Pokemon Advanced Vol. #4: Stairway to Devon (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Monday, October 04, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What They Say
Contains 3 episodes:

Ash and Pikachu are confident with their new improved Iron Tail. Will Ash win his first stone badge?

Max spills a drink on May's Poki Nav and it appears to be broken. What will he do?!

Ash is anxious to get to Dewford Island for his next match, but to his disappointment, discovers that there are no boats!

Plus two bonus episodes: SHARPEDO ATTACK! and BRAVE THE WAVE

The Review!
Ash is reminded that you win some and you lose some as he fights not one but two gym battles in the fourth volume of Pokémon Advanced.

Featuring only an English audio track, this volume provides a simple but solid stereo track. There were no distortions, dropouts, or other problems. Everything comes through the center channel with no directional effects; action, dialogue, and music are balanced well providing an adequate experience.

The video provides an adequate experience; the transfer has no issues with artifacts, cross coloration, or print damage. While colorful, the picture feels flat and lacks much detail; it looks decent but there just is not much detail to catch the eye.

Wingull and Nosepass grace the front cover accompanied by a rather large series logo at the top. The volume number and title is at the bottom along with a sizable banner indicating that the disc contains two bonus episodes. The back cover features the requisite screenshots, episode synopses, and disc information. Also included on the back is the Pokédex entry for Nosepass.

Inside is a one page insert with the chapter listings and the Pokédex entry for Sharpedo on one side. The opposite side contains only a brief advertisement for the Pokémon web site.

The menus are very simple featuring only a static image and no background music. They are quick and functional but also quite boring; at the very least, they could have looped a piece of the theme song in the background.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ash finally has his first gym battle in the Hoenn Region as the volume opens up. Against the formidable rock monsters of the gym leader, it does not appear that Ash has much of a chance. However, some great strategy that utilizes his opponent's attack against himself scores him his first badge and puts him one step closer to the Hoenn League.

Most series tend to draw out a single battle over a number of episodes; it was refreshing to see one battle contained within a single episode. The battle did not feel rushed but progressed smoothly with the advantage tilting back and forth. While they did not affect the outcome of the battle, Team Rocket provided some good comic relief as they attempted to take a more low-tech approach to capturing Pikachu for once. Of course, they go blasting off again, but the dialogue leading up to it was very clever.

The next episode has our heroes doing some sight seeing before heading off to Dewford Island and the next gym battle. Max ends up breaking May's Pokénav but finds an unlikely repairman when he ends up befriending the president of the Devon Corporation. As Max is given a tour around corporate headquarters, a member of the mysterious Team Aqua steals some secret components from a lab. The entire gang becomes involved in the race to stop him, but it is Team Rocket that proves to be the unlikely heroes when their attempt to steal from the thief goes awry.

If you recall, Team Aqua was briefly introduced in the first volume; it is great to see that the writers are working this mysterious organization into the overall plot. One can also see clues about the overall plot of the series by what Team Aqua stole in the previous episode and this one. The continuity continues as the next episode has the gang looking for a boat to Dewford Island.

May befriends Briney, an old sea captain, and his Wingull Pico; he agrees to take them over on his boat but suddenly changes his mind after May brings the rest of the gang. She does not realize though that the Team Aqua member is still on the run from the police and is using Briney's Wingull as a hostage to coerce Briney into using his boat for a quick getaway.

Aquaman makes his getaway, but Briney has a second, faster boat that he kept secret. Briney and his new mates quickly catch up to Aquaman and manage to rescue Pico. However, Aquaman manages to escape in the Aquasub. Our heroes pay little mind to this however and continue on to Dewford Island managing to befriend a school of Sharpedos along the way.

Once at Dewford Island, Ash quickly rushes to the gym for his next battle. Unfortunately, the gym leader Brawly seems more interested in surfing and having fun rather than battling Ash. This rubs Ash the wrong way, as he believes a trainer should be focused on training and winning rather than on horseplay. After persistently begging for a match, Brawly finally relents and battles Ash. It appears that Ash may have his second badge in hand but soon suffers defeat when Brawly's Makuhita evolves into a Hariyama during the match.

The loss crushes Ash's spirit; how could he lose to a surfer dude more concerned with the waves than training his Pokémon? As he walks the beach, Ash comes across Brawly and his Hariyama leading to Ash learning a "very special lesson"™. Brawly uses surfing as a training technique for his Pokémon; he shows Ash that all of nature can be a training ground and that training can be enjoyable as well. With his spirits lifted, Ash sets out to wander Dewford Island and train some more.

This entire volume was a pleasant surprise; the evolving storyline with Team Aqua proves to be an interesting thread that will pay off near the end but be present throughout the entire series. Team Rocket's antics were very amusing and managed to poke fun at themselves a bit.

Both gym battles were also entertaining and managed to hold my attention; it also helped that the last episode showed that you can learn from failure just as much as you can from success. Sadly, Ash's failure means we must endure another volume or two of aimless wandering looking for new merchandise... er, Pokémon to catch before getting another gym battle. And let us be honest; how can you not like a volume that features an Easter Island rip-off monster named Nosepass?

In Summary:
With two entertaining gym battles, the comedy styling of Team Rocket, and a developing super villain, the fourth volume of Pokémon proves to be more than just mildly entertaining. The merchandising may go on and on, but the writers are managing to put in some decent plot threads and continuity into the series. It is still not something I would watch on a regular basis, but the elements found in these episodes make it something easy to watch with the younger set.

English 2.0 Language

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 14.99
Running time: 110
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pokemon