If ever there was a “nostalgia anime,” Pokemon Origins is it. An intentional recreation of the first Pokemon games, it limits its world to 151 Pokemon instead of the steadily climbing total count of later generations. There’s a lot to look at in terms of how it portrays a simpler time for the Pokemon franchise, but one thing I wanted to focus on is the main character Red’s team when he fights Blue for the championship, because it’s actually extremely deliberate and meant to reflect the experience of going through those first games, as well as the diversity of choices available to you along the way.
From left to right:
Scyther was a Pokemon exclusive to Pokemon Red and represents one half of the version exclusivity which helped to define the games and the necessity of trading to get all of the Pokemon. Being that the main character is named Red, the implication is that he caught this one in the wild.
Persian represents the other half of version exclusivity, being only in Pokemon Blue (or Green for the Japanese). This implies that Red at some point traded for it or its pre-evolution Meowth.
Lapras, unlike most of the Pokemon which are caught, evolved, or traded (or in the case of Porygon purchased), is a gift. In the games you receive it from an employee in the Silph Co. headquarters, so Lapras represents the “Pokemon by plot event,” and shows how he went through Silph Co. dismantling Team Rocket along the way.
Jolteon evolves from Eevee, a Pokemon which like Lapras you receive as a gift. Unlike Lapras, however, it also represents the act of the permanent choice: in the first games you were supposed to only get one Eevee (barring any creative glitches), and the choice of whether to evolve it into a Jolteon, Flareon, or Vaporeon was permanent, so the choice of Jolteon is meant to make you think, “Ah, so Red went with this one.”
Charizard is of course the Starter Pokemon, the first choice a player has to make in the game. Once again Red is Red, so the choice for which starter he’d go with is pretty obvious.
That leaves Dodrio. Its pre-evolution Doduo is available in both versions, is caught in the conventional manner, and also evolves in a normal fashion. However, the fact that Dodrio is common is what makes it special within the context of this team.
If you look at the rest of the battles in Pokemon Origins, you’ll find that the choice of Pokemon reflects this idea that the anime should give a sense of the progress Red has made. For instance, both Hitmonlee and Kabutops appear as Red’s Pokemon, and both are Pokemon whom you have to choose over others in the game (Hitmonchan and Omastar). Snorlax is a Pokemon you have to encounter because of the way it blocks certain routes, and a sign that the Poke Flute was used. Using the Legendary Birds against Mewtwo also shows how Red intended to go against it at full strength. Perhaps the most interesting decision of all, however, was having Pikachu appear only towards the end, to acknowledge its value to the franchise but to prevent it from overshadowing everything else or associating it too closely with the other anime.