Pokémon: Indigo League (1996)

A proclamation of francise-potential with humor, japanese vibrance, iconic creatures/characters, phenomenal voice acting, friendship, horror, and [shockingly] genre-diverse weekly natural adventures, The OG Pokémon Animé is kids’ entertainment at its finest: culturally-mixed, hilarious, action-packed, morality-thematized, and one of the biggest legacies of animé and video game history elevating legendary but potentially-forgotten video games to to the world’s biggest media franchise of all-time. 8.9/10.

Plot Synopsis: Young Ash Ketchum begins his Pokémon training as he reaches his 10th birthday. Things don’t go as expected for the youngster, who gets a Pikachu instead of a standard first Pokémon. Winning gym badges is also tougher than Ash thought it would be. He’s not alone in his quest for the badges, though, as former gym leaders Brock and Misty are by his side, along with some new friends.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

CLC’s Official Best #PokémonTheAnimé Episodes: 1. The Breeding Center Secret, 2. The Ghost Of Maiden’s Peak, 3. Pokémon – I Choose You!, 4. Battle Aboard The St. Anne, 5. The Tower Of Terror, 6. The Water Flowers Of Cerulean City, 7. Abra and The Psychic Showdown, 8. The Bridge Bike-Gang, 9. The School Of Hard Knocks, 10. Showdown In Pewter City, 11. Wake Up Snorlax!, 12. Mystery At The Lighthouse, 13. The Ultimate Test, 14. Sparks Fly For Magnemite, 15. Charmander: The Stray Pokémon

Official CLC Review

The OG Pokémon Animé holds dear place in the hearts of ’90’s kids – and is perhaps the most important creation of The Pokémon Company: what elevated Pokémon from a [legendary, but potentially-forgotten/niche] video game to the world’s biggest media franchise of all-time. The protagonist being a 10-year old version of the creator of Pokémon: Satoshi Tajiri is a masterpiece Easter Egg – and a main character-crux the entire world of Pokémon can [and did] revolve by his energy-bursting, charismatic, brave, hungry, creature-loving ball-of-fire determinism you can’t help but invest and love as an underdog on his quest to be the best there ever was. The best-friend interplay with Pikachu only buoyed both – highlighting the indescribable adorableness and mascot-potential of our favorite electric mouse by-no-accident becoming the face of Japan and one of the most recognizable creatures in pop-culture/fiction history after being a small presence in the video games released a year earlier in 1996.

The side-characters are incredible: the spunky, water-loving redhead charm of Misty as a love-interest and female character, grounded [pun-intended] realism of a more mature Brock, fearless grit of Officer Jenny, warm joviality of Nurse Joy, narcissistic self-delusion of Jessie, New York/Boston-accent of Meowth, high-squealing farcical capriciousness of James, etc. Team Rocket might just be the best part of Indigo League: one of the funniest and most highly-lovable loser/joke villain teams [more concerned with spewing a motto every time they appear than once succesfully completing a bad guy mission]; the cornerstone of the series’ hilarious comedy stylization bringing weekly slapstick, tongue-in-cheek humour, wordplay, and failure to the adventure by their side-splittingly inept, bankrolled-by-criminal-organization plans to capture Pikachu that fail in new spectacular ways for over 52 weeks straight! I used to think they were just funny – but a new resurgence in The Social Media Age and this generation has recognized the hilarious similarities and commentary on capitalistic business practices by the dynamic: 20-something year old’s working for little to no pay for a tyrannical boss who doesn’t respect them and they can’t seem to please enough to be glorified interns/low-tier workers. Hilarious! The vocal performances to bring all of these characters to life are perfect and capture the personality/tone of each phenomenally – diversification of talent viewable by the revelation that such wildly-different personas as Brock and James are both acted by the same person: James Stewart, and the definitive version of each character lost in later seasons [especially Ash, Veronica Taylor is the only true Ash in CLC’s vote]. Oh, and even the eponymous creatures burst with personality too: from the effervescent and spunky fireball of puffball cuteness in Ikue Otani’s Pikachu to lovable dorkiness and hyper-awkward cluelessness of Psyduck.

The chemistry and friendship of its trio, ahead-of-its-time cultural, LGBTQ+ gender-roles, sharp writing, and equivocated diversity of all its main characters, breathtaking adventures, fine natural animation, emotion, comedy villains, and impressive diversification of stories often with cogent morality themes or parabolic lessons are but a few of the magnificent achievements of Indigo League – made even better by a striking diversification of genres for a series ostensibly for children with plenty of enjoyment, sly references, double-meanings, and entertainment-value for older viewers to-date. There’s everything from Old Spaghetti-Western Showdowns to Gang-Wars to Sci-Fi to Abandonment to Animal Rights/Cruelty Exposition to Kaiju to Ninjas to Superheroicism to Psychic Powers to a whole lot of horror: most impressive of the bunch being how it quite often goes dark and surprisingly-morose for its family-mirage in episodes like Ghost Of Maiden’s Peak, Abra And The Psychic Showdown, Tower Of Terror, etc.

The only real flaw is that there isn’t a clear-cut ending, going into a bizarre Orange Islands S2 instead of one region per season – but this doesn’t alter the fact that the 52+ episodes of Indigo League [another feat being that most seasons can barely hold attention or entertain for 10-12 episodes standard-length] are virtually-flawless children’s entertainment that holds up fantastically even 20+ years later, has game-changing legacy in media history, and entertains older crowds even above its target-audience like the best children’s entertainment does. A collection of humor, japanese vibrance, iconic creatures/characters, phenomenal voice acting, friendship, sci-fi, horror, and [shockingly] genre-diverse weekly natural adventures, The OG Pokémon Animé is kids’ entertainment at its finest: culturally-mixed, hilarious, action-packed, morality-thematized, and one of the biggest legacies of animé and video game history elevating legendary but potentially-forgotten video games to to the world’s biggest media franchise of all-time.

Official CLC Score: 8.9/10