You know, it's amazing how long Pokémon has lasted. Other "fads" like POGs and Furbys have all come and gone. Sure, those franchises have had various relaunches, but they don't have any kind of consistency. Pokémon, on the other hand, is still one of the most popular shows on Saturday mornings. The games still sell into the millions and the DVDs are still making some nice profits. So, what do you do with said franchise? Milk it for all its worth, that's what! Welcome to Pokémon Advanced. <a href="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2006-01/pokemon1.jpg"><img src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2006-01/t-pokemon1.jpg" align="right" border="0"></a>Disc 1: "Get The Show on the Road!" - Ash arrives in Hoenn with a delirious Pikachu while young May reluctantly starts her Pokémon journey. While not too special overall, it is a nice introduction episode. May instantly sets herself apart from Misty with her naiveté: she runs into a tree before her interesting first battle. "A Ruin With a View" - Ash and May decide to head to Petalburg City to battle the Gym Leader, but get caught up in a Team Magma plot to unearth ancient ruins. A decent transition episode as May tries, and fails, to catch her first Pokémon and learns about the various intricacies of the Pokémon world, such as the Pokédex and the Pokémon Centers. "There's No Place like Hoenn" - The duo reach Petalburg City, where it is revealed that the Gym Leader is May's father, Norman. Team Rocket decides that they want Norman's Vigoroth, and attack. This episode is a lot of fun, with the reactions of May's family to Team Rocket and Max's interactions with Ash being the highlights. "You Can Never Taillow" - Ash, Max, and May are tired and hungry when they are attacked by a flock of Taillow. Brock arrives just in time, but the lead Taillow wants to battle Pikachu. Still one of my favorite episodes of this set, it has everything you could ask for: great battles, wacky expressions, great Team Rocket humor, and some fun slapstick. "In the Knicker of Time!" - The gang comes across a kid named Nicholai who likes to dress up in Pokémon costumes so that he can relate to them better. Everyone chases after a Zigzagoon. While the featured Pokémon (Zigzagoon) doesn't seem all that special, this episode is. A pretty fun filler with an above-average trainer-of-the-day. Not as good as the previous episode, but still better than much of Johto. "A Poached Ego!" – This is one of the most groundbreaking episodes of the series as Arbok and Weezing leave Jessie and James after being around since Episode 2 way back in Kanto. However, the way they leave feels sloppy, with no montage to illustrate their history on the show. "Tree's a Crowd" - Ash and Pikachu find a tough Treeko protecting a very old tree. While I still like Bulbasaur more, Treeko is still a pretty fun character and brings some life into the lineup. I do find it annoying that a random tree gets a vocal song (in the Japanese version, anyway) and montage, while Arbok and Weezing get zip. Disc 2: "A Tail with a Twist" - Treeko learns to be a bit more friendly and Jessie captures a Seviper. The fun continues with some great Torchic action, Treeko seemingly commits suicide, and the now-legendary Jessie/Seviper battle takes place. Another one of my favorites. "Taming of the Shroomish" - A mansion filled with Shroomish is about to be torn down. The first real bad episode of the set, this episode is altogether forgettable. Even Team Rocket can't save this one. "You Said a Mouthful!" - A trainer boasts that he is unbeatable, and seems to be when his Pelipper shows off the ability to use electric, grass, and fire-type attacks. It’s a bit better than the last episode, but the interesting concept can only hold out for so long. In the end, this episode is entertaining, but nothing special. <a href="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2006-01/pokemon2.jpg"><img src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2006-01/t-pokemon2.jpg" align="right" border="0"></a> "A Bite to Remember" - Our heroes come across some trainers with Mightyena and one lone Poochiena. Max wants said Poochiena to evolve. For the first time, Max gets really annoying in his quest to make Poochiena evolve, and unfortunately, there's nothing else in this episode to make up for it. "The Lotad Lowdown" - The gang come across a group of sisters who raise grass-type Pokémon, including Lotad. Brock connects with a certain Lotad, but also gets an admirer of his own. While Psyduck is often funnier and got a lot more screen time, Lotad does fit the