Pokemon Sun and Moon: Battle for the Z Ring Review

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It’s time to look at the next installment in the Pokémon Sun and Moon season. The first one was a reasonable start to the quasi reboot and this one is actually an improvement as we get our first serious island challenge which is basically just a gym battle. It’s not exactly Kanto just yet but it still makes for a decent volume nonetheless. Hopefully the series can keep up the momentum.

Ash wants to obtain a new Z crystal since his last one broke when he fought the island guardian. The local professor tells him how he can get another one and the answer is that he must beat the human guardian. Ash goes over there to fight but the guardian tells him that he has to solve the island’s rat problem first. A bunch of Pokémon are blocking the way and making a nuisance of themselves so Ash has to go to a cave and defeat some powerful Pokémon so he can team up with them and save the day. Can Ash win all of his matches in this volume?

The local head tries to tell Ash that battling isn’t always the answer and that’s the point of the trial. However, combat was the answer to winning and saving the island so I found that whole part ironic. Perhaps it was intentional but it’s hard to say. What makes this volume better than the last one is definitely all of the battles. Ash has to face off against at least 3 different opponents and he does a good job against all of them. Ash actually uses some strategy and while he seems to be a newbie at life (Forgetting basic Pokémon) at least he is quickly becoming a better trainer. Seeing him defeat the leader and use Pikachu’s new attack was definitely great. The series seems to be hinting that Ash will get a new attack for each type which will be pretty interesting. He will probably pick the thunder move but I personally found this one to be a lot more impressive. It’s essentially quick attack but even faster which will be great for overwhelming opponents. Maybe Ash will choose this one though, that’d be cool. It was also nostalgic seeing Hariyama again since that Pokémon is pretty cool. I love the design and he always struck me as one of the stringer fighting types. I think I’ll always have a lot of nostalgia for the first 3 generations.

Ash is surprisingly on his own for most of the volume as the friends just don’t get much screen time. They appear for a brief instant to remind Ash that he’s being petty about the cat stealing his food and also give him an idea about saving the island. I suppose their role was important after all even if it was so small. Aside from the big battle plot, the first few chapters were about Ash and Litikitty. That was definitely the weaker part of the volume. It wasn’t bad or anything but it definitely wasn’t as exciting as the action part.

Pikachu looks really good which is always a plus in my book. I’ve said this a million times over the years but at this point he should easily be level 100 so I don’t want to see him losing against anyone. Pikachu should be able to claim victory no matter the opponent. That’s just how it should be. Ash will need more Pokémon though as Rowlett just isn’t an amazing backup. He’s not really much of a fighter and constantly falling asleep isn’t doing him any favors either. Once Ash has a team of 6 then he will really be set.

Overall, I’d say that the books are doing a good job of adapting the episodes. The book is quite small so the author does a good job of not overdoing it with the details so we can still cover a lot of ground. These little books are always a good format for such adaptions and while you know that it’s definitely not going to make it all the way, hopefully we get a lot of volumes before it finishes. That’s the dream at any rate. I wonder when the next big Totem Battle (I think that’s the correct term) will be. I stopped following the anime early on so I can’t say that I know much of the specifics aside from big moments like Brock and Misty showing up. As long as we get battles like this every volume, the series should continue to go smoothly.

Overall 7/10

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Pokemon Sun and Moon: The Pokemon Training School Challenge Review

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I read the first volume in the Pokemon chapter book series for the recent Sun and Moon adventures. I was debating on whether to review this book or just wait until the series ends, but the latter could certainly end up taking a while. Ultimately I may start reviewing the individual books for some titles with no foreseeable end while for others a series review still makes sense. It’s tricky, but especially since this book is so small it seems reasonable. It covers around 2 episodes of the anime give or take. The series had a lot of controversy surrounding it when it first came out and it’s easy to see why. Pokemon went from being a really serious action show to a comedy. It’s not the Pokemon that I grew up with, but it works out well enough.

The series starts with Ash being on summer vacation. He sees a lot of cool new Pokemon while at the new region and asks his Mom if he can stay. She allows it and he quickly joins the school so he can learn how to be a Pokemon Trainer. I can understand why he would want this knowledge since he’s been training for over 10 years with nothing to show for it. He hasn’t even aged a day for some reason. So, Ash sticks around and everyone starts to teach him the ropes. However, the island’s sacred guardian has taken an interest in the kid and challenges him to a fight. Can Ash really win this battle?

Ash has definitely lost most of his character development from the old days so part of the plot in the series will likely be him gaining it back. He learns something new in every episode so in about 100 or so episodes he should be a good strategist once again. It’s a long while to wait, but what else can we do right? It’s just the way it has to be I guess. Pikachu has also gotten quite a bit weaker so it’s rough for the pair. They used to be one of the strongest duos and now they’re getting kicked around left and right. It feels bad when you really think about it. They are still good leads though. They mean well and are always up for a challenge. The series works much better when you just think of this as a prequel. Imagine that it takes place immediately after episode 1 of the original series and you’ll be set.

I think one of the parts where a book can adapt this better than an episode is that the comedy gags don’t stand out as much. Ash getting pinched and saved from random disasters doesn’t seem as bad when you’re reading about it compared to actually seeing it on the big screen. He keeps a little more of his dignity this way, at least that’s how I see it. For example, I can’t stand the living Pokedex in the anime. That may be a bit strong, but at least in AMVs and such he just gets in the way. In the book he barely talks at all so he’s not as annoying.

That being said, learning all of the names is going to take some time. The new rival is a guy who’s named something close to Kiwi. He talks a good game and has a Charizard so I’m expecting him to fight quite a bit, but he gets on my nerves. He seems to think of himself as a big shot. The other friends are nice enough but they start to blend into each other since their personalities are virtually the same. The teachers try a little too hard to all be suave and cool around Ash, but it just doesn’t really work. Once they fight and prove themselves, then things could be different.

Team Rocket doesn’t get to do a whole lot here either. Nobody really fears them and while they may be more of a threat in this region than the others since Ash has forgotten how to deal with them, they aren’t very interesting. The only part that will make their plot fun is Mimikyu once he’s a main character. I had fun watching his fights in the anime and he’s probably the best part in the whole region. He looked quite good in the book as he was beating Pikachu with ease, but had to leave since Team Rocket was getting wrecked. Why do they manage to snag really cool Pokemon like that one?

Finally, Tapu Koko is a pretty cool Pokemon. He easily has one of the best designs in the entire region which may not be saying all that much but I’m certainly a big fan. He lives up to the hype and really manages to be a thorn in Ash’s side. He’ll make for a good rival as I’m sure he isn’t quite done with Ash and friends yet. His appearance also resulted in an action scene so I’m all for that.

Overall, This chapter book is quite short of course so you’ll read through it right away. It still does a good job of covering quite a bit though. This region certainly is my least favorite because the animation is the worst and there’s less action than usual, but the former doesn’t apply to the book and the latter isn’t noticeable yet. If I didn’t know any better, I’d actually consider this to be a pretty promising start to the region. If you’re a Pokemon fan then you’ll certainly enjoy this and it’s a reasonable way to jump into the franchise. It certainly is new reader friendly. We’ll see if the next book adaption can be quite as good. Moreover, I’m ready for Ash to finally win a fight!

Overall 7/10