Pokemon Twilight Wings is one of the best things to happen to everyone’s favourite catch-’em-up series in years. On top of making a case for how Sword & Shield dropped the ball with the Galar region, it should be held as the gold standard for Pokemon storytelling going forward. Yes, it is an animated series that is predominantly aimed at children – to discount it for that reason alone would be to write off Roald Dahl, Pixar, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. You don’t need curse words and high-octane bloodfests to justify why something is objectively good.
That point is worth expanding on – Twilight Wings is mainly successful emphatically because it is aimed at kids. It has a certain charm that perfectly articulates the wonder of this world in a way that veers clear of the series’ traditional indulgence in chosen one tropes. To this day, I firmly believe that Twilight Wings’ John is a better protagonist than Ash Ketchum ever was, while the show’s focus on excellent characters like Nessa, Bea, and Allister proves that Gen 8’s gym leaders aren’t half as boring as they were made out to be in the games. You can power through Twilight Wings in around an hour, but in terms of depth, it’s the Mariana Trench next to Sword & Shield’s pebble in a puddle.
Earlier this week, the Pokemon Evolutions anime was announced. I don’t typically keep up with Pokemon anymore – aside from drunkenly rewatching season one of the original series during lockdown, because Wynaut (as in why not, please appreciate my joke), I don’t think I’ve seen a single episode since I was around eight years old. The only exception to this was Twilight Wings, which I checked out on recommendation from some random lad on Reddit. Also, thank you random lad on Reddit, you legend.
Anyway! Evolutions appears to tackle similar subject matter to Twilight Wings, although it all seems a bit aged up and serious. Leon is fighting Eternatus, or something, as opposed to teaching little John how to become a good and proper Pokemon trainer. This is stupid for several reasons. Firstly and most importantly, who gives a Ralts’ arse about Eternatus? What even is it? It’s like a DNA helix mixed with Prince’s wardrobe and aerial silks. It’s also 67(!) feet tall. If I was given three wishes by a genie, I would cure world hunger, make drinking Guinness mandatory for everyone on Earth, and delete all traces of Eternatus from existence.
Eternatus isn’t the only reason I’m disappointed by the look of Evolutions, though. From what we’ve seen so far – which, admittedly, is not a whole lot – this series looks unnecessarily dramatic and overblown. I know loads of people praise Gen 5 for its “serious” storytelling, but also – and you may have missed this memo – Pokemon is intended for kids. That’s what’s so special about it – it’s interested in wonder and awe and magic and sheer, unbridled silliness. You beat up magical monsters and trap them in spherical prisons before sporadically unleashing them to beat up other magical monsters so you can trap them, too, in spherical prisons. Best boy Brock uses a frying pan as a drying pan – miss me with this “Pokemon needs to grow up” nonsense. Maybe you need to grow up.
Twilight Wings did something really special with Pokemon in that it was completely faithful to the core genesis of the series. I don’t care if the acting is overenthusiastic or if the writing is a bit on the nose – it is, on the most primal level possible, quintessentially Pokemon. I have been playing this series at least weekly for over 22 years. I know what it is and isn’t. Twilight Wings is Pokemon at its very best, like no one ever was.
Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised – Evolutions could be brilliant and I could be full of [insert very grown up word I am not going to put in an article about Pokemon]. Hopefully I’m wrong! But again, as someone who cares deeply about this series and will unapologetically continue to play it throughout my entire adult life, I’m just not convinced. Twilight Wings paved the way for an incredible Galarian story – ditching that to focus on this Evolutions stuff just feels like a real missed trick to me.