Recently I caught wind of a YouTube series called "Pokemon: Path to the Peak." It's about a girl named Ava who starts playing the Pokemon card game and wants to be the very best that no one ever was. I watched all four episodes and I have very conflicting thoughts about it, so let's discuss!
When I first watched Path to the Peak I found it pretty enjoyable. It's very much for kids - it effectively acts as Baby's First Sports Anime. Ava has ups, downs, and realizes that the true winning is the friends we made along the way. The animation is adorably soft and round. It's as predictable as you would expect, but that doesn't make it bad. It accomplishes what it sets out to do very well and manages to be endearing.
For a long time, that's precisely what the original Pokemon anime accomplished as well. Ash only just became a Pokemon master last year, and he started that journey when I was three years old, so it's not a new concept. But all that being said, the more I thought about Path to the Peak, the more I soured on it. This is because Path to the Peak is probably the Pokemon Company's (TPC) most egregious advertisement vehicle I've seen from them up to this point. And that's really saying something.
Now to be clear: every aspect of TPC is a vehicle for advertisement. The games now exist to sell plushies, the original anime exists to get you to buy the games, and so on. That's not where Path to the Peak stands out. Where it does is how it takes place in the real world. It's a world where everyone just loves Pokemon - people watch the Card Game on TV, constantly wear Pokemon merch, and talk about Pokemon non-stop. With every lovingly rendered card, or even meticulously described meta-play by characters in the show, I couldn't shake off how hard I was being sold to.
Again this isn't even a new concept! G. I. Joe and Transformers and He-Man have existed for ages. But at least there was a veneer, even if it was paper thin. Even a show like Gundam Build Fighters, which exists nearly solely to get you to buy Gunpla kits, does so within a fantastical framework - the characters build Gunpla and then use them to fight in a game that doesn't exist in the real world. But Path to the Peak is just Real Life - and if you play the game like Ava, you'll make cool friends and possibly win the Championship! (and also give us money, but don't worry about that last part)
Now obviously I'd be more conscious about what's happening with Path to the Peak than your average kid - but does that make it better? I struggle to reconcile with the fact that this is a show very clearly made with love, but whose purpose is tainted as another profit avenue for the Pokemon Company.
Am I overthinking this? Probably. Almost every piece of media I enjoy is sold to me in some way, shape, or form. But would it kill TPC to try harder? It feels like they know they don't even have to do that. And putting the show on YouTube Kids makes it feel all the grosser.
But that's just me! Have you watched Path to the Peak? Have opinions on the overarching, endlessly consuming machine that is Pikachu? Let me know, either here or on Cohost! Thanks for reading!