It's hard to remember a time when Pokémon wasn't huge, but the hugest Pokémania ever got was probably in the late '90s. Nintendo, likely confused by the hysteria surrounding Y2k bug and the meteoric rise of Britney Spears, struck a deal for the production of Pokémon Live. The musical stage show toured America from 2000 to 2001, (very) loosely adapting the Western dub of the anime into a format that heavily favored dudes in giant foam suits.
Fans once considered this oddity lost to time, until the stage manager uploaded a filmed version to YouTube. Now we all get to enjoy this:
Looking back on it now, it seems strange that Nintendo let the stage show take such liberties with the characters and creatures in the storied franchise. For instance in the anime, Misty's feelings for Ash are ambiguous but still obvious in a Jim-and-Pam-in-the-first-two-seasons-of-The-Office kind of way. But in the musical, Misty has an entire ballad that makes her feelings crystal clear.
Another example: In the anime, Mewtwo is a bioengineered Pokemon initially controlled by Giovanni. In the musical Mewtwo is still kicking around -- but he's joined by MechaMew2, a robotic monstrosity that can learn any move that is used against it. Never appearing outside of the stage show, MechaMew2 looks like what you'd get if Freddy Fazbear had sex with a zamboni.
Maybe the most interesting tidbit in the show involves Giovanni himself. If you remember, he's initially the leader of Team Rocket and one of the principle villains of the series. Gio is much the same in the musical, albeit with some uncomfortably Nazi-esque backup dancers.
Most troubling of all, however, is the subplot with Ash's mother. Delia Ketchum admits that she ran with Team Rocket for a while in her youth, and was involved with the enigmaticGiovanni. Both the musical and the behind the scenes featurette strongly imply that Ash is the result of a tryst between the two of them, back when fascist terrorism was one of Delia's turn-ons. All these years we thought it was tragic that Ash didn't have a dad, when in reality he was better off imagining someone better than an evil crimelord.
Giovanni's reign of terror ends when MechaMew2 pulls a Voltorb and self-destructs while holding onto its master. Ash, Mewtwo and Pikachu just walk away and leave him to his fate. That's okay though, Giovanni probably just woke up in a Pokemon Center with some of his money missing.
Most fans agree: Ash will probably never be a Pokemon Master. Dude's been working on it for over a decade and still remains a chump. It's not really his fault, though. The creators of Pokémon decided to make the series cyclical, since viewers of the series are mainly young children that grow out of the series, and there are always new youngin's to take their place. This means that there are no long-running narratives, and each story arc is the same general repise of a) Ash and Pikachu going to a new region, b) hooking up with a new girl, c) fighting off Team Rocket, d) beating the eight Gyms and e) losing in the finals. Then new viewers are indoctrinated taught the ways of Pokemon, and the whole thing begins again. Fans old enough to drive a car have long wanted a single serialized narrative, with answers to some of the series oldest questions (the identity of Ash's father, what was inside the GS Ball etc.), culminating in Ash finally becoming a Pokémon Master. Sadly the chances of this happening are slim to none.
Those diehard will have to settle for Pokemon Adventures, a long-running manga with some (comparitavely) more adult themes and with the added bonus of graphic violence. See: Arbok getting straight-up cut in half.
The series has become infamous among fans for its depiction of violence towards Pokémon, at least during the arcs set during the first Gen of the series. Sure, that bisected Arbok later has a Piccolo-tier asspull and regenerates himself, but this wild Magmar has no such luck.
Even humans aren't safe from PA's bleak storylines. Lance of the Elite Four was a cheap ass cheating bastard in the games, but in the manga he's also a high-ranking member of Team Rocket. Which means he's not above nuking a chunk of Vermillion City with his Dragonair's Hyper Beam, likely killing scores of innocent people.
We haven't even reached the most graphic part of the series. Some of Pokemon Adventures make Lavender Town look like Disneyland -- like the scene where a Gastly uses the corpses of Lickitung, Slowbro and Psyduck to fight his battles for him.
With all this in mind, it's good to know that Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri has named it the most faithful adaptation of the series. Hear that Nintendo? This is what a console Pokemon should look like.