While nearly everyone has seen or at least heard of the Pokémon anime, not as many people are aware of the associated manga, Pokémon Adventures. Both were inspired by the handheld Pokémon video games that ate up eight-year-old's AA batteries when they debuted in the '90s.
While both series are about capturing a wide variety of Pokémon and training them to fight each other in epic battles, the differences between the Pokémon manga and anime are vast. Pokémon is a lighthearted kids' show that's only loosely based off of the Nintendo games, while Pokémon Adventures is a grittier, more mature story that closely follows the stories found in the games. The anime has its emotional arcs, but they are nothing compared to the dark moments in Pokémon Adventures.
Watching the Pokémon anime is a markedly different experience from playing the game. Some elements are retained in the hit TV show, but others are altered heavily, added, or removed. One major example is the case of Brock and Misty; they're minor characters who appear briefly in the game as gym leaders, but they act as major supporting characters in the anime, particularly in the first few seasons.
Pokémon Adventures takes a different approach, directly adapting the game to manga form. While new characters and ideas are invariably introduced – including a major rival for Red named Green and some truly gruesome violence directed towards Pokémon and humans alike – the manga follows the same basic structure as the anime.
Perhaps because the anime is aimed squarely at small children, death is never a real possibility. Team Rocket might be electrocuted and tossed into the air, but they're not going to die or even be seriously injured. In Pokémon: The First Movie, it looks like Ash might actually die, but he's brought back to life by the power of Pikachu's tears.
In Pokémon Adventures, Pokémon and people actually die. One particularly gruesome example is when an Arbok is sliced in half by Blue's Charmeleon, and no amount of Max Revives can bring it back. During the Ruby and Sapphire arc, Norman, Courtney, and Steven are brutally slaughtered during a battle with Team Magma and Aqua.
The original creators of Pokémon feel the manga does a pretty good job of adapting the content. Designer Satoshi Tajiri said, "This is the comic that most resembles the world I was trying to convey," while the game's producer, Tsunekazu Ishihara, said, "I want every Pokémon fan to read this comic!"
Meanwhile, Tajiri has been less than enthusiastic about the anime. While he hasn't explicitly claimed to dislike it, he did say the focus on Pikachu wasn't exactly what he had in mind.
"When they did the anime, they wanted a specific character to focus on. Pikachu was relatively popular compared with the others and potentially both boys and girls would like it. They heard a lot of opinions about this. It wasn’t my idea," he told Time.
Pikachu is an integral part of the Pokémon anime, but in the manga, the electric rodent is just one among many magical creatures. Red doesn't even start out with a Pikachu; unlike Ash, his first Pokémon partner is actually a Poliwhirl. He doesn't meet Pikachu until much later.