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The Media Man Reviews: Pokémon Horizons: Season 2

Updated: Apr 8

Title card

The English dub of Pokémon Horizons is out finally...and the US only gets the first 12 episodes while only 20 episodes are out in the UK. We westerners have a lot of catching up to do because right now, Japan's just concluded the show's second series already!


How time flies, eh? It's pretty much been a year already since Ash Ketchum left the anime and we got brand new protagonists in the form of Liko and Roy to tell brand new stories in the Pokémon world with. And let me tell you, I couldn't be happier to see Ash finally go because the moment he left, the anime took a MASSIVE leap in quality! The first season of Horizons I genuinely consider to be one of the best seasons of the anime period thanks to its new direction that gives it its own identity, a more serialized narrative with a greater focus on plot, compelling new protagonist in the form of Liko and villains that don't make me cringe anytime they're onscreen like Team Rocket used to do. All Horizons has done is proven why Ash should've been dropped years ago because the anime is finally able to do something new and interesting for a change instead of the same stale formula over and over.


It's not perfect by any means of course. Liko and Roy are newbies to the point their own supporting cast keeps overshadowing them, there's a few pacing issues and of the two mean leads, only one of them feels important while the other is a useless spare part, but the good far outweighs the bad here and unlike previous seasons where I can kinda expect what will happen, this series has me constantly guessing what's next because this bold new direction means ANYTHING can happen at this point!


So naturally, I was hyped to the max for Season 2 and couldn't wait to see what was going to happen then. So with how strongly Season 1 started things off, is Season 2 any good? Or is Terapagos not sparkling all that brightly for us? Let's dive in...


Section 1: The Story


This is going to be an interesting one to talk about because it really feels like I'm talking about two different shows with Season 1 and Season 2.


The plot of Season 2 sees the Rising Volt Tacklers continuing their travels around the world in search of the mysterious paradise known as "Rakua" while also searching for the remainder of Lucius's legendary heroes while the Explorers are on their tail and trying to capture Black Rayquaza and Terapagos for themselves...


OK, this sounds like a natural follow-up from Season 1, right? Well...this is where things get weird. You see, they DO follow on from the plot of Season 1 right up to Episode 34 and then suddenly just abandon the Terapagos and Six Heroes storyline in favour of stand-alone character focused episodes. Remember how in Season 1 we met Black Rayquaza, Titan Arbolivia and Galarian Moltres all at once? This season, we only find Lucius's Lapras and then we don't follow on from this plot for the rest of the season. And now we've got Season 3 where we're still abandoning that plot in favour of the kids going to school to learn about Terastilization (though at least it's going to be a useful plot in terms of Liko, Roy and Dot's character growth so I'm in favour of it). It's like the writers made the idiotic decision to listen to the criticisms that Horizons's plot was "progressing too quickly" and thus they're stalling on the Lucius plot to make sure it's not over with so soon. I call it an idiotic decision because the plot WAS NOT progressing too quickly at all. The pacing was mostly fine aside from a couple of important events happening off-screen and the Lucius plot certainly did NOT need grinding to a halt like this.


As a result, the pacing really suffers and the season felt less interesting to get through compared to Season 1. Some may hate me for this, but this season felt like they went back to the Ash-era of story-telling and I'm NOT saying that as a compliment. Horizons Season 1 was so good and interesting to watch precisely BECAUSE it didn't play out like a typical Ash season did. Here though, we're back to the days of old where we get a few episodes of plot and then a lot of standalone Pokémon of the day or character of the day focused episodes that have no business being here. Like why did we need to waste an episode on a Polteageist joining the crew or an episode where Liko and Roy have to help a girl with an Oinkologne impress a boy with another Oinkologne? And did we really need an episode with Friede facing off against Pokémon poachers? These are episodes I expect from a season of the Ash era, NOT Horizons! Why are we wasting time on these nothing episodes instead of something more interesting and integral to the story like say, an episode focused on the Explorers and what they're up to or giving Liko, Roy and Dot more training episodes to show how much stronger they're becoming? The pacing of Season 2 can be summed up as like it has a plot up until Episode 34, then it stops having a plot and doesn't start again until the three-part finale. Because of the terrible pacing of the story, I was downright surprised when I found out Episodes 43, 44 and 45 were the finale and Episode 46 onwards will be a new arc! I was like "That's it? It feels like it's too early for this arc to be over", and it's all because of how little the story has progressed.


