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Media Essays: The Discourse Around Liko

Updated: Dec 4, 2023


Title card

As of this post, we're now twenty-one episodes into the brand new Pokémon anime series, Pokémon Horizons. And boy howdy, A LOT has happened since the show started! I'll delve into this more later on but still, this show has been a non-stop barrage of intriguing episodes with compelling mysteries, an ongoing narrative that keeps the story rolling, very few if any filler episodes at all, compelling new leads and an interesting direction that has made this anime unlike any Pokémon anime that's come before. As I've said before, replacing Ash with new characters was ultimately the right move to make for it's giving us a Pokémon anime that can be its own thing and not just an adaptation of the games with the same copy-paste formula it's had these past two decades. Unlike Pokémon Journeys where the series felt like a chore to watch at times, this show keeps me consistently excited to see what's next to the point I use this phrase to sum it up:


"It keeps being intriguing and it won't stop!" - The Media Man 2023


And that's because the show really is like this. It keeps building up on its mysteries and making me want to carry on watching to see where the story will go and what answers we'll get and it also helps that the characters make the show enjoyable to watch too. However, there's one particular character that has gotten a bit of flack from fans due to how she's handled in this show. And that character is our new main lead...Liko.

Liko

Fan reception to Liko has been mostly positive (thankfully) with many absolutely adoring her shy and meek personality, being insanely relatable for many viewers, her cute design and the intriguing mystery surrounding her pendant. But she's also gotten a lot of criticism from the fandom for being "too passive" and "not reactive enough". People feel as if things just happen to her and she doesn't do enough to drive the story forward and many especially feel that despite being the new lead character, she more often than not gets outshone by the supporting cast and "feels like a bystander in her own story". There are some that even feel she "has no arc" or "has no goal".


The point of this essay is to answer the big question surrounding Liko: how passive is she really? Is she really THAT passive or are these criticisms exaggerated? Is she really a character with no arc or is there an arc that people just haven't noticed with her? Let's dive in and see how accurate the discourse around Liko really is...


The Story So Far

Pokemon Horizons poster

By the time this post has uploaded, 21 episodes of the show have aired in Japan with a 22nd episode airing today but I'll only cover up to Episode 21 for this post. There's currently no English dub available yet but it is slated to be "coming soon" for the moment.


Anyway, the story has seen Liko starting life as a student at Indigo Academy and receiving her starter Pokémon, a fussy, fickle Sprigatito. Despite a rocky start to their relationship, Liko and Sprigatito begin to understand one another and grow closer over time. But then Liko's life is turned upside down when The Explorers come to the school and chase after her for her pendant. During the scuffle, she also meets Professor Friede, the leader of the Rising Volt Tacklers. Friede battles Amethio and Liko ends up getting caught in the crossfire, which causes her pendant to activate and protect her from being harmed. Friede then takes Liko to his ship in the sky with The Explorers in pursuit and Liko's Sprigatito ends up being kidnapped during the battle. She and Friede rescue it later on and Liko ends up becoming part of the crew after learning they're bodyguards her mother hired to protect her.


After that, the team goes to an island in Kanto for emergency repairs and during their stay, they meet Roy and the Explorers attack again. Liko's pendant and Roy's ancient Pokéball react and the ball opens, unleashing a Black Rayquaza that is now flying loose around the world. Roy joins the team as they pursue after Rayquaza and search for answers about Liko's pendant. We get two breather episodes where Liko and Roy train together and Liko tries to befriend Dot, the person behind the Nidothing persona. Then they arrive in Paldea where Liko meets up with her dad again and after some coaxing from the crew, decides to keep adventuring. She and Roy then meet Nemona and Brassius who lead them to a forest where Black Rayquaza presumably was only to meet a giant Arboliva and help it restore the burnt down forest it lives in. Arboliva then goes into its Pokéball (the same kind that Rayquaza was held in) and Liko and Roy discover there's six ancient Pokémon out there to find with Rayquaza and Arboliva being two of them already. With a hint from Liko's mother, they plan to go to Galar so they can ask Liko's grandmother about the pendant she wears but Explorerers admin Spinel throws a wrench in that plan.


