Why Dawn was the Best Thing to Happen to PokemonPosted: July 21, 2012
That’s right, it’s finally here! The ultimate Dawn post! Though there’s a few things to say before starting.
First off, while this post is primarily about Dawn, I’m starting with other reasons that the Diamond & Pearl season was awesome and why it doesn’t deserve to be the most neglected season of the bunch.
Second, I didn’t start watching the subbed version until Best Wishes, so all the names I’ll use for people and Pokémon before then are from the English dub, while I’ll be using the original Japanese names for Best Wishes stuff (if I even mention any).
Third, I haven’t watched Advanced Generation in quite a while, and as such most of my points in regards to it will be assumptions. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me. In fact, if you want to refute any of the points I make, go for it. The only requirement is that you back up your claims with an episode number or two. It’s easy enough for me to check pretty much any episode, but I’d rather not search for a needle in a haystack.
Lastly, while I have almost the entire season of Diamond & Pearl on DVD, I didn’t install a DVD drive for my computer, and I’m too lazy to set up my laptop. That means pictures I use will be from the few video files I have for the season, but it’s not that big of a deal considering I’m mainly going to be using drawings and such as inserts.
You know, on reflection, I’m not sure why it was necessary to mention that last one. Oh well, I already typed it and I’m too lazy to remove it.
Diamond & Pearl, also known as the season where all of the English openings started to suck (except for maybe Battle Cry – (Stand Up!)), is probably the most ignored season of them all. The biggest reason is probably because viewership started to slip once Advanced Generation started. People are adverse to change, so swapping out Misty for May and not revealing at first that Brock was coming back caused a lot of people to not care about the show anymore. For those that were willing to stay, they probably drew the line when, almost halfway through Advanced Generation, nearly the entire dub cast got replaced.
This is a shame, because I honestly think Diamond & Pearl is one of the best seasons that was made. Excluding the obvious fact that the writing in general gets better each season (and if you’re one of those nostalgia “only the first season was good” people, go watch the ninth episode of the original, and I challenge you to figure out a thesis or moral or whatever for the episode that shows it isn’t just a bunch of plot points thrown together randomly), Diamond & Pearl had a much larger focus on plot compared to the other seasons.
Team Galactic was running around doing evil deeds in preparation for their big plan later in the season; Pokémon Hunter J is flying around and capturing Pokémon for clients; and biggest of all, Paul and Ash had their huge rivalry.
Ash and Paul’s rivalry was probably the pinnacle of what Pokémon as a show can accomplish in regards to story and giving a moral. Paul was a giant asshole, but it never said his methods were wrong, just possibly reprehensible. It was made even more complicated when it became obvious that while Paul and Ash were opposites in a lot of ways, there was also quite a bit they shared in common, or there was a common thread between them.
The very first time they fight, it ends in a draw. That’s important because they’re both just starting out again, so it shows that as far as raw skill goes, they’re pretty equal. After that, you see how aggressive Paul is in regards to training his Pokémon, and you expect Ash to show him how his method is wrong.
Except for the air ring battle thing which doesn’t count since it’s not even a battle, Paul wins all of their fights. And by win I mean he thrashes the living hell out of Ash and then walks away pompously, usually after insulting him. It showed that while Paul’s methods were screwed up, he did get results, and damn good ones at that.
What perfected the rivalry was shown through Chimchar: Ash’s methods aren’t as aggressive, but they are more effective, it just takes longer. Ash finally beats Paul at the Sinnoh League, showing that the path of the nice guy isn’t actually the easy way out at all, but if you stick to it, the power of friendship and caring comes through and yadda yadda yadda. Yes, it’s the standard “friendship is power” moral, but goddamn was it done well. The payoff when Infernape is kicking ass in the fight against Paul? Amazing.
But what I love most about Diamond & Pearl, as the title gives away, isn’t any of the antagonists, but Dawn.
credit: saitou mikado kuni (warning: his other art is a lot more NSFW)
Dawn is amazing, and easily the best traveling companion to date. Now I know about half the people that read this just now started yelling at their screen that I’m an idiot because clearly Misty was the best choice. I’m sorry, but no. This is another case of nostalgia clouding your judgement. She was part of the original gang, so of course there’s bias. She’s also in nearly twice the amount of episodes compared to the others (with the exception of Brock, obviously).