Oh and remember how Season 1 didn't have a single bad episode in it? Well...sadly we got one this season. This is how much the writing quality has dropped, we got our first bad episode this season. Episode 28 is the worst episode of Pokémon Horizons thus far and it could've avoided being as bad as it was if it didn't only exist to fill in an episode slot and have Captain Pikachu upstage Liko and Roy for the umpteenth time. Seriously, this season will REALLY make you sick of that little yellow rat, believe me. X( I still can't fathom how the writers messed up that badly. Roy's Pokéball gets stolen...and Roy isn't even the one who gets it back, Captain Pikachu is. That'd be like if Episode 16 had Captain Pikachu retrieve Liko's pendant from Spinel instead of her, it's just bad storytelling. It also makes Liko and Roy look bad because here they are, the main protagonists of the show, losing to some random nobody and getting upstaged by a supporting character's Pokémon. If you watch Season 2, skip Episode 28. I promise you you're missing NOTHING by doing so.


So yeah, the story is dragged to a screeching halt and by the time it picks up again, the season's over and we're onto the next arc. It sounds like we're in for a bad season, right? Not so fast readers, we're just now getting to the good stuff. You see, the story in terms of plot progression took a drop in quality...but where the story shines the most this season is in terms of CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. While I complained about the story not being as good and how they pretty much abandoned the main plot after Episode 34, Season 2 isn't completely without merit and it's with the character focused episodes where the season is at its best. A good story isn't just about the plot after all, it's also about the characters and I guarantee when this season is over, you may find yourself growing more attached to them when this is over. We get to see new sides of the cast such as with Dot, Sprigatito, Amethio and even Ludlow (of all characters!), we get to see how far Liko has come since Season 1 and the character focused episodes still manage to feel important to the story in some way whether it's a character's backstory being revealed, a new Pokémon capture like Dot's Tinkatink or a Pokémon learning a new move. Contrary to what the detractors may say, Season 2 doesn't actually have that much "filler" episodes. Only three episodes (Episodes 28, 35 and 36) are downright filler in this case with the rest progressing the story and/or characters in some way, big or small. Even compared to an Ash season, the amount of skippable filler episodes this show has can be counted on one hand.


Also the show still keeps up what I say with how this show keeps being intriguing and it won't stop. Even if the plot's barely progressed, whenever it DOES progress, it's still really intriguing and has me wanting to see more. The epic three-part finale especially has me proper keen to see more with how Master Gibeon still has big plans going ahead and he's in possession of a shiny Zygarde. There's also still Lucius's Kleavor and Entei left to find so we're still left wondering what will happen when our heroes find them and eventually travel to Rakua. And just like in Season 1, whenever Season 2 is focused on its story and the main conflict with the Explorers, that's when it gets really good and becomes thrilling to watch. I wish the Explorers got more episodes this season, but the very few ones they did get REALLY counted and made for an explosive and satisfying finale. So as I said, Season 2 still has good things about it and it's not all bad.


So yeah, the story isn't as strong as in Season 1 and it feels like it's meandering a bit just to make sure the story isn't over with already to the point where when it feels like it finally gets going again, the arc's over. But it excels in the character focused episodes and what little plot progression we get is still intriguing and has me wanting to see more. With any luck, Season 3 will be more focused and can keep the ball rolling again...


Section 2: The Characters


The season is more character focused, yet not all of them are handled greatly. But for the most part, they are and they deliver some of the season's best qualities.


