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Old 01-02-2018, 05:59 AM   #1
Doppleganger
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Pokémon, I Choose You!

I watched this Japanese. I actually watched the original in Japanese too. I could understand this like 55%. Let's tear this down.

The first 15 minutes are a complete remake of OS E1, with some subtle (though a little vexing). The first is, the classic opening of the Gameboy starting up, with Nidorino (or Jigglypuff) fighting Gengar is replaced by Blastoise versus Origins Gengar.

Ash watches this...on a 40" flatscreen SmartTV.



There's a laptop there too. Feels really out of date for 1998. It's probably not supposed to be set in 1998 but I feel like you HAVE to embrace the era Pokemon was born in when trying to recreate it.

Pallet Town is surprisingly empty and populated at the same time. The only characters we viewers see in person are Professor Oak, Deliah, and Ash. No cheerleaders, no neighbours, no warm crowd cheering the newly christened trainers as they leave their sleepy town for parts unknown. However, Gary and the other two Pallet trainers (revealed to be a girl and a tubby guy) are seen in flashback, and we're reminded Ash wanted Squirtle as his first Pokemon.

Why is more clearly articulated since in the intro battle, after Gengar was recalled it was Blastoise versus Venusaur. Ash names those Pokemon in order as to who he wants, which is ironic for later. I also get removing the other characters was to focus on Ash/Pikachu but for gewunners like myself it's irritating and less believable.

Ash/Pikachu's bonding is also less believable, with Ash making fewer newb mistakes and being generally energetic and supportive. He still did the cringey Pikachu towing routine, but didn't really vent frustrations like he did in Episode 1. There's no Misty, so Ash's inexperience isn't pointed out, and without a bike Ash isn't convincing anyone that he's getting anywhere close to a Pokemon Centre. So, he feels a lot more mature. Stylistically, it looks like XY Ash playing the role of OS Ash.

Ash's hat has the wrong logo but the right logo is on his backpack. HOWEVER,



Once the hat is turned around, he is Kanto Ash reborn.

I noticed Spearow's Japanese name is "Oni Suzume", which translates to "ogre sparrow" or "demon sparrow". That's pretty neat. Pikachu isn't struck by lighting (a hint at his ability = Lightning Rod?) and simply nukes the Spearow flock. This whole sequence is less believable without the power boost.



Amourshippers on suicide watch: Ash's first kiss is from Pikachu. :p

When Ho-Oh appears, there's no Dexter to point out it's an unknown Pokemon. Again, hammering home the surreal aspect of this feeling like a Little Busters-style dream world where only Ash-Pikachu are together. Ash gets the Rainbow Wing to really set this movie on a different path from the series, although it isn't clear until the end of the film if it's nothing more than a GS Ball.

The encoder left a cryptic hint, "I kept the dub opening intact because I felt like it should be there". I switched to the English track and IT'S THE ORIGINAL THEME! SQUEEEE!

muh nostalgia man.

The title sequence takes Ash all the way to Celadon City, which bears commentary:



This is, by far, the largest city ever seen in Pokemon media, and canonically Celadon is the second largest city in Kanto, with Saffron as the capital (and Tokyo expy). The Celadon Gym has solar panels on its petal-shaped roof, how very on-brand for a modern building.

It didn't escape me that this gym, canonically #4ish in sequence, was shown, while others were skipped:



The Rainbow Badge. Rainbows are a recurring motif in not just this movie but the current anime as well. Alola is the land of rainbows. Rainbows are also associated with Ho-Oh. This movie is explicitly pointed out to be an alternate universe with its own continuity and continuity with the upcoming M21 remake. This isn't just random imagery, the writers are dropping a hint by mentioning the same idea. And, I have to wonder if this is a hint this universe may be at some point linked with Alola.

Here's another recurring motif...modern technology!



Nice LTE signal, only three bars. And a touch screen siiiigh.

Ash meets with some new friends in the forest. One is an edgy dude with a Lucario, the Razor Wrist Pokemon. The other is a girl named Makoto who needs to show some modesty, which is apparent if you watch her posture. She's also...dumb?

She summons Oshawatt (an unevolved Gen 5 water starter) and uses Bubble on Entei. Of course it fails. Later, said Oshawatt uses Hydro Pump on Pikachu (which suggests it's strong), but the move misses and hits an Onix. The Onix doesn't faint, and instead chases after them. This suggests Oshawatt is weak.



WTF is this? Why are they running from Onix when Makoto has a water Pokemon? If Ash has 3 badges included Celadon, he must have reached Pewter first, right?



How did he beat Brock with Pikachu and Caterpie? He should certainly be able to handle a wild Onix after handling Brock so far back...

How nostalgic, bad writing! It's not a Pokemon anime without it!

Fast forward a bit and we meet Charmander's reincarnation. In this universe, he's abandoned by Edgelord Cross, who has a Midnight Lycanroc and an Incineroar. Ash takes Charmander to a cave, rather than a Pokemon Center, where we see Ash administer a lot more direct care for Charmander (along with his doctor-in-training friend, Souji). They're joined in the cave by Entei and his entourage.



Souji relates the story of how Ho-Oh created the Johto Beasts, and Entei listens to the story. I guess he didn't know how he was made. Makoto sees Suicine later, but since she's too weak she doesn't even bother to fight it. That's pretty much the story with the other two as well: after doing no damage to Entei with UNEVOLVED STARTERS everyone just gives up trying to catch the uber. Just use a masterball scrubs srs.

We get some Makoto fanservice too. What do you expect, this is TEAM KATO's work, and the Katoking is a board certified perv.

So a bit later, we get a Charmander evolution and...



