Hello PokeFans! Welcome to “Straight Outta Kanto” – your brand new number one blog for nostalgia, nonsense, nerd culture and more!
Today’s interview segment of our blog features a long time friend of Straight Outta Kanto and one the single most hardcore Pokemon fans I’ve ever come across in my entire life. Nerdlings and gentlenerds, may I present to you, poke-addict and Cartoon Karma Youtuber: Mike Culligan.
Straight Outta Kanto first met Mike three years at PokeCon 2015. Ah, 2015. This was a golden era of conventions, sadly an era that seems to have passed… But we will not wallow in convention-based-wallowing, we shall proceed with the interview!
Buckle up nerdies, it’s about to get… in-depth!
Greetings, Mike! Tell our good readers briefly about who you are and how you came up with your moderately successful but growing Youtube channel Cartoon Karma:
A: The name’s Mike, Mike Culligan. Just your average (read: very NOT-average) 23-year-old Irish animation lover who also digs Nintendo gaming, but especially Pokemon.
During early 2015, arguably one of the best periods of my life, I was quite fond of a series on YouTube called PokeSins, which began as a CinemaSins parody on the early Pokemon anime but evolved into its own thing. I got to thinking about giving YouTubing a goal, as I had learned basic video editing skills in that year from college.
That summer I tested the waters by making a Jimmy Neutron music video, to get used both to the software and the choices to make when syncing video to audio. It was fun, and that video is still my most-watched one I’ve ever made, though you won’t find it on my main channel.
Finally, in September 2015 I launched my first CartoonSins video, on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. I fully acknowledged it was inspired by CinemaSins but more by PokeSins, and though I only got peanuts in views those first few months, the following videos on the first Spongebob movie, Kung Fu Panda and the first Wallace and Gromit short were fun.
In January 2016 when CinemaSins published a video on Kung Fu Panda, my video on it received a fair bit of traffic for a few days, but also its fair share of criticism. I realised that sticking to the current format would not pay off in the long run, and by May I had renamed the channel to Cartoon Karma, as it sounds more fair and positive rather then the cynical nature of the word “Sins”. It worked – I can count the number of times viewers have commented and compared it to CinemaSins since then on one hand. While the video format hadn’t changed, the style and tone has, veering away from knee-jerk reaction points and jokes and more towards legitimate analysis and thoughtful points. And though the channel’s still tiny, I am proud of it.
Q: Tell me briefly about when and how you first discovered the Pokemon scene in Ireland and how and when you got into competitive gaming:
A: Back in Gen IV, I became kind of familiar with the basic of competitive battling in terms of stats, Effort Values, a balanced team and all that. I had a loose ad-hoc team that I used to play online randomly against other players on Pokemon Battle Revolution for a while, and while I lost more then I won, it was fun. My biggest memory from that was the stall Registeel with Iron Defence, Amnesia, Rest and Toxic that I used, though.
Fast forward through Gen V, which I was into less, and to Gen VI late 2014. I had started watching actual competitive play, capped by the now-legendary Pachirisu by Se Jun Park at the 2014 World Championships (seriously, players, look that finals matchs up on YouTube, it’s poetry in motion).
In March 2015 I heard about a PokeCon, which piqued my interest. I’d never been to a convention or really any Pokemon gathering. When I read it would have a VGC-format Pokemon tournament, I was sold enough to actually make a team in time and give it a whirl. PokeCon was great, and it’s a pity NCI lost the funds to run it again. I did well enough for my first tournament, 3 wins 2 losses. In general that year was a great one for me, I tried so many fresh things, and expanding my Pokemon love was one of them.
Q: Tell me briefly when you decided to try for international competitions:
A: After PokeCon in April 2015 I went to Anime Dublin the following weekend because I heard there would be another friendly VGC tournament there. Somehow, I actually won it! As I recall you also gave it a whirl dear, but found it wasn’t wholly to your liking (feel free to omit that last sentence). [SOK: I DID find it to my liking, I just got my ass thrashed by a kid several years my junior…! #TooGenWun4DisWuurld]
Granted, it was a friendly tournament at a small convention, but still! There was a Premier Challenge next month, which are the lowest-level events that give Championship Points to qualify for Worlds, and what motivate players to play at all. I passed on that one because of it being in the middle of exams. Of first year. Make of that what you will.
