Gold is a cocky Pokémon trainer with staggering skills and an even more staggering ego. Silver is a loner with a troubled past trying to make good. Crystal works with children as well as Pokémon, and she wants to make the world a better place for those kids. All three young trainers have been selected by Pokémon expert Professor Oak to receive the latest in Pokédex technology. They’ll need all the help they can get: it looks like the villainous Team Rocket is making a comeback. Elite trainer Lance has gone missing, and Team Rocket has four very powerful trainers seeking sixteen mysterious plates. What do the plates do and what does Team Rocket want with them? Can Gold, Silver, and Crystal figure it out and prevent a disaster?
Our story opens with a series of sporting events called a Pokéathlon during which Gold and his Pokémon team win a bunch of events and wow the spectators. After we see Gold spout off about his own greatness, we learn that he is actually in the area to meet up with Lance on Professor Oak’s request. When the event comes under attack by one of Lance’s Pokémon, but Lance himself is nowhere to be found, Gold realizes that something has happened to him. Next we see Silver, who is investigating Lance’s disappearance when he is attacked by Team Rocket. He ekes out a victory and in the process, he learns about the mystical plates that Team Rocket is collecting. Finally, we check in on Crystal, who is taking a group of children on a field trip. She meets up with Silver just in time for both to be attacked by another powerful member of Team Rocket.
Pokémon Adventures: HeartGold & SoulSilver is a two-part mini-arc, so this volume only covers the first half of the story. There is a brief introduction to the characters at the beginning, and then readers are dropped headlong into the Pokémon world. I doubt that people new to the franchise would have trouble understanding or keeping track of things, but those who have read other Pokémon manga or played the video games will see greater significance in some of the characters and settings that appear here.
For example, several characters are introduced as “gym leaders,” but the book doesn’t explain what that means. In the Pokémon video games, many towns have battle centers, also known as “gyms.” Each one specializes in one kind of Pokémon. Players battle each gym’s strongest trainer, the gym leader, to prove themselves and receive a badge that allows them to advance in the game. A gym leader may leave town if his or her skills are needed in an emergency, but mostly they stay put to accept the challenges of new trainers who come to the gyms; this varies a little in the manga and in the Pokémon TV show. In this story, Team Rocket’s scheme is such a threat to the world that gym leaders are leaving their towns and banding together for protection. This ups the stakes for those who are familiar with the Pokémon world. These readers will also recognize Lance as a one of the most powerful trainers in the world. Has Team Rocket really grown strong enough to beat him?
The characters have clearly-drawn contrasting personalities. Gold is arrogant and over-the-top, Silver reserved and brooding, Crystal caring and insecure. I assume that the second volume will bring the three together; it will be interesting to see their dynamics.
The art is par for the course of Pokémon manga: clear and active with lots of bloodless fighting and a good dose of humor. This volume, which spends over thirty pages on the Pokéathlon, includes quite a bit of action that isn’t battle. There are also pages inserted between sections of the book that explain the rules of the Pokéathlon in detail (just in case you were wondering).
Fans of the Pokémon franchise will find a lot to like in Pokémon Adventures: HeartGold & SoulSilver, vol. 1.