The Token Blog-esque Thread For Reviewing A Bunch of Pokemon Fanfiction [The Bloody Armchair]

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  1. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    DISCLAIMER: Since I lament the lack of a blog system from this XenForo move, I will do normal blog things in The Studio, as it constitutes being "writings" from an art perspective. I don't think anybody will care that I am using The Studio for this, as I've pseudo-tagged my threads here as "[The Bloody Armchair]" anyway to indicate that these posts I make here would normally be blog posts if I was operating under the rules of the previous host server.

    2ND DISCLAIMER: I was inspired by @Rachel Covaks to attempt to review Pokemon fanfiction, upon seeing her work elsewhere, thinking it good, and trying my hand at it here.

    3RD DISCLAIMER: I will be using orange text to insert my own commentary when quoting pieces of fanfiction, should the need ever arise. I will also be using orange text when expressing emphasis to particular phrases and statements in paragraphs, to help with ease of skimming them.

    4TH DISCLAIMER: I will also be reviewing these fanfictions on a Chapter-by-Chapter basis.

    With those four Disclaimers above, let's begin the process.

    I currently find TVTropes a mixed bag. On one hand, it has been useful as an implementation in storytelling if only to remind me of what tropes to avoid at all costs, and what tropes need to be zig-zagged at minimum. On the other hand, its community has made me want to tear my hair out of my head, repeatedly. This includes shenanigans such as the entire "TROPER TALES" section that was previously present on the site for a long time, people generally misusing the term "trope" when talking about something completely different, people embellishing their own selves/lives to "fit" trope definitions in spite of not actually fitting those definitions in the slighttest, and the occasional, periodic, and quite personal, questioning of Tropers' tastes and wondering if taste is accounted for.

    So, to answer my own question of "Do Tropers have good taste when it comes to fanfictions at least?," I have opted to review a sizable handful of them. This is quite the unsarcastic question, and it might be a bit mean given the way I phrased it. However, I am at least hoping my answer is a "Yes" across the board. If it is not? Tough luck.

    That's it for the intro.
     
  2. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    The first fanfiction I should do, especially since I'm blogging on a Pokemon-themed website, will (OF COURSE!) be from the Pokemon category of TVTropes' "Fanfic Recommendations." Rather, I assume this just means "The Pokemon fandom" in general, although if we went by those generalizations alone, I'd only evade being exiled/exiling myself from the Pokemon fandom thanks to the OrangeIslands.Net and Pokemon Turquoise communities.

    That said, I shall highlight the Fanfic Recommendation after copypasting it from TVTropes:

    "The Road To Be a Pokemon Master: Kanto Arc[​IMG] by FanaticLAguy06[​IMG]
    • Recommended by: Fire Chick 12012, Krsapce T {Note: I did remove the links to their Troper pages after copy-pasting, as I have no business talking about anything aside from the "fandom" the fanfiction resides and the fanfiction itself}
    • Pairings: Ash/Serena
    • Status: Complete
    • Summary: Join Ash on his journey to be a Pokemon Master. Accompanied by Serena, he will travel to many different regions on his quest to be the best and meet amazing friends and Pokemon along the way.
    • Comments: This is a very good take on the anime, having Serena be Ash's traveling companion (along with Leaf), cutting out a lot of the filler, making Ash smarter, having them catch Pokemon they didn't get in canon, having alternate takes on events, and generally having a better feel about it. This is definitely a Pokemon AU that really needs to be read! It hasn't gotten almost 3,000 reviews for nothing! It has plenty of humor, drama, sweetness, and epicness for any Poke Maniac to enjoy! I'm surprised nobody's made a page for it yet since it's complete! It has sequels planned, and the author just started the Orange Islands arc, which is ongoing.
    • This seriously needs a page, and even more so because the Orange Islands arc is now complete, with a Johto arc coming in this March. {Note: if I feel it necessary, I will review the other "arcs" of this "saga"}
    • Now has its own page."
    This is the easy part of the whole ordeal.

    From a glance alone, this reads as a Fix Fic. Know how I can tell? The fanfiction is advertised as "making Ash smarter," and there are a few other tells from just reading the first Chapter alone.

    By the way, let's do exactly that... Oh, joy! An Author's Note!

