviously halfway into a piece of background music.
A video game-like "New Game / Continue" screen gets translated for the English release.
Here's what it looked like in the original video game, by the way:
As you can see the font's a little different and the animated version makes "OPTION" plural, but it's no big deal.
Professor Oak tells us about the world of Pokémon:
Professor Oak: "There are some very interesting creatures...that inhabit this world. And, as you may be aware, they are known the world over quite simply as "Pokémon.""
Originally he states that there are creatures in this world called "Pocket Monsters," or "Pokemon" for short. But since the term "Pocket Monsters" is kind of a taboo outside Japan the line got rewritten.
Professor Oak shows the Pokédex to Red and Blue:
Professor Oak: "It's a high-tech encyclopedia."
Red: "Science is so amazing!"
The Japanese version peppers the script with direct quotes from the actual Red & Green video games throughout all four episodes but sometimes the English dub doesn't pick up on these and chooses different translations instead. For example, in this scene, Red says Kagaku no chikara tte sugee! (科 学の力っ てすげえ!), and the English equivalent of that would be:
So Pokémon Origins Red should have said the same thing, but I guess TPCI didn't pick up on that. "Science is so amazing!" is just as valid a translation as "Technology is incredible," but using the former doesn't bring out the nostalgia for the video games that the latter does.
TPCI made the same mistake in the second episode of Pokémon XY The Series as well, by the way; Ash says "Man, science is so amazing!" after Clemont uses his Aipom arm to break into the Prism Tower when he should have said the "Technology is incredible" line instead. So yay, at least they're consistent...?
Red and Blue are about to choose their first Pokémon:
Blue: "Well I don't need to be greedy like you are. 'Kay Red? You can go ahead and choose first."
Green tells Red that he can go first since he's already an adult; he doesn't say anything about greed in the Japanese version.
And now we get to the part of the comparison where I talk about the whole Green to Blue name change:
Professor Oak: "I see. Well, then Blue, are you going to choose Squirtle because its blue color is perfect for someone with your name?"
Blue: "Heh. I would never choose my Pokémon for such a ridiculous reason. But since Red chose Fire, I will choose Water!"
The original dialogue has Orchid-Hakase asking Green if he'll be picking a Fushigidane since it's green similar to the way Hitokage is red (let's ignore the fact that Hitokage is actually more of an orange color for a moment). He replies that he would never choose his pokemon for such a girly reason (sexist much?) and goes with Zenigame because it's a Water-Type and Water-Types are strong against Fire-Types like Hitokage.
The dub version of this dialogue, on the other hand...so you know how, back in the first season of the Pokémon TV series, Ash would complain about how Misty kept following him around? And how she'd angrily respond that no, she's actually not following him, he just happens to be going the same way she is? And how it was super obvious that she was lying? Well Blue's line here kind of reminds me of those early conversations. "No, of course I'm not picking Squirtle because of its color, that would be ridiculous. I'm choosing Squirtle because...um...because it's a Water-Type! Yeah, that's it! Water!"
Of course this could have all been avoided if TPCI had simply kept his name Green instead of clinging onto a silly name change that took place over a decade and a half ago but apparently we're never ever going to move past that. And also Final Fantasy II is the game with Cecil and Kain, and the game series that Toriyama Akira did the character designs for is called Dragon Warrior, and name of the princess in the Super Mario games is Princess Toadstool. These are facts. Unmoveable, unchangeable facts. And they will remain that way forever.
Nevermind that the remakes of "Red and Blue" were released in the U.S. as FireRed and LeafGreen (instead of, say, WaterBlue). Or that the "Blue" in this special is wearing a green jacket and not a blue one.
This special already does a lot to betray the nostalgia that is apparently the main argument for keeping the Green to Blue name change. The character designs are based more on their Fire Red / Leaf Green redesigns than their original Red & Blue ones. A Slowking (a Generation II pokemon) shows up in the Hall of Fame in the fourth episode. Mr. Fuji gives Red a Mega Stone. A Mega Charizard X shows up in the second half of the fourth episode. And yet seeing the kid with the green jacket being referred to as "Green" would somehow take some people out of their first generation nostalgia, moreso than any of that other stuff does.