bill for the group’s doofy Pokémon pretty well. I just wish we got to see Lotad do more. "All Things Bright and Beautifly!" - May is introduced to the world of Pokémon Coordinators and Pokémon Contests (even if the sign says "Pokémon Competition"). A rather fun episode that foreshadows even greater episodes, as the series starts diverging by giving May her own storyline. "All in a Day's Wurmple" - May wants to catch a Wurmple so it can evolve into a Beautifly. Jessie's also after a Wurmple, while Ash fights in his first Hoenn Double Battle. A lot of twin elements going on in this episode, and the writers keep it interesting until the end credits. Though it does say a lot about Team Rocket that these experienced trainers were defeated almost single-handedly by a still-newbie May. Disc 3: "Gonna Rule the School!" - The gang finally reaches Rustboro City, where Ash will get his first Gym Badge. Roxanne isn't all that different from any of the other Gym Leaders we've seen so far, but the Training School reminds me of Pokémon Stadium 2's classroom mode. "The Winner by a Nosepass" - The first Gym Battle in the series, with Treeko and Pikachu going up against Geodude and Nosepass. It’s a rather standard battle, actually, and one of the more boring Gym Battles, especially in Hoenn. "Stairway to Devon" - Max accidentally breaks the PokéNav and ends up talking to the president of the Devon Corporation, the makers of the PokéNav. I do wish we'd seen the president again, but the foreshadowing of Steven and Team Aqua tops off an enjoyable episode. "On a Wingull and a Prayer!" - Ash and his friends hire an old man to sail them to Dewford Isle, but the Team Aqua agent from before is still trying to escape. Aside from a pretty decent battle and a fun mistranslation on the part of May, this episode is rather dull and predictable. Plus, Wingull isn't all that interesting anyway. "Sharpedo Attack!" - As our heroes head to Dewford Island, they are intercepted by a bunch of Sharpedo, one of whom connects with Brock. It’s an above-average episode that focuses on Brock and actually has the gang in real peril. I do wish Brock had caught Sharpedo, though, as it would've been a nice addition to the group. <a href="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2006-01/pokemon3.jpg"><img src="http://news.toonzone.net/images/2006-01/t-pokemon3.jpg" align="right" border="0"></a> "Brave the Wave" - Arriving at Dewford Island, Ash immediately challenges the Gym Leader Brawly to a match, but his Hariyama is tough. While interesting, the battle lacks a real impact since there will be a rematch. However, it does start the too-long Dewford Island Training arc, which spans the next dozen episodes or so. Even though these discs aren't re-issues of the previous releases, the video quality hasn't changed at all. There's still a light but annoying film grain that keeps the episodes from being as bright as they are on TV or on the packaging. And unfortunately, we still get the Kids' WB! version of the show, which means an edited badge case and zoomed-in episodes. Still, the animation has become a lot better, and casual fans won't be disappointed in the actual quality. At least most of the jagged lines from the original discs have been fixed. Obviously, the biggest exclusion from this set is the Japanese audio, which has never been on a Pokémon disc yet (unless you count the ending theme to Movie 6). Aside from that bummer, the audio is decent. The English won't blow you away or anything, but it is still 4Kids' best dub yet and should please those that watch the show regularly on television. One thing that has changed from the original release is the inclusion of actual extras, though they aren't really worth it. First up is Pokémon Trading Card Game: Rise to the Top, which is a short video showcasing the World Championship held at Orlando during the "Pokémon Rocks America" tour. Instead of actually interviewing some of the staff or the players, a narrator just goes through most of the basic stuff and quickly introduces the winners. They could easily have been at least a half-hour of tournament footage, and the failed potential really does bite. The other extra is The Power of Pokémon, which is a minute-and-a-half music video of the "Pokémon Rocks America" tour. Really, there is no point at all in this extra and its very existence puzzles me. Still, anyone who enjoys Pokémon Advanced will definitely like this set. I even urge those who have the original releases to double-dip, since this will save you a little bit of space on your shelf, which is a high priority in today's DVD world.