Anyway, that Summer I bred a lot more Pokemon so I would have a choice in my team roster and not be restricted to my original six, awesome as they were. I started attending Premier Challenges as they happened monthly after Summer, getting a real kick even though it took several before I was making points from there.
I was also getting back into the Trading Card Game by attending a weekly Pokemon League meetup in Dublin City, and making great friends there, some of the best I know. That November there was a Regional Tournament in London, that was for both the card game and the video game (though this is the norm now, Regionals that year were still not officially run by the Pokemon Company, and there were far more TCG regionals every year then VGC ones, so this was a rare event). My and my League friends got to talking, and we decided to give a bigger tournament a whirl.
Though I’d be playing the video game and then the card game, that didn’t matter. We went and had a blast despite me doing only okay both there and at the next two. And from there, through playing the video game that season, the card game in the 16-17 season and taking the year out in 17-18 due to 4th year, I’ve kept up with it all. Stressful at times? Absolutely. But totally worth it as long as you do it at whatever level works for you.
Q: What is your personal experience with the Irish Pokemon competitive scene? Do you feel it’s as represented as the scenes in other countries? Obviously Ireland isn’t as big as Japan or America etc but still, do you think we’re small but hardcore?
A: Dublin is really the only place big enough to have enough of an interest for anyone to run local tournaments that give points, either for the VGC or the TCG. Thus attendance is small enough for both that everyone knows everyone quite well, even just the relative casuals. It’s nice in a way, but it does mean there’s some disruption. In the three years since I started, but especially lately, there have been constant shufflings between who’s hosting the video game PCs, with quite a few months-long periods of there being none. The organisers have either had other commitments or lost interest, and new ones have to host three non-points tournaments at one a month before they can. It’s the population thing; we have to travel over Europe to get noticed at big tournaments, so for competitive players elsewhere we’re just like Wales, an offshoot of the UK, even with Brexit and all. Or any of the smaller-populated European countires, like Belgium or Denmark.
That said, the nice thing is that players can play competitive on a lower level even if they live remotely in Ireland, thanks to PTCGO for the card game and online play for the video game. For us they’re practice tools, but for many players that’s enough for them, and that’s great.
As a country, we got noticed a bit for sending a player to Worlds three times in a row, Kelly Mercier-White (though he’s actually a Canadian immigrant, a fact we don’t hesitate to mock him for when he slips up), but our sample size is still small enough that it doesn’t take much for us as a community to fly off the radar at points. The VGC’s up and down lately, the TCG’s getting bigger. But the nice thing about a small size like that is it gives plenty or room to regrow. We’re Irish and we stick by each other, you know? We’re here to stay! Despite difficulties, the close camaderie has made it all worth it. And that’s what Pokemon is all about – friendship. Just not as much as with magical cartoon equines is all.
Q: What is your personal experience so far as a Youtuber:
A: Honestly? It’s been mixed. My videos got more views on average when the channel was called CartoonSins, as that does at least instantly tell the viewer what the videos about about, while Cartoon Karma as a name requires a leap of faith. Echoing a hot channel like CinemaSins is a clickbait shortcut when the videos are on films they haven’t done, as most of those early ones were (8 of my 25 Karma videos are on films they’ve also done).
So while the viewers that do watch tend to stick around now, there is less of them. The channel’s still a hobby, which it would have to be, given how screwed up YouTube’s ad revenue has become lately in terms of being enough to live off of. Though I have 2,200 subscribers, that’s been accumulated slowly over 2 and a half years, actually being slower in the second then the first. Most of my views come from non-subscribers, which means less comments and retention that that 2,200 figure would suggest.
