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Pokémon Dragon's Dance

slamdunkrai

famously normal about the moon fellows
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they/them
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  1. darkrai
Hey! Reporting back for the review exchange, coming off the second half of chapter three. It turns out I remembered everything after chapter two much less than I thought I did, haha; it's something you allude to early on, of course, but it caught me by genuine surprise when Toku evolved as early as she did. Anyway, tl;dr: so far I like this a lot!

I can only really echo what everyone else has said about the wonderful job you did with the first chapter, specifically with showing us the isolated culture that Wataru spent his early years around. I love that the first thing we see here is the titular dragon's dance, I think the insights we get on this ritual from his point of view really help to set up the story's defining metaphor (namely, Wataru's coming of age being like that of a miniryu's journey to become a kairyu), and the description here is so damn vivid that it really helps sell the spectacle of the whole thing. I also thought the way you showed his relationship with Ibuki here was excellent; her dedication to laundry and just generally being A Responsible Grown-Up Teen, and him bemoaning her for being A Boring Hard-Nosed Square, really helped sell their kinship.

There's a lot of detail put into the nitty-gritty of life at home, which is fantastic for getting us immersed, and even better for describing the rug that you pull from under us when Wataru gets himself kicked out of town. The last part of this chapter is also great for setting up some inner conflict between his elders having their traditions for a solid reason and respecting them lest bad things happen again, and his (pretty damn justified, I have to admit) view that they're concerned these traditions far more than they are with actually looking after him, a child who is affected by their decisions; it struck a chord with me to see this poor kid bemoaning Uncle saying he didn't want it to come to this, but seemingly not doing anything to stop it. I especially thought this was interesting considering that, to protect their traditions, they're exiling a twelve year old who knows all about them. Intuitively I understood this as I was reading it; okay, my line of thought was, they're setting an example and showing no tolerance for spilling this behaviour to outsiders, and they're warning him not to spill any secrets; it's way too strict, but it makes sense. Then while writing this review I realised, hey wait a second, Wataru's the only thing stopping himself from spilling the beans about the dragons, and he's a kid! This punishment doesn't make much sense at all! And, frankly, I love that! It both sets up the actual plot going forward, and drives home the idea that these adults are making questionable decisions, they're irrational, and they're just priming the poor kid to watch his tongue at all times and then form some strong opinions about authority that he's going to have to unpack later.

I don't think I have quite as much to say about the next two chapters, but for getting the ball rolling with the start of Wataru's journey, they do the job well! Echoing the comment made elsewhere about the city never being far away in Kanto as a nice touch; the kid's had his whole life uprooted to go explore the world, the writing here speaks to this wide-eyed outlook where he's got so much to get used to, and I think you do a great job of making that contrast between the isolated village he's known for so long and the more industrial world he's having to get used to. I also appreciate that you've found a way to make those first two badges interesting parts of his character arc, and you do a good job of reinforcing the dancing motif in chapter three (which was just all-around very charming! Seeing Wataru faced with the gyarados and figuring out a way to work together with that big lug was very sweet, and you do a good job of capturing that magic that draws me to the games -- this little kid experiencing firsthand, and being mesmerised by, the scale of the world around him as he participates in it). All in all: good stuff. Also, I like the pacing here; it feels... I don't know if episodic is quite the word I'm after, but I like how we're learning about the start of his journey in slow, almost awkward, detail. Adds to the feel of our protagonist being a fish out of water. Or a ryu out of Ryu's Gift, I guess.

Can't really think of many real quibbles that I had with this. Like, this isn't really an actionable thing, but I thought Toku evolving so early on was an odd move in terms of pacing; I understand why you did this (the line about this being the last year he'd wear the miniryu's blue in the first chapter came to mind), but I think I would've liked to see this link made clearer at the end of the chapter (the comment about him being closer to home yet further away was... serviceable, I think, but I think it's a point that's already pretty clear by that point). Either way, it's not a huge deal, I think. Scanning back over it there were really only two other lines that struck me as a little off, and one was because of spelling:

"[...] A wave broke over the decks and a vicious wind tore through the sail. All would have been lost then, if not for the dragonite."

"Dragonite?" Wataru said with a start. That was the name from the book . . .

The old woman smiled. Her eyes had fallen closed as she spoke, as if seeing the sequence play out behind her eyelids. "Yes, a dragonite. [...]"
I understood the intent with this passage, and I think his trepidation here would work better if it was the first time he'd heard dragonite as the word for kairyu. It lost its impact for me though; it felt like he already knew this before, and he did! Airi calls them dragonite in the first chapter and he makes that exception. I think this reads as him hearing that word for the first time again, and it feels out of place.

"That's an apricorn ball. Speciality of Azalea—I noticed one of their venders at the market.
Should be vendor.

...That's pretty much it! On the whole, this is a really excellent start, and I'll definitely have to get back to where I remember being (but might not have been) last time. I'm glad I took up the opportunity to leave my thoughts on this, and I'm very invested in what's in store for our little hero as he sprouts wings and grows into his own. Cheers for writing!
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
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Hey @slamdunkrai such a pleasant surprise to learn you've done some stealth-reading in the past here! I'm glad the early chapters work well for you, though funnily enough, after reading the first chapters of Hey, Space Cadet, Dragon's Dance may be the fic of mine that's least in line with some of the things you've got going on there--a lot of my other writing is more strongly myth and religion focused--DD's the more conventional journey story. You might enjoy The Tessellation Solution--which involves a mysterious psychic intrusion and labyrinths--or The Days of Miracle and Wonder, featuring a girl's brush with the divine--or The Suicune's Choice, which opens with a boy making a decision that is both deeply irrational and at the same time essential to who he is.

I also thought the way you showed his relationship with Ibuki here was excellent; her dedication to laundry and just generally being A Responsible Grown-Up Teen, and him bemoaning her for being A Boring Hard-Nosed Square, really helped sell their kinship.
She is thirteen and extremely adult, can't you tell? "Boring Hard-Nosed Square" cracked me up--very on-point.

It both sets up the actual plot going forward, and drives home the idea that these adults are making questionable decisions, they're irrational, and they're just priming the poor kid to watch his tongue at all times and then form some strong opinions about authority that he's going to have to unpack later.
There's a shade of xenophobia to it all that Wataru will be unpacking for a while.

I also appreciate that you've found a way to make those first two badges interesting parts of his character arc, and you do a good job of reinforcing the dancing motif in chapter three (which was just all-around very charming!
Badge-quest wise things go off the rails . . . imminently, but I had fun trying to do Pewter and Cerulean without making it just about going to a gym and the groundwork in these chapters isn't going away.

I like the pacing here; it feels... I don't know if episodic is quite the word I'm after, but I like how we're learning about the start of his journey in slow, almost awkward, detail.
Episodic feels accurate--it's definitely a balance of honing in on some things and zipping through others.

Like, this isn't really an actionable thing, but I thought Toku evolving so early on was an odd move in terms of pacing; I understand why you did this (the line about this being the last year he'd wear the miniryu's blue in the first chapter came to mind), but I think I would've liked to see this link made clearer at the end of the chapter (the comment about him being closer to home yet further away was... serviceable, I think, but I think it's a point that's already pretty clear by that point).
I'm not entirely sure what link you mean?

I understood the intent with this passage, and I think his trepidation here would work better if it was the first time he'd heard dragonite as the word for kairyu. It lost its impact for me though; it felt like he already knew this before, and he did! Airi calls them dragonite in the first chapter and he makes that exception. I think this reads as him hearing that word for the first time again, and it feels out of place.
I see how it would read that way; should be a pretty easy fix!
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
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@Pen Hi! Finally here for the catnip! I apologise in advance, I've been under the weather the entire weekend, so this is not going to be a super analytical top-tier review. So far I went through the first chapter.

And oh boy, I'm so furious!!! I don't even know where to begin venting my frustrations! Poor Wataru! I hate it when people mistreat their kids! I hate it! Ooooooooo! That council scene tugged on all my heartstrings HARD! Shame on you, you friking self-important Dragon Clan, shame on you! On the one hand I should be happy that Wataru is out of that toxic environment, on the other hand I know how many scars that will leave! Grr!

So, anger aside, I think you did a solid job at introducing Wataru here. The story is a bit slow in the beginning, but it provides so many subtle nudges that expose his character and flaws in quick and striking ways. He is impatient and insecure, a loner who only really has his cousin and his miniryu, Toku. His isolation is part of his heritage and people's bias against him, but probably in equal part due to his abrasiveness and emotional reclusiveness. He is fourteen, I take it -- a stage in life where he feels like people still treat him like a small child when he feels like an adolescent. Wataru is definitely not one to sit down and listen to lessons. He has no clue about life outside the valley, which becomes painfully obvious when he encounters the trader's son. From his achievements at training Miniryu I can see that he is a talented trainer and a fierce battler who will have quite a blast in the Gym Circuit. But in his home, that is very *very* deep in their traditions, every trait that makes him stick out can and will be used against him. What's the saying? The nail that sticks out will be knocked down.

