Pokémon Horizons is off to a superb start | First four episodes review

by on December 1, 2023

As a child of the nineties who loved video games, there was never any doubt that Pokémon would become a franchise I was obsessed with. Those days of trading cards and Game Boys filling the playground are ones I still look back on fondly today, but my first dive into the wonderful world of pocket monsters didn’t involve cardboard or cartridges. On a weekend morning like any other I woke up ready to eat some sugary cereal and watch some cartoons, and was greeted by a show called Pokémon. In the blink of an eye I was introduced to these colourful battling critters, and before I knew it Pokémon became a huge part of my life (which frankly it continues to be to this day). Future generations of Pokémaniacs may have similar stories with Pokémon Horizons: The Series, which is coming this month to the BBC.

Now if you haven’t been paying attention to the Pokémon cartoon over the last year, you probably won’t know what’s so important about Pokémon Horizons. Pokémon has been on TV and entertaining the younguns since I was one of them, but what makes Horizons different is that it doesn’t feature Ash Ketchum. After well over two decades Ash has done everything there is to do in the world of Pokémon, and it’s time to breathe some new life into a show that honestly I’ve struggled to enjoy since becoming an adult.

I was fortunate enough to attend a premier featuring the first four episodes of Pokémon Horizons, and I’ll admit that I didn’t go in expecting much more than another show that kids would happily watch but that didn’t really have a lot of depth. Pokémon Horizons is so much more than that, with relatable characters, an engaging story and all the Pokémon you could ever ask for.

In the first episode of Pokémon Horizons we’re introduced to one of the main characters, Liko. Liko is a young girl from the Paldea region (the setting of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet) who is about to go to a Pokémon boarding school to get her first Pokémon. Unlike the confident and always smiling Ash, Liko is an anxious and introverted child, who struggles to know what to say in order to make friends. In the opening episode she has thoughts about not really knowing who she is as a person, and these real human emotions and struggles make her much more likable and relatable than previous protagonists.

When the day comes to get her first Pokémon, Liko is nervous but excited to take the next step on her Pokémon journey. Upon opening up her Pokéball she is greeted by the grass type kitty Sprigatito, who isn’t immediately enamored by its new trainer. Liko isn’t going to take this sitting down though, and does her best to earn the leafy cat’s trust even if it means having to come out of her shell a little bit.

As if Liko didn’t have enough problems, it turns out a mysterious necklace she was given by her grandmother is wanted by a group of shady characters known as The Explorers. Just as Liko is starting to get used to life at school, she has to focus on escaping these intriguing villains with the help of another team of Pokémon trainers called The Rising Volt Tacklers. This is where her adventure really shifts into gear, as she swaps classes and teachers with life on an airship alongside a colourful cast of characters.

Now a keen eyed Pokémon fan might have noticed that so far I haven’t mentioned Pikachu once while talking about Pokémon Horizons. Well electric mouse fans should not fear, Pikachu plays an important role in the series. In an unexpected twist, the one commanding the airship of The Rising Volt Tacklers is Captain Pikachu. Making Pikachu a captain and giving him a little hat is adorable as it sounds, and it also gives the popular Pokémon a more interesting role in the series.

Just when I thought I’d been introduced to everything that Pokémon Horizons: The Series had to offer, there was another twist that if I hadn’t been keenly watching the opening theme I wouldn’t have expected. There are two main characters, and once Liko’s backstory and upcoming adventure has been suitably introduced you’ll get to meet Roy. A more typical upbeat Pokémon protagonist, Roy lives on a tiny island in the Kanto region, and has only learned what he has about Pokémon thanks to the power of remote teaching. His dream is to catch all sorts of Pokémon in ancient Pokéballs like his ancestors did, and he even had one of these retro monster capturing devices that he’s never been able to open.

I must admit that going into these first four episodes of Pokémon Horizons: The Series I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot for an adult fan of the series, but Horizons blew me away. The characters are charming and relatable, the Pokémon themselves are featured in clever ways, and there are lots of mysteries in place that made me want to watch more of the series. It’s probably a given that kids who are into Pokémon will absolutely adore Pokémon Horizons, but based on what I’ve seen it could have a much bigger reach than that.