Review: Pokémon Horizons’ Second Story Arc Rights A Sinking Ship

Pokemon Horizons arc 2 Roy and Fuecoco

Well then. Last time I wrote about Pokémon Horizons, when reviewing its first story arc, I was struggling to recommend it. The series got off to a strong start, but quickly devolved into utter nonsense, with poor pacing, messy storylines, and character development that made zero sense at the best of times. Going into the second story arc, I didn’t have high hopes that Horizons would be able to course correct, but somehow it did, and it did so without skipping a single beat.

Related: Review: Pokémon Horizons’ First Story Arc Starts Strong But Loses Its Way

So let’s take a look back at where we were going into the second story arc, subtitled Terapagos’ Shine. Roy had been largely abandoned, with little to no place left for him in the story, Dot had been brought into the fold and then similarly abandoned, and the Explorers were appearing in every single episode and doing basically nothing. Liko’s encounters with Lucius’ ancient Pokémon were somewhat interesting, but largely rushed and anticlimactic. It was bad.

With Terapagos’ Shine, the Explorers were shunted into the background, often not appearing for long stretches across multiple episodes. This was a huge boon for the series, since it meant that the Explorers’ appearance was actually exciting. The bad guys aren’t just constant features of the series now, a revolving door of unimportant mooks to be thrashed by Friede and Captain Pikachu every episode. When they do appear, they’re given time to breathe, make an impact, and pose a threat.

There are truly some incredible episodes. <p>The Pokémon Company</p>
There are truly some incredible episodes.

The Pokémon Company

The removal of the Explorers in every episode also served the secondary in big ways. The Rising Volt Tacklers always took a backseat to the action, like mere vehicles for exposition so that Liko could get spooked by the Explorers faster. Now, we’re starting to see episodes focused solely on specific members of the Volt Tacklers, with Orla, Molly, Murdock, and even Ludlow getting time to shine. All of these characters are excellent, so seeing them have the opportunity to display their personalities and talents after all this time was great.

And of course, Liko, Roy, and Dot also had a lot more time to breathe, and we got to see more of who these characters were and how they were developing. Roy’s retcon, having him be more interested in getting strong enough to fight Rayquaza rather than living out some treasure hunter fantasy, was a good pivot, I think. Roy already had most of his story stripped away by Liko’s far more interesting exploration of her heritage, so now that he has something to do and work towards he actually feels like he has a place in the story.

Roy feels like a much more defined character now. <p>The Pokémon Company</p>
Roy feels like a much more defined character now.

The Pokémon Company

But even stepping away from the bigger picture, Horizons is absolutely nailing the small stuff. It’s things like taking an episode for the gang have a picnic to cheer up Dot, or Liko teaming up with Mollie to save a separated Maushold family. It’s Roy’s Fuecoco stumbling upon a group of singing and dancing Sandile line Pokémon and joining in for a concert, and Ludlow transforming into a muscled superhero to help rescue a town. Episodes like these, filled with their silly downtime, were pretty common during Ash’s era, but were sorely lacking in Horizons. Now that they’re back,Horizons finally feels like it’s going toe-to-toe with the series that came before, and sometimes even winning.

When I wrapped up my last review of Pokémon Horizons, I said that it would be hard to recommend unless there was a serious course correction. 20 episodes later, I can say that said course correction has not only happened, but it’s well and truly set up the series for the long haul. The quality of Horizons in its second story arc far outweighs the roughness of getting there, and it’s very easy to recommend now.

Score: 9/10

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