Also, big kudos on establishing the Dragon Clan, and especially the dance scene.
While I didn't get a full grasp on the intricacies of the clan (or the valleys for that matter), it was enough to follow along and to make a point. They seem to live in a commune that is strictly governed by the clan's elders, where the kids don't live with their parents and chores are also distributed among the clan-members. Honestly, I'm cautiously interested in how this commune works. If there are 30 kids in Wataru's age range, that's quite a big commune.
((But, who am I even kidding. Right now I hate them way too much to want to know more about them >:( I kinda want to send CPS their way, tho. I'm pretty sure those kids aren't registered properly and I'm also a bit worried about their schooling))
Their common denominator is their shared ancestry, which is also an interesting concept for cult-like groups (who usually need a living figure as knot to tie them together).
Then the dance scene. I loved it. Very vivid, and the way you described the images that the dances evoked rather than the motions was very effective. The opening, where the uncle explained what they were about to do felt a bit like forced exposition. But I've sat through my set of sermons too. That is not an uncommon thing at all.

The council scene, as I said, is an emotional juggernaut. It got me shaking in anger on several occasions. This council is incredibly unfair and harmful to anyone, and I seriously have to wonder how this cult kept up their lifestyle that long. Then again, circle of abuse... Those elders probably rejoice that they can now finally deal out the seemingly unfair punishment they received as kids while justifying it with the same words they got to hear.
Though, if secrecy is so important to them, I don't quite get why they decide to exile this very volatile member. If they got their heads out of their asses thought for one moment, they might piece together that sending Wataru in the state that he currently is out into a -- presumably -- modern Kanto or Johto will get the authorities onto their heels. Either that or his resentment against them will grow and he will retaliate on his own.
Okay, I think I will stop now before I get into too bad of a space.

Prose-wise, I can't really complain. It's simple and easy to follow (which is a big plus in my book!). If I'd had to complain about something, I'd say that few times it gets repetitive, but that is when Wataru repeats things to assure himself. I get the premise behind it, but it felt repetitive regardless.
Likewise, the opening is slow buildup, which is "counter-intuitive" to what I've learned about fanfic? Like, I usually see them start out with a bang! because you need to grab a reader's attention really good with that first chapter. But if you disregard ff.net and ao3 logic, the slow start really works in the story's favour. By the time the council-scene rolls around, I found myself already liking Wataru a lot. And that wouldn't have been possible without the slow buildup.
Also, that story about the master who returned with two dragonites? A subtle forshadowing? Looks at Lance's canon team. I think so :D

So yeah, that concludes my rather disjointed ramblings about The Miniryu Dancer! I loved it, even though I hated it :D
I hope that poor Wataru gets all the therapy and cuddles that he deserves, but from what the story looks like, this might take some time...

Cheers - Blue
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
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Hey @bluesidra thanks so much for your review! As a writer, it makes me feel quite happy to hear the chapter made you feel so strongly, though I hope it didn't leave you in too bad a space at the end.

He is impatient and insecure, a loner who only really has his cousin and his miniryu, Toku. His isolation is part of his heritage and people's bias against him, but probably in equal part due to his abrasiveness and emotional reclusiveness.
That sums it up very well! One of those tricky situations where it's definitely not all on Wataru that he's isolated--but his actions haven't exactly helped things.

He is fourteen, I take it -- a stage in life where he feels like people still treat him like a small child when he feels like an adolescent.
Twelve, actually, though I think that number doesn't come up specifically until the next chapter.

If there are 30 kids in Wataru's age range, that's quite a big commune.
Was there somewhere in particular you got the number thirty from? I imagine there are far fewer kids than that in his age range.

edit: I found it! Yeah, good catch here, I changed that.

Their common denominator is their shared ancestry, which is also an interesting concept for cult-like groups (who usually need a living figure as knot to tie them together).
Huh, I'm not sure cult is a word that would ever come to mind for me to describe the Dragon's Clan!

The council scene, as I said, is an emotional juggernaut. It got me shaking in anger on several occasions.
I'm glad it was effective! It was a hard one to write.

If I'd had to complain about something, I'd say that few times it gets repetitive, but that is when Wataru repeats things to assure himself. I get the premise behind it, but it felt repetitive regardless.
Let me know if there were any particular places that stood out to you and I'll take a look!

Likewise, the opening is slow buildup, which is "counter-intuitive" to what I've learned about fanfic? Like, I usually see them start out with a bang! because you need to grab a reader's attention really good with that first chapter. But if you disregard ff.net and ao3 logic, the slow start really works in the story's favour. By the time the council-scene rolls around, I found myself already liking Wataru a lot. And that wouldn't have been possible without the slow buildup.
That's interesting--my experience with journeyfic openings in pokemon is that they often take ages to get their plot rolling. This fic is fairly character-driven and Wataru's atypical upbringing in the Ryu's Gift is very important in shaping who he is and what he wants, so I feel the time spent is worth the investment.

Also, that story about the master who returned with two dragonites? A subtle forshadowing? Looks at Lance's canon team. I think so :D
Shhh, no foreshadowing here.

I hope that poor Wataru gets all the therapy and cuddles that he deserves, but from what the story looks like, this might take some time...
It's fine, Wataru will continue to make good decisions and put his trust in trustworthy mentors :wink:
 
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kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
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she/her
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  1. silvally-grass
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  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
kintsugi
Salvage comic but it’s in MS paint and clearly drawn by the child
PeN
yes please

A wild MONKEY'S PAW appeared!
The Recruit, Part One
[spoilers for The Recruit, Part One.]
 

ShiniGojira

Multiversal Extraordinaire
Location
Stranded In The Gaps between Multiverses
Pronouns
He/him/they/her
Partners
  1. custom/zorua-gojira
Hi! This is my review for catnip on chapter 1.

This is my first time actually reviewing and criticising something, so forgive me if it's not as useful as the other reviews.

When I first saw the title, I had originally thought it'd be a wholesome story of dragons and friendship but after reading the summary and checking the tags, I'd realised that it was about the back story of [insert character here].

I'll admit, I'm not particularly fond of reading these types of stories as I usually care more about the present or future kind of stories and will usually skim through most characters' backstory if they aren't interesting or super important to the main plot.

That said, I'll still try and give this story a shot.

Also I find the switch to Japanese and English to be a bit jarring (I'm not very good at remembering names, and the switch to Japanese can take some time for me to get use to), this switch can sometimes interrupt the flow for me as I'm a fast reader.

The story of Lance's origins and this version of the Wataru Clan is rather interesting and the take on Lance being mixed-race and being treated as an outcast provides a pretty good motivation and reasons for his ignorance. The interactions are believable and decent.

The older cousin trying to act more mature after doing the hakaryu dance is a good way of representing Claire's desire to fulfil her dreams yet it shows her trying too hard to follow the elders and traditions.

The Wataru Clan being an isolated society helps explain their reluctance to show the outsiders their secrets and it also provides a way to make Lance learn and feel new things he could never do so when staying in his home.

That said, there weren't many characters that were super memorable or stuck out to me.

The only characters I could really remember after my first read-through was Lance, Toku, Clair, his uncle and Aiya(or was it, Aiyi?). Anyone else I had completely forgotten.

This can be an okay thing if said forgettable characters aren't going to be important for any future events.

Kana, to me, feels like she might play a role in later chapters, but I had completely forgotten her existence even after reading this absolute banger of a line.

He's a stubborn boy, Chief," Kana said slowly. She seemed to be choosing each word with care. "A stubborn ryu only learns by ice."



Anyway, other than these gripes. The chapter was great. It did an amazing job balancing exposition and plot progression.

The characters were great and believable, their interactions were fun to read. And though I'll probably not read through it unless I'm bored. (Sorry if that sounded rude, these stories just aren't my cup of tea.)

It was a pretty good story, all things considered.

The kaiyru dancers
Also, I think you have a typo here. 'Kairyu'
 

slamdunkrai

famously normal about the moon fellows
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. darkrai
Hyo! It's me again, picking up on where I left off and covering The Gambler through to The Agent. In my last review, I stated the following:
I'm glad I took up the opportunity to leave my thoughts on this, and I'm very invested in what's in store for our little hero as he sprouts wings and grows into his own.
And then he went into a casino, joined the mob, and now he's just witnessed a murder. I think ultimately I was slightly off the mark in what I expected to happen here but you win some, you lose some, and this is true for our protagonist; his circumstances have gotten noticeably much worse than expected but I think in the long run that this is probably fine, and nothing to worry about.

Also, he's become Lance! Very cool to know that that's how he got his name, and by cool, I mean I have strong feelings about all of this. If the main focus of chapter one was home, and the chapters after that focused on the promise of growing up and going home one day, I think these chapters are occupied with the changes that slowly push his goal further out of reach until it seems unattainable — and I think that the change from Wataru into Lance interests me so much because it feels like the point where this happens. I am, of course, referring to that specific line at the end of The Recruit, Part One:

Lance was ready for this, even if Wataru wasn't.

