I'm going to be extremely blunt for a moment. Your-cursor-is-over-the-report-button-blunt, but really, there's no polite way to say this.
You know, matt, since you've joined the SPPf and PC writing communities, you've said a lot of things that have outright bewildered me. The things you've said on this thread, though? Bewilder me more than anything else.
How exactly does "not starting off with the same beginning as 90% of all journey fics" = "author didn't plan"? Because I'm seriously outright confused here, and I'd like to know how this thread of logic works. I mean, according to my logic, which I like to think is pretty sound logic personally, starting off with a cookie-cutter beginning (with the trainer getting their Pokémon, even if you throw in ~*~EXPLOSIONS~*~ somewhere along the line) would betray the fact that you're not only not that creative but also leaning on someone else's plans as a crutch. As in, it doesn't say to me that you planned anything. It just says to me that you're relying on what everyone else is doing, so I have absolutely no idea whether or not you actually did plan anything in advance.
Really, going against convention by starting the story sometime later on down the road shows me that you did do a lot of planning because you'd have to know why you're starting at that particular point, where in the trainer's career this might be, and what needs to come after it. In other words, you're relying more on a plot you've created yourself, rather than some path someone else has carved for you. Basically, the reliance on your own work to start things off tells me that you've at least planned the beginning by yourself (rather than stuck to the generic skeleton of "character wakes up, says farewell to their parents, and goes to get a starter Pokémon from Professor Tree), so in my book, that means you're very likely to be capable of planning things that happen after that. Starting off with a generic beginning just tells me you can read.
But then again, not every writer is the same. I've read fics where the author starts off with the skeleton of the generic beginning, but actually, they planned everything out from start to finish. I've also read fics where the author starts off with a trainer who's already gotten their starter, but they're making crap up as they go along. I can't honestly say that one tells me that the author actually planned their fic in advance -- just that one type of author makes it clear that they're capable of doing it, and even then, being capable is not the same as having actually done it, if that makes sense.
So, to add to this, let me throw in one other point: I've also read all kinds of fics, both planned and not so much, that were abandoned three chapters in.
That's what I really wanted to reply to, actually: your comment that an abandoned fic is the result of someone not planning enough. That's not exactly true. An abandoned fic can happen for an entire variety of reasons. Sometimes, an author might plan so much that they just lose interest in wanting to put the story into words (because they already know everything about how it's going to happen). Other times, the author just doesn't have time to write fic. There's even other times when the author has started getting published, so they can't write fic anymore. It's not just because they don't plan enough, and in fact, that particular reason is the one I see the least often as a reviewer pretty much everywhere. In fact, if anyone's interested, the one I see the most often is, "This story is seriously a bunch of crap because people pointed out plot holes all over the place, so I don't want to have anything to do with it anymore." That doesn't necessarily mean that it's underplanned.
But as for the trainer thing, no, it's not important to every story. It's only important to the stories that actually need to start off that way. Just as every film of a certain genre doesn't necessarily start the same way, no two fics need to have beginnings that are exactly alike. The point of a journey fic is that the trainer goes on a journey, but the definition of what a journey is tends to be looser. Sure, it could be a standard badge quest, but so long as that quest has an end and a point to it, where it begins isn't always set in stone. (I've read some pretty good trainer fics that follow trainers who were formerly champions on badge quests. Unfortunately, I can't think of the name of one at the moment, but I assure you that they do in fact exist... as weak in terms of proof as that might be.) Just as Emerson once likened life to a journey and not a destination, the entire point of a journey is not the two points at the end and beginning of the line. It's about everything that happens in between those two points, so what you do at Point A and Point B is less relevant comparatively. Sure, it's important in that you need a place to start and end your story (obviously), but because the journey itself and what your characters learn along the way take precedence, your Points A and B should morph to fit what you're trying to say between them.
In other words, like the others have said, if you start off with awesome things happening when your character gets a starter but then follow up with absolutely nothing happening for several chapters until your character earns his/her third badge (and note that this is a general "you" and that I have read and understood what you plan to do with your own story, but your story isn't everyone's story), Point A is going to feel like it's tacked on, first off. Second, your reader is going to be disappointed by the lack of anything happening for several chapters. You'll need to grab their attention and hold it, so in that case, having Point A be your character getting a starter isn't going to work.
Not to mention you run at a risk of being written off as just another generic trainer fic, which is also not good advertisement. Just like not all films of a certain genre necessarily have to start basically the exact same way (and it still will be exactly the same as every other fic at its heart, even if you add in ~*~EXPLOSIONS~*~), not all fics of a certain genre have to, either.
And now, Jax is going back into hiatus mode. You're welcome.