New character design has some fans in Japan hating it, others comparing it to Studio Ghibli’s artwork.
It’s only been a few days since word came that the Pokémon anime will be sending its main human character, Satoshi (or Ash, as he’s called in English territories) to school, as part of its upcoming Sun and Moon arc. There’s already a preview video for this new chapter in the animated series, but it’s causing a schism among fans in Japan.
With Satoshi having had so much screen time over the last 19 years, fans have become very acquainted with his character design. Because of that, many were quick to notice that he’s being drawn in a significantly different way in the Sun and Moon preview, with softer, rounder lines to his facial features, physique, and even hair than in previous anime installments.
To further illustrate the contrast, one Japanese Twitter user posted a comparison showing Satoshi’s original animated design in the upper left, and the character’s Sun and Moon version at the bottom right.
▼ With its first episodes airing in 1997, Pokémon was born in an area of much more angular anime aesthetics.
絵の表現はちょっとづつ変化していても、 サトシの魂は変わらないょ。 いろんなサトシを楽しんで♪ (*☻-☻*) 梨香自身も驚いたりしたけど サトシへの愛はかわらない… これからも全力でみんなに愛されるサトシを演じます！！ https://t.co/aTEocyrIvu—
松本梨香 (@rica_matsumoto3) September 15, 2016
Traditionalists have already begun clamoring for animators to give them back the old Satoshi, calling his new appearance dorky and childish-looking. That latter quality, though, might very well be intentional. While he’s always ostensibly been 10-years-old, Satoshi has acted with the independence of an adult for most of the Pokémon anime, traveling the world without any sort of adult supervision on his quest to become a Pokémon Master. By putting him in a school setting, Sun and Moon has to acknowledge the division between adults and children in Satoshi’s world, and a softer design that communicates he isn’t a grown-up makes sense for that context.
It’s not like everyone is hating the new look, either. Some have defended it on the grounds that with its events taking place on a chain of tropical islands, a softer look is totally appropriate for Sun and Moon. Even the color palette seems to have been influenced by this. Watching the video, you’ll see plenty of single-hued coloring that gives the scenes a sun-bleached look, somewhat reminiscent of certain portions of director Mamoru Hosoda’s anime film The Boy and the Beast.
As a matter of fact, the apparent willingness of Sun and Moon’s animation to squash or stretch its characters has some online saying it reminds them not only of Hosoda’s work, but of Studio Ghibli’s, too.
Pokémon Sun and Moon is set to premiere this November on TV Tokyo.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s pretty much onboard with Sun and Moon as long as Pikachu is still cute.