So…would Pokemaniacs kill me if I said that I was more excited for this than the announcement of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet getting DLC? Pokemon: Paldean Winds is yet another short animated web series centered in the Pokemon universe, and to be honest, I’m really happy the Pokemon Company is allowing these to be made. All of them have been really good in their own ways, and even the weakest ones still have something to offer. So you can bet I was excited as all hell for Pokemon: Paldean Winds as soon as it was announced. Now that I’ve seen all of it, I do feel it could have done more with itself, but I’m still happy with what we got. Taking place before the events of the games, Paldean Winds centers on three students at Naranja Academy—Ohara, Aliquis, and Hohma—who are tasked by Director Clavell to make a video for incoming new students to show that the school is a great place to learn about Pokemon. But the three students are having trouble getting anything done on account of Ohara’s shyness, Aliquis being an arrogant prick, and Hohma getting too excited about whatever interests him.
Continuing the trend established by previous web series since Twilight Wings, Paldean Winds is very much a character-driven story on a much smaller scale than the main TV series, with the main conflict being about them just getting that video done and trying to figure out how to best go about it, along with their own interpersonal conflicts and flaws getting in the way. Since Paldean Winds only has four episodes, it needs to be able to deliver in that short time frame, and thankfully, it manages to succeed on this front. Mostly. Out of the three main characters, Aliquis and Hohma manage to receive the best development, and even then, Aliquis goes through the most growth, going from an arrogant prick to a more mature, kinder individual, and Hohma learns that sometimes there’s more to people than what he initially sees, making him look outside his own perspective of things. Yeah, their personalities and development aren’t anything you haven’t seen before, but for Paldean Winds’ short time frame, they managed to make great use of their time in regards to fleshing them out at the very least.
I will admit though, as much as I like Ohara as a character, the first episode, which also happens to be her focus episode, is the weakest out of the four, mainly in that it doesn’t really do a good job of explaining Ohara’s issues with her dad and her relationship with music. Like…what are Ohara’s issues with her dad to begin with? Is he one of those strict stage parents who wants Ohara to be perfect at music to the point of hurting her enjoyment of it? Did he push her into pursuing orchestra and she didn’t like it? Does he just not pay attention to her outside of music? There’s nothing that implies that he’s just an abusive dad, as Ohara mentions later that she reconciled with him, but…what did they even reconcile over? Ohara says at the end of the first episode that she “gets it now” but what the hell does she even get?! The episode leaves so many basic questions unanswered! I can only assume the anime did this to do more showing than telling, but what little it does show are so vague and piecemeal that it all doesn’t paint a clear picture of what Ohara’s relationship with her dad is!
Thankfully, after that rather weak first episode, the series gets better from then on, with much tighter writing around the other two. Everything else about Paldean Winds is still pretty top-tier, though. While Wit Studio’s animation for this is nowhere near as experimental as the likes of Hisuian Snow, it still manages to be just as dynamic and polished, with a lot of care put into both the big battle scenes and the smaller details, like the way Ohara’s fingers move as she plays her flute, or showing Pokemon just hanging around. Plus, various characters from the Scarlet/Violet games make cameos in the series, and I’m glad to say that their overall designs made the transition to the series fairly well. Speaking of flutes, the soundtrack by Kevin Penkin is also a pretty big highlight, ranging from soft flute music to the epic trumpets and violins used for the battle scenes, all of which fit the atmosphere of Paldean Winds perfectly. The final episode is where the soundtrack is most prevalent, as that’s the only one where there’s actual singing…or in this case, rapping, as there’s a character in the games who appears here who has a career in doing rap music. I’ve only seen the English dub in its entirety, and I can say that as someone who normally hates rap with a burning passion, I actually liked not only the rap song used there, but how it was adapted into English.
But how does Paldean Winds compare to the other Pokemon web series that came before it? In my opinion, I do feel Twilight Wings, Hisuian Snow, and the PokeToon shorts are way better in terms of both their animation, storytelling, and characterization, but I do think Paldean Winds is better than Pokemon Evolutions, mainly by virtue of the fact that it’s nowhere near as inconsistent as Evolutions’ was in terms of its writing quality with each episode, the first episode of PW notwithstanding. But that’s not to say Paldean Winds doesn’t have anything to offer, and is still a nice little sweet treat in its own right, especially for people who felt burned by the copious technical and performance issues that plague the games that they’re based on. I am admittedly a little miffed that one of my favorite characters from the SV games, Penny, only gets a brief cameo and doesn’t even get a speaking part. But I am happy at least Arven got to appear prominently in the first episode, so I can’t be too mad. Even if Pokemon: Paldean Winds was only made to promote Pokemon Scarlet and Violet’s DLC, it’s a very sweet, wholesome short web series that continues to expand Pokemon’s animation repertoire for the better. Oh, and calling it now: I’m sure another one of these will come around when the tenth generation of Pokemon comes out. It’s pretty much guaranteed at this point considering the recent pattern of web series coming out to promote their associated games.
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