Of course, we have our adorable new heroine once more, Liko (voiced in Japanese by Minori Suzuki and voiced in English by Alejandra Reynoso). If ANYONE comes out of this season looking good, it's definitely Liko. It's as clear as night and day how much Liko has grown since Season 1. She's considerably braver and more eager to jump in on the action with how she's able to get into battles unprompted, is more pro-active than before with the Maushold episode being one such example and generally just seems more confident in herself than last season. Her adventures with the Rising Volt Tacklers are clearly having a positive impact on her and I'm loving it. Our girl's growing up and is clearly getting better with some of her shining moments including being the one to land a hit on Diana's Arcanine, understanding Sprigatito more, respecting Palafin's privacy and of course, her hard work and determination earning her an evolution when Sprigatito evolved into Floragato at the end. Also her kindness towards Dot continues to positively influence the streamer to the point she's now willing to join her and Roy in learning about Terastilization. Liko had a good run this season, even if Episode 28 still leaves us with that bad sting of her and Roy losing to a random nobody. Still, I see big things for Liko in the next season following on from how well she was handled here and I'm all for them.


Liko's Sprigatito also comes out of this season looking good with one of the most interesting backstories ever given to a Pokémon and it really changes the way her character can be viewed in prior episodes. Seriously, you won't ever see Episode 1 the same way again after you see Sprigatito's backstory. The bond between her and Liko continues to be precious and now she's evolved into Floragato, I hope we get to see her kicking ass and taking names and also further developing her bond with Liko. Just please let her learn some new moves for once. Magical Leaf doesn't count as it's basically an upgraded Leafage. She needs a fourth move already and something better than Scratch. Learning Night Slash would be pretty neat...


Liko's Hatenna sadly feels a bit wasted here. You see, she gets her own episode where she learns Heal Pulse to help a Maushold family...and then nothing comes of it. I was expecting there would be a moment in the final episode where the Pokemon get hurt fighting the Explorers and Rayquaza and Hatenna would use Heal Pulse to get them back into the fight but...no. Nothing of the sort happens. She's completely absent in the final fight and we never see her use Heal Pulse again after the Maushold episode. They were clearly setting something up for Hatenna and it just...doesn't happen. Why even have her learn Heal Pulse and then not use it again for the rest of the season? Hopefully Season 3 can fix that.


We have our other protagonist again, Roy (voiced in Japanese by Yuka Terasaki and voiced in English by Anjali Kunapaneni). Roy...exists. That's literally all I can say about him. Season 2 did him no favours whatsoever and only continues to prove my point on what a useless spare part he is. He's so useless that in Episode 28, what should've been HIS story given it was HIS Pokéball that got stolen by Tepen, he gets overshadowed by Captain Pikachu and the little spotlight hogging rat is the one who gets it back instead of him! It's so sad when the ONLY time Roy was ever useful in this season was when he got Wattrel to stop the Explorers from catching Rayquaza and even then, Liko could've done that herself if Roy just wasn't in this show and she caught Wattrel instead. I said it last time and I'm still saying it now: ROY IS A USELESS SPARE PART AND THE ANIME WOULD BENEFIT TREMENDOUSLY FROM HIS ABSENCE. They should just get rid of him already because he's not doing anybody any favours with his pointless existence. Any scene this guy has would be better used if given to Liko or Dot or even the Explorers.

Speaking of Dot (voiced in Japanese by Yoshino Aoyama and voiced in English by Faye Mata), she's the other character alongside Liko who comes out of this season looking good. The only downside is she comes out of it looking TOO good. You see, her development is great and I love how she's becoming more confident and adventurous and is going outside more and her episode where she catches Tinkatink is one of the best episodes of the season. It's just...she's a reclusive shut-in who stays cooped up in her room all day making videos and yet somehow, against all logic, she's performing better than Liko and Roy are in battles. That's just dumb! You're seriously expecting me to believe that Dot is a more capable fighter than Liko and Roy are despite the fact they're the ones doing all the training and she's doing diddly-squat?! Sod off, that's terrible writing! It doesn't make Dot look good, it makes Liko and Roy look even worse because they're struggling against random nobodies while Dot's able to take out an Orthworm and her own mother's Lycanroc single-handedly. I'm not saying I hate Dot or anything, I just think it's dumb how she's somehow a better fighter than Liko and Roy are. And don't you dare bring up how knowledgeable she is about Pokémon battles as Nidothing, being knowledgeable and being skilled are NOT the same thing! Dot shouldn't be this good and I hope Season 3 fixes this by having her lose more often compared to Liko and Roy since that's way more realistic and believable. On a plus side, we did get her origin story and it explained a lot on why she's part of the crew.