I am a sucker for this kind of thing, especially when Part Two of that chapter starts with him being referred to as Lance and that just sticks. Have to say, I legitimately thought he'd just be Wataru the whole way through; it feels like this change being a shocking twist was the intention, and I salute it. Besides that, I think what I liked so much about this was how subtle it felt, I suppose; it feels very much like a spontaneous change, one which happens in the moment because it has to if he's to succeed in Team Rocket — and, importantly, to rescue the miniryu in the casino. It signified to me the moment where going home as the same old Wataru became impossible, but the circumstances surrounding this moment (and the aftermath of it) obviously make it impossible to be reckoned with in the moment. Which is why I thought the ending of this section was so effective:

But while Team Rocket stood, until he could wash that stain away—Lance knew he could never go home.

That's good stuff, especially with Toku (sweet, innocent Toku, too good for this world) evolving shortly after the worst thing Lance has ever gone through. It's a triumph, yes, but it's undermined by the brutal nature of what's just happened; it should represent Wataru coming of age, and instead, it comes at a real low point for him under a different name entirely. Just really bittersweet in a way I can get behind. C'est la vie, I suppose! In my previous review I mentioned not being 100% sure about how her first evolution went down in terms of pacing, but I think it paid off in the long run. At the time I thought that it seemed a bit premature in marking our protag's growth, but actually, Lance's whole coming-of-age is happening under deeply abnormal circumstances; he's learning about the awful parts of the outside world way earlier than he should have, considering where he was at when he began the story. So given that, yeah, in hindsight I think the way evolution is used as a loose (but not 1-to-1) metaphor for growth really works here. If that makes sense?

I don't know enough about the concept of the hero's journey to talk about how the whole fic fits into the thing, but I suppose that if you look at the exile as his call to adventure, that quote where he becomes Lance is his transformation point. And this undertaking was initially to rescue the miniryu, too! Poor guy really did not know what he was getting into, and it makes what's happened here all the more of a tragedy, I think. He's just a kid, but he's a kid who is not about to let one injustice slide, so he throws himself at fixing it and gets entrenched in a shitload more injustices along the way, and now that point of transformation has been crossed. I can see how this quality would make him a good champion, but at the same time, it's led us here.

Wataru stared up at the still tank, the motionless miniryu. Everything about this picture was wrong. For a moment, an image of Toku trapped in a tall glass cylinder captured his mind, and bile rose in his throat. This was too cruel. It was unacceptable. The anger washed over him like a boiling wave, making his fingers tingle and his face burn.

"I'll get you out of there," Wataru whispered, trembling. "I swear it, by the kairyu, by fire and ash."

I like how his immediate instinct after this is to resist the obvious trap by trying to get the law involved (they have a permit, so it's fine), but by that point, he's already invested; it was never going to end well for him, was it? Bless him, that's a particularly fucked up way to get someone into gambling and then your crime organisation (even if he wasn't the target, this was pretty firmly leveraged by Archer for Rocket's own advantage). Really adds to the air of sleaze around our villains here. It is, at least, nice that he gets some support from our favourite professor here through that letter that gets sent off, which makes life a little more bearable for the poor creature, but beyond that, the cycle of adults that should be making things right and just failing Lance continues. It's understandable that he's making these bad decisions, and they shouldn't be bad decisions to begin with. It just doesn't change the fact that they're bad, does it? :(

And speaking of Professor Oak: man, we don't really see him for a while after this, do we? I get the feeling that a reunion is inevitable sooner or later, especially given where we know Lance is bound to end up, and there's gonna be a lot of explaining to do there. And that's not to mention Ibuki. I feel like I'm just reiterating the same point here, but man, things have gone pear-shaped, haven't they. I've more to comment on, but given where this part leaves off, I am super eager to see where the next part of the story picks up. Guessing there's going to be a timeskip or something here, but regardless, he has a hell of a hole to dig himself out of. (I sincerely hope that he is not about to continue digging.)

I also really liked how you depicted Celadon here, and the duality of it all. There's the casino, of course, and there's Erika's gym, which tickled me a little bit — it's all so... corporate, I think, and a little soulless; I appreciate this aspect of it, because it's always fun seeing how people try to approach this in a world where pokémon are real. I'd say it's done pretty damn well here, because of how bitterly funny (and brief!) the battle is. He goes in, he defeats Erika, he is given some perfume and forced to leave (because she's a businesswoman, she has important businessly things to do) and then it's back to the casino. I like that Wataru's response to all this is just an empty "let's go to the casino," because he's firmly sucked into the darker side of Celadon by this point because he just cannot let go of his good intentions even as they're draining him. I think what made this particularly effective for me was how pleasantly you introduced the city to begin with! Sure, there was the appointment to sort out, but the description of the scenery and the fire-swallower all added a lot of charm to the city on its surface. I think the way that this charm (which is heavy in chapter three as well, of course) just gives way to things that make our protagonist's life miserable adds a lot to the story, really; you do a good job of tying this all together with some really cohesive worldbuilding.

Proton's laugh rose from deep in his belly. "That shit. Boozed himself up, did he? Listen up, then. We get inside, you don't talk. No threatening moves. No pokemon, till I say so. Got it? I need to check the lay of the land."

Also, you give the Rocket executives a lot of personality. This got a laugh out of me. Proton's an asshole, but in a really funny way; even if he brutally kills someone immediately afterwards, I can safely say I would like to go out for drinks with him more than I would Archer. You might say that this isn't a high bar, and you'd be correct, but Archer is terrifying and manipulative and slimy in ways that don't make me laugh so much. You just make the structure of the organisation very clear, too, and the cut-throat nature of it all ties in really well with Lance's trial to enter their ranks in the first place. It's good stuff! I'm excited to see our protagonist try and burn it all down to the ground.

I'm really glad that Blitz has given me the opportunity to continue reading this story, because it has gone to a place I did not think it would go and I am 100% for it. I'll definitely keep going back to this over the rest of the month, because I'm so eager to see where this is going. Cheers for writing it! :>
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
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Holy shit @Negrek this is stunning. I love the watercolor style--it feels like an old-style painting and the vibe is so on-point. Also in love with the way you did Toku's fins. So long and fluffy! The colors, the curves, it's all so lovely. Thank you!!
 

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
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she/her
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  1. silvally-grass
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  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
it's true that I haven't reviewed since the vigilante, but please understand that 1) this image has been living in my head rent free since I read the protoge part one and 2) I actually hate drawing clouds because what is geometry?? and 3) my artistic struggle of "kint, no, you can't, a background is not a main character" has been in full force recently. please don't evolve all the sneks even though that's probably how things will go; think of the artists who want to swooooop

Shitposts aside, this (Protege 1) is one of those chapters that I don't really have words for. It's satisfying in a way beyond plots fitting together; there's a really heavy sense of emotional closure as well. "I hope we get to see Hamako again" this is NOT what i meant holy shit--

There's something really somber about this chapter that I didn't realize I was missing, the same kind of ache in my gut that I only last felt in the other Hamako/dragonair evolution scene, the kind of triumph that doesn't really feel quite like a triumph. I think it's pretty hard to pack breather chapters into stories with timeskips, since you're inherently clicking through to all the action beats and it's hard to find a way to focus on those sad moments of reflection that don't come in the immediate aftermath.

The storm imagery is unmistakably beautiful and the battle choreography is excellent; Lance shows off that he's grown; we see that power takes different forms--and yet things don't feel like victory and the lesson isn't learned. It's the more somber side of evolution, the shed skin that we can't take with us. Growing up is painful and requires owning up to your mistakes so you can learn from them, and also electrocuting your pseudo-grandmother's snakes into the ocean. But of all the times that Lance faces the idea that power won't get him what he wants, this one feels the most settling in its finality for me. Hamako forgives him and gives him advice for how to avoid this in the future, but the damage is already done. The storm has passed. Storms make me think of quiet strength, the opposite of Toku’s outrage, power with no fury—it’s a difficult emotion to convey but one that works really well here. stop bullying grandma please.

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Panoramic_Vacuum

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I've come to realize I've been a bit lax on reviewing DD, so shame on me. I'm here for Protege Part 1, and it's as much fun on a second (or third?) reread as it was the first. I enjoy just how much influence the people around young Lance have on his growth and development. Ever-cheerful Jiro and his unending font of support, Hakamo's guidance from years of experience and service to the league, and a healthy dose of respect and even fear from those trainers who reign at the top of the League, like Kikuko and Giovanni (though that's for an entirely different reason, and I love that Gio practically oozes with charisma and power here, even though it's clear he's flying so far under the League's radar.) It's definitely a testament to your writing that all of these supporting characters come across so strongly, even the bureaucrat Mizuno, in so few words.