    It greets us with an explanation that more-or-less matches the TVTropes Fanfic Recommendation copypaste. While I don't like the fact it's "one-sided" Amourshipping (by the Author's admittance), I will tolerate it since I anticipate the Author will keep Ash in-character while being a great writer. As hinted at previously, this section {and subsequent review posts in Chapter-by-Chapter forme} will look into every bit of this to properly review it to more or less confirm that this fanfiction is as "good" as people make it out to be. I'm not entirely fond of Amourshipping or of the Kalos anime in general. It fell apart really early on, and while I've more or less caught up on it via external means, I would be a fool to say I remember it 100% accurately. That said, I still appreciate the Author's inclusion of Serena since I am under the premise he also "upgrades" her character to be much more likable.

    There's a small first paragraph which I must highlight via the quote function of the subforum to give it a better glance:

    The introductory sentences all sound rigid, when reading them aloud. When telling a story, you want to have some fluidity in your opening paragraph, especially since it's your opener. Granted, a couple commas were used in this opening paragraph, but the sentences were still stiff. With but one semicolon or comma more, the reader could gladly partake in some setting immersion. Under normal circumstances, I would just surmise that even the Pokemon anime narrator was being written in-character, and then I would say that the sentence structure is almost spot-on. That the introductory sentences are rigid does not mean the rest of the fanfiction is, and in fact reading the rest of the Chapter allowed me to see that fluidity in more depth.

    Afterwards, the Chapter introduces four of the main characters right then and there: Ash Ketchum, Gary Oak, Leaf Green, and Serena Gabena. It proceeds to briefly detail their personalities, and what makes each of them different. I'm at least delighted some effort was put in to characterize Leaf Green, as most official works barring a couple 3D Gamecube games, and Pokemon Adventures, hardly attempt to include her (or some spiritual equivalent of her otherwise) in the works at-hand. Gary is Ash's rival, obviously; Leaf is one of Ash's closest friends, and Serena's the new kid on the block who's a little too shy to make friends. That last part irks me, but I presume it will go away and she will evolve beyond this. Granted, this is simply a flashback episode of them being kids, and the next Chapter will probably delve into their personalities in the "modern" Kanto setting.

    A segment of this re-enacts Serena and Ash's first meet-up prior to Kalos, only in a forme that seems to be stylized to the Author's writing methods. There's a lot more fleshing out of the scene proper, although it's specifically tailored toward Amourshipping. All in all, I can already see that FanaticLAguy06 did an impressive job of being better than the anime; although, I would think being better than the XY anime is going to be really easy for most fanfiction in general. That said, the way the Author wrote these paragraphs showed a lot more panache and thought than I had been expecting for a Chapter so short. Short chapters aren't bad, and are sometimes encouraged simply to conserve detail until it is needed later.

    The first Chapter was, overall, more of a vignette than others are expected to be. The Author claimed that his Chapters, on average, should be around 4000-6000 words long. He also reassured that Serena and Gary would grow into less flat versions of themselves as they get older, and that is something I will observe for myself in the second Chapter. In the interim, I will appreciate the Chapter's briskness given it was introductory, although I was almost turned off by the rigidity of some sentences after the intro paragraph.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016
  3. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    1. So, with Chapter One being so short, what will Chapter Two be like?

    It starts off with an introduction that more or less plays exactly like the Pokemon anime, with Serena getting a similar scene to Ash's late night "go to sleep" scene being what is the initial primary difference. It's very quickly established that she has feelings for him, in a flashback sequence of her tenth birthday and getting a decent gift out of the whole ordeal. Serena is established as being "best friends" with Leaf, on account of gender norms, and she has an amicable friendship with Gary, which is not surprising given the four characters have to be linked to each other somehow. Other than a moment of me predicting nuances with Serena and shrugging nonchalantly (as opposed to groaning disappointedly), most of the intro paragraphs with Serena in Kanto distinctly parallel Ash's beginning scenes from the first episode of the Kanto anime.

    There's an established dissonance set up almost right away. Rather than Ash oversleeping and being completely on his own for a little bit with Pikachu, the four main characters are shown to be present for the events that come to pass later on. Ash, Serena, Leaf, and Gary have their own thoughts internally laid bare for us to see how each of them has changed since the Pallet Town Summercamp introduction which had been the previous Chapter. Ash and Gary say "Ladies first," which allows Serena and Leaf to each choose Starter Pokemon first. Leaf picks Bulbasaur, Serena picks Charmander, and Gary gets Squirtle. Other than this being consistent with the anime by-and-large, the fact that the choosers of Bulbasaur and Charmander are present is a significant difference which helps make sense of who got what, rather than leaving that deliberately ambiguous.

