@zeltrax225 said in Pokemon Anime (Sun & Moon + Generations):
@JulieYBM out of curiousity, seeing as you follow the anime closely, which is your favourite season and which trio/quartet do you enjoy the most?
This is kind of a tough one to answer because there are so many good things that I like any about many of the series. I think that my overall favorite series is probably Sun & Moon, which I think really hits that emotional core in its scripts thanks to Matsui Aya's oversight as head writer (she took over for Tomioka Atsuhiro after he had held the role for DP, BW and XY). Sun & Moon has gorgeous animation and is a series wholly dedicated to heart and gags, which is a major breath of fresh air after XY was so dedicated to battles. The themes of family and exploring death (there's, like, three episodes where characters have to face the inevitability of death, which is nuts for this franchise) in so many episodes also sets it heavily apart from previous series, which were a lot more Star Trek: The Next Generation to Sun & Moon's Deep Space Nine. The 'stationary' aspect of the series and the large cast of characters always meant that there was a different type of story going on. Sun & Moon also has the best tournament in a lot of ways.
The whole cast gets to participate and end their storylines in a climatic final battle with their partner Pokemon and the strategies are really inventive. Even if some of the animation doesn't match the levels of Satoshi vs Shouta and Satoshi versus Alan from XY they're really fun climaxes to the series. Satoshi vs Kukui is also the first four episode-long battle in the franchise, usurping Satoshi vs Shinji (DP #186-188) as the first three episode-long battle of the franchise. Kukui being such a central, father figure across Sun & Moon really adds gravitas to his battle with Satoshi.
My favorite episode of Sun & Moon isn't even a battle-centric episode! Episode #59: "Mao and Suiren: Bittersweet Memories!" is a genius episode with gorgeous animation overseen by two of the franchise's young ace animators at the time: Nishitani Yasushi and Akiyama Yasuhiko. Nishitani, Akiyama and Episode Director Kodaira Maki really bring themselves to adapting the script by Miyata Yuki. It's such a soft and Sapphic episode about how Suiren and Mao meet and there's a lot of attention paid to the character acting.
The battles of Sun & Moon are still pretty fun but you can tell the real thrust of the series is in the gag and character episodes.
When I think about what series really started the revolution of the steady powering up the Anipoke franchise underwent I think of Diamond & Pearl. The original 1997 series wasn't very concerned with its battles and while Advanced Generation started to shift those winds a little I feel like it was Diamond & Pearl that full-on saw the maturation of a Caterpie into a Butterfree, to use an analogy.
Starting with Diamond & Pearl Tomioka Atsuhiro took over the role of head writer (which had been officially vacant since Shudou Takeshi left the role with Episode #158 of the 1997-2002 series) and began to revolutionize the series. Throughout the original series Tomioka (despite being the youngest writer) had slowly built himself up as being the writer who tackled major battle episodes. For example, Tomioka wrote the franchise's first two-episode long battle (which was also the first Six vs Six Full Battle) in Episode #113: "Winners' Cup! Full Battle 6 VS 6!!" and Episode #114: "The Final Battle! Enter Kairyu!!" Tomioka continued this by handling further major battles, like Satoshi versus Shigeru and Satoshi versus Hazuki in the Jouto League. Advanced Generation saw Tomioka mostly focusing on the newly introduced Pokemon Contest concept and writing most of the episodes centered on Haruka and the Pokemon Contests she was entering. Those are were we could really see Tomioka's hallmark traits begin to grow: Tomioka wrote exciting character interactions between Haruka and the rivals she didn't get along with as well as battle strategies that both made use of game mechanics and then made use of real world physics not possible in the games.
I mentioned AG because I feel like it's a perfect preamble to setting up that DP continued this while also introducing an additional element. While Tomioka was off focusing on the Hou-en and Kantou Pokemon Contests in AG the battle-centric episodes for Satoshi were mostly being handled by other writers. While there were some occasionally exciting moments I never felt like those episodes really caught my attention as much as the Haruka episodes. This—combined with Pokemon's two ace animators (Iwane and Tamagawa) being busy with the Contest episodes—leads to the Satoshi-centric episodes of AG all being quite boring.
Fast-forward to DP and things have changed a bit. Iwane and Tamagawa are still focusing on the Contest episodes for Hikari but there's a lot more planning at the production level to schedule major episodes far enough apart that Iwane and Tamagawa don't have to miss out.