Professor Friede (voiced in Japanese by Taku Yashiro and voiced in English by Crispin Freeman) is nothing more than a spotlight stealing glory hound and this season made me genuinely sick of seeing him and Captain Pikachu (voiced by Ikue Otani) because all those two do is just steal Liko and Roy's thunder and hold them back. Hell, the two even steal Orla's thunder in her spotlight episode! THANKFULLY, this only applies to the first half of Season 2 and after the pointless filler that was Episode 35, the show stops shoving them in our faces and actually lets the kids have their time to shine for once. Even in the finale, they don't overshadow the two and their presence isn't an automatic win with things still going wrong and they still lose to the Black Rayquaza so Liko and Roy are left with their time to shine by landing the final blows that finish the match. So this show has proven it IS capable of not forcing the two into the spotlight all the time and that they can let the kids have their moment of glory without those two stepping on their toes and given Season 3 looks like it's all about Liko, Roy and Dot without the Rising Volt Tacklers around, hopefully this means we'll see less of the two and the kids can actually start winning battles without these two glory Houndooms holding them back. Friede and Cap are at their best when they're in the background strictly in a mentor role and as far away from the main conflict as possible and hopefully the show will keep it that way going forwards so they can stop overshadowing the main characters for once. I mean they're not exactly winning over the naysayers who won't give this show a chance because Ash is gone if they keep doing this...


The rest of the Rising Volt Tacklers are still their usual selves with only Mollie and Orla really getting any focus episodes and Ludlow is given this out of nowhere revelation that he's some secret superhero known as "Mighty G". This twist comes completely out of nowhere and only comes at Liko and Roy's detriment as now they're being overshadowed by the old fisherman who's an even bigger waste of space than Roy is! I will admit it was pretty funny though and it does at least show Ludlow has some kind of purpose to the team. Pity he can't stay as Mighty G for long as it would be funny to see him battle the Explorers in that form. XD


Speaking of the Explorers, if anyone got the short end of the stick this season, it was them. They BARELY appear in this season! There are 20 episodes in this season. How many episodes do the Explorers appear in? SEVEN. They don't even appear in half the amount of episodes we got! It's especially damning because the arc clearly had big plans for Amethio and yet after obtaining his Tera Orb in Episode 34, we don't see him again until the final episode and his arc about wanting more power was all for naught in the end because he STILL loses to Black Rayquaza! The Explorers appeared so little that when we got to the three-part finale, it genuinely felt like it was too early for a season finale because we'd spent such little time building up to it. I would've happily sacrificed Episodes 28, 35 and 36 if it meant we could've had episodes focused on the Explorers and building up the plan to capture Black Rayquaza so then the finale wouldn't have felt so last minute. Still, whenever they do appear, they make their screen time count and it only makes their appearances all the more welcome as a result. At least they're not shoved into every episode like Team Rocket used to be so they don't overstay their welcome and they're still as compelling, threatening and intriguingly mysterious as ever. Amethio especially has me curious what he's got in mind given he went out of his way to save Liko's life and let the RVT go after the Rayquaza fight was over.


And then there's Master Gibeon (voiced in Japanese by Show Hayami and voiced in English by David Kaye). While we still don't see him much, the final episode gives us a brief glimpse of him and we get some more insight into what his plans are in the long run. He seeks Rakua himself and wants something known as "Rakurium". Wonder what it is and why he wants it. Also he owns a shiny Zygarde. Yes, a SHINY. ZYGARDE! Just who is this guy and what power does he wield?! He also seems to know Lucius. I wonder if they're old friends turned enemies or something. Needless to say, I'm still intrigued by this guy. I wonder if we'll see more of him in the future...


