There’s a new set of Pokémon games out in November, which means a tie-in cartoon is getting ready to debut alongside it. But the Pokémon Sun and Moon anime, much like the Nintendo 3DS titles it’s based on, looks set to shake up the traditional formula, straight down to its art style.
The 30-second preview premiered on Japanese television earlier today, and for someone who’s never seen an episode of Pokémon, the differences won’t be striking. Ash and Pikachu are fighting alongside each other in battle, accompanied by other Pokémon and human friends. It’s the animation itself, though, that immediately sets it apart. Instead of the rigid lines of old, Ash Ketchum has become a more fluid character with a softer face, bigger eyes and overall youthful appearance.
Forgive this description; we aren’t animation critics. Yet the social media collective seems to be, based on viewers’ reviews of this brief teaser:
@pKjd It looks too different. Think they're changing the animation studio?
— Luffink (@Luffink) September 15, 2016
@denkimouse OMG! IT LOOKS LIKE STUDIO GHIBLI PRODUCTION IM LIVING FOR THIS!
— Legend Gaga (@RegalDogma) September 15, 2016
@denkimouse this art style actually suits the series so much better tbh. Would start watching the anime again
— wantan ◢◤ (@snepaipls) September 15, 2016
The reaction has been, in a word, polarizing. One Pokémon fan with a sizable following tweeted out a poll asking followers for their take on the animation. The results are appropriately mixed, with 47 percent choosing the skeptical option. (As of time of writing, 30 percent said they "hate it.")
wow the new #anipoke style is so polarizing
so what do you think
— ginchansan⚡そうすけええええ (@denkimouse) September 15, 2016
Home network TV Tokyo’s page for the cartoon doesn’t suggest that a new animation studio has taken up the reigns. Instead, it seems like the style is the result of a larger reset for the series, evidenced by various trailers and feature announcements for Pokémon Sun and Moon. There’s speculation that the games won’t even feature gyms, such is how different they appear to be.
The cartoon follows suit by throwing longtime trainer Ash into a school setting, as seen in the preview; that sounds decidedly less chill than how the island-set Alola region is otherwise depicted, but when he’s out of school, Ash looks like he’s having a great time.
We’re still in the throes of the Pokémon X Y & Z anime here in the U.S, but stateside fans will surely get their chance to be up in arms about the animation change sooner rather than later.