Pokemon Journeys was a really ambitious anime that brought a ton of old characters back. It was like a trip down memory lane and really worked well as the final big stop on Ash’s journey. A lot of people who stopped keeping up with the series made sure to come back for this one and you can absolutely understand why. It was such a big deal for Ash to be competing against other champions and the nostalgia was off the charts. This manga series chronicles those adventures to an extent but it’s only 4 volumes long so it ends up being a very abridged version.
The series starts off by introducing us to Ash and Goh (Go, Gou…it’s spelled so many different ways but I’m used to Goh the most so I’ll use that one for this review) as they set off on their journeys. Ash wants to become a Pokemon master, a trainer who is without peer. To this end he is gearing up to enter the World Coronation Series which is a massive tournament with around 1000 trainers. You have to keep winning to rise up the ranks until you are in the top 8. Only at that point are you entered into the bracket segment of the tournament where you will be fighting with other opponents with the highest of stakes.
Meanwhile Goh wants to catch every Pokemon that ever existed. This includes Legendaries and of course it is a very ambitious task. I don’t think anyone has ever caught all of the Pokemon in this world and it’s hard to picture that changing. There are so many hundreds of Pokemon and then a lot of them need to be evolved as well so you will need to spend time to train them up. I’m not sure if Goh has that kind of time although of course it would be great if he could pull this off. The two of them meet up and form a duo as they go along the region and have their big adventures. Will they be able to accomplish their objectives and get along?
Right away you can see how the series is moving at a super high speed though. Some Pokemon captures are basically off screen and I’d say this feels more like a “Best Hits” collection than anything else. It’s sort of like the manga is adapting all of the stories they felt would be the most exciting and that’s absolutely a valid approach but at the same time that also means if you are reading this without watching the show then you won’t get the most impactful experience out of it. It just goes by really quickly the whole time. In some ways it reminded me of the Dinosaur King manga which may feel a bit random but it was also a really quick adventure. That one did have more of a focused plot though because it chose to take a different path than the show.
That probably would have been the best way to go with this one if they knew that the volume count would be limited. Still, it’s always fun to see Ash around which is why I’d say that this series is pretty good. I don’t think you will find it particularly memorable in the end but Pokemon adventures are typically always good by default. You get some fun fights here and Ash is always a solid main character. By this point in the series he is very experienced and has a lot of good tactics. You can count on him to do well with Pikachu and so of course they do tend to shred most of the competition.
Meanwhile for Goh he’s not my favorite character yet but he has potential. Mainly he gets teased a lot by Gary and tends to lose those fights but Ash was also verbally defeated by Gary all the time back in the day. It’s not really something to feel bad about as a result. It’s just how it goes and of course Gary has way more experience on his end than Goh does. I like Goh’s goal of trying to catch all of the Pokemon though. Even if I think he’ll never pull it off, it’s something different than the previous rivals and helps to really switch things up. If he can just be a bit bolder and more ready to fight then that would help him out instead of making excuses that he’s just not used to battling. Nobody’s buying that after all.
The artwork is good but not great. The manga likes to go all in with the facial expressions and it’s clear enough but at times there aren’t a lot of details. To me this looks more like what I would consider a cash-in manga to be. It works out since that’s effectively what this title is but I’d still like to be surprised with something a bit more high end like Pokemon Adventures. The fights are on point though and that’s what counts.
It’s also nice to see Leon a bit even if he only has time for two quick matches. The guy would go on to become one of the strongest of all time after all so you really want to see what he can do early on. I remember when this fight happened in the anime as well. Ash definitely did pretty good all things considered and I like to think that if Pikachu had just a bit more time that he could have pulled out the win. He still has a lot of speed and experience on his side after all. At least it wasn’t a blowout. At this point I just don’t think that any Pokemon can possibly hope to crush Ash like that.
Raihan, Bea, Lance, and other trainers are all around as well. One strong aspect of Pokemon has always been the really solid supporting cast and that doesn’t change here as well. All of these guys are fighters and have made it this far for that reason. Seeing Ash be able to brush shoulders with all of them is great and shows how far he has come. Honestly I wouldn’t have minded if they just cut right to the giant tournament and just adapt every battle. In a way that’s really what put Journeys on the map although I know people enjoy the normal episodes as well. It’s just that the World Coronation Series is too exciting to miss out on and it’s a shame that the manga couldn’t adapt more of it.
Of course Gary also shows up here which is nice. It’s still too bad that he’s not as much of a fighter nowadays since he was so good. I hope he gets a big fight at some point in the future. He has grown up though which is impressive in itself since Ash hasn’t really changed all that much. It does help the theories that someone froze Ash’s time somehow and that would be an intense plot point to explore. As one of the last Ash adventures I suspect this manga will grow even more nostalgic over time.
I feel like almost all of my complements to this series feel like they are back handed ones. It’s just not trying to do anything special or be anything more than a standard Pokemon manga though. It’s going through the motions and that’s really all that you need it to do. It’s a very easy read that you can pick up at any time and just blast through. There aren’t any big character arcs to speak of or any big overarching plot to complete like in Legendz. So that’s also why there isn’t a whole lot to say because it’s just quickly adapting episodes and moving fast. How much you enjoy it will depend on how much you like Pokemon. At the end of the day I do like the series a lot though so even a mini manga like this will be fun for me and I would still recommend it to anyone out there. You can’t really go wrong with more adventures for Ash and Pikachu after all. They’re still the classic Dynamic Duo for a reason.
Overall, Pokemon Journeys is a good manga but one that almost feels like a commercial for the show. If you like this title then you’ll want to go and watch the episodes to see how things end. Of course if you pick up from where this one left off then you will be missing some adventures since the manga does a lot of skipping around. I think the skips make sense to some degree but they could have done it a bit smoother so that it wouldn’t be obvious that something was skipped. For example I don’t think the manga should skip any Pokemon captures or battles that are referenced later on. We get that with one of the rematches here where it’s odd since we didn’t see the original. You’ll have a good time either way though and if you see this on the shelf you may as well pick it up. It’s a nice way to zoom through the early parts of Journeys and then you can jump ahead to the big part of the tournament.