[OLD POST – Relevant, But Outdated] Pokémon, Me, The New Voices, and More…probably not what you’re thinking this is

Note: This is an old post I wrote a while back, maybe in October? My opinions in here still stand, but this needs a part two to tell you my results of this. Mainly posted this now so I can link to it later.

This is even more nerve wracking than coming out is for me, possibly because I personally have a “screw you if you can’t accept me” type of attitude to coming out than with this.

If you know me even a bit well, you are aware that I am a Pokémon fan. I consider myself to be a huge fan, actually, even if in comparison to others I’m not. I love the franchise. My favourite aspect of the entire franchise is the anime. The TV Series. The one that probably helped push the Pokémon fad of the late 1990s along and captured the hearts of millions of people. And if you don’t know, Pokémon is still going strong today.

I apologize to those of you who wanted something about one of my trips I took, but I have to write this. This, this particular issue and all these feelings I’m having are something very personal to me. I figured it would be the best to get this out in the open on my blog before anywhere else.

A few days ago, one of my friends on Facebook posted a link to a wonderfully written opinion piece entitled “Animé Hate Hurts”. The article itself makes me happy to be a Pokémon fan and I felt that for much of it, it was like seeing my own observations and opinions up on the screen. It had me start thinking. I felt the need to go and write this woman who wrote the article an e-mail, not just telling her how much I loved it, but also my own observations of the series & fandom and why I stopped watching the English version (which I always feel like I need to tell when the Old Dub VS the New Dub point comes up).

Voices

I am a “generation 1 child” for Pokémon, which means I was watching the series when there was only 151 Pokémon. While for many, this means that Pokémon was a significant part of their childhood and that they aren’t only generation 1 children, but generation 1 is where their heart is, I am not part of this case. Yes, generation 1 was responsible for introducing me to the Pokémon World, but I lack a sufficient amount of memories from it. I have no memory of actively watching every new episode. Most of my memories from during that time actually involve my fanworks of Pokémon and constantly getting paranoid that I was beginning to not like Pokémon.

Yes, I kept having fears I was going to stop liking Pokémon. Because I didn’t want to. After watching Pokémon to make sure that I haven’t stopped liking it, it became apparent to me it was the original season I had stopped loving so much and I had moved onto the next generation.

Fast forwarding to 6th grade, I had an explosion of interest in anime, manga, and possibly more importantly, the Japanese language. This prompted me to seek out the Japanese version of Pokémon, which I found I enjoyed. I learned of all the edits 4Kids Entertainment had done to the series and I quickly became heavily anti-English dub for not just Pokémon, but other anime series as well. At this point, the heaviness has faded, but I still will avoid watching English dubs if I have a chance as every time I watch them, I feel like my IQ drops.

Then at some point we get to me discovering that I have an “Ash voice”. I found I could do a voice similar to Veronica Taylor’s (Ash’s original voice actress) performance in the first season (and by later comparison found that it also contained traces of the other pitches Veronica has done, Kayzie’s Ash, Sarah’s Ash, and my own voice). This is actually REALLY, REALLY important to me and means a lot for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the generally positive memories I have attached to it and the fact it’s so much fun to do. My friends and I used to joke that I should take over Veronica’s role as Ash.

And then the voice actor change happened.

It was about 6, 7 years ago that the license for the Pokémon anime got transferred from 4Kids to The Pokémon Company International. While the anime itself got transferred, the voice actors didn’t. We were promised “sound alikes” by TPCi. When the test run, original animation of the Mastermind special aired, it really seemed like a bad joke. The only “sound alikes” I recall were Misty and Max. Everyone else was off. Ash sounded like he was on steroids, Brock like he was a chain smoker. Myself, not really being a fan of the English version at the time, watched a few clips and felt sick. It was a pretty traumatic experience. Sure, I didn’t like watching the dub, but I still didn’t want the original VAs to go away! Even if I had jokingly wanted to take over Veronica’s job.

The voice actor change sealed the deal for me to never touch the English version again.

And I’m going to admit it right here that I’ve never felt quite right about that. After reading that opinion piece, I finally got the courage to finally move on. Not from the anime, but the strange, unwarranted bitterness I have towards the new dub.

Yes, I’m still upset with TPCi for changing the voice. Yes, I’m still upset with them for not getting English dub soundalikes like they had seemed to promise. Yes, I’m still upset with them for giving us a vague reason that seemed to contradict other claims about the voice actor switch. Yes, if the old dub cast ever had the opportunity to retake their roles, I would want that. I’m feeling guilty for jokingly wanting to take Veronica Taylor’s role as Ash and the voice actor switch happened shortly after it. I do believe I’m going to feel this way for a long time, if not for my entire lifetime. However, just because I do feel this way, this should not have stopped me from occasionally checking out the dub.