It's sort of hard to describe just how much DP feels like a passion project for Head Writer (Series Kousei/Composition) Tomioka Atsuhiro, Storyboard Artist & Episode Director Asada Yuuji (so much so that they just credited him as a series director for #171-193) and Animation Supervisor Iwane Masaaki. For AG Tomioka wrote 36/193 scripts but for DP he wrote 62/193 scripts, with a specific focus on the gym battles, the rival battles with Shinji, the battle tournaments, the Pokemon Contests, and the Ginga Gang episodes). Asada and Iwane specifically worked on as many Tomioka scripted episodes as possible, especially the further the series got to the end. Because of Iwane's speed and skill as an animator (many solo key animators exist, few can do it well and only Iwane does it constantly) he was not only able to oversee episodes of his own (sometimes working alone, sometimes helping to train a young animator from Studio Cockpit) but also provide action animation for another episode in the animation team rotation. This led to Iwane pumping out a lot of cool battle scenes for the Shin-nou League, because he work work on episodes he was in charge of and then work on other episodes handled by Natsume Kunihiko's team (or Tamagawa Akihiro's team).
DP definitely saw Tomioka up his game as a writer, introducing Satoshi's best rival: Shinji. Shinji clashed with Satoshi because he didn't believe in being friends with Pokemon and essentially trained and acted like a real life competitive player. What Shinji would do wasn't necessarily illegal in-universe but his treatment of his Pokemon and attitude towards Satoshi certainly would make him a 'antagonist' that viewers would love to hate. After the lackluster rivalry with Shigeru in the original series and the lack of a recurring rival in AG Shinji was truly something new and fearsome. He was acknowledged as having traveled to all of the same regions as Satoshi and his battles involved strategies that both made use of the game's mechanics but also things that could be done in real life if Pokemon were real. Furthermore, Shinji didn't just show up to battle Satoshi. The first gym for DP is a four episode arc (Episodes #15-18) and in the very first episode we see Shinji get to have a full episode dedicated to his battle with Gym Leader Hyouta, proving that DP was truly going to be different. While the animation in DP isn't necessarily as high-quality as Sun & Moon's animation the general level of writing, directing and animation is very calculated to "roll with the punches" of the production's limited resources. In this way, with reused animation very much so often coming into play, there's a sort of rhythmic flow to battles, especially when they're handled by Storyboard Artist & Episode Director Asada Yuuji and Iwane Masaaki as animation supervisor and key animator. DP's use of BANK animation (reusable animation, like Pokemon attacks or trainers ordering commands) is next-level, often being employed by Asada and Iwane in such a way that it then gives Iwane extra time and drawings to create original animation for a battle that is more complicated. In this way, battles can become more involved and longer, with Pokemon lasting longer before being defeated. It was a new way to spice up battles after so many of them had been one-shot defeats in the previous two series and I think adds a lot of excitement to those episodes.
Like I said at the beginning of this behemoth post, it's so hard to chose a 'favorite' series because in a lot of ways a lot of the series have their own exciting charm and historical importance to the Anipoke franchise. Sun & Moon has a charming, large cast that all get their own fun focus episodes. Diamond & Pearl is the beginning of the franchise's growth into truly becoming a passion project for the staff and breaking out of the monotany of the first series' dreaded Jouto episodes and boring battles. Hikari is a charming co-protagonist to Satoshi with a fiery drive to become a top Coordinator just like Satoshi wants to win his battles. Shinji becomes the franchise's best rival character by virtue of being an asshole you really love to hate and even gets a character arc that develops him over the series into someone to love to love. DP also made Champion Shirona a recurring character and integral part of Shinji and Satoshi's development, as well as introducing the concept of the Champion League: a League you can only enter after winning the regional League. The number of multi-part story arcs handled by a single writer (Tomioka, mostly) expanded and grew with greater cohesion in trying to increase the general quality of the battles and strategies.
I really wish more episodes of DP were subbed. A lot of the major episodes are subbed but some of the early episodes are still left unsubbed, which is a shame. I suggest checking out what has been subbed, especially if they're written by Tomioka or has Asada and Iwane as episode director and animation director/supervisor.
Tomioka Atsuhiro Pokemon Credits: https://pastebin.com/raw/rYgnn1Xg
Asada Yuuji Pokemon Credits: https://pastebin.com/raw/gNjy7Jqd
Iwane Masaaki Pokemon Credits: https://pastebin.com/raw/S3V282yn
EDIT: With regards to Best Wishes: while I wish that the staff had been allowed to continue on from DP and have Satoshi enter the Champion League I honestly don't hold it against them that he wasn't able to. They had to roll with the punches and I personally found the battles to be a lot of fun. Even Satoshi acting like an idiot was funny.
XY is pretty bland, IMO. I think Alan deserved to win the Kalos League, so I never really understood the backlash against Satoshi losing since Alan had such a strong build up to his victory. DP and BW have Satoshi lose the League in very clear "We're being handcuffed here, don't kill us" ways. With Alan Satoshi just straight up lost to a trainer with a better reason to win.