Her mood swings into anger got annoying, and she took a backseat role in the show after a while. It makes sense, the show is mainly about Ash, but this was more than that. She did hardly anything in the show except for when the staff occasionally decided to dedicate episodes to her. At least Brock was used as a plot device to feed everyone and take care of the Pokémon.
May was better, though I’m not really one for airheads. She did kind of get over it, though it took over half the damn season. Anyways, she primarily worked better than Misty because she had a student-teacher relationship with Ash. He taught her what he could, and she learned… usually. However, the problem that arises with this kind of relationship is that it makes May seem like less of her own person. She’s not so much ‘May’ as she is ‘Ash’s pupil’.
The writers also kind of shot themselves in the foot by bringing in Max. May hardly got any moments truly dedicated to her, because Max commented or reacted to nearly everything she did. Again, it took away from her identity as an individual.
credit: sekka koyori
Dawn had none of these problems, and just like how the rival story with Paul is the best plot structure Pokémon will probably ever manage to do, Dawn is the best companion that the show could ever do. Her personality is really similar to Ash’s, and she even has some of the same experiences. She starts off being overconfident in her own abilities, which caused a nostalgic scene where Dawn failed to do her first capture, and immediately blamed Ash for distracting her rather than taking any blame herself. (Ash trying to catch Weedle and being distracted by the bug catcher, anyone?).
One of the biggest complaints against Dawn is that she’s a ‘whiner’, which is absolutely true at first; it’s done on purpose. Unlike May, who took over half a season to get over being airheaded (somewhat), Dawn gets over her misplaced confidence in less than a fourth of the way through Diamond & Pearl. Dawn has two extremely memorable, dramatic scenes in the show, and it’s the first one that makes her drop the confidence.
In her first contest, Dawn made it to the final round, and she won her second contest. But then in her next two contests, she lost in the very first round. This was a huge blow to her, and she entered her depression arc, though she hid this depression from the others, and even tried to deny it herself. This was a huge deal: it’d make anyone think they’d never cut it as a Top Coordinator, and Dawn unconsciously felt like her dream was over. There was even the dramatic scene where she started breaking down crying the episode after when she saw Ash training.
After she talked and battled with Maylene, she got her confidence back. Not her overconfidence, but her will and belief that she could achieve her dream. Though she never lost an appeal round after this, whenever she did lose, she was able to take it in stride and it just strengthened her will to do even better next time, again reminiscent of Ash.
Oh, and for the sake of not leaving loose ends, the other dramatic event I mentioned is the Lilypad Contest when Mamoswine endlessly charges Carnivine while Dawn helplessly tries to calm it down, getting increasingly desperate.
But you know, if there’s any one reason that Dawn is the best companion, it’s because of one simple thing:
There’s an actual sense of camaraderie between Dawn and Ash.
The one complaint that I used for both Misty and May was that they both at some point faded into the background, leaving Ash to be the true main character. This doesn’t happen with Dawn. If anything, she starts off being extra baggage for Ash since she doesn’t know how to do much of anything, but she and Ash quickly become good friends.
For example, Ash didn’t always watch May’s contests, usually because he was training. It made it seem like May was just doing whatever, while what we should really have been prepared for was whatever Ash was training to do. Again, this doesn’t happen with Dawn. Ash watches all of her contests, and even participated in the very first one with her, which was also his first official contest.
Further preventing Dawn from falling to the sidelines is the fact that she and Ash learn from each other. Ash lifts a ton of her contest moves and ideas to use in his gym battles, which tend to pay off handsomely. The very first one was the spin dodge while jumping, but he later made us of Ice Aqua Jet, Counter Shield, and various other techniques. Things Dawn learned from Ash aren’t as glaring, but it’s obvious enough she became a better battler from watching him, and there are a few contest moves she created that were inspired from something she saw in his battles.
I also mentioned before that Dawn has a similar personality to Ash due to having similar experiences. Explaining each one is too much rambling even for me, so I’m just going to list them.