While I initially thought that I felt that the English dubs (both of ’em) failed to offer me anything, after writing & sending the e-mail off to the web master of that site I had linked to earlier, I realized that they do. The Japanese version, I’m sure is always going to be my default, but both English versions do have something to offer me. It’s Pokémon and I should love it unconditionally, just like I do with each generation that comes about. (In short: I watch the Japanese version because I enjoy it and my original, true reason for not watching the dub had to due with a change in interests, not the voices.)

Between seeing how some of the current voice actors are towards Pokémon (i.e. loving it) on Facebook (my friends are friends with some of them; I friended Michelle Knotz), reading the article, writing the e-mail, and getting one back, my bitterness towards the TPCi dub has greatly decreased. It’s kind of a scary, but good feeling. I actually want to stop my bitterness towards their English version. I want to become neutral towards it.

I know this is a 180 in the eyes of all my friends – from here on out, I am going to accept the new dub and try to at least be neutral towards it and enjoy it for what it is, rather than lingering in the past. I know it’s going to cause me pain and suffering at first, but I’ll get over it in time. I always do.

I’ve never felt right having such an unbaked opinion of the new dub, which is entirely based off tiny clips that I heard and the intense emotional response I get from hearing it. I know my reasons for not liking the voices (which have to do with taste preferences; Sarah’s Ash has bugged me simply because she uses a generic “woman doing a teenage boy” voice (despite Ash is 10). That type of generic teenage boy voice is something I don’t like at all regardless of any dub; however, for the love of Pokémon, I am going to accept it, dang it!).

I need to watch it without comparing it to the old 4Kids dub. I need to watch it with only an open mind and an open heart. The only “comparing” I should be doing is to that mental, subconscious rubric I have of what makes something good to me.

New Series

That being said, I have to admit, I’m in a very, very awkward position. Very awkward. As I mentioned earlier, the original series of Pokémon lacks a nostalgia factor for me and I am not confined to that generation. I have found I really love all generations, but I have a MAJOUR soft spot for generation 4. My favourite series of Pokémon so far are Diamond & Pearl (seasons 10 to 13) and Best Wishes [season 2](Black & White in the dub; generation 5; seasons 14 – ongoing).

So, what exactly makes this an awkward position for me? Well, they’re both series that are from after TPCi took over the dub and they’re post-generation 2 and post-generation 3 series. So not only do you have the nostalgia maniacs putting them down, but you have anti-TPCi dub people putting them down! So far, I’ve seen no good arguments against why these particular series “suck”. All of them I’ve seen so far have been barely baked/half-baked reasons, usually filled with hatred brought about by nostalgia for either the earlier generations and/or the old 4Kids dub! I love both series VERY much – they generate far more of an emotional response from me than the previous series have – and seeing people tearing it apart hurts. It’s so heartbreaking. It’s like they never even give it a chance. I remember one of my in-school high school friends who told me they had watched movie 10 (The Rise of Darkrai) and thought it was bad. I responded with “Yeah, the voices make it terrible” and they just gave me a look that no,it wasn’t the voices. It was the series itself. In their eyes, the series had gone down the drain. I felt so hurt in the moment, where the only thing I could really do was surround myself with Pokémon and love it. I feel like I’ve taken so many hits for loving D&P so much, as well as loving BW. It wears me out, but I still prevail.

Oh geez, now I’m starting to tear up from my love for Diamond & Pearl. And now a tear is falling down my face. I really do love it so much. I don’t understand the intense hatred people have towards it. I can understand not liking it because of taste preferences (for some people, Dawn might have been far too girly and optimistic, the series itself might have been too series, and/or Paul might have been too much of a jerkface for peoples’ liking). Some people reading this probably are wondering why I love Diamond & Pearl so much, especially those who love the older series. I would go into the reasons why, but they have already been written up by other people here and here!

For some people wondering how I could like them when it has the TPCi dub I seem to hate, I am going to kindly remind you that I switched over to watching the Japanese version. Not only was Diamond & Pearl the first Pokémon series in a while I’ve watched actively, it’s also the first one I watched entirely in Japanese. In addition to the reasons mentioned in the articles I linked, this is also probably a majour factor for me. Perhaps this influenced my opinions on D&P.

And honestly, this isn’t a “amplified memory” sort of things either. I had to rewatch D&P episode 1 recently to cut it down for an Abridged series (a parody) I still want to do and I felt extreme excitement like I had just been watching it for the first time. Watching season 1 might make me laugh at the large number of things I didn’t notice when I was younger, but it doesn’t give me excitement and happiness in the same way D&P and BW does.