    Ash got Pikachu, and the others got to witness it on account of Professor Oak being seen as not having prepared in advance for four trainers showing up at his doorstep, as opposed to two or three. However, Chapter Two ends on Pikachu being revealed. Already, it's a rather short because a lot of the 4k-6k words were spent re-enacting the intro scenes for Ash, and giving Serena her own version. There was not a whole lot of screentime for Leaf or Gary, although the former is still bubbly and the latter still stiff and anti-social. Gary as a Rival isn't too bad here, now that he is able to get screentime proper, rather than be just an aloof, mysterious jerk to Ash who is only less of a nuisance during Sinnoh.

    2. Chapter Three continues the differences between fanfiction and anime established from Chapter Two.

    For instance, Ash being zapped by Pikachu has more witnesses than just Professor Oak. Gary comes in with wry comments, which are responded to with retorts from both Leaf and Serena. They all get their PokeDexes, and their respective journeys begin.

    Gary's starts with his Cheerleaders, as usual. The fact he owns a car is a little jarring, but it must be one way of logically parsing how he gets by in Kanto so quickly compared to Ash in the anime proper. That leaves Leaf, Ash, and Serena to theoretically travel as a trio. This marks another contrast: unlike in the anime, Ash starts with a travelling entourage right away. Given said entourage was part of the anime's main gimmick, establishing it immediately is a steppe in the right direction.

    Of course, before Ash and co. can start their journeys, they take care of some last minute farewells. Ash's Pikachu is given some brief exposition on "past abuse," but quickly warms up to Delia. This part seems to play similarly to the anime. Leaf gets her bike, and rides off on her own, leaving Serena and Ash to themselves.

    This is another one that ends on a partial cliffhanger, as Ash and Serena's journey has yet to actually begin. I feel like these two Chapters could've been composite as one Chapter, with maybe the third's ending-on-a-cliffhanger being somewhat appropriate. All the while, the pace would not feel like I was hitting a roadbump while reading.

    3. I'd like to point out that there are a grand total of 62 Chapters, with 3 of them being whizzed by. The first Chapter started off strong, and there's not much of the 2nd or 3rd Chapters that takes away the feeling of "this is better than the anime by default." Granted, a majority of what makes these Chapters easy to read (and skim) so quickly is that a majority of the play-by-play on Ash's part is similar to what happened in the actual anime.

    Another thing to note is that a lot of the Kalos anime is also tread on with Serena, although not as much characterization has (yet) been given to her the same way that it's been given to Ash. Most of the scenes she's in so far have dealt with her being unsure of what she actually wants to do, although everyone else in the story has a more clear-cut goal. Sure, this helps her stand out as a character when you've already got "Miss Totally-Not-Pokemon-Adventures-Green" and Gary Oak potentially overwhelming the story as well. However, they got the short end of the stick for some partial Amourshipping which almost went over my head until I did a double take with Leaf's dialogue.

    Another thing to note would be that there's an occasional run-on sentences and a stark lack of commas between ands, which punched me in the face with how these mechanical errors stood out. Perhaps that's just me nitpicking, when rereading Chapters 2 and 3 has netted me with a stark awareness that I have been seeing the first episode of the anime be stretched into 3, possibly 4, Chapters for a canon divergent Fix Fic. I must remind myself that, hopefully, some episodes are compressed into a small fragment of a Chapter to compensate.

    That marks almost 5% of the fanfiction having been read, so far.
     
  4. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    1. I might as well look at Chapter 4.

    Serena begins confessing to Ash right away that she has no actual idea of what she wants to do or is doing, aside from travelling with him. That's quite a suspense killer, as generally you'd build that sort of internal conflict up before letting it be blabbed to other main characters. It's at least compensated when she mentions part of her journey was so that she wouldn't be lonely anymore, although that makes me continue to think that the Fix Fic was done for the sake of making Amourshipping more of a "thing." Granted, part of this was deflected in how FanaticLAguy06 constantly told his audience that Ash was "dense" about romance, when that should firmly not be an issue. I'm sure more of it will be handled better later; however, I was given similar advice when making Chernabog's story in the TRPG: "Show, don't tell."