During a picnic, Liko again makes an effort to befriend Dot that includes her in the fun too but afterwards, Spinel lays a trap for her that leads to her being cornered in an alleyway and brainwashed by his Beeheeyem. Spinel steals the pendant and leaves Liko with amnesia but she soon recovers her memories and she, Roy, Dot and Friede chase after Spinel. She, Roy and Doy find him on a boat and battle him with Liko's determination to save the pendant allowing her to find it and retrieve it. With it back in her hands, the crew fly off to Galar and while there, Liko helps solve a dispute between Murdock and Mitchell, trains with Kabu only to display too much of a gentle nature to finish the battle and then takes care of a lonely Hatenna that she ends up catching to join her team. As of now, she and her friends are going into the Galar Mine to look for Rayquaza but it seems Amethio and his flunkies will run into them again...


What Has Liko Done That Actually Impacts The Story?

Liko, Dot and Roy

Now let's address the first ridiculous criticism surrounding Liko, the stigma that she's "too passive" and her actions "don't effect the story" and that "she's a bystander in her own story" or that "she mostly reacts to stuff happening to her and needs to be more pro-active!" Like guys, you do understand how story-telling works, right? Stuff needs to happen to your characters in order for them to react to it. If nothing happens to your characters, they can't react and thus there's no story so of course the story is about stuff-happening to her! That's story-telling 101! Stuff happens to Liko and she reacts, what else do you expect her to do? Sit around in school doing typical school stuff for 20 episodes straight? That'd be pretty boring if that was what they did! Also it's rather hypocritical to criticize Liko for this when Ash was no different. I mean how many stories in the anime was him just reacting to whatever wacky hijinks the writers could throw at him that week? Yes Ash is more pro-active by comparison but still, he's just as reactive as Liko is because again, that's how stories work in the first place. If nothing happens for the characters to react to, then there's no story, simple as that.


And now there's the whole "her actions don't impact the plot!" malarkey and the misguided belief that Roy and the Rising Volt Tacklers do all the heavy lifting. I say that because Liko has been impacting the events of this plot as early as the VERY FIRST EPISODE. What do I mean? Let's follow the chain of events that have lead where we are now...


Liko accepts her grandmother's pendant after she gives it to her, then later in life she starts off at Indigo Academy where she gets her starter Pokémon. Already she's deciding to be a Pokémon trainer and this decision leads to her training and studying to be one at Indigo Academy. Because of this, the Explorers come for her at the school which then leads to Liko running away from them and it then leads to Friede and Amethio fighting which THEN leads to Liko nearly getting caught in the crossfire and getting saved by her pendant. After that, Friede takes Liko to his airship with the Explorers in tow which leads to another battle that then leads to Sprigatito getting kidnapped, so they have to go and rescue it. While they're doing that, Zir puts a tracker on the airship so the Explorers can follow them and once they land on an island in Kanto to make repairs, they meet Roy and the Explorers attack again which THEN leads to Liko's pendant unlocking Roy's Pokéball and releasing Black Rayquaza into the world, hence why our heroes are now chasing it in the currently storyline (and also indirectly caused Amethio to get kicked out of the mission and replaced by Spinel, thus setting up his involvement in the Paldea arc) and that mission has led to all the other events going forward such as the trip to Paldea, meeting Brassius and Nemona, finding the Titan Arboliva, battling Spinel, Roy getting a second Pokémon and the current trip to Galar where they've fixed a broken friendship between Murdock and Mitchell, trained with Kabu, caught a Hatenna and are now going to the Galar Mines to find Black Rayquaza.


ALL OF THIS HAS HAPPENED BECAUSE OF LIKO.