Now, I wouldn’t have kept at it if I didn’t really love it. But the above are examples of some struggles I’ve had. When other stuff is going on in my life, I get a mental block that makes it hard to focus on things like Cartoon Karma even when I have the time, which is why video output has slowed to a crawl every now and then. I tried to combat this by reviewing new films as they came out, hoping they would be appetizers between Karma videos, but it didn’t pan out.
Review videos are a dime a dozen to find, so they grab few views and have no longevity in their life once the film’s left the box office, as I still script and edit them professionally. Didn’t help that 2017 was a dire year for theatrical studio animation, so videos on such films as The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature, The Star and the Emoji Movie and so forth irritated me as much as the films irritated viewers. However, had I not done these video, I wouldn’t have seen My Little Pony: The Movie, and subsquently binged all of Friendship Is Magic between Haloween and Christmas. The subtitle is true, folks, those magical cartoon equines got me through 4th year, and I’m now a committed fan. Maybe not a Brony yet though.
Anyway, it’s neither easy nor successful for me, especially as hardly anyone I know in real life keeps up with the channel, but I’m keeping at it. My viewers do like my content. I just need to better streamline it even more then I have already.
Q: What are your hopes for both your YouTube Channel and your competitive Pokemon playing for the rest of 2018 and onto 2019?
A: I got big Cartoon Karma plans, my friends. I’ve scaled back the review videos so I’m not obliged to see such pandering fare as Sherlock Gnomes or the currently-playing Duck Duck Goose, restricting review videos to films worth talking about, such as Isle of Dogs, which I’ll be seeing soon. With 4th year basically done bar exams, I’ll be getting back to main Karma videos. But more then that, I want to branch the channel out. People still think of it as “that guy who does CinemaSins AND CinemaWins in one for animation” and I want to try to change that. My plan is to try other video types, far removed from what’s come before. Just to test the waters at first. That’ll take me through Summer 2018. Beyond that will depend on how reception to them fares, but I’ll keep up main Karma videos while all this is happening, while trying to acclimatise viewers to me being more versatile and not locked down to one particular video type.
Oh, and I also plan to channel the channel logo and branding, including an animated (or at least partly-animated) channel mascot. The current logo doesn’t do a whole lot, I’ll admit, charming though it felt at the time.
As for competitive Pokemon, given I took this season out from competitive play, I won’t be attending any tournaments outside of Ireland for the remainder of this season, so none until late July. During 4th year, rather then play in the local tournaments, I became a registered League Organiser for our League, and took to running almost all the local TCG events. Partly this was because the League Organiser was missing out on playing in them himself, so I wanted to let him play in some of them. And with 4th year being in the way, I figured, why not do them all? So I have, and honestly? It feels great! There’s such a satisfaction to running these and facilitating people playing, you really feel like you’re giving back to the community. While I still play at the League meetups, I think I enjoy running the local TCG tournaments rather then playing at them. So for the time being, I plan to keep to running them.
After not playing it for a while, I’m itching get back into the VGC format. I prefer it, and I think it suits my skills more, as my results for the year I did it were a lot better then the year I played the TCG. Though both have expanded a lot in playerbase in the last few years, the VGC is still the smaller by a significant margin, so being better at it, I feel I’ll fare better there. Since big tournaments wouldn’t be much value until next season, for now I want to go back to the next PC, as I haven’t been to one in ages. I’ll probably go for Regionals in other European countires again in the 2018/19 season, and more likely for the video game then the card game, but for now, I just plan to get settled back in, and re-acquainted with my old VGC chums, as well as the new ones that have joined since.
Q: What is your favourite Pokemon memory?
A: I literally can’t pick, there’s so many, and no particular one rises notably above the others. Some highlights include PokeCon, a few particular tournament results, the community in general, particular Pokemon and so forth. But really, it’s all of it together that makes it so great. Greater then the sum of its parts and all that.
Q: What is your most prized Pokemon related possession?
A: Does a collection of nearly two decades of memories count as a possession? [SOK: Yes Mike, yes it does…!] It’s hard to pick one. There’s a few items signed by [Voice actor of Ash Ketchum in the original Pokemon TV show] Veronica Taylor, but to be honest I rarely go around chasing down that sort of stuff.