It makes the world feel like a place is being allowed to live in, versus the world forming around Lance and his actions. And lends itself to a balanced, wide-reaching world that gives just enough information to shape each scene that takes place, but lets the readers imagination wander to the things that aren't described. The sense of history you imbue to the torch-passing ceremony, as well as the traditional garb and story behind the netsuke bring a lot of significance to what otherwise could be a story taking place anywhere else in time. It grounds it in this transitional period between the old ways and new, and sets the stage for what could be considered game canon, with Lance's story spanning both of these time periods. In a way, it's similar to him existing in the same way as Gen X, caught in this transition and rapid take-over of technology; it's relatable in a very unique (and maybe unintended?) way.

I rather like Jiro's humble origins story. He's a success story in more ways than one, and I like that in some ways I bet he sees a lot of himself in Lance. I still am a bit on edge with him in terms of maybe having gone a bit too far on the success scale, and maybe blinding himself in a bit too much glitz, glamor, and gold, but Jiro does still feel genuine in his actions and words. Maybe a mix of inspiration and a cautionary tale for Lance, which feels like a good mentor figure, really. Not everyone can be perfect in this world, despite best intentions. Hakamo is proof enough of that, and I like that this chapter has a balance of Jiro and Hakamo's influence on Lance. You can feel how much respect Lance has for Hakamo despite most others already having moved on and see her as washed up and past her prime. She's being pushed out in favor of this new wave, this new push towards the League's future, but that doesn't mean her ideals are any less valid. I like that she isn't compromising herself in order to fit in. As graceless as being forced out of her position is, she's still true to herself, and shows that she's anything but washed up in her battle with Lance during the storm. She's a force to be reckoned with, which on merit means she's still well qualified for a position as a Gym Leader, but society has moved on, such is the cruel march of time. More of this transitional period theme going on here, and how Lance is bridging the gap of old and new in a way that's entirely unique to him because of who he is.

The battle itself was grand, and again the environment of the battle takes center stage (which is oh so satisfying). Kaisho's evolution is stunning and a great precursor to the battle proper. Seeing Hakamo's youthful spirit come alive during the battle, compared to her tired, withdrawn presence at the formal ceremony and party was a real joy, and drives home the importance of pokemon in these people's lives (and again a great contrast between the very human-centric society vs those who live and work with pokemon on a very close and personal level, the idea of pokemon as tools vs pokemon as creatures that demand respect, and more themes of modern vs traditional ways)

Speaking of, big fan that Lance just trashes his brand new clothes.
"I'm sorry about the clothes, Jiro. I promise I'll pay you back for them."

"Nonsense. Those clothes were a gift, yours to do what you wanted with them. If that means destroying them on your first night out, so be it."
Lance 🤝 Steven
future champions who have no qualms ruining expensive clothes

A delightful chapter that brings closure to an earlier experience in Lance's life in a very satisfying way.
 
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Panoramic_Vacuum

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Back for Protege Part 2, and really it feels like Protege Parts 2 and 3. There's definitely a first half and a second half to this chapter that leaves me thinking "did the first part happen in this chapter?" by the time I finish reading the second half. This isn't a bad thing, though I do feel bad myself because the hype of the second half always seems to linger over the hype of the first (simply b/c it's most recent after finishing the read-through). I do understand why they're together, though. There's a lot of ties from the first half (acquiring a new pokemon, naming said pokemon, using said pokemon in the gym battle, and you-know-who watching said gym battle). It all makes perfect sense. Poor Muno though, outclassed by Giovanni in every sense of the word.

There are a lot of great tie-ins to the first part of the chapter, a lot of parallels. In a way it feels like an extension of the previous chapter, sort of a conclusion tour to Lance's early journey. He even muses about it himself, seeing in his mind's eye his first trek out of Pewter from above. There's other parallels here, too, that make Lance's new teammate feel earned. A lot of what goes into being a dragon master (as portrayed in other pokemon media) has to do not with power, or command, but understanding. The way Lance is able to understand aerodactyl's situation and emotions is great. He's not being overly insightful or heady or academic; he's simply being himself, drawing from his own experiences, and that brings him to a tight bond even with seemingly wild, untamed pokemon.

I really like the natural progression of the aerodactyl problem. First the resurrection goes wrong, tensions are high between the blue collar centered Pewter and the research institute that they share a city with. I always found the pairing of "gritty mining town and museum" existing in the same place in multiple pokemon regions (I belive Sinnoh's Oreburgh has the same set up). The difference here is great, being played out in the back and forth between Muno and the museum scientist. I enjoy the solution here isn't one side or the other, but a third solution, Lance and Jiro's intervention. I liked Jiro's diplomatic role here, too, convincing the museum to have Lance stay around in return for allowing Archer to be part of Lance's team in the end.

The short segment of Lance choosing to journey to Viridian on his own (vs flying, like in the opening of the chapter) is another nice call back. It's got a feeling of nostalgia that is bookended by one town that's remained much the same, and one town that's forged into the future with a new identity. Of course, we all know who is waiting for him at the Viridian Gym, and the added tension of the brief interaction with Hunter's sister at the front desk only heightens the air of unease around the empire that Giovanni has built.

Speaking of our favorite mafioso, I love his presence in the gym battle. The throne, the shadows, the opening volley without lifting a finger. He's got this incredible air of cockiness and for good reason. In his position, he's invincible, even with a loss. You can feeling it in every action, every word. Lots of advanced, and even ruthless tactics on display in this battle, and the descriptions of Toku's Outrage gave me goosebumps. It's always been a very nebulous move in the games, but tying it to real emotion, shared emotion between trainer and pokemon, and the way it manifests as different colors and auras of dragon-type energy all swirling into one? Mm yes that's the good stuff. (Definitely had little laugh at Gio being like "okay now show me a real dragon" to Lance, who uses mostly non-dragons on his team, but in type-only)

I can definitely see why this is a Part 2 to the earlier Part 1, even though they read well as stand-alone chapters. The reunion tour is over, it's time for Lance to pull the curtain closed on the first part of his journey and keep moving forward.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

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Ah ha, another two-parter begins. I like that this one starts in very much the same way as the last two-parter, a quiet moment with Jiro, this kind of pivot point for Lance to look back on his journey (like the last two-part chapter) and also begin to move forward, which is what this chapter and its partner will most likely be doing. I read this one a while back when it was first posted, but re-reading it right after reading The Protege pt1 and 2 puts it in a new light. Again this strong sense of tradition vs progress is the foundation upon which the story is built. This one in even more of a literal sense with Fuscia's history drawn as a scar that divides the forest in two distinct halves. And again Lance's unique upbringing allows him to bridge the divide between the two.

I like that Kikuko is again a hot topic of conversation here, it feels like there's a very real build-up happening to the inevitable showdown. The worldbuilding of Kanto-Johto champion succession is a nice little snack for foreshadowing to what I can only assume is some kind of Jedi Master vs Apprentice showdown between Lance and Jiro. It's a nice set up to Lance's defense of Jiro under Koga's scathing words. It makes sense, though, from Koga's point of view, especially given the ninja clan's history with Kanto and the compromise that feels more like a ninja loss than any kind of real truce. You capture the ninja's bitterness and loss well against the way they still persist and carry on their traditional ways. Lance's bittersweet homesickness hits home hard, especially since he's grown so much since he left. Sharing that sorrow with Toku is a touching moment, and Toku's support of Lance even in his doubt is the real strength of their bond.

It's a nice highlight that even if Lance's battle strategy is "hyper beam first, ask questions later", he is capable of softer emotions. He may know how to battle with brute force, but that's not the only note of his personality. I enjoyed Koga's lessons of restraint, the art of doing only what is necessary, and scorn at show-boating overkill. I chuckled at "it's not politics" but really it's politics, but it's not necessarily inherently political. It's always been the ninja's way of life, and their way of life sees anything more than that as frivolous and unnecessary. Their heritage translates into all aspects of life, which now extends into Kanto politics (against their will, of course).

I do wish we got to see more of Koga's training, though I wasn't entirely sure how long Lance's stay in the ninja village actually was. I've not had the best sense of time in a few places in this fic, so while I feel like it was a short stay, it could be longer than I thought as well. Of course there's also the possibility of not having a huge payoff in specifying the exact time frame either. The only sense of progress we got was Kaisho's triumph with striking the egg, so I'm left with a lingering uncertainty of how much Lance learned from Koga's training overall. I imagine we'll get a better picture when he puts those lessons into practice in future battles (or not?) It's a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things, in which we get another chapter that dances across Kanto and sheds light on the varied, complicated history of this region.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

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Whew, boy! A lot to unpack in part two. There's a lot of angst on Lance's part about his home, which makes sense as he travels about to others' homes and learns about the things that made them who they are. While the first leg of his journey, the part it feels like we closed the book on in The Protege, is about his identity, who he is as a person, this one is definitely about the place he calls home. His origins are clear and muddy at the same time. He's sculpted equally from both Kanto and Johto, as much as he struggles with this even up to the end of this chapter with new citizenship in hand. It's actually a nice contrast to Kikuko's biting words about him meddling in affairs in which he doesn't belong. Au contraire, my dear Kikuko, this child is exactly where he belongs, a child of Kanto and Johto, fighting for champiancy of the joint regions. Both locked in a struggle of their own identity and supremacy, of their traditions and futures, and again maybe the answer lies in something in-between, a melding of the two.

