Revisiting Kanto: Is Any Pokemon Trainer More Boring Than Bruno?

Adventurers, we move forward ever closer to glory. Our fingertips can almost feel the metallic chill of the trophy. Our shoulders steel themselves for the weight of the medal. We run our dry tongue across our teeth, and practise our winning smile for the camera. If you're just joining us, you might be wondering what exactly this 'we' business is all about. For most of 2022, I have been replaying Pokemon Blue each week, hitting a new town, and trying to imagine myself as a tourist. The point is to understand why Kanto has such a magical, nostalgic hold over me. I'm close to the end now, and many of you have travelled all this way with me. If you haven't, or want a refresher, you can catch up here. For the rest of us, let's continue to move through the Elite Four.

Last time, I faced off against Lorelei, one of my favourite Pokemon trainers ever. It's not so much her team composition or battle style, it's the aesthetic of the whole thing. Aided by the anime, Let's Go, and fan theories, Lorelei has always been one of the game's most interesting characters. She's understated and controlled, yet dryly charismatic and compelling. She was, and remains, the perfect table setter for the challenges to come. She's the toughest opponent yet, and faces you in an arena that is perfectly suited to her, yet has no extra gimmicks to trick you. Bruno's issue is that he's the same thing, but worse.

His room is just an empty brown room full of rocks. It might capture an animalistic feel of the wilderness, except the floor is some high quality hardwood. While Lorelei's felt like a diorama of nature, with the waves raging beneath you as you fought, Bruno's is more like an Ikea showroom. Those boulders are probably hollow and made of plastic. It's an impersonation of nature, not a recreation. Like Bruno itself, it's just a little dull. While the other characters have some kind of back story and aesthetic, Bruno just says he trains with his Pokemon. You know, that thing everyone does. We're called 'trainers'. He means in a gym (real, not Pokemon) and with weights, but that's still just inescapably boring. He's a bit better in the anime, but where Lorelei's expansion develops her character, with Bruno the anime is forced to build it from scratch because Bruno offers nothing.

Then there's his team. Oh my Arceus, his team. We already have a Rock gym and a Fighting gym (even if that second one is unofficial), as well as Giovanni relying on Ground Pokemon. Bruno mixes all three together and manages to be the worst. His Hitmonchan, surprisingly, is pretty good. Thunder Punch, Ice Punch, Mega Punch, and Counter. It's rare that NPCs have four different types in their movesets, so this gets two thumbs way up. Unfortunately, they all come crashing down shortly after. Hitmonlee's moves are Fighting and Normal, while Machamp also throws in a Ground move, but also runs Leer, one of the worst moves in the game. Then we have Onix. Actually, two Onix. Despite covering Rock, Fighting, and Ground, on Bruno's team of five he doubles up, with both Onix having identical (and pretty poor) moves. Bruno's team is powerful, but it's tactically inept and lacks creativity to an impressive extent.

Bruno's favourite food is pasta twirls with tomato sauce. Bruno is the type of guy who goes on Joe Rogan and says "lately I've been trying this thing where I look at pictures of steak to build my testosterone" while Rogan goes "yeah bro I heard about that totally". Bruno's favourite movie is Fast & Furious. It doesn't matter which one, just any of them. And Bruno's favourite Pokemon, clearly, is Onix with a terrible moveset.

Next week, we'll be squaring up against Agatha, who I've always been a little indifferent to. I'm looking forward to considering Agatha in a little more depth, and more importantly, in moving on from Bruno. This Bruno in the middle is not exactly what I need.

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