Part 48: Hikari/Dawn
Absolutely, feel free to talk about anything at all, it's a no No Spoiler policy for a reason.
Well in that case let's talk about how our player character fared.
May is out and Dawn is in. Generally more well received than May was, Dawn is cheery, hard working & determined. She kind of reminds me of a girl rookie Ash in some cases. I mean with that description she's basically your standard shoenen protagonist but with more girly mannerisms.
In fact the first episode is entirely about her. Ash doesnt get seen at all until the last minute and they dont meet until the third. Honestly she probably couldve been the star of the season with no Ash and I wonder if there was a point where they considered it.
Some highlights from her first 20 minutes:
-So excited about her journey she almost misses the appointment
-Extended fantasy sequence about which starter shell pick for contests
-Rushing out to find some escape Pokemon from a lab accident
-Extensive rescue sequence running away & saving Piplup from Ariados including action leaps, explosions and
-On the fly battle planning to escape from Ariados
-Meets Mesprit on the lake just like Ash saw Ho-Oh and Suicune
She also trains her Pokemon about as often as Ash does, constantly experimenting with different combinations, appeals, poffins and general movements and these find use outside of battle either by her or Ash in his battles. It doesnt sound like a lot but she really is more active than Ashs other traveling companions. She even does a gym battle! The DP arc is one of the longer in the anime's life time and unlike Johto it doesn't feel like an eternity and a lot of that is because of how active and importantly it treats Dawn.
I think her most distinctive moment in the series is the episode where she captures a Pachirisu.
Shes absolutely smitten with it because its adorable and would be a great addition for contests but after capturing it she finds it nearly impossible to control. Its so hyperactive, hard to handle and rarely obeys to the point that Dawn regrets capturing it and makes the hard decision to...release it.
Ash has released plenty of Pokemon in his time, but its been more for beneficial reasons (protecting the forest, learning to excel at something, hutning down sentient malignant roots destroying the region) so this is kind of unprecedented and both Ash & Brock get on her about giving up so soon and being a trainer and so on. Now she does get it back by the end of the episode and it doesnt reallly come up again but you can trace how she acts to her other Pokemons behavioral problems to what she learned in this episode. Its more shocking they did a plotline like that at all.
But you cant talk about Dawn without talking about Contests
Her mother was a big contest star (something also from the games) and has always looked up to her and wants to follow in her footsteps. Her first episode has a few gags about over preparing for being a contest rather than going on a full journey with her Pokemon. This isnt like May who didnt like Pokemon to begin with and just stumbled into it as an excuse to travel the world, THEN find she likes Contests, Dawn has been ready since Day -1.
And on the whole, it shows. Shes very proactive about learning from her mistakes, trying out new things and in general all of her victories feel more earned than Mays did because you see her trying way harder. It also helps that the writers have gotten better about contest drama & appeals, so even with an overreliance on ICE FREEZES WATER its nicer to watch.
It also helps that Dawn loses. May wins almost every contest she enters, Dawn winds up losing several times to the point where she has a mini-arc where she starts passing on contests because shes depressed about if shell ever get another ribbon & if it was even worth going on this journey. Amazing what not being invincible does for making you like & root for a character.
At the end of the series, she decides to stay in Sinnoh because her Buneary got a modeling gig. In a follow up special episode (that never got released outside Japan ) she decides to travel to Hoenn which we get no follow up on despite Dawn coming back for a small arc in Best Wishes Season 2 for some cameos and ratings boosts. Then she heads off to Johto and hasnt made much more than cameos since then.
But hey lets talk about the contests themselves real quick! Since having them all in one city would make for a non existent story arc, they just spread them all around the region like RS did and have a Pokemon League stand in with the Grand Festival. Dawn loses that, by the way, but by this point she takes it in stride.
As for any other changes they just took the aesthetics. Theres no dancing round and the dress up portion is just rolled into characters dressing their Pokemon before hand as part of their full attack appeal. Otherwise its just like the contests last series: a round with one (or 2) Pokemon doing a fancy move appeal interacting with the trainer followed by a battle round where the focus is on showing off the Pokemon rather than winning.
The PokeBall seals mechanic is also used here where youd think they would have been in the first place. All competitors put their Pokeballs in seal balls to help accent their appeals.
Otherwise the only other difference is now everyone dresses up like they do in the games. Did someone ask for an impromptu FASHION SHOW?!
Dawns first outfit, a lovely pink dress. Many of her other dresses would be slight variations on this until the Grand Festival.
Her main rival, Zoey, prefers fashionable suits. This one is her third variation.
Another rival and long time friend, Kenny prefers to look like a maestro. This one is from the Grand Festival.
Jessies contest alter-ego Jessilina goes for whatever this outfit is, with some color variations.
Ursula is the jerk rival and dresses like a low key fancier Dawn. Loves frills.
Ash participates for fun a couple times and I like his fashionable cowboy look a lot.
Also this happened