Best Wishes! Appreciation
Pocket Monsters Best Wishes!, gif by Kyurem)
Quick Navigation: Criticism & Defense | Characters: Cilan (Dent) + Iris + Trip (Shootie) + Bianca (Bell) + Georgia (Langley) + Champion Alder (Champion Adeku) + Professor Aurea Juniper (Professor Araragi) + | Extras: Cilan and Team Plasma...? + Art Gallery + Pixel Art (last two sections aren't strictly Pokemon BW!, but most of it is ^^)
Pokemon Best Wishes! (Pokemon Black & White) is the anime based on the fifth generation games of the Pokemon series. it follows the adventures of Ash & Pikachu, along with new friends Iris and Cilan, as they travel through the Unova region (based on New York!) and some surrounding islands, meeting many new Pokemon, friends, and rivals.
Although he originally arrives there on vacation with his mother, he quickly falls in love with the region full of only new Pokemon he'd never seen before in the eastern regions, so recognizing this, his mother lets him go on another journey. (Don't worry, he goes on a proper vacation with his mama in the Hawaiian-inspired Alola region in the Sun & Moon series, where he attends a school and also accomplishes a major milestone in achieving his goals).
The league is also not its strongest point, so a lot of viewers (especially the older fans and English-speaking fans) vocally despise it and only bring it up in a negative light, or misunderstand the supporting characters due to the way the dub handled them (Iris' teasing is supposed to sound friendly and playful after the first few episodes...), or dislike Team Rocket's darker and less personable portrayal [at least until the second season gives them more downtime and chance to show their personalities] depiction, but it also has a lot of positive aspects people overlook:
Defense: It's got lot of humour, it focuses more on the journey than the end destination, it still has a focus on travelling with a sense of wonder about the world, and a fresh new art style that maintains the charm of the 90's designs while updating a few things (better animation, more "real time" attack shots and use of the environment in battles, Ash's eyes now show their brown colour not only in close-ups and when shining with tears as in previous series), it's also a very easy show to pick up and watch (the oft-praised Diamond & Pearl series, my previous favourite, suffered from very, very boring long stretches of filler, but the filler in BW! is evenly distributed and almost always fun), the pacing is very good, it has fun and endearing characters, and a huge cast of rivals (Ash has Trip, Stephan, Bianca, Luke, Cameron, and Virgil as rivals, Iris has Georgia, and Cilan has Burgundy and [one-off] Pinot Noire), and there are many, many other tournaments before the league which made use of the huge cast of rivals. Another thing it was the last series to do (until, hopefully, the upcoming series!!) was that it respected the continuity of the show in terms of having Ash speak about his past, bring back old Pokemon, travel again for a while with the girl he travelled with last region (Dawn!), and had an absolutely lovely ending animation (unfortunately, the dub as usual did not preserve it, despite the fact that its animation also acts an epilogue for the various rivals in the BW! series) where it showed Ash and all his friends and even his biggest past rivals keeping in contact, Let's Join Hands (Te wo Tsunagou).
Best watched in Japanese with English subtitles?
Aside from the usual reasons Pokemon is best enjoyed in Japanese (a beautifully fitting score, the original openings and endings with full new animation meant to match the song and little to no recycled footage, and excellent and capable A-list seiyuu/voice actors), there are a few more reasons why Best Wishes! works best in Japanese, so it's very fortunate that it's the first Pokemon series to be fansubbed in full!
The companions, Iris and Cilan (named Dent in the original) are best enjoyed in the Japanese version!
While Jason Griffith plays a calm and charming Cilan, Mamoru Miyano (the voice of Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club and Light Yagami in Death Note, among many other roles) plays Dent with all the hilariously over-the-top theatrics and drama of Tamaki, which perfectly fits Dent's character. He truly brings him to life and makes him a very entertaining character to watch, bursting with excitement over every odd hobby (fishing, detective work) or obscure interest (the Nimbasa subway system) he has!
Another major difference between sub and dub is that, for censorship reasons, Cilan is a Pokemon Conoisseur, so he speaks in a lot of odd food puns, while evaluating the bonds between trainers and Pokemon... but Dent is one Gym Leader of a set of triplets who all run the Striaton Gym/restaurant together and a Pokemon Sommelier. A sommelier is a wine expert proficient in the marriages of food and wine. As such, he speaks in a very flowery way in the Japanese version, judging the bonds between Pokemon trainers and their Pokemon in battle in wine-tasting metaphors.
Cilan starts out as a very arrogant character (and his cruel tastings inspire at least one person [his rival Burgundy] to change her career entirely, just to get back at him!), but through meeting Ash, realizes the standard way of approaching battles isn't the only one and becomes more open-minded and kind.
Iris is a half-wild child from the Village of Dragons! She grew up between her village where she was taught legends by the Old Matriarch (the inhabitants are the Pokemon world's equivalent of a Native American!) and the surrounding forests, where she learned to be swift and strong from Pokemon, as well as how to forage for fruits and berries. She is also good at identifying and mixing herbal remedies. She is very motherly and kind to her toddler-like Dragon type partner Axew, who starts off very weak, but becomes stronger over time!
She's an unusual character, she starts off very secretive and teases Ash rather harshly, but her teasing soon turns friendly (and she apologizes if it hurts her more sensitive friends, like Cilan), and we slowly learn why she's so guarded (she tells her story, after some reluctance, in the second season!): she suffered bullying and ostracization for being so different from others, so she became depressed and homesick (missing her childhood friend in the village and her forest Pokemon friends), and started having trouble empathizing with others...
