The Diamond & Pearl cast as seen in the series' current ending
The Pokémon anime celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sunday, marking nearly a continuous decade of never going a week without Pokémon. The first episode, ポケモン! きみにきめた! Pokémon! I Choose You! first aired April 1, 1997 on TV Tokyo. During this time Satoshi spent 274 episodes in the original series areas of Kanto, Orange Islands and Johto. He spent 191 episodes during Advanced Generation in Hoenn and Kanto. Diamond & Pearl will air its 26th episode tomorrow, bringing the total of Pocket Monsters anime episodes to 491. DP035 will be Episode 500, but its title is currently unknown. The only sustained period without episodes was after EP038 caused 700 Japanese children to suffer seizures and related conditions on Dec. 16, 1997. The series was off the air until EP039 aired on April 16, 1998 and has been airing with sporadic breaks that last no more than two weeks.
How far has the series come in 10 years? How much have the characters developed? We've seen the coming and going of Kasumi, Haruka, Masato and Kenji as main characters, with Diamond & Pearl's Hikari being showcased more than each of the other four ever were. Shigeru and Satoshi are no longer bitter rivals, and Satoshi faces a more ruthless rival in Shinji. Satoshi's Pikachu and Nyarth still haven't evolved, and Team Rocket still appears in every episode.
Until mid-Advanced Generation, openings and endings were not frequently altered, and endings tended to feature a specific character instead of the entire cast. Gone are Nyarth's Party and Takeshi's Paradise, and even seemingly character-specific songs like By Your Side ~Hikari's Theme~ feature the entire cast and their Pokémon. Fans now notice when a new capture or evolution hasn't made the opening or ending, whereas in the past it was always assumed we would have to wait for a completely new opening or ending to reveal upcoming team changes.
Many fan questions remain unanswered. What was in the GS Ball? Why did Kikuko replace Sakaki as the gym leader of Tokiwa City? Who is Satoshi's father? Will any shippings ever come to fruition? Because we do not know the ultimate length of the series, we cannot begin to speculate when- or if -we will receive the answers. The series shows no signs of stopping and is likely to continue as long as Nintendo and Game Freak continue to make Pokémon video games. However, Diamond & Pearl seems to thus far be distancing itself from its game counterparts more than past series, eschewing the Team Galaxy storyline and removing super contests altogether, leaving Hikari to perform in Hoenn-style contests.
Team Rocket has major roles in fewer episodes now than its members did during the first Kanto series. In some episodes they only appear for a minute in strange scenes invented by writers who are obviously annoyingly obligated to include them in each episode. An episode like EP048 or EP070 doesn't seem likely nowadays, unfortunately. How hard is it to insert a little character development once in a while?
Diamond & Pearl can expect to see several movies within its run. July's Dialga vs. Palkia vs. Darkrai gets three legendaries out of the way, but this leaves 10 more legendaries without formal appearances. Hikari's sighting of Emrit in DP001 was a hint that it and its two comrades will be dealt with in the series, however. Arceus and Shaymin, two unobtainables, will most certainly be featured in movies.
As of Generation III every legendary Pokémon had been featured in a movie or feature-length TV special with the exception of one: Ho-Oh. Satoshi has seen this rare Pokémon three times, and the series implies it has significance toward his quest. Will the final Pokémon movie or group of episodes be about Ho-Oh? To not give Ho-Oh a substantial appearance and disregard the impact it has had on the series thus far would be to leave another loose end dangling.
The animation itself has changed. In EP261 the series went from being animated with hand-painted cels to being animated digitally with computers. The Battle Frontier arc began to use a lot of 3-D effects to stylize battles and contests. Despite the aid of computers, the number of unique frames per episode is still noticeably small, so much so that when one watches recent Pokémon movies, the animation in the movies looks absolutely phenomenal in contrast because of its fluidity.
Satoshi certainly looks as if he has matured. Of course, if he does age, it is much slower than our time; he would be 20 years old as of Sunday if time were the same. That would make Satoshi slightly older than me! That's an odd scenario. Even stranger, Musashi and Kojiro would be into their 30s, and Takeshi would be 25. I would hope he would have found a girlfriend by then! For all you Haruka and Hikari fanboys: In their respective debut episodes, Haruka and Hikari explicitly stated they were 10 years old. You know what I'm talking about. Isn't Musashi a little closer to your age? Tsk-tsk.