Think about it: if she never chose to accept her grandmother's pendant, attend the school and become a Pokémon trainer then this series wouldn't have a plot. Liko is responsible for this story even happening in the first place! If she never accepted her grandmother's pendant and attended Indigo Academy then the Explorers wouldn't have come for her which then would've meant Roy would never have gotten involved in the story at all and Black Rayquaza would still be stuck in its Pokéball. So to all those who say "Roy carries the show" and act like Liko does nothing, I remind you that Roy is only involved in this plot because of Liko! HER pendant is what released Black Rayquaza and set Roy on his current path in the first place and her taking action against Amethio pretty much lead to the team meeting him at all! If she never got involved in this adventure and never joined the Rising Volt Tacklers and met Roy in the first place, he wouldn't be here right now.


And as I mentioned before, Liko's actions led to Roy's Pokéball releasing Black Rayquaza. That one thing she caused to happen led to Amethio failing his mission again to which he ended up getting kicked off the pendant mission and replaced by Spinel. Amethio chose to go on the Rayquaza hunt as a result and now he'll run into our heroes again in Episode 22 and Spinel ended up playing a part in the Paldea arc that saw him actually steal the pendant for a moment and upon seeing what it can do, it'll likely lead to him and the Explorers taking further action to kidnap Liko and steal the pendant again in the future. Yes Liko may be INDIRECTLY responsible for all that happening but the point still stands: she caused all that to happen. Nobody else did. If Liko didn't battle Amethio alongside Roy than her pendant wouldn't have released Black Rayquaza and set up the mission to find it, the encounter with Spinel and the later encounter with Amethio. Amazing isn't it how the character who's "actions don't effect the story" ended up effecting the story so hugely, isn't it? =P


And let's not forget how Liko's kindness towards Dot caused her to take action during the Spinel arc and she helped out in getting Liko's pendant back in Episode 16. Nobody else is responsible for Dot taking action here. That was all Liko. She ended up being nice to Dot and playing a part in her character development and because of her actions, Dot was able to touch grass at last and has started opening up more to the point she even lets her and Roy into her room. Does that sound like a character who's actions don't impact the plot to you? Cause it doesn't to me. =P


And I also remind you that SHE was responsible for fixing Murdock and Mitchell's strained relationship in Episode 19. Roy and Friede didn't do that, that was her. SHE initiated the battle between her, Murdock and Mitchell which then lead to them making up in the end and because they spent time on that, they were at the Battle Café long enough to run into Kabu which then lead into the events of Episode 20. Because of Liko, Murdock and Mitchell are friends again and they ran into Kabu sooner rather than later, thus saving precious time on looking for him at the gym.


So yeah, Liko has actually impacted the plot greatly and she's the reason we even HAVE a plot to begin with. For someone whom people say is "too passive", she sure seems to have a big impact on everything. Speaking of impact...


The Impact She Has On The Cast

The Rising Volt Tacklers

Liko is one of those characters I like in media, the kind where despite being rather unassuming and ordinary at first, their kindness and ability to get on with others ends up leaving a surprisingly big impact on the people around them. Lillie from Pokémon Sun and Moon and Kikki from Kikki's Delivery Service are two such examples of this. Liko is definitely another one of those characters where her innocent demeanour, kind personality and ability to make friends with others has a positive impact on those around her and even inspires change in the cast from time-to- time.


So how has Liko impacted the cast from her time in the show so far? Her devotion to Sprigatito and the effort she put into understanding it and working with its fickle nature caused it to mellow out to her and become nicer and more obedient, and it may have even played a part in its ability to befriend other Pokémon too. She's become fast friends with Roy and helped him out in his training on occasion and giving advice on how to approach Fuecoco when he started looking for her in Episode 5 and in return Roy's kind of like a brother figure to her to the point he outright protected her from Spinel's Beeheeyem in Episode 16. She got Mollie to open up and reveal her past in Episode 11, her wanting to help the Titan Arboliva along with Roy is likely the main reason why it chose to go with them in the end, she and Roy got Friede and Captain Pikachu to reveal their pasts, Friede seems to be becoming like a father figure to her and Roy despite only being her bodyguard, she clearly has a very close bond with her grandmother given she gave the pendant to her specifically and as we saw with last week's episode, she had such a positive impact on Hatenna that it wanted to go with her and she caught it in the end.