All that said, I love these two, they have a place of pride of my desk, and not just because they’re two of my favourite Pokemon:
I’m quite proud of my complete save in my Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team game. Complete as in Living Pokedex, as in I have one of all 386 Pokemon spcies at the time, plus all Unown forms (so 413 in total). I’m very fond of the early Mystery Dungeon games, but that one was difficult in the post-game for a young kid, especially to get all the Pokemon. Took me over 500 hours and a little over a decade, but I finally managed got the last few last year!
In comparison, Explorers of Time took me a little under half the play time to get all 524 Pokemon in it (491 at the time, plus 27 extra Unown forms, 2 extra forms for Burmy and Wormadam each, and 1 extra for Shellos and Gastrodon).
Very few people would have legitimately bothered to complete a Living Dex for the first Mystery Dungeon, so I stand by that.
And if we’re counting possessions [Or Snowmon…!] no longer with us, there’s also this life-sized cool (literaly!) cutie from back at the start of March. Irish readers will know to what I’m referring.
I also designed 14 custom Pokemon cards last summer. I mean thought hard about balanced concepts that fit the game and worked on them over time before finally drafting them up. Just tossing that out there.
Q: Do you feel that the Pokemon franchise is well represented on the Irish convention scene?
A: Used to be! That first PokeCon I attended was a blast, and I was on enough of a convention kick that year that even after Anime Dublin I attended ArcadeCon that summer as well as Eirtakon, Ireland’s biggest anime and manga convention, which had quite a few neat Pokemon tournaments and events. 2015 really was the bomb, there was a real sense of growth then.
Alas, it’s petered out since then. PokeCon failed to get funds in the college that runs it the following year and has yet to return, Eirtakon’s last year was in 2016, and a fair few other conventions that could conceivably have notable Pokemon things have scaled back or closed up shop too. There’s still enough conventions around, but you’re not going to get much Pokemon-related at a offically-run one like Dublin Comic-Con, great as it is.
So right now, while you’ll get plenty of Pokemon-related merchandice and fans at conventions and even the odd Pokemon event, it’s not very well represented lately at all. We really need a PokeCon to come back, if not with NCI then somewhere else.
Q: What is your favouritest Pokemon game/manga/show/movie etc of all time and would you like a remake/reboot/reshowing?
A: I haven’t read enough of the manga but I’m quite fond of the Ruby/Sapphire chapter, it’s quite gritty and appealing for it, and Team Magma came alive even more then they already had in other media. The more adult teenage-aiming manga is more niche then almost everything else this child-friendly franchise puts out, and that’s really great.
Favorite movie would be Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, it’s the best structured, avoiding many repeating plot points in many other films. Plus, the Regis appear. Got to love those Regis, the most alien Pokemon before the Ultra Beasts came along.
Favourite show – either the Kanto era due to nostalgia or Diamond/Pearl due to some really solid storylines and probably the most strategic and planned out battling the series has ever seen. I’ve heard XY does that well too but I only started re-watching towards the end of that, so some of it’s lost on me.
I literally can’t pick a favorite game. Crystal was my first, but it overlapped with Ruby & Sapphire enough that no one game influenced me enough or is a clear favorite.
Diamond did a lot for how I approach Pokemon nowadays even if it hasn’t aged well, and so if the Gen IV remakes come to pass, I’ll greet them with opens arms. From fixing the available Pokemon imbalance, to the slow speed, incorporating the no-more-HMs-ride-feature of Gen VII and polishing the script for Galactic, there’s potential for a real winner here, if Game Freak don’t rush to deliver it for a Holiday season the way they have from XY onwards.
So there we have it: the Pokemon world according to Mike Culligan! Thank you to Mike for taking the time to chat with us all today! If you would, and I recommend you do, like to check out Mike’s Youtube channel “Cartoon Karma” – find him here: https://www.facebook.com/cartoonkarma/
Keep watching the skeys, I mean skies!
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Thanks for reading! 🙂