There's not much else to talk about with the cast here. Liko's grandmother Diana leaves as quickly as she joined the team without accomplishing much of anything in the brief time she was on the team (though she has one of the show's most heartwarming moments in Episode 30 when she tells Liko her voice is always welcome because it's comforting), Terapagos is barely even a character in what was supposed to be its own arc (seriously, after Episode 34, Terapagos stops being important) and any new characters are mostly just characters-of-the-day that feel like they belong in the Ash era of the anime rather than in Horizons. The only new characters who are worth mentioning are Dot's Tinkatink and Dot's mum Blanca (funny how they're both connected to Dot). Tinkatink hasn't got much going for her other than being a crybaby who's fond of her hammer and all Blanca does is prove my point on how Dot is too strong for someone as sheltered and shut-in as her because somehow Dot's able to beat her in a Pokémon battle despite the fact Blanca should realistically be stronger than Dot is given she's not a reclusive shut-in! Either it says Dot is unrealistically powerful or it says her mother sucks at Pokémon battles, you make the call.


The cast overall are a mixed bag with some being handled poorly, the villains not showing up enough times and some being useless characters-of-the-day whom aren't worth mentioning but some come out of this season looking great, especially Liko, Sprigatito and Dot, and the cast do feel more developed and fleshed out compared to last time. I can't wait to see how they develop in Season 3, especially as it seems Season 3's all about Liko, Roy and Dot and they're learning about Terastilization. I think we're in for a fun season with these characters next time...


Just remember writers, we don't want Friede and Captain Pikachu overshadowing our main leads so keep them as far away from them as possible so they can actually get stronger, OK?!


Section 3: The Animation


If there's one thing that's still as good as Season 1, it's definitely the animation. No dip in quality there.


In fact, the animation doesn't really have much to talk about because it's just as good as last time with the same great art-style that leads to many unique and memorable character designs, eye-catching colour palette and expressive movements and facial features. All that we saw in Season 1 carries over here and it's just as great as it was before. Due to the season having a more character focused narrative than before with a lot of characters of the day, that naturally means we get to see more human characters popping up compared to before and because Horizons absolutely nails character designs, they manage to make a lot of them memorable or stand out in some way. We even get a unique Pokémon design too with Lucius's Lapras being scarred and having a different shell compared to regular Lapras so it stands out from Lapras we've seen before. Though when it comes to the new humans we see in this season, I can't help but feel that Renta from the Oinkologne episode bears a striking resemblance to Fred Jones from Scooby-Doo.

You see it too, right? No way that's a coincidence, that has to be intentional! Question is why though? It's not like the episode was a Scooby-Doo style plot and Renta's Pokémon is a dog-like Pokémon that looks like Scooby or anything, he's just some random kid with the pig-like Oinkologne, so why did they go with this design? It just feels random if you ask me. And if you think that's random, Ludlow's transformation into Mighty G is this out-of-nowhere reference to All Might from My Hero Academia complete with an art-style shift that has the character drawn with bolder, thicker lines and heavier shadows. It is funny but just...why? Pokémon Horizons isn't a gag series like the original was and it most certainly isn't this Looney Tunes style show complete with pop-culture references and the like so why is this even here and in THIS show of all places? It's so out of place and only makes Mighty G stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the animation!


