With the release of the new Pokémon Sun and Moon video games for Nintendo 3DS, it was inevitable that a new season of the anime would be coming alongside them. But no one could have predicted the massive changes that would come with it.

After following the Pokémon series since it debuted in the United States during Pokémon’s heyday, I was used to a very specific kind of show with a familiar formula, as well as a familiar cast of characters.

The debut of Pokémon Sun and Moon has ensured that anyone growing tired of the similarities the anime was previously riddled with has something new to look forward to, even if it’s a little jarring. There are similar characters and even much of the same plotlines to follow, but this is a whole new ballgame for Pokémon fans. It was, as you’ll likely agree, about time.

The first thing you’ll notice about the new series is its much brighter, more cartoony look. Protagonist Ash Ketchum (Satoshi) even looks much younger, though his faithful Pikachu is still by his side. Ash and his mom ended up winning, as the story goes, a special trip to the region of Alola (where the games take place) thanks to Mr. Mime’s fortune at a grocery store lottery. Yes, this is the very same Mr. Mime that Ash’s mother lives with. That’s why we now find our favorite aspiring Pokémon Master exploring the colorful islands. When Ash discovers the Pokémon School on Melemele Island, he ends up deciding to remain on the island, while his mother travels back home. How are you supporting yourself again, Ash…?

Weirdly enough, in Pokémon Sun and Moon, Ash seems like a much younger version of the trainer we’ve come to know and love over the years, traveling with his mother and behaving in a particularly juvenile manner. It’s clear that this series has moved away from the darker tone of the Pokémon XYZ anime series and is instead allowing itself to relax and revel in the silliness and laid-back atmosphere that prevails in Alola. If anything, it more closely resembles Yo-Kai Watch than the Pokémon series before it, which means it’s full of bright colors, one-liners, and things kids can copy–namely, the Z-Ring.

The Z-Ring is an accessory players receive in-game (it’s not a ring, but a bracelet) that allows trainers to perform powerful attacks called Z-Moves. It’s an integral part of the new series, with Ash resorting to special moves that kids will no doubt love to mimic much like the Yo-Kai Watch ending dance or other popular anime moves. This could potentially be the reason Pokémon Sun and Moon has sought to make its several different changes, but it’s likely only a small part. I know personally I get pretty amped up when I use it in-game, but that’s just me.

Ash has also graduated from the usage of a regular talking Pokédex to a special Rotom Pokédex–which can speak to him like a regular traveling companion. It adds an interesting dimension to the series, much like with the games, and lends an even more “magical” feel to the adventure.

When you compare the Ash of the previous series to the new one, one thing is clearly important going forward: Enthusiasm. Fun is obviously important, but the message Pokémon Sun and Moon’s anime companion sends through bright and clear is the love and passion Ash and everyone in Alola has for Pokémon. It’s a sort of reboot or renaissance in many ways for a show that had relied on old tricks for far too long.

It’s a great place for fans new and old to jump in on, and if you dropped the show long ago for getting too close to tournaments and “being the very best,” you might consider coming back. This is a new Ash, a new land, and a new set of Pokémon. Stay a while. You might like it a whole lot better.

Top Image Credit: Twitter

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