In honor of me getting the newest Pokémon game (friend code swap, anyone?), I figured it was about time to dedicate a post to my first Pokémon manga. For many people, their first exposure to this series in printed form was the well-known Electric Tale of Pikachu, however mine was a little more… well, shoujo. Indeed, while I did purchase Electric Tale later on, the series I was drawn to was Yumi Tsukirino’s Magical Pokémon Journey. As with most games, if I don’t have the option to play as a female player character then the draw of the game is severely reduced and with each new Pokémon game that came out—up until Sapphire (I didn’t play Crystal)—I wondered why there was only a male I could play as. It’s not as though it would have been terribly difficult to add a female option in, but I digress. Even in other forms of media these stories followed the adventures of the boys, Ash and Red, with female characters only being secondary. So, to see such a change, to see a story focus on a girl’s Pokémon adventure, was so exciting to me and so long coming.
Magical Pokémon Journey focuses on semi-trainer, Hazel, and her partner, Pikachu (come on, were you really expecting a different furry friend?). I think the biggest aspect that helps this series along is that it doesn’t focus on the same things as every other series. Hazel doesn’t go off on battles, have a rival that’s better than her in most every way, fight Brock for the boulder badge, or travel with three other companions that provide comedy. She does, however, have a hard time getting Pikachu to be her partner; that seems to be a constant in everything Pokémon related. Mostly, it’s about Hazel inadvertently being really good at getting Pokémon while chasing after her crush, Almond, and testing out the town’s resident crazy genius’, Grandpa’s (who is not actually anyone’s grandpa), inventions. That’s where the ‘magical’ part comes in. MJP doesn’t take the route of a manga like Sailor Moon except with Pokémon: Hazel’s magic comes not only from Grandpa’s inventions—she can breathe underwater and ignore lightning with her outfit, for chrissakes—but from the intrinsic bond she seems have with the cute creatures that roam the land. Earlier I said ‘semi-trainer’ and that’s true: I can’t remember Hazel ever really battling her Pokémon and honestly she doesn’t seem to have an interest in it, but her Pokémon do fight for her. Albeit in somewhat unconventional ways.
For example, the gang—Hazel, her Pokémon, and sickly weakling trope extraordinaire, Peanut—end up at the millionaire Wigglytuff’s estate (yes, Wigglytuff owns a house) for Christmas and Hazel really wants to have an awesome party with all her friends. Unfortunately, none of her other ones can make it and Almond even goes so far as to insult the party before he heads off for a convention. Extremely disappointed, Hazel still vows to have an amazing party that everyone will be jealous of, however it’s clear that her heart’s just not in it. So, not only do her Pokémon set up a huge Christmas surprise for her and get all the party favors together, they also help bring Almond back to celebrate with them after the convention ends.
It’s rather sweet and even though they’re not battling for their master’s honor or anything, it’s clear that Hazel’s Pokémon really do love her a lot.
It’s true that Pokémon is all about the battling and trading, but it’s also about the experience and learning how to do things your own way. This quirky take on this more than a decade old verse is refreshing and a truly fun romp through the world of Pokémon. Unfortunately, not all of the manga has been officially translated, and since what has been translated has been released Stateside it may be hard to find scans of it online. Still, I would really recommend looking at it for its low investment and comedic value.