Pokémon Ultimate Journeys The Series

Pokémon Ultimate Journeys – The Series

Pokémon Ultimate Journeys is the final installment in the Pokémon: Journeys series. This part, in particular, finally gives us a glimpse of the ending on the horizon. I’m not just talking about the ending of this season in general but the end of Ashes Journey. When these final episodes were airing in Japan and being shared on social media, a lot of speculation started building up as to what the production staff had in store for the franchise as a whole, and I will always miss that. Now the future of the Pokémon franchise is confirmed to be going in a slightly different direction. When you take that speculation and hype away, doesPokémon Ultimate Journeys do a good enough job of acting as a finale for what has been advertised as a celebration and throwback to the rest of the anime? Unfortunately no.

Make no mistake, this is an excellent installment in the Pokémon franchise, and it is probably in my top three seasons of the anime. Things are exhilarating as we start getting away from a lot of the fun and quirky side stories to make room for definitive character arc conclusions and climactic battles. Epic moments that fans have wanted to see for years finally come to fruition, like the return of old characters like Paul and a full-on three-episode-long battle between Ash and Cynthia. We also see the conclusions to Goh’s character arc, which is interesting in how it mirrors Ash’s early character arcs while being a story about Goh wanting to make a name for himself outside of Ash. The overall theme of the series is taking the memories and experiences of your friends with you while also carving a path for yourself without becoming too reliant or complacent. It’s a beautiful message, and Ultimate Journeys surprisingly handles it with a maturity that benefits both young and new fans alike.

So thematically, the show is solid, and the same can be said for the animation. Once again, the series doesn’t reach any highs from the Pokémon Sun & Moon anime or Pokémon XYZ. However, Pokémon Ultimate Journeys balanced being creative with its battle animations and adopting a turn-based style similar to the actual video games. The speed of the battles should have been a bit faster, but given that this was the season where the animation staff seemed to be stretching their resources thin, I’m impressed the series looks as good as it does. When the series aired on Japanese television, it took a myriad of breaks around the last couple of dozen episodes, and presumably, this was done because production was falling behind. Sadly, the state of the industry can get so poor that it ends up affecting one of the biggest franchises on the globe, but that’s a discussion for another day. Despite any hiccups, you could still tell there was a real passion behind the material to do things justice.

This was also communicated in the voice acting. The Pokémon anime’s voice acting has always been solid and nostalgic, and I want to credit the cast, especially since this may be the last time we hear some actors play certain characters for a long time. The legacy cast did go out with a bang, with some even parting ways on a surprisingly sad note. I’m impressed that The Pokémon Company was able to get back actors who are no longer very active in the voice acting industry, like Julián Rebolledo as Paul. Still, though, a special note needs to go to Alejandro Saab as the voice of Leon and Zeno Robinson as the voice of Goh. Despite being the new characters introduced in this generation, both actors did an amazing job of giving their characters proper closure while also exiting the stage gracefully. I’m sure it was a dream come true for them to play these roles, and it comes across in their performances during the show’s final moments.

I wish the same amount of reverence could be said for the soundtrack. The overall compositions for Pokémon‘s dub soundtrack are mostly suitable. I would’ve liked it if we had a mix of the original Japanese score and some of the iconic leitmotifs that got popularized in the U.S., but if we can only have one, then I’m not going to complain. The soundtrack, for the most part, does an excellent job of eliciting those nostalgic emotions, whether you were a fan of the original anime or the video games. One or two instances elevated iconic moments that genuinely made me jump out of my seat in happiness. The problem is how the soundtrack is used because the Pokémon anime still holds on to the classic kids’ television rule where there can’t be a single moment of silence, no matter how much a scene might call for it. There’s always some background music droning from beginning to end. That remnant of the past should die because, at its worst, scenes couldn’t breathe properly.

There are two major issues with how Pokémon Ultimate Journeys ends. The first one is the show going out as a celebration of the franchise as a whole. With all the callbacks and character returns, only the bare minimum was accomplished. Piggybacking off of previous reviews, some past characters successfully enhance the narrative and character development. Ash revisiting the Alola region to feel more like he’s fighting for a community as a champion is excellent, and bringing Gary back to act as a rival to Goh during the Project Mew situation was inspired.

But then we have the return of some characters like Paul, one of Ash’s most popular rivals outside of Gary, yet he only returns for one episode to prop Ash up before fading back into the background. Paul’s relationship with Ash during Pokémon – Diamond and Pearl was one of the best parts of the series. However, the Diamond and Pearl series ended with heavy foreshadowing that Paul and Ash would be the ones to compete in the Champion League, but when Paul returns here, it’s not treated with the same amount of fanfare as all of that foreshadowing implied. It feels like a missed opportunity in a myriad of missed opportunities in Pokémon Ultimate Journeys.

Many people will watch this anime who think that things could’ve been handled better or differently. Why weren’t more characters brought back and integrated into the overall story like other characters were? There was an ambition here that couldn’t meet certain expectations. I commend that ambition, but what would’ve happened if this was just a bit better planned out?

The next issue is more minor but still affects the overall narrative— the power scaling. The big obstacle in the anime is Leon, constantly touted as the undefeated monarch, the best trainer in the world that Ash needs to beat. It makes sense that he should be a powerful trainer that can even brush off champion-level threats. However, the show goes too far to establish him as a powerhouse. When Leon can seemingly tank most opponents without even breaking a sweat, it becomes hard to reasonably believe that Ash could beat him without seeing the hand of the writer in the background. It’s a shame because the show did a good job showing that Ash has finally reached a level where he can compete with trainers that would have otherwise one-shot him back at the franchise’s beginning. If you think about it, his winning team in Pokémon Ultimate Journeys is arguably his most competitive team from a meta standpoint. However, Leon’s skill level should have been toned down so that his interactions with other trainers didn’t feel like a disservice to how strong they’re supposed to be while also making it more satisfying to see Ash go head-to-head against him in the end.

This feels like the beginning of the end for the Pokémon series I grew up with. I’ve been following Ash’s journey for most of my life, so seeing him get to this point is surreal. It fills my heart with a joy that I don’t think any other anime will match. I know this isn’t the end for Ash, as he still has one final season to cover. Pokémon Ultimate Journeys also makes it clear that this is not the definitive end but rather the closing of a pretty significant chapter in the lives of many people. It is not without criticism; things could’ve been handled with much more strength and reverence. But for what we have, it does just enough to elicit enough emotions that leave me smiling as I bring this review to a close. If you grew up with Pokémon or have kids that might be interested in the franchise, you wouldn’t do wrong with sitting down and watching this together.

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