And as mentioned earlier, there's the two biggest examples I can give of her impact on the cast: Murdock and Dot. Her desire to do something about Murdock's strained friendship with Mitchell led to the two making up in the end and her desire to befriend Dot despite not even knowing what she looks like at the time had such an effect on her that she started to do things in return for Liko like putting on the Nidothing costume and taking a photo of herself in costume with a sandwich and of course, coming out of her room to help find her when she was lost in Levencia and then help her and Roy fight against Spinel. HER OWN UNCLE couldn't get her to come out and touch grass but Liko managed it! That's how much of an impact this girl has on people!


So once again, all these criticisms of her "being a bystander in her own story" or "her actions don't effect the plot" are objectively wrong. As detailed, she's played a huge part in the story and is even the reason the story exists at all and her actions have had impacts on both the plot and the people around her. I can't even comprehend how people are coming to these conclusions when they're so obviously wrong in the first place!


Now for the next part...


Liko's Arc and Goal

Liko's path

It's time to debunk one of the most objectively wrong things people have been saying about the poor girl. When you get people saying objectively wrong things like "Liko has no arc" or "Liko has no goal" then I question why you're even bothering to watch Pokémon Horizons at all because you're clearly going into this show with the intention of bashing it and hating on it if you come out with stuff like this. Sadly, it seems too many people believe this to the point TVTropes and bulbapedia are also saying "she has no goal" despite evidence to the contrary.


To all the people who say "Liko has no arc and no goal", I point you all to Episode 7 where she spells everything out to the audience:

Liko talks to Friede

Liko talks to Friede 2

Liko talks to Friede 3

Liko talks to Friede 4

And yet somehow people still believe she "has no arc or goal". What, was she being too subtle when she said all that? Did she need to say "My goal is to become stronger alongside Sprigatito so I can protect those that I hold dear to my heart and to keep my pendant safe from The Explorers" in order for these people to get it? Usually people would complain about clunky dialogue like this, it seems like those people who actually think this about Liko need forced as hell dialogue like what I said in order to spell things out for them because somehow they still don't get it.


Not only is Liko's goal to become stronger to protect those she holds dear as she spelled out in the pictures above, but she too is curious about the pendant her grandmother gave to her and she wants to learn more about it as much as anyone else. How does that equal "having no goal" can I ask? Also, the quote most often attributed to Liko is "I won't find anything unless I look for it myself". And that's what her story is about, looking for answers about the questions she has about herself and the role she has to play in this world while becoming a stronger trainer. That sounds like a goal to me.


As for her arc? It seems obvious to me what her arc is, yet somehow those that put Liko down also miss the flipping obvious. Her arc is about becoming stronger while also learning about what it means to be a Pokémon trainer. While Roy is about getting stronger to catch the Black Rayquaza and be like the ancient adventurer in the stories, Liko is about what being a Pokémon Trainer MEANS to her. It's why you see her constantly studying and taking notes on her Rotom tablet or watching Nidothing livestreams. Roy is about Pokémon training as a battler while Liko is about Pokémon training and what it actually means to be one. It's a bit more subtle compared to Roy's arc but that's what makes it more interesting as a result. Liko doesn't need to spell this out to us like Roy did with his and we can see through her studying and observations that this is what she's all about. The writers show through Liko's onscreen actions what her arc is without feeling the need to tell us straight to our faces, which is just good, organic story-telling that avoids the "show, don't tell" criticism that many stories fall victim to. They're SHOWING us Liko's arc without feeling the need to tell us what it is. Then again, people somehow think she has no arc so maybe they do need to tell them straight up...