I’m sure my love for D&P and BW won’t lower when I watch the TPCi dub. I’m sure I’m going to love it regardless. Even if I don’t, I can still always repair it by watching the Japanese version. Assuming I won’t love it, of course. But I’m sure I will.

It really hurts having these two series attacked from all sides. From the Pokémon fandom itself, who has a long list of issues with the series anyway, to the people I know offline who thinking only generations 1 and 2 are the best and think the other series suck. I really wish the attacks would cease, but I know they won’t. It hurts. It really, really hurts.

Fear and Loathing

Upon making my decision to finally accept the new dub after 6 years or so, I felt a bit of relief and a whole bunch of new tension. My reluctance to accept the new dub has been, I’m sure, largely out of fear of betraying the original voice cast and potentially liking the new dub better than the old one. Deciding to actually accept it brings about a bunch of new fears too, in addition to those: having to admit I was wrong to judge before actually taking the time to accept it and being poked fun of, as well as having to potentially defend the new dub, in the same way I do with D&P and BW. I also have a very silly fear about my Ash voice being replaced.

So yes, I’m going to say it here so its out in the open: I was completely wrong to judge the new dub before taking the time to watch it. I hope you don’t condemn me for admitting this!

The thought of having to defend yet another aspect of Pokémon really wears me out, but I will if I must.

And…my Ash voice. That fear honestly stems from what if I prefer Sarah’s Ash after a while? Will I no longer like my first-season-Veronica-Taylor-inspired Ash? The thought of that really scares me and I hope that doesn’t happen. I think I should just be happy I achieved something I wanted to achieve. I wanted to sound like first season Ash, and dang it, I did! Well, close enough for me. I know no one can replace my Ash voice for me. At this point, I’m labelling my Ash voice as the KJ (Kelly’s Journey)-Universe Ash/my parody Ash. I hope I end up loving all the Ash voices of the dub instead of preferring one over the other eventually.

In the Defense of Ash

Ash is often at the top of the anime’s criticisms, probably because he’s the main character. He’s criticized for his actions, his eyes, his personality, and more. While I do criticize him myself sometimes, I do it more in a fun, loving way, which usually results in me saying “NO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? NO.” and ending it with a laugh. It’s honestly part of how I engage in the show and it’s one of the ways I show my love (no, you guys, I don’t have a crush on Ash) for his character. The criticisms I’m talking about are the harsh, bashing ones that tear the kid apart that the fandom often gives out.

So much of it is contradicting too. Two of the largest complaints I’ve seen on Ash that even I’ve had to defend is Ash never aging and him getting increasingly more mature. So many people in the fandom WANT Ash to age (I don’t, personally – KEEP HIM 10!), YET they want him to return to the times immaturity. Guys, aging and immaturity do not go hand-in-hand. In fact, they contradict with each other. As you age, you mature (I’m not talking just physically, but mentally too). As you learn new things, you mature. Ash might slip back into his immature Kanto ways from time to time due to excitement (like he did at the beginning of Best Wishes), but he will be maturing. He will always be maturing.

I remember first watching Diamond & Pearl and immediately being disappointed by the maturity Ash displayed. I thought it was boring. I longed for the hilarity of the Kanto days. I hated it to the point I wrote a rant on it in a picture on dA (which is now gone) where I’m telling Ash how boring I thought he was now. However, as I continued watching…I began to appreciate it. Love it even! The immature kid who threw a Pokéball without weakening a Pokémon first now was teaching a newbie trainer that first lesson! I appreciate it – and love it – even more in BW. There’s one particular seen where he’s helping Mijumaru (Oshawott) train, holding onto its tiny hands. That scene itself just reminded me on how far Ash has come as a trainer and how much he has matured. It’s why his personality has changed over the years.

I honestly don’t have much defense for his actions. I’m confident that the writers know what they’re doing, even they don’t seem like it. I usually find a lot of his choices for Pokémon in battles to be stupid, but hey, when you’re a 10 year old kid training Pokémon, you’re probably gonna use whatever you want. I think his slightly less predictable choice of Pokémon for Pokémon battles is part of his charm and something to lovingly poke fun of, not tear apart.

For his eyes, well, Best Wishes really felt like a clean slate for the series. The only old characters truly returning for the long run were the series mains of Ash and Pikachu. It was a perfect opportunity for Pokémon to update his design to meet with the rest of the anime AND the games. Quoting this long, but never published before now explanation I wrote (back when Best Wishes first came out):

I’m pretty sure everyone who is into the Pokémon TV series and actually checks up on the Japanese version knows of Ash’s eye change for Best Wishes. His eyes have been “softened” and “lightened” up compared to the eyes he has had in the past three series (original seasons 1-5, Advanced Generation seasons 6-9, Diamond & Pearl seasons 10-13). A lot of people question why they decided to change his eye style after so long.

