Ever since Pokémon Origins first aired, fans have been clamoring for an anime series just like it. The film proved that there could be room for a Pokémon anime faithful to the games and aimed at its older audience. That’s why when the Pokémon Generations web series was announced, fans were excited.

Pokémon Generations promised to bring a variety of short stories and moments from each generation, and deliver an action-packed and mature take on the Pokémon world. Each week, three to five minute episodes would release over YouTube. So, did the series deliver? As its 18-episode run comes to a close, Pokémon Generations is a nice start. Good at times, but could be much better.

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Generations watches like a pitch for an alternate Pokémon anime; one that the gamers might appreciate more. Its episodes are three to five minutes long, after all. The series focuses on iconic story moments from the games, as well as their untold stories. Each story is framed by starring different supporting characters from the games. For instance, one story focuses on how the original player rival, Blue, claimed the title of Elite 4 Champion before the player.

Older gamers deserve an alternative to the TV anime, starring Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu. Simply put, it’s not for them. The writing for the Pokémon anime tends to feel more like a long-running cartoon, where nothing significant really happens in most episodes. Its episodic format holds back the show from exploring interesting drama and battles that the games cover. There’s also the frustrating tendency towards the show’s status quo. C’mon– over its near two decades of running, Ash is still 10-years old, has STILL never won a major championship, and never learns from rookie mistakes.

Generations’s storylines offer a lot more danger and stakes. They also take its universe a lot more seriously. In one episode, Team Plasma attacks and completely devastating Opelucid City. In another, Kyogre unleashes a storm of apocalyptic proportions. The directors clearly don’t treat their audience like children, and as a result, this series can be a pleasure to watch.

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See, the Pokémon world built up years of lore over its generations of stories. The stories of Pokémon aren’t just about winning badges, stopping the evil team, becoming the champion, and catching ’em all. Game Freak created layers of lore: whether it’s the Pokédex entries, the locales, the mythos of its fictional universe, and the backstories of its supporting cast. That’s what the title “Generations” is all about, a celebration every generation of Pokémon by picking out a selection of interesting stories.

This series is also a visual delight. The visual direction improved greatly over the TV series. You’ll notice more experimental animation sequences to convey action and movement that simply aren’t common in many of the TV show’s battle sequences.

The character design faithfully borrows after series artist Ken Sugimori’s work and adds a bit of edge to them. Compare some of the designs between the long-running TV anime and Generations, and you’ll see what I mean.

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From what I gather from comments on YouTube and across social media, viewers who have played the games appreciate these specials greatly. They remind them of their favorite moments, and just what they love about each game or whole Generation from the series– and that’s what The Pokémon Company and Studio OLM was going for. Pokémon is now celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Pokémon Generations feels like it pays a good tribute to 20 years of the games’ history.

I do have a major problem with the series, though. The series is a mixed bag of quality. Although there’s no official lists of credits, you can tell that almost every episode is handled by different lead animators and storyboarders.

Just look at Episode 4. The art style feels completely different from the rest of the series. There’s noticeable moments of “QUALITY.” The most notorious would be a sequence where the Team Rocket grunts walk up intimidatingly like hoodlums, but the choppy frame rate makes it look more like they stumbled out a bar incredibly tipsy.

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I would dare say that Studio OLM may have used this series to train its novice directors and lead storyboarders. Not all episodes are crafted as well as others. Some episodes are bogged down by bad directing choices. In addition, some directors fail to convey an actual story in the limited time each episode is given.

Episode 13 is a great example of a cool scene done horribly wrong. In Pokémon Black/White, the gym leaders heroically arrive in the nick of time to rescue the player from the Team Plasma Sages. The way this scene is framed in Generations makes no sense, though.

A solid chunk of screen time is dedicated to listening to badly voice acted villainous JRPG monologues. Then, almost the rest of the screen time is dedicated to each of the gym leaders showing up, attacking some mooks, and saying a “cool” one-liner. The whole episode ends in the bad guys and good guys charging at each other, that plays the most generic “epic fight scene” trope completely straight and with flat framing. Overall, the episode feels like it’s trying too hard to be cool, and utterly failing to convince me what makes this scene so great.

Not exactly the high point of the series.

Not exactly the high point of the series.

This episode is only an example of some of the problems I’ve noticed throughout the series. Each episode has such limited amount of time to tell a story– so why waste it on dramatic conversations or monologues that eat up almost the entire episode? Or in some cases, the story makes no sense without the player character’s role in it.

Voice acting tends to be hit-or-miss, too. Some episodes are completely ruined by flat voice acting. Others have great voice work. I’ve been watching some of the episodes in the Japanese version as well and so far, these feel much better. Unfortunately, there’s no official English subtitling available.

Pokémon Generations misses the mark just as often it nails the games. It’s a highly flawed production, because bad directing and the short episode format hold the series back greatly. Given proper TV production values, I have no doubt they could pull off these stories even more effectively. A number of problems with pacing and direction might even be fixed. However, as it stands, Generations just doesn’t entirely hold out.

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If you wanted a taste of this series, I’d like to single out some individual episodes that impressed me. I liked a number of episodes of the series, but I’d like to talk about a few earlier episodes.

Episode 2, “The Chase,” watches like a police procedural set in the Pokémon world, and it’s way cooler than anything that the Officer Jenny characters do in the TV anime. It stars the detective Looker, a recurring series character, doing a police raid of Viridian City gym in order to arrest Team Rocket’s boss, Giovanni. The police use Machamps to batter down walls, or Magnemites to fry a door security system. This episode serves as a clever and imaginative way of thinking of the Pokémon world, and I appreciated that greatly.

Next, I owe Episode 4, “The Lake of Rage,” an apology. Yes, I did single out some moments of bad animation earlier; but the episode is otherwise fantastic. The episode features Lance infiltrating and taking down a Team Rocket base with a lone Dragonite. In game, taking out the base feels a lot more orderly and mundane. You just solve a few puzzles, and take on Rocket Grunts one at a time. Lance, who arrives ahead of the player, probably more or less did the same thing to make it to the generator area. But in the short, we see his Dragonite punch down doors and destroy a generator. There’s so much energy that it’s hard not to like this take on a moment from Pokémon Gold/Silver and their remakes.

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To me, this was the kind of material that made Pokémon Generations worthwhile. For every bad episode, there were stellar ones that reminded me how great the games are.

Over 20 years, Pokémon built a fully fleshed out greater fictional universe, a fictional universe ripe with opportunities to tell a variety of stories under. Maybe I don’t find Pokémon Generations perfect, but I appreciate how Generations reminds us this fact and I know other fans appreciate this too. Could we possibly get an alternate Pokémon anime for the gamers and older fans? I hope so, because Pokémon Generations came close to being the anime that the series deserved.