Also going back to the "Liko is too passive" criticism...well, Episode 20 points out to the viewers that "Well no duh! That's the point!" While I feel the set-up was ridiculous since Liko has never thrown battles for the sake of people's feelings until that point so it feels like this character flaw came from nowhere, Episode 20 pretty much pointed out to all the people criticising Liko's passiveness that this is all intentional on their part. It's going to be part of her character development that she has to learn to be more assertive and she can't just throw battles like this otherwise she's only holding herself and her Pokémon back and stifling her potential. This in turn contradicts the criticism of her not having an arc because there you have it, she DOES have an arc and we'll have to see how it pays off in the future now they've set it up. And yet people for some reason started unfairly bashing Liko for her actions in Episode 20 despite her apologizing for them at the end. Seriously, it feels like people are criticising Liko for having character flaws, which is ridiculous since isn't the point of character development being characters developing and overcoming their flaws? If characters don't have flaws, they can't develop and they're just boring blank slates. What, do these people want Liko to be like Rey in Star Wars or Mulan in the live-action Mulan remake or Captain Marvel in the MCU where they have no flaws and are pretty much perfect or invincible right off the bat? Liko's passive nature is the point of her development so all these people are doing is missing the damn point and showing they're either just hate-watching the show and refusing to give it a chance or they're finding any tiny reason they can just to criticize the show, and that's pathetic if you ask me.


Also it kinda feels like people are unfairly expecting Liko to be Ash levels of capable despite the fact that she's a newbie and has only just become a Pokémon trainer. Guys, this isn't the Ash anime anymore and we have brand new protagonists in this story to follow. We can't just make them capable already and not give them any flaws to overcome. Stop expecting Liko to be like Ash and just let Liko be her own character already. She's not Ash and never will be, and that's a good thing because it would've sucked if they just made her a female Ash with no distinctive traits of her own.


So there you have it, Liko DOES have an arc AND she has a goal and she's making decisions that impact the story and lead her closer to that goal. Now let's round this essay off by covering another annoying aspect about the Liko discourse, and that's the fandom's tendency to put her down so they can bring Roy up.


Roy Actually Has Contributed LESS Than Liko!

Roy

To all those people out there saying how Roy keeps stealing Liko's thunder and outshines her and all that, I have to ask...has Roy actually contributed to the story all that much compared to Liko? And the answer to that is honestly NO. So why people keep putting Liko down to big Roy up is a mystery to me because if you analyse this series for even a minute, you'll see that while Roy is a little more active than Liko, he's not as impactful as she is.


Really think about it, what has Roy actually accomplished in comparison to Liko? Um...he helped her against Titan Arboliva and helped her and Dot beat Spinel. And that's about it. His entire reason for being involved in the story at all is because Liko had the means to set it up for him. Her pendant released the Black Rayquaza so Roy literally needed an outside force in order to set up his story and bring him into it. Aside from that, he's not really impacted the plot anywhere near as heavily as Liko has. It genuinely feels like I could write him out of the show and nothing would change. Before you accuse me of being a Roy hater, no, I DO NOT hate Roy. While he's nowhere near as interesting as Liko is and his fans are really getting obnoxious with how they put Liko down so they can big him up and it feels like the only reason people like him at all is because he's basically a clone of Ash, I do not hate him at all. This is just my opinion on the matter and I genuinely feel this show would've played out the same if Roy wasn't in it because he's had such little impact on the story.