I love the presence of Lavender Town, and how all of these places in Kanto have their own distinct vibes. The dark, shabby nature of the town in conjunction with the solemn air suits it perfectly. The sheer number of OSHA violations in the Lavender Tower is staggering, but regulatory boards on health and safety have no home here. The peace between the citizens of Lavender and their ghostly neighbors is lovely, and again shows how towns ripe with tradition, their way of life revolves around the way pokemon inhabit the space with them. It's co-habitation, not something that oozes from Saffron, the place where Lance feels the most uncomfortable. Yes, Saffron has become his new home, but it's not his singular identity. If anything it showcases that tolerance, not outright rejection of one way of life over the other, is the way to mark progress.

Again I'm uncertain of the actual duration of Lance's stay in Lavender, with his revelation on how to potentially battle ghosts coming right away after visiting the old Gym. He spends time training there, and despite some progress it's clear that a champion who specializes in ghosts is on a whole other level. Feels a bit amateurish on his part to assume the answer is so simple, but he is still young despite having so much success in his journey thus far. Kikuko certainly puts him in his place, and I see you also have embraced the outlandish and borderline nightmarish potential of ghost type moves. The dream eater sequence was probably my favorite, as it hits on such a personal level beyond what any pokemon attack should be able to accomplish. It's torment for pokemon and trainer, and exactly the kind of thing a ghost-type would employ. Good on Kikuko for calling out her Gengar's tactics in what amounts to a friendly match (even if her attitude is anything but). Of course, when you're Kikuko's age, you can say whatever the hell you want. Them's the rules. Lots of other advanced tactics on display again here, like subtle psychic manipulation, and even the way Kikuko carries her pokemon with her. I like the "ghost lives in a possessed object" headcanon, and the fact that Kikuko can just carry her pokemon anywhere she wants without a pokeball.

A few small corrections, one of which isn't even a correction but I feel the need to point it out just the same. First off, contrary to "ghastly" sounding like a nice ghoulish word, the species is actually spelled "gastly", as in a gas-pokemon. (not a ghastly one). The second is more of my own confirmation, that the Dragonite line cannot actually learn shadow ball (or any ghost type moves for that matter). Of course, no one is bound to game-rules for fic, unless it's by their own stubborn choice (oh look, it's me). I do like that Lance either purposefully didn't attempt to use it, or just flat out neglected to try in favor of actual powerful moves against a surprise battle vs the Champion. Gives Toku time to improve it and pull a nice trick out of the bag in the inevitable rematch. The loss is a nice reminder that he's still got a ways to go, and the power scaling feels right, even if he's reliably beating Gym Leaders left and right.

This is a nice set up for what's to come, both with Kikuko's sunny personality, and Jiro's actual sunny personality, I think there's more than just a clash of unfair type immunities in everyone's future.
 

bluesidra

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Hello! Back for chapter 2.

Initially, binging Dragon's Danger was on my top priority list for the Blitz, but damn, I'm not sure if I can take it. This fic just tears me up. Poor, poor Wataru. Breaks my heart thinking about what he's going through, especially since he's still a kid. I REALLY loathe the dragon clan now. Hope the modern Kanto burocracy gets to them and destroys their little abusive backwater community for good. Or at least do something about Wataru's uncle. What a piece of shit.

Thank god Toku is (still) with him, at least. She is the MVP of this entire fic. And Mr Inushi seems like a good man, too. I'm so glad Wataru at least got to settle into somewhat of a routine in Cherrygrove. He was so restless and handed from one person to the next, it was good to see that he at least found some normalcy before Inushi left. And that he made the decision to go with the professor himself. Still, this entire chapter is really sad.

Oak is incredibly annoying and if I was Kana, I'd ember him for talking without pause as well. But he seems to be nice enough. It's not like he's going to be Wataru's travel companion the entire time.

Wataru training Kana was really sweet and now it shows why him and Toku were so much stronger than his peers. He really has a hand for pokemon and seems to understand them almost intuitively.

"What does Father think he's doing?!"

Ibuki's outburst came without warning. Wataru almost fumbled the bar of soap.

"So you did something stupid. Well, you do stupid things all the time. That doesn't mean you should—"

Ibuki couldn't say it either.

Wataru bent back over the running water, scrubbing hard at the shawl. Foolish hafu boy. The gurgling water seemed to be spitting back Elder Io's words.

"If I'd gone and battled you, instead of doing laundry—"
Ibuki just rose 10 ranks in my heart.
A satisfied parrumph rose from the bundle on Wataru's lap. He froze, his heart thudding.

Mr. Inushi turned his head. "Now what have you got in there, lad?" he asked, furrowing his eyebrows. There was nowhere to hide. The folds of the cloak fell away and Toku raised her head, her fins twitching as the fresh air hit her.

"Ryu!" she said, sounding immensely pleased with herself
omg, she's so cute. I love her commenting on her win. Little queen deserved it.
They're only in the important towns, like Ecruteak, and Goldenrod, and Violet City . . ."
:big_eyes: PLEASE GIB! I know he'll travel Kanto, but damn, I want to see your Johto!!!
Wataru must have slipped to sleep at some point, lulled by the regular, rocking motion of the wagon.
Boy sure sleeps a lot. Relatable.
"Why so many fires?" he asked out loud. "Is tonight a celebration?"
Oh. Oh no.
"Inushi Airi."
Heeey! Another one who uses Surname Given-name order. Am very pleased.
"Wataru is from a real small hamlet, Nurse," Mr. Inushi cut in. "I don't think you'll find him in the system. Might be best to just start fresh."
This is about the saddest thing ever. I hate hate HATE his uncle for throwing him out into the world with not even as much as an ID.
The miniryu was snaking determinedly across the floor, towards the meal room.
ryu got a plan, and noone's gonna stop her from monching.
"April 22, 1976," the woman said finally. "Given name, Wataru.
HECK YEAH nineties!
"Don't—" he said, when he could finally breathe. "Don't ever do that again."
Noooooo! Oh god. I want to hug and cuddle and adopt him right then and there.
"What do you mean, rare."
There should be a "?", no?
"He couldn't mean forever . . ."
Damn, I hope he Does mean forever. Get away from that guy, Wataru. He deserves nothing but loneliness.
Someone should be helping him! Wataru thought to himself, wincing as the door narrowly missed the old man's back as it slammed shut behind him.

Wataru started at Toku's nudge. Oh right, there's me.
This fic would be so much shorter if Ibuki had kept Toku, wouldn't it?
"Look at you, Okido Yukinari," he muttered to himself.
I'm just gonna swipe this name, thank you very much.
"No thank you, I already have enough on the subject. A simple sentence, but alas, completely beyond my capacity. Though, of course, it would be both simple and false, because it's just not possible to have enough on any subject, even the most narrow and mundane. As a phenomenon, evolution is neither."
Oak: *rambles on about his entire life*
Wataru, on the brink of collapsing under the books: Hrrrrngh!!!
"Well, stick around a moment and I'll show you something neat, as thanks for your help."
Stranger Danger!!!
"This one always wants to battle," the old man grumbled.
Wataru, is that you?
"You just didn't let up, Dad," Airi was saying admiringly as they came in. "Oh, I can order it by pidgey-catalogue, she says, but you let her know just what junk they'll pass off to you if you can't test it out first!"

"That's right, my boy. It's a premium, getting to handle the wares yourself before the buy, and you've always got to keep your customer reminded of the fact."
That is so adorable. And backwards. And sad. And adorable.
When Wataru pressed the indentation, Toku vanished. There wasn't a flash of light this time, but the ball grew warmer in Wataru's hands. Just touching it, he could tell Toku was safely inside.

Another click, and Toku was back. He noticed her fins were lifted slightly, a sign that she was pleased.
Awwwwww...
"Thank you, Mr. Inushi," Wataru said quietly, turning to face the squat, smiling man. It hit him suddenly how much time the trader had taken today, guiding Wataru through one thing after another, instead of doing that job that so clearly brought him joy. Whatever Uncle had told the man and however much money Uncle had paid him, nothing had obligated the trader to be so kind.
😭
"Bothering me? Oh no," the old man replied, stopping a few feet away from them.

"Good to hear," said Mr. Inushi, nodding his head. "And I hope, Sir, that you haven't been bothering this lad."
Stranger danger has been avoided, can confirm. Also, Inushi is such a cool guy, looking out for Wataru.
"Well . . ." Professor Okido let out an awkward laugh. "I dispense advice with every breath, but if you're asking me to limit it down to one important thing—I'd say, know your goal. A lot of trainers are a bit aimless. Win this badge, win the next badge. The structure gives a certain momentum, but they get lost outside of it. So try to figure out what you're working towards, what you're trying to achieve. There was a time when I could have continued down the trainer's path, fought it out for my place on the pinnacle, but I asked myself, what do you really want, Yukinari? And, you know, it wasn't to be the best or the strongest, but simply to know the most."

