Netflix released the second part of “Pokémon The Series: Master Journeys,” based on the final part of 2019’s Pokémon Sword and Shield, on Feb. 24. Picking up from the final gym battle and the start of the champions tournament, this season showcases the adventures of Ash Ketchum (Sarah Natochenny) and Goh (Zeno Robinson) as they travel through various regions and fulfill their ambitions — becoming a Pokémon champion for Ash and catching every Pokémon for Goh. At this point in their journey, both characters have reached a level of competence far beyond what they started with, as reflected in their victories. The show differs from the game in terms of characters and execution.
Throughout the second half of the series, Ash trains his Pokémon for the upcoming championship as his creatures learn various powerful techniques to help beat his opponents. For instance, episode 13 “The Future Is Now, Thanks To Strategy!” features Ash’s Sirfetch’d, a duck with a sword and shield, training against his Dracovish, a resurrected fish fossil, to learn the move Meteor Assault. Considering the move’s power and exclusivity, it makes sense why he wants to teach the technique to his Pokémon. Decisions like this indicate that he is a trainer who is willing to put in the effort to gain victory.
Goh’s development is shown through his increased ability in catching Pokémon. This is most clearly shown when he catches Suicune and Regieleki — two legendary Pokémon that are significantly harder to catch compared to the standard creatures. The episode in which he caught Regieleki, “Chasing to the Finish,” is particularly notable as he not only caught the creature, but also completed a program called “Project Mew.” This allowed him to capture the namesake legendary Pokémon, a particularly important achievement as he was inspired to start his journey when he encountered the Pokémon.
There are several changes between the game and the show, but they work well due to the differing continuities present in both adaptations. For example, both mediums feature a tournament between many of the top trainers in the region.
The game version of the tournament features characters that appeared throughout the story — including the player’s rivals, Hop and Bede, as well as the region’s second gym leader Nessa. Thisserves as the player’s reflection on the region, a look back at the friends they made and how far they’ve come. This makes sense for this iteration, as aside from the occasional cameo and postgame battle, each generation of Pokémon features their own set of characters that are relatively unaffected by previous casts.
In comparison, the show features a tighter continuity, with more frequent character reappearances. This helps them develop the characters and build stronger connections between each season. The show helps to reinforce the continuity by bringing back characters such as Iris (Eileen Stevens), Ash’s traveling companion in the Unova region, for the tournament. This brings a similar sense of finality, as this season also serves as the climax of Ash’s journey, where he fights the best of the best as a true test of his skill and meets up with his old friends.
To further emphasize the sense of finality, the tournament has several champions, such as Iris, Cynthia (Emily Jenness) and Leon (Alejandro Saab), challenging trainers whose game counterparts serve as final bosses. As Ash has infamously lost multiple end-of-region tournaments, failing to win in every region until Alola (2019), seeing him interact with the best trainers of multiple regions shows just how powerful he has become. This, combined with Ash’s status as the show’s protagonist for the last 25 years, makes this version feel grander in scope.
There are many references to old regions and characters from the Pokémon franchise, with characters such as Paul (Julián Rebolledo) and Gary (James Carter Cathcart) reappearing. Occasionally, these figures also demonstrate a measure of character development. Gary originally served as the first example of the “jerk rival” archetype, an obnoxious person who mistreats his Pokémon. However, in the episode “Chasing to the Finish,” he helps Goh as the two of them navigate a temple to catch a legendary Pokémon. On the other hand, there are characters such as Paul, who still criticizes Ash’s strategies during their battle.
The show’s formula is also altered compared to how it was in the first 25 years. Perhaps most notably is that the series’ main antagonists, Team Rocket, only appear in a handful of episodes because the conflict is mainly driven by the tournament arc and training arc. When they do appear, they’re not contained to their previous role. In the episode “Radio Lulled The Mischievous Stars,” the trio run a radio station where they answer questions from various characters. This episode serves as a nice comedic break from the training arc as it has them engaging in various funny antics that are a stark contrast from the action-oriented tournament.
It was a refreshing change of pace to have various subversions of the formula, as it made the show less predictable and more interesting. In particular, relying less on Team Rocket, who usually provides the conflict for most episodes, makes their rare appearances more enjoyable. Having both Ash and Goh reach their goals also provides a satisfying experience, as their efforts paying off brings resolution to their storylines.
As Ash continues through the tournament, many may wonder how he will fare. They may also wonder, given how many creatures there are, how Goh will manage to catch every Pokémon. No matter the outcome, they have nonetheless managed to increase in competence and learned to become better trainers in the process.
Bailey Kanthatham is an Entertainment Staff Writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.