Impact of the Diamond & Pearl series
While most of us are soaking our brains into the Best Wishes series, there is definitely a lot to reflect on its predecessor, the Diamond and Pearl series, and how its variability improved the series as a whole.
My inspiration to write this came from an older column I found about the DP series. In it, the writer mentioned how the series is less predictable than previous ones based on recent events. Now it’s my turn to place some analysis. I was able to completely follow the DP series thanks to DVDs and a new cable connection at home. This article was originally going to be longer, but due to personal time constraints, I had to shave it down to the critical parts.
5. Episode diversification
The Diamond & Pearl series improved on the overall episode flow for the series, as although it had one less episode than the Advanced Generation predecessor, there were many more critical episodes, mini-series episodes, and even some filler episodes that incorporated a much stronger plotline focus than before.
One thing I noticed was the references to previous series, appealing to the long-time anime followers and reminding everyone just how long the anime series has been going on. All seriousness aside, Pokémon is an animated series, and is meant to be enjoyable, even if some of the humor gets a bit old. In a personal sense, the best filler episode was DP105. Get a good laugh!
4. Violence in episodes and characters
DP was a definite first in showing brief yet heightened levels of violence compared to the previous series, with the exception of some banned content from the original series. Paul’s treatment of Chimchar was definitely one (which will be discussed later), but there were other subjects in the series.
Perhaps the most notable in the series would be Pokémon Hunter J. While hunters are not entirely new to the series, J was unique for several reasons. Aside from being a female hunter, she demonstrates that morality is irrelevant to her, going beyond what most antagonists to date have done. In particular, her actions against Ash were more akin to lethal.
When I first saw DP136 in raw Japanese, I noticed when Looker struck down a Galactic Grunt and automatically thought that it would never make the dub, since similar battery incidents were cut out. For once, it wasn’t cut from the dub, as I watched that same episode when it was dubbed and saw the scene unaltered.
Team Galactic also made pursuing their goals visible as they executed two planned attacks. Mars was willing to obliterate all of Iron Island with explosives, Saturn’s Toxicroak doing a number to Croagunk, Chimchar and Electivire, Cyrus’s personal emotional drive, you name it.
3. Ash and Paul
The DP series had more rivalries involved than any of the other series, but the one that always hits the top of the list is Paul. I remember watching the third DP episode and noticing his first impression, his abrupt nature sharply contrasting against Ash. By the end of the series, I truly felt that this rival was leaps and bounds beyond Gary in the original series.
When Paul released his three Starly in DP003, it reminded me of how competitive gamers think of Pokémon today. Treating the Pokémon on our games as objects without bonding to them, while rational in our world, is flat-out wrong in the anime. Paul’s belief of simply grabbing strong Pokémon right off the bat hit me as a reflection on players that try to do as little training as possible, even to where people cheat to not have to train. Drawing more connections to the games, I can understand Ash’s belief of putting in time to raise Pokémon as I’ve clocked numerous hours on my Generation IV games training many competitive Pokémon from eggs.
Paul appeared more front-loaded in the series and slightly dropped off as the series progressed, only appearing at key moments. At first, I hated Paul immensely by how brutally he pushed Chimchar’s training. As the series closed, however, I looked over Paul again and he was not as bad as I originally thought, merely because it wasn’t fully possible to associate his treatment towards Chimchar with the rest of his Pokémon. Paul’s training with his other Pokémon was rarely observed, and the few times that did happen were not even extreme. While he did scold some of his Pokémon for losing a battle or was close to losing, nothing really compared to Chimchar.
While it was fairly obvious that Ash would have a fierce duel against Paul, most likely in the league, the full battle at Lake Acuity was another matter. Having a full battle before the league was unprecedented, so it set off a few predictions. Ash would either get a decisive victory or Ash would probably not face Paul in the league, making that battle the climax. The outcome that did happen, and the one that influenced the plot the most, was Ash losing to Paul in an overwhelming manner. That battle made it clear that Ash would need to develop more in order to overcome Paul, which of course he did.
However, Paul did have some positive qualities, being a straightforward Trainer that made attempts to get stronger. I found it quite bold when Paul battled Cynthia early in the series, taking a shot at someone that Ash, at least to this date, has not attempted. Paul’s motivations were also more clear-cut than Gary’s, as I felt his drive and desire to battle Brandon was memorable.
While we observe the new rivalry between Ash and Trip in the BW series, viewers should try to keep Paul in perspective as the series progresses. Paul has set the standard higher and I believe it will be very difficult for Trip to pass.