Wataru stared down at the pressed wood of the table. Know your goal. He'd had a goal, once. Toku would become a kairyu and together they'd be masters. When the Ryu Odori came, he'd be chosen for the honor of the tamer's dance. But all that was impossible now.

He sank into a deep stupor, giving only single-word answers to the professor's questions, until the man eventually switched his attention over to Airi and Mr. Inushi. Wataru knew the others were casting him concerned looks, but he couldn't be bothered to care.

Know your goal.

Everything suddenly felt like a cruel joke.
Oh, the existential dread. Poor Wataru...
And then, all at once, Wataru had it. "You mean, like with Master Kaisho! He returned on the back of the kairyu and that's how they knew he belonged to the clan. Toku, that's brilliant!"

The miniryu's pahrump informed Wataru that she was well aware of her own brilliance, thank you.
Toku, the real mvp, showing her powers again!
Also, good to see that she knows. Smug little slug.
The days were coming more easily now. Every morning, Wataru woke with the sun and raced to the professor's room, where the charmander was waiting. She and Toku had taken to each other, and the charmander, who Wataru had started to call Kana, was eager to make up for her initial loss. As they fought in the quiet space behind the Pokemon Center, Wataru found himself standing in the middle, calling out advice to both sides, not just Toku. It made the fight more fun, even if Toku still managed to come out on top most of the time.

But Wataru knew in the back of his mind that this equilibrium couldn't last forever. Mr. Inushi was talking about the road to Violet City and the professor was haggling with the local sailors over his trip home. And as for Wataru . . . he knew he'd have to travel if he wanted to get strong, find more and better 'trainers' to battle. But staring at Mr. Inushi's big map left him lost and directionless.
The tiny glimmer of wholesomeness in a see of sadness and despair...
 

bluesidra

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  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
Hah! I have lied! I am back, having read Traveler, part 1 and 2!

So, Traveler covers Wataru's first and second badge, or, in a broader sense, his trip from Pallet Town up to Cerulean.

So, first, I liked the unskippable cutscene in Viridian where he was informed about the backstory of the town and a certain, suspiciously italian sounding man... I've played Gen1 and their remakes so often now, it was a pleasant surprise that he didn't have to turn back around to carry a parcel to Prof Oak. Until reading this fic, I did not know how deeply ingrained that is into my being.

Wataru seems to take fairly well to his new lifestyle. In fact, him being a loner at home seems to carry over seamlessly into this part of his life. He bats no eye about wandering Viridian Forest for two weeks, only with his pokemon, and then trains in quiet solitude for an entire month (!) in Mt Moon. (He likes grinding as much as I do, I like that. There's something cathargic about just beating pokemonbattle after pokemonbattle, and so I'm usually overpowered.)

But ye, I like how quickly time passes here. I've heard somewhere that, if you are telling a narrative on a day-to-day basis, you're prone to have this very very dense period of events (the one with the narrative), followed by long stretches of time where life just happens. If you'd focus on every single one of his battles, probably only a few days would pass between arriving Pewter and leaving it again. Because, well, that's how stories are told. But you set up this long stretches of time quite early on, so when the SAD later hits him and he hibernates in Saffron, it doesn't feel out of left field.

His battle against Muno was a really impressive feat, both from him and his pokemon. I trained a dratini once. Pseudolegendaries, especially their first stage, are a pain in the ass because they are so fragile, but damn does Toku rule.

One thing I noticed about part 1 was that the narration is very removed from Wataru himself. It's more like a recount of what happens to him, and most characterisation is through observation, not through his thought processes. In part 2, this changes, however.

Part two is so impressive omg! This was a real banger! Three evolutions at one -- Ibuki, Wataru and Toku.

In the beginning, it's kinda sad to see how estranged Wataru feels by all the people and the tourists here. It would be cool seeing how the beaches looked up close, or Cerulean in general, but he is so "shy" that we don't get to see much. Luckily grandma badass-Hamako brings some distractions.

What follows is the coolest and most satisfying string of scenes I've read in a long time. The setting is so beautiful. The imagery so dope. Wataru is acting really mature, and quite literally evolving from a Miniryu to a Hakuryu. Then the two gyrados duking it out, which really drove home how strong Hamako's one was. Only for little Toku to challenge her. I was so sure that Toku couldn't make it, but even in dratini form, she put up a real fight. And then the gorgeous evolution! All while the coolest gyrados-expert grandma looks on and is a really, really nice lady. Her character alone is so interesting, and it's only there for the 7k that this chapter has.

And... what a burn with calling the gyrados Ibuki. I mean, the way Wataru put it, it sounded nice enough, but I don't know if I wanted my little cousin to name his raging, ever frowning see-serpent after me.

Wataru training on the beach well through the autumn is a really really cool image! Him on Ibuki's back, with Toku in the air! Really really cool.

So he held his tongue, enduring the questions with shrugged shoulders until Kana finally grew bored and tried to set the professor's coat on fire again.
Good girl Kana.
The man grimaced. "There was a gym here once, thirty, forty years ago, maybe more now. Back when you didn't see a soul without a shoe or handkerchief hand-made here in Viridian. But once they started up those factories in Saffron, everyone forgot us. Shut our gym down, not a care at all for people trying to make their honest living." He darted forward abruptly, jerking up the hem of Wataru's shirt to peer at something. "Machine-made. Won't last you through the winter, you know."
Nice nice worldbuilding. Same with making Pewter a mining town. Somehow I never gave the Kanto geography much thought until now.
Back from that bi—that witch in Lavender—"
explain more, mr exposition... I am interested...
Muni wasn't giving them time to think. "Iron tail, again!"
*Muno
She strode over to the gyarados and hoisted herself up as easily as a dragon master would mount a kairyu. Wataru scrambled to climb behind her. To his embarrassment, he found himself clinging tightly to Hamako's woolen shawl as the gyarados started forward.
OMG, don't tell me grandma is a dragon expert in her own rights?!?!
 

bluesidra

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  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
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And done with The Gambler.

Wow, that chapter was really really long. It also covered a lot. Wataru leaving Cerulean behind, making his way through Saffron and staying the winter there, then making his way to Celadon, where he challenges Erika and spends way too much time in a casino.

Overall, it's a quite moody chapter. Wataru doesn't take kindly to the winter and basically goes into SAD hibernation. Which, hey, I do that all year long, can't blame him. It's kinda neat that the pokecenter let him stay that long.

Over in Celadon, he has to wait to challenge Erika, and during that wait, he finds a miniryu in the casino, that is just a really really sad view. Oh boy, do I feel guilty now for my contribution to slavery twenty years ago. But the casino won so much from your description. It feels like an honest to god casino, not just a scrappy space with a few slot machines and a suspiciously guarded poster. Now it can actually reasonably hold an evil organisation's HQ. And, oh, does Kanto need some child protection laws in the entertainment-industry, huh? And, well, in the labour law section as well. That is not a job suited for a child o.o Though, I think Wataru is dense enough to not pick up on anything more harmful than an out of place sleeping schedule. And a lowkey gambling addiction, though that is off the job.

I very much appreciate how he tried every resource he could imagine before resigning himself to rescuing the miniryu alone. Makes him look more mature and his decisions more rational. And in the end, his efforts were not entirely fruitless, it seemed. And him taking on a few odd jobs is also a nice touch. He definitely needs the experience. Because the way he currently sees money and the institutions -- oh boy, that's going to be a wild ride with him as league president/champion)

I liked the city descriptions in this chapter a lot. Celadon gets a few on numerous occasions, and they are all very fitting for the neatly kept nice facade that Celadon presents. Generally, I'm very sold on your depiction of Kanto. After I now got over my half-heartache that I wouldn't get to see Johto any time soon, I really love the nostalgic vibes that Kanto still conjures up in me. And the fact that this is all pre-canon makes it even more nostalgic.
Also, Erika and the gym battle: I like the portrayal of Erika here -- pretty cold and busy business-woman, but outwardly respectful and pleasing -- just like Celadon itself. (Hey, if I ever have to expand on Minaki/Eusine, this is some great source to come back to. He'd probably go up the walls in this city.)

In the mornings and on mid-day, the people at the machines were more grim-faced and more alone.
That's got to be one of the single most depressing sentences ever written.
But he didn't much like the game. It was too dependent on holding your face still and thinking hard about other people's cards.
:veelove: Very Leoncore and therefore very bluecore.
"Listen," Wataru said. "I swore an oath by the kairyu. And you know, it's not enough to be strong yourself. The ryu have always given their help when it's needed. Maybe you should think about that. You can split rocks like a kairyu, and one day you'll be able to fly like a kairyu too. But you wouldn't be worthy to go among the kairyu if all you think about is yourself."