    The second half of the first Pokemon episode was told, though some parts of the Kalos anime clearly were incorporated given how Serena's been characterized; Ash tries catching a Pidgey when Pikachu decides to be unhelpful, then he cheeses some Spearow off and jumps into a lake. Misty's bike doesn't get damaged right away, though. Instead, her bike gets confiscated by Serena and Pikachu, who make off with it on the way to Viridian City when they (and Ash) are told where to get the injured Electric mouse to as far as nearby Pokemon Centres went. Otherwise, the scene plays out exactly as it did in the first episode, only with Serena being present to berate Ash for his recklessness moreso than Misty. I somehow felt that Misty's character got and will continue to get shafted, and no amount of tender Amourshipping after the Spearow storm incident would justify that.

    I've been avoiding the Author's Notes after the first Chapter, as some of what he says is spoiler-laden.

    2. Chapter 5 is where some of the gag characters - Officer Jenny, Team Rocket trio, Nurse Joy, etc. - are introduced. Misty also finds her bicycle is ruined, and darts off after Ash and Serena to make them pay. Generally speaking, Chapter 5 is equivalent to the second episode of the Kanto anime, barring embellishments that justify Serena's (and her Charmander's) presence. One such embellishment includes introducing the Battle Chateau so she has something to do aside from being Ash's love interest. I presume this checks out with the Kalos anime as well (seeing as Serena's tendencies were akin to Dawn and May, rather than akin to Iris and Misty).

    I will make one note about it, though: Misty calling Ash and Serena "twerps" at one point is a little jarring to read, almost feeling out-of-character. Given that FanaticLAguy06 got every other character right so far, I continue to feel worried that other "Love Interest" characters from the anime will get appalling treatment. That Serena also argues with Misty more profoundly than Ash is also a concern, though this is mitigated later on in this Chapter and the next.

    3. Chapter 6 offers something different, for once. It's a Battle Chateau episode.

    Misty and Serena try making amends, but it goes badly. I feel Chapter 6's first paragraph and intro dialogue could have been cut, with absolutely nothing to lose from doing so. I feel this way in particular because it contains Misty using the term "friend-zoned" unironically, when that violates her character integrity to begin with. Already, my concerns of the Cerulean City's character being transgressed are vindicated.

    Ash is late to sign up for the Pokemon League, but Misty reminds him there is no deadline. Viridian City's Gym Leader is also briefly mentioned, as being someone "shrouded in mystery" and "always out doing various projects." With nothing really to do in Viridian for Ash, that leaves the Battle Chateau as something for Serena to attempt. Ash also gets to attempt it, if only because the butler Hennessy got a "recommendation" off of the two via Professor Oak's PokeDexes being evidence of such.

    Serena battles a boy named Joshua, who has a male Nidoran. He quickly defeats her Charmander, and the fight was incredibly one-sided. I was disappointed by this, for while it illustrates her lack of experience, most other fanfictions that I've read generally do not have this issue early on, without there being input from the games in the forme of a Nuzlocke challenge or something else which makes the circumstances the way they are.

    Ash battles a girl named Chris, who has a Mankey. This battle is slightly less of a curbstomp, although this Fix Fic is revealed to use more than just Generation I mechanics, with the ability Anger Point having been observed on a Mankey as an example. Ash still loses, although it's explained more in-depth why he lost compared to Serena's loss.

    They both seem to be perfectly content with losing, until Misty explains that their naiveté was why they lost. In this ending segment, Misty's actions and words feel forced, though her advice about taking both the Battle Chateau and the Indigo League seriously is sage enough on its own where she gets her point across and gets to be wise for a few minutes. That much is partial relief.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
  5. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    1. Chapter 7 retells Ash catching a Caterpie and a Pidgeotto (Kanto anime Episode 3). The main difference of note is that Ash's Pikachu, Charla (Serena's Charmander), and Ash's Caterpie at least get to converse a little bit to themselves, though the scene offers little in the way of insight as to the Pokemon's personalities or separating them from their trainers in terms of characteristics. I read it as filler.

    2. Chapter 8 retells Kanto anime Episode 4. I've gone and linked the Episodes themselves, as other than Serena's presence making the adaptation inherently alternate various scenes, the plot threads of these retellings are the same; however, Chapter 8 differs at least a little. Serena gets to battle Samurai instead of Ash, and with Charmander makes effortless work of Pinsir. The battle then shifts from Pinsir v. Charmander to Metapod v. Metapod, and the rest of the scene plays out as normal, up until another scene where Serena helps an injured Ash (presumably retelling a Kalos anime episode). I read the different scene as filler also, if only because the only other thing it could have registered as was an unnecessarily-early Amourshipping scene bludgeoning me on the head repeatedly.

