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The new Pokémon animated series introduces the world’s best Pokémon dad

Pokémon: Path to the Peak is full of nostalgia for old fans

An image of Ava and her dad in the Pokémon YouTube series Pokémon: Path to the Peak. She’s sitting at table with a box filled with cards as he stands over her. Image: Taiko Studios/The Pokémon Company
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Between several miniseries and Pokémon ASMR videos, the official Pokémon YouTube has introduced a new gem to its collection. Announced at the most recent Pokémon Presents stream, Pokémon: Path to the Peak is a series that follows a girl named Ava and her journey to becoming a competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game player. It’s an earnest story that captures both the joy of being a new fan and the nostalgia of a long-term one.

The animation production is from Taiko Studios, the studio behind the short film One Small Step. Fans of the Pokémon anime will notice immediately that it’s not done in a typical anime visual style. The visuals have a slightly more 3D look that I would associate more with a Pixar movie.

The story follows Ava as she moves to a new town, and joins her school’s Pokémon club to make friends. Although I was initially skeptical of the premise — I wasn’t sure if watching a child play the TCG would make a compelling story — this is actually the series’ strength. The story explores a more relatable side to being a Pokémon fan. Pokémon don’t actually exist in this world, but the love of the series is real and we see that interest nourished by her family and friends. Better yet, the series portrays two kinds of relationships to Pokémon. Ava captures the big-eyed wonder of experiencing something new, whereas the dad embodies the love of a long-time fan.

And while the series has hinted at the mom’s secret past with Pokémon — Ava plays her mom’s deck when she competes — the dad has been an absolute star so far. In one particularly endearing clip, we get to see him embarrass Ava and belt out “Pokémon World” only to see Ava and her friends join in and sing along moments later.

Through the dad, we get to see an adorable adult character geek out about something he loves, and watch his daughter get into it too. The video games and TCG appeal to a larger age-spread and cater both to people who have been playing for several decades and new players alike. While individual pieces of Pokémon media come across as darker or appropriate for a more mature audience, the anime has generally felt aimed at kids and younger fans, and Path to the Peak fits into that perfectly.

Pokémon: Path to the Peak manages to pack a lot of heart into a short series. The Pokémon Company has released three episodes of Pokémon: Path to the Peak so far, with one more still to come. Each runs about approximately ten minutes in length and it’s available to watch on the official Pokémon YouTube channel now.