At that, Kana turned, a hard look in her dark eyes. Her tail swished back and forth in challenge. Wataru met her gaze calmly and didn't flinch, even when a hot burst of embers shot past his ears. The stand-off stretched on, but Wataru didn't say another word. He'd made the only point he had to make. At length, he turned back to the river.
"Maybe there's cotton in your ears," Wataru called out, cutting across the room to them. "Because Aki said you're cut off and that means no more drinks." He drew in a breath. "So leave her alone."
Oh my god, he's growing up. He acts very mature in this chapter, but I still see the adorable, wide eyed Wataru from Cress's cover, and let me tell you, that does not mesh well with the images here.
Spring became late summer, though Wataru didn't see much of the sun. He was mostly a nocturnal creature now.
One of us. One of us.
He stumbled outside, where the sun beat down on his back. The streets were busy and no one noticed him sink his head into his knees and sob until his shoulders shook.
I have done that, and can confirm that nobody notices you. Poor Wataru.
"Executive Archer!"
Here comes the boooooooooy...
Archer, lovingly called Archie, is my favourite Rocket exec, and probably my favourite Rocket over all. (Well, him and maybe also the poor soul that got hyperbeamed by Lance.) I've seen him handled brilliantly twice before, and I'm very much looking forward to how you depict him. Though, from the description you gave him alone it's clear that is is a very young version of Archer and TR itself. This is not the executive Archer in a white suit. The description reminded me a lot of Proton, who is a lot more mobster. Hard throwback to TR's roots.
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
Okay, now I've got the Recruit, the Agent and the Puppetmaster down. Drawing Toku did take a bit longer than expected.

Aaaand first and foremost: My boy Archer gets to shine! Oh, I like him a lot here. He is exactly like I want him to be, and I chose to believe that the sob-story he told Lance about growing up on Cinnabar and all of that was really just a front to get Lance on board. And the way Gio treats him. Mmmmmmm... that's the good stuff. Oh yes. Puppetmaster just clicks flawlessly into my extensive off-TR collection of Rocket Exec fics. Tasty...
Though, judging by Gio's last lines, Archer may be written off and soon find himself in search for a new job, if not his head. I expect some Archer whump and/or angst, and if I don't get it, I'll have to make it up. Again.
Proton is Proton, and for a moment I feared you wouldn't go full on out with him. And admittedly, just mauling the poor guy down was a merciful solution, but yes. That is my boy Proton, head enforcer, psychopath. Also, Archer's permanent fear of being replaced by Athena because the boss bangs her and not him and his inability to lead because of latent daddy-issues with Gio. I'm starting to think we've read the same fic... Say, do you by chance know "Hello, Gorgeous?" by JFSindel? Because that is definitely a spin on Dragon's Dance that I don't want my mind to compute now. Begone, thought!
Then again, Lance does have some very veiled gay thoughts here... NO!

Hehm... so. Moving on. Wataru/Lance. He grows a lot in these chapters, and not only physically. He had a growth-spurt in character during the bootcamp, it's frightening. He grew very much into the Lance I know, but so quickly, it was almost unsettling. It's not out of character, it just happened very quickly, after a lot of chapters of him being a rather slow adapter.
Another thing I noticed about Lance (and that I really, Really like to see in dragon trainers), is that he is a dragon in many ways. He doesn't like the cold and a successful way to earn his loyalty is to beat him in combat. Now I only wait for him to look into a mirror and be like "I'm the hottest piece of ass in all of Tojo" and to hoard a bunch of shiny things.
But damn, did he win the lottery when it comes to puberty, huh? If growing real fast and having confusing thoughts about other men is the only thing, you're damn lucky in the hormone-department, let me tell you.

So, I liked all of these chapters a lot. Breezed through them, even though they are solid chunks, still. The two parts of the Recruit would be my favourites among the three/four. Because, well, Rocket truly shows it's face here. When Archer started out being suspiciously alone and vulnerable I suspected this might be going... strange places. Like, for a brief second I was worried the narration would side with Team Rocket, even though Archer's statements were clearly anti-democracy. But then Wataru is blindfolded and taken to the RAF training grounds, and I squealed in joy.
It's good seeing Lance be active again and have fun, even though these are textbook bite-model tactics for indoctrination, but hey, he actually got company out of it. Wouldn't call Hunter a friend, but she's the first close companionship he had since ever. He compared her to Ibuki a few times, but I don't think that Ibuki's role as big sister is comparable to the role that Hunter took. She was way more his equal. I really wanted to know a bit about the other recruit's reasons to be here, but Lance, by all means, does not have the personality to know that. Yet. I really hope he grows into the small-circle-but-people-guy I know him as here too.

The test at the end of bootcamp was brutal and executed beautifully. It was like a perfect string of moral choices for Lance. And all before the backdrop of a wonderful snowy landscape. You could sell that as a Christmas chapter if you wanted. His pokemon slowly losing strength was tangible. And so the way he defeated Hunter felt earned and her rejection afterwards, too. Him breaking records is also something very Lancecore. Like I said, he really sped up in the personality-department here. Also, Delphine is such a cutie. I like her a lot. Clever, cool girl.

Then the Agent rolls around and, well, what had to happen happens, and rather quickly might I say. I thought he'd stick with Rocket for a bit longer. But, well, he got assigned to what he does best: Training. Which, tangent: I think in a Champion, training other people and seriously enjoying their growth is one of the main strengths you should bring to the table. Leon does all the time, Lance does it in Goldenrod, Mahagony and in the Dragonden postgame. And guess who the two Champions I like the most are, and by far?
When he goes out on a mission with Proton (which, was a bad idea, you wouldn't need to be Archer level smarts to tell that), he witnesses a murder, and, frozen in shock, can't do anything. From there, the narration loses him, which I think is really effective. Because, well, Lance is pretty scattered too. It starts out with the narration becoming more and more disjointed as soon as he follows the other Rockets out and Toku's evolution is not even described. Only when it's mentioned that he slept crawled into her belly it dawned on me. His worldview was so thoroughly shattered that he didn't even register the one thing he's been working to the entire time.
In comes a PoV-switch, and, as we later learn, a big timeskip. And, oh god, Lance, the masked vigilante. This can only look ridiculous and I'm down for every last piece of stupidness I can derive from that outfit. I mean, he is the master of capes, after all.

Since I didn't mention them in my ramblings so far: Big kudos on the pokemon. They are simple enough characterwise, but also very strong and consistent. Ibuki gets a bit less exposure, but Kana and Toku are true gold. They stay true to themselves, and especially Toku is Lance's better half. And Kaisho, their newest little member is such a precious little snail. He's lovely. He seemed to take his trauma quite well, and him and the magnemite forming a friendship is adorable. It's also cute that Lance has a new scarf now. I kinda miss Toku being able to hide in his shirt.

So far I've heard people always say that Wataru/Lance is the master of bad decisions, but so far I would disagree. He's just a child that's been tossed into the world without half an inkling of guidance. He makes relatively good decisions for himself, seeing how he's still alive and all.

Oh, one minor complaint, or rather thing I'm worried about: The introduction to the GLs was too fast for my brain. Have already forgotten those I didn't know before. Same goes for the current champion, other than that she might train ghost types, which makes me very :big_eyes: But I'm sure I'll get to know them in time :)
Still, you can trust two things. First, that my acquaintanceship with the main business of this casino is entirely in passing. Second, that I have no interest in possessing another trainer's pokemon, no matter its species. The pokemon I train are loyal to me, and that is all I ask from them."
Well. Now that's two lies.
She'd dodged away from the river, Water noticed. "Send off a series of twisters, Toku—force her into the water."
*Wataru :D
They had landed in a sparse section of forest. The landscape was unremarkable, hard-packed earth scattered with brown scrub. Between thin pine trees, Wataru made out squat wood buildings. A scyther and a golem were squaring off in a cleared patch of dirt. Both their trainers, dressed in the same plain black clothing, had paused to watch the landing. Now their eyes were fixed on him with a scrutiny that left Wataru uneasy. He averted his eyes.
Aaaaand that's a terrorist training camp. Yes. Yes, it is. Oh boy.
Here, that hardly an option. The pokemon here will not hesitate before attacking a human. Follow me closely and do not stray."
Here, that's hardly an option.
"Kill him," Proton said.
That's my boy Proton right there <3

Also, take this picture of the true queen -- without her, this story wouldn't have happened.
Toku.png
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
So. The Vigilante. Lance has leveled up, and so have his opponents. It feels like an appropriate timeskip, and the things that Lance does feel a lot more mature than what a 16yo should do.

He works now mostly a undercover battle-rings, because it's training and money and a chance to crush Team Rocket. And, oh boy, Lance's mission to stop J (Hunter J from the anime?!?!?!) went exactly like I picture a mission run by Lance to go. A lot of destruction, and very little plans.