    At the very least, its cliffhanger's different scene isn't filler: Serena catches a second Pokemon, this time it being a female Nidoran.

    I went back and reread the Author's Notes, and FanaticLAguy06 refused to do Unova and Kalos adaptations. That might explain why he's sandwiching Kalos and Kanto material a bit into his Fix Fic.

    Otherwise, I'm still unimpressed with this fanfiction, by-and-large.
     
  6. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    Yeah, no, I've officially given up on this fanfiction.

    More than 10% of it (estimated roughly 14.5% at the moment, dividing 9 by 62) has been disappointing already. I've already read the Author's Notes in these Chapters, and can tell where the course of this fiction is going just by predicting patterns of it and then reading the ANs of subsequent Chapters. Him not liking the Unova anime for blatantly superficial reasons is fine, him trampling over Misty's character depth is not fine. Though an asshole she might have been at times in "canon," she's not overly douchebaggy like she comes across in the fic. Perhaps I'm reading the tone wrong.

    A lot of the dialogue feels wooden; even tender moments don't have much emotion to them. It's because FanaticLAguy06's sentence structure is generally rigid. For instance, "eleven o'clock in the morning" could've been shortened to "11 AM" at no loss (from Chapter 9 alone). Sometimes, I feel like he pads some scenes just to say he did 4k-6k words, when in reality most scenes are paced rushedly. Serena feels like a satellite character to Ash, something that I thought of her in Kalos proper until she got some hard-hitting character development, of which doesn't feel like it will exist until a "later installment" like the Author himself said (Johto).

    It's okay to do Long-Running series. Their pacing is always going to be a bit glacial, as that's the nature of the beast. However, you have to make storytelling for those have some intrigue, as well as some spice and zest! Just making it an Amourshipping Fix Fic doesn't cut it for me, especially since Ash really doesn't FEEL all that different from how he was in the Kanto anime. What was promised in the initial summary doesn't really have much delivery.

    It's not okay that the pacing was inconsistent at the very start of the fic, and it's startling because the pacing in Chapter 09 was back to being a slog to actually sit through. Granted, Fossil Pokemon are some of my favourites ever. However, I felt like the episode was just filler. In the anime, Ash directly went to fight Brock and recruit him as part of the travelling companion (EP005). That they stopped by to talk to Flint? Okay, that was accurate. The other Chapter I read that was actually more unique to the Fix Fic, Chapter 06, also felt like a chore to read through.

    It's not okay to make a shipping Fic and then bash other Love Interest characters, let alone make them out-of-character just to make your ship look better. I looked up the TVTropes page and found out that the Misty-bashing {re: he wrote and treated Misty like crap} that was somewhat prominent at the beginning will come up again, and in a more severe form. I screamed internally when I heard that the pitfalls I found would be worse. I also read the start date of this Fix Fic: it was first made on January 29, 2014. A 2014 fanfiction should not feel like it was written a whole decade ago, at minimum.

    I don't know what I'll do next, but presumably I'll look for something else to read and review. I might pick this back up, but for now this fanfiction has failed to amuse me.

    The goal is not to rip the spines of badfics with a toothbrush. Should something be bad, I won't be afraid to mention why I think it's bad. I'll try to find a more-likable premise before jumping into reviewing Pokemon fanfiction again.
     
  7. Gamma

    Gamma Simply Walks Into Mordor RPG Moderator

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    I considered doing this again, but have since decided against it since I already know that:

    1) My tastes simply differ from everyone else. While I enjoy more prolific storytelling that I see in MegaTokyo and A Song of Ice and Fire, my admirations for their respective storytelling methods are not commonly shared. This would make my analysis of some fictions isolated and biased, wittingly or otherwise.

    2) Each Fanfic Recs of TVTropes acknowledges that 90% of <any work's> fanfiction is garbage already, essentially agreeing with me whether it's known or not.

    There's no 3rd point, and I tried to think one up for some reason.

    Basically, I would have to reconsider my attitudes on these fanfiction before going at this ever again. I'll lock the thread myself.
     
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