Questionable design choices aside, the animation still pays off where it really counts and that's especially the case in some of the battles. Sadly, Horizons continues to struggle when it comes to making great fight scenes with some viewers even describing them as "an afterthought". Even Liko and Roy's battles are starting to get boring to watch because of how steadfastly the writers refuse to let them be competent or have any time to shine. Most of their battles this season consist of them standing around looking pathetic with their Pokémon landing a few feeble hits while their opponents are smacking them around for the most part. Episode 28 was especially garbage with how they struggled against some old guy whom we're never going to see again. I don't care that they're rookies, they shouldn't be looking THIS weak two seasons into the show! Ash managed to perform better within the first 45 episodes of HIS series so why are Liko and Roy looking so bad that even Dot and Ludlow are outperforming them? While obviously we can blame the writers, in-universe I blame Friede. If he would stop holding Liko and Roy back and getting all the fight scenes to himself, they'd be performing much better by now. Season 3 better change this and make them more capable fighters or I will be annoyed. However, when the fight scenes are good, they're GREAT with Amethio vs. Hamber and the final battle against Black Rayquaza being true highlights of the show. The latter was especially crazy with Black Rayquaza taking so much punishment and refusing to go down, Amethio and Friede teaming up, a double-Tera battle with Charizard and Ceruledge against Black Rayquaza, Liko's Sprigatito evolving (speaking of, this show makes Floragato look like the most epic Pokémon ever and I love it!) and Roy's Fuecoco learning yet another new move and it's all brilliantly drawn and animated! Can I also just say that anytime Black Rayquaza's onscreen, it ALWAYS looks so incredible? This image especially is just...(chef's kiss) Perfection!

Black Rayquaza

When animators go hard, they go HARD!


And just like last time, the effects are as dazzling as before with Terapagos's transformation and Sprigatito's evolution looking great and the depiction of Terastilization especially being awe-inspiring. How they drew and animated those sequences and made them look so beautiful, I'll never know. And given Season 3's all about learning about Terastilization, I have a feeling we're in for several more episodes of animation eye-candy...


Speaking of eye-candy, just watch the Japanese opening to this arc. You are in for 1 minute and 30 seconds of the most gorgeous visuals you will EVER see in an anime. If only the writing had the same level of quality that opening did...


So yeah, not much else to say about the animation other than it's the only thing in Season 2 that didn't take a downgrade and is consistent with the quality of Season 1. Aside from some questionable character designs that seem to be out-of-nowhere pop-culture references that are out of place in a series like this and some dull fight scenes, the animation is still pretty to look at and continues to be a great look for the anime. I can't wait to see what visuals we'll get with Season 3 next time...


Overall


Pokémon Horizons Season 2 is one of the most frustrating viewing experiences I've ever had. I say that because it's such a roller coaster of quality. It has a lot of great character focused episodes that really made the cast more interesting than before, but it comes at the cost of the plot being completely stagnant and for an arc that was supposed to be about Terapagos, it sure as hell did a good job NOT being about it! And we got filler episodes for the first time in Horizons, even if they're thankfully still very few and far between. If it wasn't for that brilliant finale, I would've called this a disappointing season. As is, the good stuff is worth a watch and the season does at least have good character moments that will clearly pay off later down the line so it's not like this season is pointless and has nothing of value or anything. Hell, that season finale even had me hooked for the show again after the middle of the season started to lose me a bit. The best way to enjoy this season is to skip Episodes 28, 30, 35 and 36 and watch the rest. You'll have a better time that way. Season 3 shows PLENTY of promise with us going to Naranja Academy to learn about Terastilization and we have the anime debuts of many Scarlet and Violet characters so with any luck, the story will be more focused, there'll be no fillers and Liko and Roy can start winning fights more often. Needless to say, I'm pumped for next time and I have a feeling Pokémon Horizons will reach whole new horizons when that season comes...


And that's all I have for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and feel free to share your thoughts down below. Do you like Pokémon Horizons Season 2? Do you not like it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Next week, I'll be reviewing the third and final season of the Amazon Prime adaptation of Alex Rider. See you then media fans!

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mrdarkcatify
mrdarkcatify
08 de abr.

Man... I knew season 2 is letdown especially that filler pointiness episode 28 that we don't need!


Plus, saddest was villains were highlight and better than Team Rocket yet they barely showed up this time round!


I guess it's might been why I'm not hard-core Pokémon fan.

Curtir

Shame to hear the second season is going downhill. From what I learned season one is quite good. I still haven't watched though.

Curtir
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