We also meet Jiro. At first, I had the image of a slimy, middle-aged man with a graying ponytail and cigarette-yellow fingernails in my mind. But then he summoned the mighty kintsugi and it clicked that that's the guy from Yellow's artwork and I immediately became... a lot more interested in him.
Omg, he is such a juicy troll. God dam. Jiro is living the high life and no one can stop him. And I'm down for it. His team is impressive and oh boy did that persian make a point. It's also nice to have a Saffron native character. Despite it being the biggest city, very little characters actually hail from there.
You really really set up the power-levels in this chapter brilliantly.
First, Toku doesn't struggle with a feral Tyranitar. Then, a persian (not the most impressive mon past the gen1 glitch) takes down Toku without breaking too much of a sweat. Then we establish that there is, indeed, a Johto league, who's Champion Akane and her Flareon (a glass canon sort of guy) can take on a freaking Snorlax in offense mode. This is leagues away from a charmeleon dealing with an onix. It was very tangible that there was a level-up.

Lance seems to be rooted in his dragon-tamer identity -- he doesn't flinch at the sheer destruction his pokemon can unleash. But other than that, he is very much a 16yo teenager. Him begging for an internship really put into perspective that he is as hotblooded as his hair suggests. And, oh boy, him and Noriko will be good friends, I can tell it by their shared love of bureaucracy /j

He made his way straight for the buffet and loaded his plate. Food generally made for the best defense against unwanted conversation.
At least he's getting free food out of it. Imagining Lance monching, mouth full, is a very precious image.
For once, Hideyoshi didn't mince words. "I heard on the grapevine that the Rockets have arranged a buy with J's people. Tomorrow night, 11pm, at warehouse thirty-seven. Sounds like a big one."

That was way more specific than any of the information Hideyoshi had slipped him in the past. Lance narrowed his eyes. "You want me to interfere."
ooooooooo! YES! Gib more secret agent lance! I love the explosions!
A sudden wind gusted from the depths of the warehouse, knocking everyone to their feet except for Lance, who had already thrown himself to the ground.
"Hah! You can't fool me! I'm already on the ground!"
Kaisho dived off his shoulder into the water. She trilled to Ibuki, who took up a watchful stance. Static crackled between Kaisho's fins.
Oh my god, the mini snail is threatening the monsterdragon. I wonder if Kaisho is holding his evolution back because he's so fucking cute and everyone underestimates him.
a particularly fine hyper beam
He has reached his final Lance-stage.
"We're here, Kint."
Kint. As in Kintsugi... OOOOOOOH! IT'S HIM!
"Can't my miniryu come with? You've seen him, he's small. He won't cause any trouble."
Well, Kaisho would disagree, but well...
By the time they'd reached the front, Lance had received the full run-down of Jiro's team and an in-depth evaluation of his fashion sense.
Those girl's got their priorities straight. Good to see.
For the first time since his flight from Team Rocket, Lance didn't feel like running away.
Awwwwww.... Makes me happy...
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
Whooo! Blitz goal met, caught up with Dragon's Danger! Those last two/four chapters flew by like a breeze! I don't even know how that happened so quickly.

Anyways. Lance is now promoted from illegal alien to legal alien to legal resident. Damn, I'm glad he finally started to see the Ryu's Gift differently. I liked that feeling of alienation that built up over the last few chapters, where he doesn't know any longer where he belongs to. And that is understandable. Not only does he feel not longer like a Johtonian, with Jiro's jetsetting lifestyle, it's hard to even say he's from Saffron or Celadon, like he may have been able to during "The Gambler."

And add to that feeling of estranging that he now enters a part of Kanto that he hasn't been to -- Fuchsia. Before, I got kinda lulled into the small-scale "set-piece" descriptions of the various parties Lance attended, but damn, that intro to Fuchsia slapped! And it reminded me how great your worldbuilding and descriptions are when it comes to locations. Fuchsia feels equal parts strange and familiar, old and modern. The "carnival"-attractions and the way they market their ninja-heritage is definitely modern, and shows that they probably struggle to keep up with the other, more industrialised cities. But it is still sovereign terrain, and the ninja clans still hold power.
Side note on that: I totally dig into your lore with the clans and all, but ... aren't ninjas at their core assassins? Has Kanto a special clause that legalises certain killings? Or are they more like the Meji-era samurai -- bureaucrates with the right to wield a weapon? (That has baffled me ever since Gen1. Canon very much points to them still being active assassins with deadly poison, and... why again do we let 10yo into their training grounds???)

(okay, fuck, I know now why it went so fast. My speech services got an update halfway through citizen 1 and the app crashed...)
OOoookay, this review will be a bit disjointed then.

The Protege.

This chapter shows Lance's life at Jiro's side, which is mainly attending PR-events. At one such event, Lance gets his moral comeuppance when Hamako is replaced as a gym leader -- a consequence of his little terrorist stunt at the chairman's speech. She is rightfully grumpy, but then they duke it out in a full on battle and she more or less forgives him.

The battle was breathtaking. It almost felt like an anime-opening, with the camera swooshing across the scene and nobody really knows what's going on. But knowing what's going on is not the point here. It was a show of might between the pokemon, and they did deliver. Kaisho evolved, the little electrician. I'm so happy seeing him thrive after he was so miserable in that tank.

The party they attended was an interesting one, too. I'm not quite sure if Lance got that "mingling" part down, but he definitely got to see a few people (and not too much for me to lose track this time). Meeting Muno time and time again is kinda funny. He is a klutz at social gatherings, just as predicted, and I feel really sorry for him, even if I only see him in passing.

We also get to learn a bit about Jiro's backstory. Jiro is cool. Kint is cooler. They are the coolest. I like him quite a bit, and I'm glad that he's at Lance's side, though I do have a slight feeling that their relationship progresses a bit too fast? Like, Lance up to now has been a loner. "Befriending" Hunter was a giant step out of his comfort zone already. But he accepts Jiro very fast. Since Jiro and Archer are in the same age-range, Lance might be working through some issues here, but the narration so far didn't hint at that.

Speaking of Archer. He's now with Lance, in the form of a screeching ball of resurrected chaos. The taming scene was really sweet. I like this addition to the team. But my Archer-whump will now get a lot more confusing.

And speaking of Archer once more: The fight with Gio! Oh wow. Gio presented so slick at the party. Well, when he's in his gym and still harbours old resentment, there's not much business friendliness left. You brought him across as very imposing. Also, good work in raising the power level once more! The fic so far has established Lance as very strong. He can deal with average to strong opponents without giving it much thought. So when he struggles, he's up against a juggernaut. And Gio definitely is. If he's ever going against him when no league referee is watching, it will get brutal.

Also nice to see Hunter's sister again. I don't know if this will lead to anything other than Lance questioning his decisions, but it felt really good to see another side to Hunter's story.

The Citizen.

Heh. Two hours later, I can now say that this chapter is way more than just Lance arriving in Fuchsia.
In fact, it is about Lance getting to know two different corners of Kanto, both with their own quirks, while also confronting his wavering sense of identity. They are really really good chapters.

Koga and his sovereign clan are a strange one. They don't like Jiro, because he is too modern, and won't honor their old ways and treaties the way Kikuku does. Their clan has been violently overrun once already, when they were suspected to be behind the murder of the then champ. They have strong communal living, not unlike Lance had in the Ryu's Gift, and, like the people of the Dragon Clan, are fiercely against accepting any outsiders. Well, no. Compared to the Dragon Clan, they are basically a nice B&B, letting Lance stay and train with them.
Everytime a people like them is depicted, I get the urge to violently slap them for not integrating or accepting "progress" and then I have to violently slap myself because it's their good right to not integrate. But then again, it's no wonder that they lose out. Especially if they aren't self-sufficient, they have to interact with people of other cultures, and somehow they see that as bad. *sigh* I don't like myself for these thoughts...

Lavender is a super interesting glimpse into ghosts and remembrance culture, and I'm all down for it. It's the latent goth resurfacing I guess. The rapidash as courier between two worlds is interesting and I will take note of that. Kikuku and her ghosts and her win against Lance is also cool. Especially since it sets her up right in the grey middle between Jiro-swag and Gio-bad.

But. All of that matters little when there's that identity crisis Lance has. After he got a bit melancholy in Fuchsia, it hits him real hard that he doesn't even know the name of his parents. And, oh my god. I thought I couldn't loathe his uncle more, but, surprise, there's still some new lows this man can hit. HOW. Could he not have told his nephew the barest minimum of what he deserves. He's not a child that got adopted after their mother gave them away. His parents were at least part of Lance's and uncle's direct family and they were never acknowledged. What lesson is that to teach your kids? Get on our wrong side and we will not even acknowledge your existence. Well, I mean, that's basically what they did to Lance, but... ARGH! I HATE THEM WITH A PASSION!

It's so nice seeing him confide in Jiro over the phone. And Jiro waiting for him at the immigration office. And them going to a restaurant of Lance's choice. That all seems like a given, but it's so heartwarming that Lance for once seems to have stumbled upon a decent person.

Anyways. I am very interested to see where this goes. The story still has a long way to go, and I'm very much looking forward to it.
Also, I can now proudly type:

Good fic, pls update!

Here's the second ryu: Kaisho, the electrician
Kaisho.png
 
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