- Similar to Ash’s Pikachu, Dawn’s Piplup decided that it didn’t want to evolve. Though considering the events that transpired in the episode, Ash’s Bulbasaur may be a better comparison
- Pikachu didn’t like Ash at first but bonded with him by saving him from a bunch of wild Pokémon (Spearow), Dawn’s Piplup did the same thing (Ariados)
- Starting about a fourth into the season, Piplup started staying outside of its Pokéball, just like Pikachu does
- Dawn’s struggle to get Mamoswine to obey her was remarkably similar to when Ash was trying to get Charizard to obey him, though it took Dawn a lot less time
There’s other, smaller comparisons you could make too, but these are the most blatant.
credit: seto (ao168)
Now at this point, I can already imagine someone saying, “But wait Riyoga! You say the biggest reason Dawn is a great character is because of her and another character’s relationship? How does that even work?” This is actually a really easy one to address. Contrary to popular belief, the relationship between two characters isn’t really one thing, it’s two. Just like in real life, it takes an effort based on both characters to make a relationship work. It’s the same concept that made me like Inu x Boku so much: on their own, the characters are pretty flawed and honestly not that interesting, but they bounce off each other so damn well that they all become a lot more interesting.
Think of it less as one relationship between two people, and more like two perspectives each for two characters. Or something like that.
I suppose a follow-up question about that would be why Ash and Dawn’s relationship is really that different for me compared to say, Ash and May’s teacher-student one. I already addressed how it makes May seem like less of an individual, and how Dawn and Ash learn from each other and such, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
For both Misty and May, maybe not so much during the journey, but when leaving or meeting back up randomly, it shows their relationships with Ash as being really formal. It’s a lot of “oh good to see you again” and possibly shaking hands and such. His relationship with Dawn is a lot more informal, and honestly, I love that. When she shows up again in the second season of Best Wishes, does she run up to Ash and talk about how great it is to see him? No, she sneaks up behind him and plays a prank.
It’s stuff like this that makes me love Dawn. One of my favourite scenes in Diamond & Pearl is in the last episode, where she conspires with Piplup and Pikachu to wake Ash up since he slept in. I’d link a video of it if it was on Youtube, but alas. To make up for it, here’s a fun fact while I was just searching it. I came across quite possibly the most horribly mangled Pokémon fanfiction ever. Plot twists happened every other line, there was no punctuation, and there was no plot except for random shit happening.
It was the best thing I ever read in my life.
But anyways, Dawn made Diamond & Pearl amazing. She had a closer (and honestly, better) relationship with Ash compared to the other girls, and it payed off handsomely. You can’t even argue that they weren’t an awesome team.
No seriously, you really can’t. They were intentionally written to be an awesome team.
All the Diamond & Pearl movie teaser posters with Ash and Dawn with Brock missing or way in the background?
The second (non-remixed) opening, High Touch!, which was basically an opening dedicated to talking about Ash and Dawn’s relationship and thoughts about each other?
All those similarities I mentioned earlier?
All of these were done intentionally, and for a reason. Hell, even Dawn’s character song, which is supposed to basically be your theme song, is about how she and Ash are bros except for the fact that she’s female. You don’t get much closer than that.
Now, I guess it’s pretty much necessary I talk about Pearlshipping, isn’t it? Well, I have lot of issues with shipping in general, but that’s not really something I want to dedicate time to. Am I a Pearlshipper? I suppose, but not by the standard definition at all.
You see, most shippers are supremely dedicated to their ships and want to see them happen. That’s not how I am with Pearlshipping at all. I don’t want this show to suddenly turn into a romance, that’d be fucking terrible. The only thing that even vaguely qualifies me to be a part of the group is that if the show does decide to do something like that, or if the show is ending and wants to hook Ash up with someone, it better damn well be Dawn. They already have the best bromance as it is. Otherwise, I just want them to travel together all the time. That’s it.
Though I guess I may be partially biased considering my jacked up view of relationships. I’d rather have a relationship with a girl like the one Ash and Dawn have rather than an actual, “standard” one. Screw all that lovey-dovey stuff, I’d pick a bromance with a chick any day.
Anyways, if I’ve started rambling about myself, then that’s a telltale sign that this post is about over. I think I had a postscript thing planned, but I may have already incorporated it into the post. So… uh… yeah.
Thanks for reading.
To celebrate making it to the end, here are the many appearances of Dawn, which was made by some awesome person that isn’t me.