The newest installment of the long-running Pokemon Adventures has finally come to the United States, courtesy of Viz Media.
The initial volume of Pokemon Sun & Moon contains the first three chapters of the newest manga by Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto. A continuation of the ongoing Pokemon Adventure series that's run over in Japan since 1997, Pokemon Sun & Moon is a loose adaptation of the video games by the same name, though the plot is almost completely different.
Sun & Moon follows the same loose pattern as other Pokemon Adventures comics, with two protagonists (one male and one female, designed identically to the main characters of the game) each of whom have some sort of basic occupation. Sun (the male protagonist) is primarily a courier, although he's happy to do other jobs for pay, while Moon is an amateur pharmacist and archer. The pair quickly bump into each other and meet up with Professor Kukui, but not before finding out a few basic details about both characters and stumbling into their first Legendary Pokemon.
Yamamoto's artwork is geared towards younger kids, with an uncomplicated art style and a very dense panel layout. Most pages have six to seven panels in them, many of which are jammed together to allow for a large panel to show off a big Pokemon attack or an important moment. Because of how the pages are laid out, your eye is often drawn towards the big panel right as you turn the page. It's not that the layouts are bad, but I feel like some kids (especially those unfamiliar with the right-to-left format of reading manga) might struggle a bit at first.
Unlike the Pokemon video games, the Pokemon Sun & Moon manga isn't focused on following a typical coming-of-age Pokemon journey. Instead, the comic tries to imagine what it's like to live in an actual Pokemon world, with the trainers using their Pokemon during their everyday activities instead of battling with them constantly. There's no searching through tall grass for Pokemon or trying to become a Pokemon master in the manga; it's a comic about (somewhat) common people getting dragged into big adventures. Still, the manga does capture a lot of the game's elements, just in unexpected ways.
This is unapologetically an all-ages comic book, and adult fans should acknowledge that the manga is as much meant for an eight-year-old kid as it is for them. Adult Pokemon fans will probably still love the Pokemon Sun & Moon manga, but a common complaint with the franchise is that it hasn't grown up with its original fans, and this comic might not be for those looking for a bit more from their Pokemon media.
The biggest downside to the new series has nothing to do with content of the comic, but rather its length. Pokemon Sun & Moon is only three chapters long, which is half the size of most other manga published by Viz Media. While the book only costs $4.99 compared to $9.99 for a full-length manga volume, and you still get a lot more story than a Western comic sold for the same price, I thought it was a little unusual that Viz chose to publish the new series three chapters at a time. Viz has published the Pokemon Adventures this way for the last three series, so this isn't exactly a new publishing decision, but I'm curious whether it's because the manga is marketed primarily towards children or if it's because chapters of the comic are only released on a monthly basis over in Japan.
Personally, I like Pokemon Adventures as a contrast to the equally long-running Pokemon anime series. Both have been around for almost all of the Pokemon franchise's history, and both have found totally different interpretations of what the world is like. This is a great opening chapter to what should be a fun new Pokemon adventure, and it's a must-read for younger fans of the Pokemon franchise or for the young at heart.