Takahiro Yamashita and Pokemon Gag Comics
(Underlined text = links. NOTICE: Lots of scanned comics on page 2, so if you have a slow connection...)
Takahiro Yamashita is a cartoonist who's best known for his Best Of Pokemon Encyclopedia comics (or manga for those who want to get pendetic). If you own one of his books, then you probably know that his comics are also the easiest to understand, and the humor is a lot more universal. If you don't, then surely you've seen some of the scans on Aqua Bunny's comics page. And if you haven't even noticed there was a comics section, doggonnit what are you doing here, man!? Explore the site, there's too many cool things you're passing by staying in this tiny section!
I'm writing this article mostly as an excuse to show off some scans of Pokemon comics and talk about why I think Yamashita's the go to guy for Pokemon gag comics. But before I can even do those, I've got to lay down the conceptual foundations.
The purpose of a gag comic is essentially to deliver a joke. You set up for the punchline, then BAM. Relatively simple to understand. Now, when it comes to Pokemon brand gag comics, particularly of the 4 panel variety, there tends to lie two opposite extremes to executing the joke. On one side, you've got what I like to call Pokemon with Jokes, though I think "Pokemon + joke" will make this sound far more extreme. Then on the other side, you have Jokes with Pokemon. Though to be clearer, you could say "Joke comic + Pokemon".
The former is the case where, for all intents and purposes, you're just straight up referencing canon material by the letter, and then attaching a gag to it provided you can find one. In other words, it's like you research the creatures or in game scenarios first, then try to derive humor from it. The latter situation is where Pokemon are merely arbitrary gag vehicles for whatever joke you were trying to tell. Trainers or creatures, whether it makes sense or not, it doesn't matter, you just use them because they're familar.
Allow me to demonstrate. Yes, I came up with this terrible gag.
This is commonly seen in directly game inspired 4 komas. But these get a free pass because they are so UTTERLYRIDICULOUS, DISTURBING, AND HILARIOUS.
The worst kind of these, though, are the ones where even if you get the joke it's still boring. It doesn't even try to be visually appealing! So imagine what the guy who doesn't know jack about Pokemon must be thinking. I personally tend to shy away from this type of comic writing because I'm not savvy enough about Pokemon details to begin with. D: Plus, while they're great injokes for people who understand them, you won't be winning your parents, co-workers, gaming and cartooning casuals and people who just flat out don't get Pokemon if all you do are these.
So then you might be tempted to go to the other side...
This is what I'd like to refer to as a Funny Animal comic. And if you click on Funny Animal back there, it'll lead you to the TvTropes definition. It's dead on. So with a comic like this, depending on the subject matter, now you've won over the people who normally wouldn't give Pokemon a second thought (unless they abhor it). See, humor is universal. As long as the material is consistently funny, entertaining, or thought provoking, it doesn't matter who the characters are. The biggest danger, though, is that if the subject matter doesn't connect to anyone, then you lose everyone. Even if you do it right, the staunch Pokemon fans ("by the book or nothing at all" (aka STOP HAVING FUN GUYS), yes, I've known several :C ) will cry foul. But in all fairness, so would anyone else at any level of the fandom (and outsiders of it) when it finally clicks. And they'd all be right.
What does this have to do with Pokemon?
The answer is it doesn't. Comics like these are good within reason, like for character developmental reasons (because you can't develop character on straight Pokemon gags). Or even once the character's fully developed beyond the phase of just being another nameless creature. But if all you do are comics like these without any real reason from the beginning to the end, then why use Pokemon at all? And that's where the funny animal part comes in. This comic would be the exact same no matter who or what I used.
I've just bought my ticket into newspaper comics. I'm going to call this sensation The Adventures of Bowler Hat and Bleh. In fact, I'm just going to call it Hat to avoid every series name cliché ever.
Somewhere in between, you end up with this. Universal gags that everyone can appreciate, but the Pokemon are not indispensable. You might be able to replace a Pokemon with another Pokemon (or a fictional creature with similar attributes), but that's about it. Even so, the gag was created with the creature in mind, but it's not dead set on being a game world reference and allows flexibility in creating a scenario that people can identify with.
And it is type C where Yamashita shines the brightest, and why I think his comics are some of the best Pokemon gag comics around.
So let's get around to talking Yamashita on page 2!