2. Pokémon Personality
Aside from the main characters acquiring several new Pokémon, the actual personality pool was much larger than previous series. A character’s Pokémon was not a static figure merely used to battle, but also demonstrated memorable traits. I will only mention a few that really stuck out to me.
Right away, Dawn’s Piplup showed that he would be more than just an ordinary starter Pokémon, with far more development than May’s Blaziken did. Piplup became a compliment to Ash’s Pikachu, as eventually Piplup would become a walking Pokémon. The events of DP122 made Piplup another Pokémon that was unwilling to evolve, much like the other main walking Pokémon and Ash’s Bulbasaur. What I believe sets Piplup apart is the vast array of emotions that Piplup demonstrated, from humor, anger, even pain at seeing close friends leave.
Probably the second most notable Pokémon would be Ash’s Gible. While it is notable for being acquired fairly late in the series, it makes up for it with comic relief. Gible’s failed Draco Meteor on Piplup never seemed to get old, even getting some storyline emphasis in developing Piplup’s character, whether intentionally or not. One brief part early on was when Gible devoured Barry’s bicycle, watching Barry’s reaction to it.
Ash’s Gliscor was also fairly dynamic as it grew and evolved. Throughout its early stages, its developing flying ability was fairly comedic, when it would fall onto Ash, as well as its emotional display. Gliscor also broke standard team lineup when it stayed with McCann for training, much like Ash’s Charizard, but returned in the league and put up a more impressive performance against Paul than previous encounters.
Finally, Brock’s Croagunk became both comedic relief and a powerful battler. Croagunk took the place of Misty and Max in stopping Brock’s advancements on women, even more painfully with a subdued Poison Jab! Croagunk seemed to show little emotion, usually defending and attacking without effort, but it did have a few exceptions, such as its dislike for Honey. His rivalry with Saturn’s Toxicroak symbolized the common theme of evolved Pokémon rivalry and how it affects behavior, much like human rivalries.
From Paul’s Chimchar to Ash’s Infernape: the Pokémon spotlight for DP
Diamond and Pearl already expanded on a Trainer’s Pokémon by giving certain ones more personality. But none can match the Fire-type Sinnoh starter that centered on the rivalry between Ash and Paul. This Pokémon is a truly dynamic character based on its progression throughout the series.
Viewers that scrutinized Paul’s training skills should have noticed how much higher Chimchar’s standards were compared to the rest of Paul’s Pokémon. Throughout the first DP season, whenever Paul battled, he sent Chimchar against Pokémon where it would be easily deemed a mismatch.
The reason for Paul’s expectations of Chimchar is what sets Chimchar apart from any Pokémon character to date: a backstory of Chimchar’s exceptional Blaze ability. Unlike a normal Blaze, Chimchar’s full ability was extremely destructive. Having witnessed it, Paul set the standard unfairly high. Chimchar’s normal battle skills lead him to discard the Pokémon, where Ash stepped up and took Chimchar in.
When Ash got Chimchar, there was a strong impression that Chimchar would play a key role in Ash defeating his rival and Chimchar proving Paul wrong. Immediately afterward, viewers got to experience more of Chimchar’s emotions and the aftermath of Paul’s brutal treatment. Surely enough, in the next battle between Ash and Paul, Chimchar’s Blaze made its official debut, demonstrating a strong hint that Paul’s actions were a mistake.
Chimchar’s performances in Snowpoint City were the highest points during its base stage. Chimchar took out two of Candice’s Pokémon in the gym battle, using creative ice skating to defeat Abomasnow. During the battle against Paul, Chimchar was the one to stop Ursaring’s rampage, having taken out three of Ash’s Pokémon. The evolution to Monferno unlocked even more abilities, and it appeared that Monferno would get a few more wins, but Electabuzz shut it down. Aside from that, Monferno got the least screen time of the evolutions.
Once it evolved to final form, it was mostly high points for Infernape, losing only to Flint’s Infernape. When Infernape managed to control its overpowering Blaze ability, I felt a really strong impression that it could win any match it got into and the likelihood that Paul would lose to Infermape even more so. As expected, the second full battle against Paul was high-intensity. Infernape took out two of Paul’s Pokémon and still managed to engage in a climactic battle against Electivire, tapping into Blaze and winning the match.
Ash’s Infernape will always be remembered as a Pokémon that overcame hardship and grew into a prominent figure, much like a real-life store of rags to riches. I personally don’t see any other Pokémon ever coming close to surpassing Infernape’s historical impact on the series.
