Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pokémon Gold and Silver Adventures, Volume 8 by Hidenori Kusaka, Art by Mato

Gold is a young man whose family consists of himself, his mother, and a passel of Pokémon, who all live in the same house and help each other out. One night, when he's playing pool with his Aipom, Gold sees someone sneaking into his backyard. He confronts the intruder, a boy named Joey, who is trying to get his backpack back from the Murkrow who stole it. Gold shoots the pokéball containing his Aipom (who he calls Aibo) up to the Murkrow, and it grabs back not only the bag, but the Antenna that it stole off the house.

Inside the bag are a bunch of pokéballs that Professor Oak was sending to Professor Elm at the Poké center, and the next day, Joey and Gold get up early to deliver them. In the nearby town, everyone seems to know Gold, and Joey can see why- Gold routs a cheater using a Hoothoot to trick people out of their money. But as Gold is taking the Cheater down, someone steals Gold's backpack, with all his Pokémon inside, thinking it is Joey's bag instead.

Gold wants his Pokémon back, so they hurry to Professor Elm's place, only to find that one of Professor Elm's Pokemon, a Totodile, has also been stolen, this time by a young man. However, he isn't the one who stole Gold's backpack, and the two team up to find the real thieves, who just happen to be members of Team Rocket. But they soon realize that they took the wrong backpack and toss it to find the one they were actually supposed to steal.

Meanwhile, Gold and the thief fight, are confronted by Team Rocket, and end up defeating them, but Gold is knocked out and the other boy escapes. The Police request Gold's help, but he gives them a false description. He wants to catch the thief himself! Then Professor Oak shows up and tells Gold that the same thief stole his latest Pokédex, and he wants Gold to get it back for him. Gold wants the other Pokédex, but it takes a near-tragedy before Professor Oak will give it to him. And he only does so after Gold tells him that he considers his Pokémon to be partners.

Oak has also found the backpack that Gold lost, and he sends the rest of his Pokémon home to be with his mother. However, one of them is missing, Polibo, the Poliwag. Gold sets aside searching for Silver (whose name he found out from a glove the other boy left behind) and searches the river for Polibo, but is unable to find it.

Moving on, Gold goes to Violet town and learns that Silver has been seen near Sprout Tower, a tower supposedly constructed around a 100 foot tall Bellsprout. Breaking into the tower, he discovers that it is inhabited by a set of Pokémon trainers who all use Bellsprouts and shave their hair. They assume that Gold is there to join them, and tell him they will give him a new name and shave him.

Gold declines, and ends up defeating their Bellsprouts with his Cyndaquil, Exbo. From there, he ascends to the top of the tower, where he and Silver fight another battle against each other, then team up to destroy a huge ball that dropped from the top of the Tower as part of the monk training the group of trainers here undergo. Silver tells Gold that the reason why he fails as a trainer is because he doesn't do so as part of a team, and then he disappears. Gold is left to ponder the truth of his words as Silver's Totodile evolves into a Croconaw.

Outside the town limits, Gold runs into Falkner, the Policeman who asked for his help. Falkner has a dream of his own, training his own Pokémon, a Pidgeot and a Noctowl, to take over his father's place as Violet Town Gym Leader. But there is something else going on. a Bird-like Pokémon with a body hard as metal is chasing the Sunkern all over the placem, making a hazard. Using his brain and his Pokémon as a team, Gold uses his Pokémon along with Falkner's to defeat the Bird-creature and capture it in a Pokéball, ending the threat. Falkner offers to help train Gold, but Gold can't take him up on his offer just now, he still has too many things to do and a thief to catch.

Gold's path takes him to an area of ruins, where he finds a very cute girl- except that this "girl" is actually a guy, Bugsy from Azalea Town. Bugsy is looking for his friends, who disappeared the day before in the ruins. Gold hears something under the stone and blasts away the stairs to find a chamber hidden beneath the ground, covered in strange symbols. Bugsy is fascinated by the symbols, and theorizes that they may be describing a new of Pokémon, lost to the ages. But when Team Rocket show up, it turns out that the symbols *are* Pokémon, known as the Unown. with the help of his Pokémon, Gold puts Team Rocket to flight and helps rescue Bugsy's friends.

Then, at the river, Gold discovers one of the Pokémon thieves, which is actually a Pokémon itself. The Grambull has an injured jaw and needed help, so it stole Pokéballs to draw attention to itself. The Poké trainer offers to be friends with Gold, and thinks that his friend, Yellow, would be interested in this new guy. After that, Gold finds the man who makes Silver his hand-made Pokéballs, and helps the man's granddaughter catch a Teddiursa in the Mountains. At the same time, Silver uses a Heavy Ball to catch the evolved form of TeddiUrsa, Usaring, which he uses to punish a group of Team Rocket members who have attacked a group of Slowpokes simply to cut off their tails as a delicacy. This gives Gold his first clue that Silver isn't a bad person- he left the Team Rocket members tied up among their victims, who then heal themselves. And Professor Elm awards Gold with a strange Poké Egg, which needs to be kept with Gold's Pokémon to hatch.

But when Gold follows Silver's trail into the Ilex forest, will the mist, inhabited by a Ghastly, Delibird, Ariados and Houndour, be able to defeat him and chase him from the path? And what will happen to the charcoal burner and his Farfetch'd who Gold found passed out in the mist if he runs away?

Well, it's a Pokémon book, so I wasn't expecting much of a story, but I must admit that this one certainly gives readers far better of a story than most of the Pokémon manga and comics that you can find on the shelves. Unlike most Pokémon trainers, Gold isn't going on this journey out of selfish reasons, like wanting to win a Pokémon tournament or to become a gym leader, he's doing it mostly out of a desire to help (his little bit of selfishness is in wanting to meet Professor Oak's assistant, Mary and maybe impress her). He doesn't treat his Pokémon like pets or tools, but like members of his family and, as the manga tells us, Partners. In all honesty, this doesn't mean that his behavior is any different than Ash or Red- but it does make Professor Oak trust him.

One of my big problems with the series as a whole is that so much of it feels the same- the Pokémon battles, and now we have the Egg, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Togepi that Misty hatched on the original TV series. I'm not really sure what could be done to do away with the sameyness of all the Pokémon battles. Even coming up with new Pokémon doesn't really change things all that much. Maybe if they focussed less on the battles and more the mystery of the Pokémon themselves, like the Unown.

This is one of the better Pokémon stories, with a reason for Gold to be out there rather than just being another Pokémon trainer, and using past characters in new ways. On the other hand, that isn't saying much, and the battles are very samey-samey, which, if you are older than the target age of eight to twelve, quickly causes boredom and the feeling of having seen it all before. Nevertheless, kids of the target age will love this series, especially if they have played the games, and HeartGold and SoulSilver in particular. Recommended for Pokémon fans, not recommended for anyone else.

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