When people refer to Pokémon, they often think of the video games or anime. They may even think of the upcoming live-action Pokémon film, Detective Pikachu. However, Pokémon has a long history in comics -- specifically, in Japanese manga.
While the idea of Pokémon manga might conjure foggy memories of Viz Media comics from the peak of Pokémania, there are several Pokémon manga out there. The Electric Tale of Pikachu, for example, is a manga that reinterprets the anime's general plot, ends with Ash and Misty (and Jessie and James) being married. There are several manga focused on various games in the Pokémon series, including many that have still never been officially released in the United States. What follows are just a few explanations of some of the longest-running and best known Pokémon manga out there, and how each of them are very, very different.
Pokémon Pocket Monsters
Arguably the first Pokémon manga ever written, Pokémon Pocket Monsters is a comedicshonen manga focused on a Pokémon trainer named Red and his Clefairy. Diving into this manga is a surreal experience for longtime Pokémon fans, however, due to how many established rules of the Pokémon world Pokémon Pocket Monsters disregards.
Evolution can be reversed, other animals appear, and, most notably, Pokémon can talk. And this Clefairy has a penchant for humor, with an endless supply of perverse, rude and crude jokes.
The series started when the Pokémon franchise first began and continued for a very long time. If you're interested in reading it, Chuang Yi translated the original manga and its sequel, Pokémon Ruby-Sapphire, for English in Singapore. However, Viz Media has never translated the manga in the West, most notably because of the great deal of coarse language, humor and other content issues. Because of its lack of presence in the Western market, many fans outside of Japan forget that Pokémon Pocket Monsters even exists.
When people talk about the Pokémon manga, this is usually the manga that they're thinking about. Sometimes called Pokémon Special, Pokémon Adventure has adapted each main series game into its ongoing adventure, which focuses on a new set of protagonists undergoing their personal Pokémon journeys.
Each arc of the manga takes place a year or two after the last. As a result, characters from prior arcs who may make an appearance age organically with the story. Each protagonist is based on the in-game protagonist designs, with each adventure reflecting either new features added into each game. For example, Ruby is a Pokémon Coordinator who competes in Pokémon Contests, and his quest to win every Contest Ribbon is a major part of his character arc, and those were added in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire.
Pokémon Adventures can best be compared to other mainstream shonen action series, as each arc primarily focuses on the protagonists improving themselves and growing stronger as a result of each encounter, often to overcome an arc villain. The manga is notably more violent than any other Pokémon manga on the market. Pokémon are killed, sometimes brutally. Because of this, it has garnered a reputation as the darker, more mature alternative to the Pokémon anime. However, this isn't exactly a fair comparison. The violence is mild compared to most other shonen manga aimed for the same demographic.
Viz Media translated the manga back when Pokémon Red and Blue became popular, first in floppies containing a few chapters before being packaged in collected volumes like other manga. They have been in-print ever since. Because of their international presence, Pokémon Adventures is often referred to as the Pokémon manga.
There are numerous manga spin-offs that tie into each game in the series, offering fans a brief adventure to essentially promote and tie-into the new main game in the series. Pokémon Horizon is one of the better ones and is translated into English by Viz Media.
The two-volume manga ties in to Pokémon Sun and Moon, staring a trainer named Akira and his Rockruff. The story is a very simple one featuring a straight-forward adventure that brings Akira face-to-face with a few legendary Pokémon.
Pokémon Horizon represents just one of several manga inspired by the games. While it is a short series, it serves a very important purpose often repeated throughout the cycle of Pokémon manga. Long running series occupy an important role in long-term continuity that rewards readers for reading it over the course of time. Short-term manga like Pokémon Horizon, however, promote and tie-into whatever main series game Nintendo is putting out now.
From wild sprawling epics to bawdy comedies and bite-sized adventures, there's a Pokémon manga to suite every type of Pokémon fan's appetite.