I thought that for a moment as well, until I mentally looked at the obvious answer – Ken Sugimori’s game artwork. Once I realized this, another thought came to my mind – we shouldn’t be asking why they changed his eyes after so long, but why they took so long to change them.

The TV series has adapted Ken Sugimori’s art style ever since it started (and by adapted, I mean they borrowed from it, so it’s not exact, but [very] similar). Ash Ketchum’s original eye style was an adaptation of Ken Sugimori’s male eye style that he used pre-generation 3. His original male eye style were a lot more block-like, usually with black lines forming 90 degree angles sitting on the character’s cheekbones and a pure black (or possibly super dark brown), thin iris/pupil.

His art style seemed to slightly change during Pokémon Crystal, where Gold’s (as I’m calling him instead of his most recent version, Ethan) eyes no longer had the connecting 90 degree black lines, but rather, a bracket-like line. The iris also had colour at this point.

The eye style changed once again in generation 3 (as well as Ken Sugimori’s art style itself), both for the females and males. This time around the male style, the eyes were comparable to the female style. The most notable difference is the lack of eye lashes on the male version. The iris/pupil were still rather small compared to what he currently draws, but we can easily see the current eye style forming with the Ruby & Sapphire artwork. There’s still the light reflection towards the top of the eye (the white part), but the pupil (the black part) is now a smaller, black oval with the iris (the eye colour) around it. The upper and lower eyelid are also defined, with the upper eyelid looking similar to a short, upside down “U”  that just about reached the white spot of the eye and a line for the lower eyelid.

The eye style continued to develop during generation 3. The eye style used in the main player character artwork for Red and Leaf in FireRed and LeafGreen are wider compared to the previous games. The iris (eye colour), pupil, and white spot are more visible in the eye style.

The eye style stayed static, more or less, until Platinum in generation 4. The upside down “U” shape became more rounded and appeared to be lined up with the top of the pupil and the bottom eyelid is shorter. It also appears to be slightly thicker compared to the previous versions and the eyes themselves appear to be a bit wider than before. The style was also used in the character artwork for Ethan in HeartGold and SoulSilver.

Even Black and White seem to be following the eye style, just with a slightly wider upper eyelid (which could actually be attributed to the fact the characters are suppose to be older than the previous protagonist).

I’m pretty sure some of you at this point are wondering what I’m getting. As I stated before, Ash’s original eye style was based off Ken Sugimori’s artwork from generations 1 and 2. In generation 3, he changed the eye style, making Ash’s eyes outdated. Ash’s eye style became even further outdated with the release of the Diamond & Pearl series. While the TV series was able to successfully make Ash’s older eye style not look weird in the slew of newer eyes by throwing in other characters (mainly background characters) with the same or extremely similar eye styles, his eyes look dated when compared to characters of the current style(take a look at Barry or Kenny, for instance).

Simply put, Ash’s new eye style is an adaptation of Ken Sugimori’s current eye style. Something that probably should have been changed at the beginning of Advanced Generation and again in the beginning of Diamond & Pearl. Ash’s older eyes coincided with the first two generations, while his new eye style introduced in Best Wishes coincide with generation 5’s version of the Pokémon character eyes.

And for people complaining that Ash’s eyes used to be black and not brown…you clearly didn’t look at the anime close enough. Episode 10 of season 1, Bulbasaur in the Hidden Village, I believe it was, has probably the best example of Ash’s eyes being brown. You can see it in a good number of other episodes too. All I can say is get over it. Yes, it’s a change. You might feel it to be unnecessary, but it has happened and really, there’s no use complaining about it. (And don’t even give me a “they can’t do that after having a character for so long” excuse because if you really think that, you clearly haven’t learned the behind the scenes of anything.)

The other heart crushing part I see from the fandom is outright hatred for Ash. Such intense hatred, I truly wonder why people feel such a way. Did Ash do something really bad to make you hate him? Sure, I missed a large chunk of Johto and Advanced Generation, but I highly doubt that Ash did something so bad to make you so angry. If he did, please, explain for me to understand. I really want to, you know. Some of the hatred is so intense, to the point people want him to die.

I wish all the fandom hate would end, or at least, lower in intensity. But alas, it is the internet and it is a fandom, therefore it will not.

Final Words

I might write a part two to this one day. I hope to, after I have a chance to accept the new dub. I love Pokémon, all generations. All 649 monsters. The trainers, including the ones I don’t like much (I’m looking at you, Misty!).

I am going to watch and accept the new dub. I am going to keep loving Ash’s character for who he is. I’m going to embrace what the show gives me and love it, even if I don’t entirely agree with it.

It feels great to get this out. Thank you SO much for reading if you did. It means a lot.