Her trouble empathizing with others is doubly a problem for her, as we find out in the second season, that she's a Dragon empath. Her powers can only awaken after she learns to open up to others and sincerely desire to understand them... this is something she starts working through from the first season even with her non-Dragon type Pokemon, Excadrill, leading to her being able to rescue two Dragon type Pokemon who were misunderstood by humans, as well as find out the truth of something that happened between Axew and her Emolga (who she blamed unfairly at first, based on Emolga's admittedly awful past of being gluttonous, selfish, deceiving and willing to hurt others just to get more of her favourite food: apples!).
Iris tends to tease people about their childishness, despite being very much a child herself! It doesn't work on her rival Georgia, who fully embraces it ("I am a child, so what?!"), her teasing is more friendly later on (again, more obvious in Japanese) and Ash doesn't mind it, but her teasing can also come in handy when convincing Trip to battle Ash...
Trip, the prodigy trainer from Nuvema Town, who often takes pictures with his digital camera to record his journey, is very proud and tries hard to be taken seriously as an "adult" (not realizing that insistence shows he's a child still!); he is another character that doesn't translate well to the dub or sub and an unusual character, in that the series frames him as the main rival (although that role is arguably better filled by friendly rival Stephan), as for the longest time, Ash's rivalry with him is quite one-sided, as Trip's focus is on the Unova Champion Alder...
Although he clashes with Ash on issues of morality in Castelia city, as he's too cynical to believe in peaceful means until Ash shows they can communicate with the Venipede, despite the danger, they also show they can work very well together.
Trip idolizes Alder since he met him as a child, but putting Alder on a pedestal all these years sets him up for a great disappointment when he meets his idol again and realizes he's a human with some very glaring flaws (namely, womanizing, forgetful in his old age...), but with time, he learns there's still much to respect from a man with years of wisdom to offer, despite some foolish behaviour here and there.
Bianca is a cheerful and naive, somewhat childish, but determined and friendly rival of Ash's. She gets along well enough with the BW! trio, minus the fact that she has a habit of running around everywhere and is awfully clumsy... the target of this clumsiness is always Ash, who gets thrown into the nearest body of water, which makes him a bit grumpy. ^^;;
Although she can need a supporting friend, she can make a stand and clearly grows as a trainer, although she needs her friends' help initially to make her stance known to her father, she's a good battler and uses her Pokemon's moves in unique ways which more by the book trainers can't predict! One of her strategies even inspires Ash.
Georgia is a self-proclaimed Dragon Buster and she's Iris' primary rival! She has a grudge against Dragon specialists after being severely defeated by one from the Village of Dragons, Iris' home; she has a very proud and confident demeanour, but she's also very sarcastic, which makes for very amusing fights and interactions with Iris... despite looking older, she's actually very comfortable with being a child ("I AM a child, so what?!"), unlike Trip, so Iris' teasing does NOT work on her! She's also a very caring person underneath it all and sincerely wants Iris to reach her full potential (so she can take down a worthy opponent!) and while she does snark at everyone with Burgundy, she doesn't like kicking folks who are already down.
Georgia's theme is knights, which is fitting, as she's described as a "dragon-slaying maiden" and is named for the legend of St. George and the Dragon in the dub. She mostly trains Ice types, as the Dragon type is weak against those (in later generations, Fairy types are also very effective against Dragon types, I'm sure she'd love to train one in the future!).
Her Pokemon include the polar bear-like Beartic, the blade-covered Bisharp, and an infrequently seen two-headed ice-cream-looking Vanilluxe who is Georgia's own problem Pokemon. Georgia's unique call to battle (at least in the Japanese version) is "Take to the front!" and when she releases her Beartic, it's posed like a kneeling knight!
Georgia's name in the original Japanese version is Langley, much like Asuka Langley Souryuu from Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is a rather funny coincidence, as Souryuu city is also the Japanese name of Opelucid city! Langley itself comes from the Old English lang (long) + leah (wood), (glade); there is also the Old Norse female given name Langlíf, made up of lang (long) + líf (life). I think it'd fit someone who'd train a Fairy type too, right?
Georgia makes her first appearance casually and shamelessly stealing and consuming, on the spot, a meal meant for three people, then having the audacity to complain about the cooking! But in her last appearance, in the Te wo Tsunagou ending animation that serves as the epilogue for the rivals, she stares wistfully into the sky after hearing Ash and friends have left Unova...
Champion Alder is the current Champion of the Unova region! Although he has some bad habits (obnoxious, Brock-like flirting) and the years seem to have taken their toll on him (he wanders all night and tends to doze off in the day, he forgets people's names consistently)... he also shows great power in serious battles, as well as a mentorly kindness, as he encourages the younger trainers to love their Pokemon and put their bonds with their Pokemon and the trust they share first, attaining strength second. He preaches the importance of enjoying the present moment and not lingering on the past.
Professor Aurea Juniper is the regional professor of the Unova region! Similarly to Professor Oak in Kanto, she helps new trainers get their Starter Pokemon and keeps track of their progress, guiding and encouraging them along the way! Her field of interest is the origins of Pokemon and she's well-versed in the mythology and folklore of the Unova region. Her father, Cedric Juniper, is also a scientist and an archaeologist!
Fun fact: Cedric and Aurea do not have revealed given names in the Japanese version, so they're both, confusingly, called only Professor Araragi!
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