Like a lot of people in their twenties, I grew up fairly obsessed with the Pokemon series. I played Pokemon Blue on the Gameboy, watched the original series on SMTV Live and collected the cards without ever learning how to play them. I moved on from the TV series long ago but I did keep up with the video games!
With MangaUK releasing Pokemon The Movie 20: I Choose You!, it seemed like a good opportunity to rediscover the TV series with a friend. So, here are the thoughts of two twenty-somethings (one of whom only knows Pokemon from the first series) of the 20th Pokemon movie!
You could describe this film is a ‘retelling’ of the first few Pokemon episodes, with several Pokemon from other generations thrown in. Ash Ketchum (still voiced by Veronia Taylor of your childhood) sets off on his Pokemon journey with Pikachu. They see a mysterious Pokemon flying through the sky – the legendary Ho-Oh, who sheds a beautiful rainbow feather for Ash. Teaming up with two other trainers, Verity and Sorrell, Ash sets off to meet Ho-Oh.
For those of you who remember your Pokemon TV series back in the good old 90s’s, Ash did actually briefly see what was then the unidentifed Ho-Oh. This is about as far as the ‘retelling’ goes, as there is a distinct lack of Misty and Brock (or rival Gary), and we have to make do with the interchangeable Verity and Sorrell. Gary is replaced with the originally named ‘Cross’. There is also some very randomly thrown-in story line about Ash being the ‘rainbow hero’, which is never explained, and a handful of legendary Pokemon (Entei, Suicune, Entei and Ho-Oh itself) feel very much crowbarred in.
It’s probably best to view Pokemon The Movie 20 as an alternative timeline, in which Ash seemingly only visits one gym but still manages to evolve Charmander into Charizard at speed.
If your question is ‘should I buy the DVD?’, my answer would be ‘yes, as long as you’re watching it with friends, because you’ll feel mighty embarrassed watching it alone’. This film is part nostalgia trip and part hot mess.
If ‘purist’ Pokemon fans exist, they’ll probably find fault with the fact that monsters from the fourth and seventh generations feature in what is supposedly the original 150 Pokedex entries world. They may appreciate the revisiting of scenes like Ash finding an abandoned Charmander in the rain and saying goodbye to Butterfree, and the general ‘I’m going on an adventure!’ feel that Pokemon always inspired.
That said, there is a completely out-of-place scene with a Pokemon literally freezing to death – in a children’s film! And yet when a wolf-like Pokemon actually savages someone’s arm, God forbid they show any blood. Also, I don’t remember Team Rocket’s cameos being so irrelevant… there is also a distinct lack of ‘prepare for trouble’ and James has a different voice actor. There’s a lot more I could say, but then I’d be spoiling the last half hour!
One interesting comment from my friend, who had only ever seen the first series, was that ‘the newer Pokemon look too anthropomorphic’. Compare the wolf-like two-legged Lucario and Lycanroc to the classic Vaporeon or Jigglypuff, and I think you have a point.
Without embarking on a super-long blog (because I like my reviews short), I clearly have a few artistic and narrative issues with Pokemon The Movie 20. That said, it’s a silly nostalgic romp whose plot holes should be embraced. The best way to watch it is with friends who remember watching the original TV series like you, ideally with some drinks and snacks on hand.