I realize I'm dating myself with this admission, but when Pokemon first hit
American shores, I was just starting high school and I was a FAN. This was
before the cards, the inane TV show, the endless theatrical films; this was OG
Game Boy Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. For me, the formula just worked. It
appealed to a lot of my personality traits; the RPG fan, the
obsessive-compulsive collector, the kid who would rather sit in the back of
class and level up his Abra (no, that isn't code for anything it was a Pokemon.
Get your mind out of the gutter) rather than learn about Romeo & Juliet, Pokemon
was an honest-to-goodness obsession. After the show hit and every eight-year-old
in the world was scratching each other's eyes out for another pack of playing
cards, the luster faded. But I knew one thing for sure - the Japanese hold all
the cards (no pun intended) when it comes to marketing a new toy, game or
whatever else with a cartoon television show.
More years than I care to count later, our friends from across the Pacific
are still trying to replicate Pokemon's success. Yu-Gi-Oh came and went, along
with about a zillion others (my mother, a second grade teacher, tells me Bakugan
is the new thing, but I can't for the life of me see the appeal), and now Sega
is throwing its hat into the ring with a new show/toy/card game called Dinosaur
King. On the surface, it seems perfect Pokemon, but with every kid's obsession
- dinosaurs - and a flashy new card game to go with it. I can't speak for the
toys or the card game, but the first five episodes of the show on DVD make Pokemon look like Alan Moore's Watchmen when it comes to characters, plots and
the ability to follow a storyline. The bottom line is that Dinosaur King - the
TV show - is so completely without any sense that watching it convinced me that
somehow, without me noticing, I had developed schizophrenia and this was my
For the sake of not repeating myself over and over, I'll only say this once:
Dinosaur King is almost shamefully similar to Pokemon in every way. A team of
three kids collect and fight dinosaurs while sidestepping impossibly dumb and
completely harmless villains. Yeah, there are other shows with this premise, but
Dinosaur King is so blatant that good listeners will realize that the English
dubbed version of the show uses, and I'm not kidding here, the same voice actors
for it's villains as Pokemon used for Jesse and James of Team Rocket. No,
But if ripping stuff off was the worst offense, I could see past that.
Dinosaur King's main issue is that it simply makes no sense. The first show
opens with the main character Max, whose dad just happens to be a paleontologist,
finding a card and card-reader thing in the woods. Max and his friends
discover that by using these items, they can make a cute baby Triceratops appear
and everyone takes this as a normal, everyday occurrence. Giant anime eyebrows
aren't raised until they discover that a different combination of the card and
card reader will transform the Triceratops into a full-grown, raging dinosaur.
Max's two friends have cards and dinosaurs too, and there is an evil genius from
the past or future or something who wants those cards back.
But you won't get that from watching the episodes that kick off the series.
Even after I watched the five on the DVD, some of them twice to make sure I
wasn't missing something, none of this was immediately clear. I actually had to
visit the show's website to make sense of all the quick cuts, overblown,
computer generated dinosaurs and paint-by-number anime characters with giant
eyes, no brains and seemingly no purpose or motivation. As I said before, I was
all about some Pokemon back in the day, and I very rarely derive no joy from
checking out the new kid-friendly anime that makes it to our shores, but there
is just no excuse for this program.
It may have added to my disappointment that mere days beforehand, I watched
and reviewed Dragon Ball Z: Season Six; easily my favorite animated program of
all time. But DBZ aside, I still couldn't follow what was supposed to be going
on in these episodes. I sincerely hope that I'm not just getting old and missing
the point of next-big-thing anime programs isn't something that comes as one
nears the age of 30 (I've got a few more years, but it's looming). Add to all
that an American theme song that makes the American "Poke-rap" and American
Dragon Ball GT theme songs look like the pinnacle of songwriting, and Dinosaur
King, without a doubt, out-stupids (not a real word, but stay with me) just
about every other show I've ever seen.
But if the second graders have latched onto Bakugan as the next big thing,
rather than this mess, I have hope for the anime fans of tomorrow. Let's just
hope that the upcoming Dinosaur King DS has a little more to it than this
disaster of a show. Steer clear, kids steer clear.