After receiving their Pokémon:
Professor Oak: "By the way, you realize you can give your Pokémon its own nickname if you so choose."
Red: "A nickname? OK then, let's see...no, I think I'll keep the name 'Charmander'."
In the Japanese version it's suggested that Red name his Hitokage "Sepultra" (セパルトラ). Japanese super fans have discovered that this name "Sepultra" is a reference to a screenshot on the back of the box of Pocket Monsters Red & Green (and Blue) featuring a Hitokage that had been given that as a nickname. Alex Irish has provided an image of the back of Pocket Monsters Green that you can click on to see a larger version:
The popular theory going around is that the "Sepultra" nickname is a reference to the Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura. The band would have been popular in Japan around the time Pocket Monsters Red & Green were in development and the theory is that whoever's job it was to provide the screenshots for the back of the box was a huge fan of the group. It's worth pointing out that the band's name, when written out in Japanese, is セパルトゥラ, not セパルトラ like we see here. Part of that could be because they wanted to avoid any potential lawsuits (you see other game series corrupt trademarked names like this all the time) but it probably also has to do with how pokemon nicknames in the first generation had a five character limit in Japan. The small ゥ character not being in the game could also be a factor.
A reference to this "Sepultra" name can also be found in the X & Y video games: the guy sitting on the couch inside the Gate connecting Eisetsu City with Route 21 tells you that he nicknamed his Hitokage "Sepultra." Interestingly, the English version translated this nearly line as-is ("My Pokémon's nickname is Sepultura"), creating a confusing moment for fans who, of course, have no idea what this "Sepultura" thing is a reference to. It's also interesting that the English version used the full spelling ("Sepultura" with the extra u) rather than the Pokemon-ized spelling "Sepultra."
The infamous "Hitokage screaming in pain" scene got redubbed so that the pokemon's screams are less painful sounding. The new screams also don't last as long as it did in the Japanese version; Hitokage screams for a full ten seconds in the Japanese version. Charmander screams for less than half that.
Part of me wonders if TPCI redubbed all the pokemon cries in this special just so they could tone down this one scene? Even though that's way, way more work than is necessary?
Red approaches the Pewter Gym:
Boy: "Listen, how long have you been with your Pokémon?"
Red: "Five days."
The young man asks Red how many years he's been with his pokemon instead of the more generic "how long have you been with your Pokémon?"
A few lines later:
Red: "What!? You mean you're Brock?"
Lass and Boy: "Don't talk like that to a Gym Leader!"
Is it just me or is there actually nothing wrong with the way Red addresses Brock here? Seems perfectly normal to me.
In the Japanese version the Lass and the Boy are berating Red for not attaching -san to the end of Takeshi's name the way they had been doing up until then.
The "Would you like to SAVE the game?" screen got all its text translated.
TPCI actually does something really cool here, which is a sentence that I very rarely ever type out on this site. Whenever you saved your game in the original Pokémon Red & Blue games you would get the three dialogue boxes you see in the screenshots to the right there. "Would you like to SAVE the game?"; "Now saving..."; and "Red saved the game!"
The Japanese versions of the Pocket Monsters Red & Green video games, on the other hand, never had that "Now saving..." dialogue box in there. It just went from "Would you like to save your progress in the Pokemon Report?" (ここまでの かつやくを ポケモンレポートに かきこみますか？) straight to "Red wrote in his Report!" (レッドは レポートに しっかり かきのこした！). That middle "Now Saving..." box was never there; it was added in for the English version.
The animated adaptation follows this lead. In the Japanese version of Pocket Monsters The Origin, the "Save" screen at the end of each episode goes from the first dialogue box straight to the second one while in the English version a "Now saving..." screen is added in the middle. It's not the kind of thing I'd expect most people to notice but it's still nice that they made the effort to make this that much more accurate.
It does make you wonder why TPCI got this tiny detail right but then apparently didn't notice all of the video game quotes throughout the special, though.
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