Don't believe me? Then think about this: if Episode 4 saw our heroes land in Kanto and Liko goes to find Fuecoco and during her search for Fuecoco, she finds an ancient Pokéball and brings it back to show Friede and then during the battle with the Explorers, the pendant activates and releases the Rayquaza inside, thus the Rising Volt Tacklers decide to chase after it with Friede being up for the adventure and Liko wanting to know what its connection to the pendant is, the plot would LITERALLY still be able to play out the way it is right now. Remove Roy from the equation and NOTHING changes. ANY involvement he has on the plot could easily be re-written to involve someone else or a different circumstance and the plot really wouldn't be any different. This plot can still happen without him, only because he's not here we can put more focus on Liko developing as a trainer, maybe give all of Roy's scenes to Dot or Friede so they can have more development and thus the story wouldn't feel the need to give Roy stuff to do to try and make him seem relevant. If Roy wasn't here then all the complaints about Liko being too passive and being overshadowed would be gone because he wouldn't be here stealing her thunder all the time. So pretty much Roy is responsible for most of the ridiculous hate Liko is getting in the first place.


I've had someone say to me that Roy is actually impactful to the plot because "he made Episode 18 happen" and "he's the chaotic force Liko needs to push her in certain directions". I completely throw away those defences because Episode 18 could've happened without Roy (seriously, Liko or Dot could've done that themselves or it could've been a flashback episode without anyone prompting Friede to tell his story) and if Roy's main impact on the story is pushing Liko in certain directions, then Roy's not a character. He's LITERALLY a compass pointing Liko in the directions the plot needs her to be in and I'm sorry but that doesn't exactly tell me he's that vital to the story if his primary contribution is just being Liko's compass to direct her where the plot is. Once again, if you took him out and increased Liko's independence or had her Sprigatito or Friede doing what Roy did in those episodes, the plot would LITERALLY be no different. He's that much of a spare part in the grand scheme of things. EVERYTHING Roy does in this show could've been achieved by anyone else and without him taking up space as a result, it would've improved the pacing and character writing tenfold since the writers aren't being forced to find stuff for him to do just so he doesn't seem pointless.


This might sound harsh and I apologize heavily to Roy fans for I have no intention of causing upset or trashing a character very dear to your hearts but honestly...Roy shouldn't have been created. They should've made Liko the only new protagonist for this show because Roy's presence has only created the problems people have with Liko's character. If he didn't exist and all of his scenes were given to Liko, Dot or Friede instead, the show would've been even better as a result. Roy is just taking up space at this point and it comes to the detriment of the cast because now the writers have to find stuff for him to do just so Roy isn't there doing nothing, which only takes away from the rest of the cast. He really does feel like a spare part in the greater machine compared to Liko, who is by far the most important cog that's driving the entire machine.


By and large, all the criticisms about how Liko barely impacts the story and "doesn't feel like a main character" should actually go to him because he's actually impacted the story LESS than Liko has and is so superfluous a character that I could easily re-write the show and remove him while still keeping the plot we have right now. You may think this is a terrible take but unless you can prove me wrong on this, I'm not going to change how I feel on the subject.


Overall

Liko

As this essay has hopefully clearly and sufficiently explained to you all, Liko's not as passive as you think she is and has more of an impact on the story than she's given credit for. She's actually impacted the plot and characters in bigger ways than you can imagine and she definitely DOES have an arc and a goal in mind. This is a character that people have been very unfair towards and it just shows how social media and the internet reviewing trend of the 2010's has made people more media illiterate in recent years because most of these criticisms display a lack of understanding even the most BASIC levels of story-telling. Liko is better written than she's given credit for and most of the criticisms surrounding her are completely unwarranted. People need to give Pokémon Horizons a chance and stop being so unfair to it just because Ash isn't in it anymore. And they also need to give Liko a chance to develop because it's still early days for her. People may bash her now but in a few years, we may change our tune towards this girl...


And that's all I have for this post. I hope you found it interesting and enjoyed seeing me prove Liko haters wrong. Feel free to comment down below your thoughts on the situation. Do you agree with my defences? Do you not agree? Do tell. ^^


Next week I'll be reviewing the first half of Pokémon Scarlet & Violet's DLC expansion, The Teal Mask. See you then media fans! :)

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