To newcomers the anime art may simply look cool, but for veteran video gamers it’s a delicious slice of well-aged nostalgia.

The term “fan service” gets bandied about in anime circles most commonly to refer to crowd-pleasing but otherwise unnecessary sexual, or at least titillating, scenes. In its broader meaning, though, “fan service” can be applied to any content that’s inserted specifically as a present to put smiles on the faces of long-time fans.

By that definition, the return of classic Pokémon characters Brock and Misty (Takeshi and Kasumi in the Japanese version) in recent episodes of currently airing anime Pokémon Sun and Moon definitely applies. Brock and Misty were the original traveling companions of protagonist Ash (Satoshi) on his journey to become a Pokémon Master, but had been absent from the Pokémon anime for roughly 200 episodes. Old-school fans were thrilled to see the pair again, especially after their exclusion from the recent Pokémon flashback/reboot movie, but since they’re only joining the Sun and Moon cast for two episodes, they aren’t likely to contribute to the story in a hugely significant way, making this a pretty clear instance of fan service.

But it turns out that the two special episodes had yet another layer of fan service, as shown in a series of images shared by Japanese Twitter user @hohohin. In their second Sun and Moon episode, which aired on September 21 in Japan, both Brock and Misty engage in Pokémon battles, and the animators made sure to draw them exactly as their counterparts appeared in the original black-and-white Pokémon video game.

Pokémon Red and Green, the paired Game Boy titles that kicked off the video game series, preceded the Pokémon anime by over a year. So when the anime finally did start, Brock and Misty looked a little different from when they did in the games. Since they were adversaries in the games, their body language was more aggressive and intimidating, and in Brock’s case he was shirtless, setting up a visual connection between his rock-hard muscles and Rock-type Pokémon roster.

But 21 years after Pokémon Red and Green, the producers of the Sun and Moon still remember, and so in the latest episode Brock and Misty strike the poses that were burned into the memory of gamers two decades ago.

The fan service generated fan reactions such as:

“Looking cool Brock!”
“He’s pretty buff.”
“You can really feel the love for the first Pokémon generation.”
“Deeply moving.”

This isn’t the first time the Pokémon franchise has dropped a nostalgia bomb 20 years in the making, and considering that a lot of the current anime staff probably grew up playing the games themselves as kids, we can’t wait to see what sort of callback comes next.

Source: Twitter/@hohohin via Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@hohohin