1. Plot-driven focus
While the concept of Ash exploring a new region would bring about a new traveling partner, the character’s participation in the series changed with Dawn. When viewers go over the human characters in the series, there is no doubt that Dawn will be at the top of the list of Sinnoh characters.
While every viewer of the DP series will have an opinion about Dawn, I felt that her character and participation were revolutionary for the series. Ash would still be the primary focus of the series, but Dawn got just as much spotlight, much more than May or Misty did. While May does get credit for undergoing character development, choosing to participate in Contests a few episodes into the Advanced Generation series, Dawn had a clear goal in mind to be a Coordinator. Dawn got almost all the spotlight for the first DP episode, which strongly hinted that Dawn would be key focus character of the series.
Dawn was not only a second primary character, not just being a supporting character, but was also a strong complement to Ash, the one person she learned the most from, as well as drawing parallels in some way. Dawn’s Piplup became the compliment to Ash’s Pikachu, much like she is to Ash. Dawn contributed a few key tactics to Ash, such as the spin-dodge and Buizel’s Ice Aqua Jet. They also made a critical trade, where Ash and Dawn swapped Aipom and Buizel, marking a worthwhile trade in the series.
Dawn also demonstrated flexibility as a character, not just focusing on Contests. She made a bold decision to challenge Maylene to a Gym battle, despite not winning. Ash also expanded his competitive nature in the saga with his original experience with contests in AG190 moved towards two contest performances.
Both Ash and Dawn put time and effort into reaching for their goals, savoring the victories as well as learning from the defeats. While Ash’s battle record against Paul would be the first indicator of this, Dawn also had to deal with a downhill period of her own early on, having lost two consecutive Contests before winning the Wallace Cup. Ash would also have to deal with two major defeats as well: his first attempt against Roark was flat following Paul’s decisive victory, and his 6-2 loss to Paul at Lake Acuity.
The DP saga also possessed more rivalry competition in Ash and Dawn’s characters than any of the previous series. DP is unique in that both Ash and Dawn gain two major rivals, and even share one opponent as a rival. Since Paul was already covered, I’ll go over the other rivals.
While Nando may not have contributed as much as the primary rivals, Nando’s flexibility in Contests and league battles could be seen as a bridge unifying Ash and Dawn’s goals to promote variability, proving that being a great Trainer involves the incorporation of many different strategies, even unrelated ones.
As Dawn’s major rival, Zoey was a dynamic rival, growing as a Coordinator just like Dawn, but also contributing knowledge to both Ash and Dawn. Topping the list was Zoey’s action to facilitate an important trade: Ash’s Aipom and Dawn’s Buizel switching Trainers. Unlike Ash’s rivalry with Paul, Zoey was not hostile towards Dawn, and though she was initially against Ash and Nando participating in both types of competitions, she understood the benefits of experience and lightened up. When Dawn was on her losing streak with Ambipom, Zoey helped correct her mistakes.
As a childhood friend of Dawn, it would be expected that Kenny would put some pressure on Dawn’s goals, though far less than the original Ash and Gary rivalry. In the beginning, Kenny brought up many of Dawn’s less memorable childhood past, with the nickname topping it off, fueling speculation of its origin up until DP161. It didn’t seem like Kenny would be able to keep up with Dawn and Zoey, but his wins against Dawn in DP123 and Ash in the practice battle in DP180 prove he isn’t a pushover. He seemed to be a ghost in the series, making sudden advancements in ability throughout the series, and though he should have had a slightly larger role, his few appearances were memorable enough to make him a worthy rival.
Finally, Barry’s appearance midway into the series put additional pressure on Ash’s goals, especially early on with Barry’s perception of Paul and his desire for strong Pokémon. Ash showed a strong desire to change Barry’s perception, but over time it appeared that Barry learned on his own, supporting Ash as he advanced ahead in the league. I personally was disappointed that Ash never got to face off against Barry in the league, but it was interesting watching Barry make Paul sweat a little, despite getting the 3-0 sweep from Paul.
In closing, as the Best Wishes series continues forward and viewers follow Ash’s journey through Unova, it is important to not forget Ash’s past adventures and what transpired throughout a series. When, or if, the day comes that the Pokémon anime airs its series conclusion and all the episodes are documented, Pokémon enthusiasts can reflect on every series and take note that the Diamond and Pearl series made some divergence from the older series, creating a more dynamic and advanced storyline.