...Caterpie being boss and totally not looking like future Pidgeotto guano. Charmeleon later loses to Cross and Ash is furious at losing to an ideologically inferior trainer. Which isn't his fault given the circumstances. I was expecting Souji to lecture him about pushing Charmeleon after a new evolution, but he took the correct position instead ("think of Charmeleon's feelings").



Marshadow, wanting to up the nostalgia factor, then sends Ash into an illusion where he's living in modern day Tokyo. It's colourless and austere, reeking of the drudgery that I'm sure many Japanese watch anime to escape from. It's a little troubling as well, in a Matrix sense, that the "real" world is this vibrant paradise and this "fake" world is the one all the viewers are stuck in. Sucks to be us.

Also, is it just me, or is Marshadow single-handedly turning this title into a Miyazaki flick? He feels like a Miyazaki character. Anyway, Souji starts telling a story from his childhood and...



We see a Luxray die on screen. Wow, this movie means business. Marshadow then reveals itself and Pikachu's attempt to zap it wakes up a troop of Primape, who Metapod summarily takes care of. It evolves into Butterfree right afterward.



Now I feel like the story has too many plotlines, which is why Misty/Brock/Gary had to be excised from it. This is the second "climax", after Pikachu murdering the Spearow. Which makes sense since this was the climactic scene of "Bye Bye Butterfree" as much as the flock electrocution was the climax of "Pokemon, I Choose You!".

Certainly, Ash's frustration here felt more in-character compared to how he handled his Pikachu problems earlier, but I find that Charmeleon's rebelliousness was a far more compelling plot than Butterfree, and that element was dropped from his character. Ultimately, Butterfree had no impact on this movie at all and was better off not being shown.

Upon searching for Mt. Tensei, they Bonji who is wearing Red's G1 hat. He's obsessed with Ho-Oh. Maybe he is Red?



At the summoning table for Ho-Oh, Cross reappears and challenges Ash. Charmeleon evolves into Charizard and beats Incineroar after a really tough and impressive looking fight.

Cross gets emotional, steals Ash's Rainbow Feather and tries to summon Ho-Oh, but the feather goes black and Marshadow steals it. It then takes control of Cross' Lycanroc and a bunch of other Pokemon that initially came to spectate the Ho-Oh summoning.

There's a big free-for-all that ends with Pikachu losing to Marshadow. The possessed Pokemon keep pressing while Ash/Pikachu are trapped on a cliff. Ash tanks some attacks then hallucinates Pikachu talking to him. He then forces Pikachu into his Pokeball, and then...



...gets murdered by the Pokemon lynch mob. Holy shit! I know that "Ash dies" is an overused trope by now, with him dying in M1, M8, Pokemon Ranger and The Tower of Terror.

But this is, by far, the most brutal of his deaths as he is literally murdered in cold blood. In most of the other cases he's killed by hazards (water, blobs, chandeliers) and in M1, he intentionally jumps in the way of Mewtwo's absurdly powerful Shadow Ball and Mew's Psychic. In no other case did someone go out and kill him.

Pokemon only faint temporarily but people faint...forever!

Grieving Pikachu grabs dead Ash's cap and...somehow? Uses some kind of Z-Move that obliterates the mountain top, clears the sky, and defeats Marshadow and the lynch mob.

Then we get a surreal scene that involves Pikachu going into Hell and pulling Ash out of it. I am not kidding!



The movie ends with...



Pikachu battling Ho-Oh. As to who wins-

Spoiler: show
Is there really any tension when there's 9 minutes left in the film, and Ash is only a 3 badge Kanto trainer? This isn't a letdown so much as it seems like a massive tease. I would have wanted to see Ash throw his all-region all-star team at Ho-Oh (Charizard, Pikachu, Sceptile, Infernape, Greninja, Lycanroc) so there would at least be tension or a plausible reason to believe. Here, there was none of that.

We don't know the outcome. In the outside chance Pikachu actually won, M21 is going to be a ballbuster.


So, after that long summary/commentary, what about my take?

...

The movie is OK. It suffers from the original material being written as separate episodes, and trying to gel them together created a chimeric mess of a film. It's like a soup where you can spot the good ingredients floating around and know the chef can cook, but the overall product wasn't well constructed.

Storylines:

-Ash/Pikachu buddy story
-Ash/Butterfree story
-Ash/Cross/Charizard story
-Ash/Ho-Oh story
-Marshadow

With the whole friendship theme that is distinct between the Ash/Pikachu (BFF) and Ash/Cross/Charizard (treating Pokemon with respect/kindness makes them stronger) storylines, although the writers tried to pass them off as the same theme.

Individual ideas are good. The visuals were great. The Marshadow dream sequence was good. Ash's murder was much more powerful than his other deaths because of the intentional self-sacrifice. Lots of recurring symbolism and echos to prior ideas (Souji's story about Luxray's sacrifice was about Pokemon, but Ash demonstrated people have the same potential).

I thought the Makoto fanservice was obnoxious and distracting, but I was also looking for it, knowing the animator's intent. If I was a dumb kid probably it goes over my head.



OVERALL RATING
Quantitative: 6/10
Qualitative: Good
Worth watching?: Maybe
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Old 01-12-2018, 07:54 PM   #2
Lindz
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I saw it during the limited theater release over here. Enjoyable and not as nostalgia heavy as expected from a glance which was good by me! I bet the "real" world segment will fuel Ash coma theorists until the end of eternity >_>; Wouldn't mind seeing Sorrel and Verity make a return in another movie or something!

Nice to see Ho-oh finally get its own movie btw!
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Old 03-17-2018, 11:23 AM   #3
Skunkaru
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The technology updates are always interesting.
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