Akira is thrilled about spending his summer vacation in the tropical Alola region. This trip will be all beaches, blue skies, and Pokémon battles. Akira doesn’t know much about Pokémon, but on his very first day, he meets a scrappy puppy-like Pokémon called Rockruff, and they form an instant bond. Rockruff is determined to make itself stronger, so it picks fights constantly to hone its skills. It needs a human trainer to help it realize its potential. Does Akira have what it takes?
To become the trainer Rockruff needs, Akira will tackle the Island Challenge. He and Rockruff—along with Akira’s friend and fellow trainer Mana—will travel the islands of the Alola region, learning and battling together. But unexpected challenges lie in store: the shadowy group Team Kings keeps popping up and trying to kidnap Rockruff! What do they want with Akira’s new friend? And why exactly is Rockruff so eager to get stronger?
The first of a two-part series, this manga is full of action, but also plenty of humor. Akira is a hero who doesn’t take himself too seriously and often comes across as impulsive, lazy, or just silly. Sometimes, though, it turns out that his odd behavior has good reason behind it. In one case, Akira apparently falls asleep while coaching Rockruff through a battle, but he is actually pretending to sleep to suggest that Rockruff should try faking a collapse to catch its opponent off-guard.
Rockruff itself, on the other hand, has silly moments, but also very serious determination. We get hints of a dramatic past that give Rockruff good reason to want to be strong. And in the Pokémon world, as players of the original game series will know, you get stronger by battling.
The other characters are decidedly secondary. They dispense information and serve as either opponents or audiences for Akira and Rockruff’s Pokémon battles. Mana, a girl who knows much more about Pokémon than Akira, is relegated to being a sort of island guide and providing funny shocked reactions to Akira’s wacky behavior. There are also a few named antagonists, but they make only brief appearances in this volume. Akira and Rockruff are clearly the stars.
The art is bold and straightforward, making the frequent action scenes easy to understand. The characters, distinctive and expressive, offer lots of visual comedy, and often appear in silly chibi forms to underscore humorous moments. Akira, Mana, and antagonist, Tokio, all look very young. Backgrounds are drawn in where they are relevant, but the characters are the focus.
Fast-paced and lighthearted, this volume launches a fun new adventure in the popular setting of the Alola region. Unlike some Pokémon manga, it does not reference previous series, so readers can start here with no confusion. Volume one ends on a cliffhanger, but since the second volume will be the conclusion, that can be remedied by simply collecting both.
Pokémon Horizon: Sun and Moon, vol. 1
by Tenya Yabuno
VIZ Media, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages