Go-Go-Gaijin: Pokémon At The Movies

Going to the movies in Japan is still something of an event, partly because they have limited edition merchandise on sale at the theater for the movies currently showing. You are also guaranteed a relatively quiet theater, a clean seat, and slightly above average beverages and snacks. Every year there is one movie event I never miss, even though I dread the experience more than look forward to it. The event I’m talking about is the annual Pokémon movie. If I hate the movies, why on earth would I see the movie? Furthermore, what am I doing purchasing advanced tickets? Well, it’s all about the marketing genius behind that classic catchphrase; I just Gotta Catch ‘Em All.

I was about thirteen when the first games came out, and I remember playing the heck out of my Pokémon Blue Version Game Boy game, but by the second generation of games I was in the middle of high school and had little interest in collecting digital monsters on a black and white handheld screen. Fast forward ten years and I’m in Japan, an adult, and purchasing a used Nintendo DS. I need a game, but I’m unfamiliar with the DS and it’s capabilities. My eyes find a nostalgic section filled with Pokémon games, and I grab the one that doesn’t look like a space penis. Before I knew it, I was gaga for the games again. It was in color, I could finally play as a girl character, and there were nearly 500 Pokémon to be caught. The game I loved as a kid had been perfected in its design, and I fell victim to Pokémon fever all over again.

When I was a kid, Legendary Pokémon were more or less just legends. Mew was impossible to get without a cheat, and I didn’t even know about Celebi or the Legendary Beasts when I was playing Pokémon Silver. This was of course back before the Internet and Wi-Fi were readily available to everyone, and I remember getting discouraged when I learned Mew was only available through a glitch. Now they make it fun, like a big scavenger hunt; there are events to obtain Legendaries, there are games you can buy with special Pokémon, and there are movies that send the little buggers directly into your DS. How do they do it? Black magic. That’s really all I can come up with.

However, in order to get these black magic gift Pokémon, I have to endure the anime version of the Pokémon franchise. I do not like the anime. The games can be fun despite their monotony, but the anime repeats the same jokes every episode. Brock hits on girl, meets with unrequited love. Piplup acts elitist, trips, and rolls into a wall. The always-failing Team Rocket is still blasting off again. The fact that Team Rocket is even still around blows my mind, but I have to remember that I’ve been Preparing For Trouble for twelve years, while most fans who still laugh at these jokes haven’t even been alive for twelve years. They don’t get that the shows is monotonous and that these characters are uninteresting. The movies too are boring, focusing on lame human characters and making Pikachu the all-power Wonder Pokémon with the ability to take down whoever Ash needs him to. But I endure this knowing my reward will be a Shaymin or Arceus for my game, making me one-step closer to my ultimate goal; Gotta Catch ‘Em All.

The Pokémon coupled with the 13th Pokémon movie was Celebi, whom I did not already have, so I bought an advanced ticket (and with that obtained a shiny Suicune… don’t judge me!) and went with a friend to see Genei No Hasha ZOROAAKU, or Phantom Ruler Zoroark in English. I saw the movie on opening day and received a key chain featuring Zoroark and Zoroa, the two new Pokémon from the upcoming Generation V games Pokémon Black & White. I reserved my seat (Japanese theaters have you reserve a seat regardless of ticket sales, and even if there are only four people in the theater will try to get you to all sit in the same area) and headed up the stairs to Theater 1 while trying to pretend I was there to see a movie a self-respecting 26-year-old would see. I glanced at my pamphlet; this is the final movie in the four-part Diamond & Pearl series, and I expected it to be just as bland as the other three. I was wrong, and for the first time in nearly ten years I actually enjoyed the movie.

Pokemon Present Guide

Must... See... Movie... Must... Get... Shinies...

The movie starts out with Satoshi (Ash), Takeshi (Brock), Hikari (Dawn) and their Pokémon watching a brand-new Pokémon sport called Pokémon Backers, and the sport seems to have three Pokémon per team and vaguely resembles soccer, if soccer had ramps and floating goals. We are then shown a special sports news update featuring a man named Kodai and his Legendary Beasts, Entei, Suicune, and Raikou, who are big crowd pleasers and send our heroes into a small ruckus of “Oh man, so cool!” and such. Little do they know that he’s really… the VILLAIN!!!

Kodai reveals to the movie audience that he is holding Zoroark, a Pokémon from a far away land, and a pre-evolutionary form of Zoroark called Zoroa (or, apparently, Zorua on English fan sites) prisoner in a cell on his giant flying ship. He grabs the little Zoroa and laughs at Zoroark’s desperate reaction, stating, “You treat Zoroa as if he were your own child.” Though they are not related, Zoroark would do anything for Zoroa and agrees to help Kodai with his evil plan if it means to keep the kit safe; Zoroark takes on the forms of the three Legendary Beasts and pretends to destroy Crown City, a town where twenty years ago Kodai was able to obtain the ability to see into the future. He did this by stealing the power of Celebi’s Toki No Hamon, or the Ripples of Time, which is what Celebi uses to time travel. Now he’s back to do it again, now that Celebi has finally returned to Crown City, and it’s up to little Zoroa to get Satoshi and the others to save the day. If you don’t like spoilers, it’s time to stop reading.

This movie focuses more or less on the Pokémon interacting with each other, with Zoroa being quite the mischievous character. Like Zoroark, Zoroa can use illusions to take on other forms, and part of the fun is watching how other Pokémon respond to this little trick. Zoroa flashes a grin, hisses a rascally laugh and makes his getaway while the Pokémon he impersonated tries to figure out what just happened. He’s feisty, but a completely sympathetic Pokémon because everything he does is to help Zoroark, or Maa as he calls her (seriously, why aren’t they just mother and child?). Zoroark for her part is doing everything she can to help Zoroa, whom she believes is being tortured by Kodai. Zoroark can even hold her own against the town guardians, the real Raikou, Suicune, and Entei, who are all shiny versions (wow, just like the promotional Pokémon!) of their species.

The human characters do absolutely nothing. Team Rocket forgets their objective and basically stays out of the whole movie, coming in at the end just long enough for Kojiro (James) to provide the movie with it’s closing Deep Thought. The new human characters are more or less just promotional vehicles for the guest voice talent, such as Pokémon Sunday host Shoko-tan as Brufu, a pig-tailed girl who appears just long enough for Shoko-tan to claim she was in another Pokémon movie. And this is all good, because this movie is really about Zoroark finding Zoroa, Zoroa and Celebi’s friendship, and some fairly interesting battle sequences thanks to Zoroark being badass. The evil Kodai isn’t even defeated by Satoshi and crew, his ship is taken out by the Legendary Beasts and Zoroark is the one to put the final nail in the coffin at the end, though with a heavy price tag for the victory. Good thing one of the movie’s guest Pokémon has time bending healing powers!

This was a good Pokémon movie. Did the plot make sense? Not really. I completely missed the point to having Zoroark pretend to destroy the town other than it made for good trailer footage. Did I get Kodai’s overall goal with the ability to see the future? No, and I’m not really sure it was explained beyond him expanding his conglomerate empire… somehow. Despite all this, I was still far more invested in the film because I wanted to see Zoroark and Zoroa reunite, because gosh darn it Zoroa looked so cute sleeping wrapped up in Zoroark’s mane. Even the kids around me cared; when Zoroa used an illusion to show a dying Zoroark images of their homeland, the theater suddenly filled with sniffling little youngsters. I can’t make fun of them, really, that was sad stuff. The movie, of course, ends on a happy note, though, with Satoshi promising Zoroark and Zoroa that he will visit them in their homeland. “Someday… I promise! Someday I’ll definitely visit you in your homeland! Absolutely definitely! Someday soon!” Hmmm… could we possibly be referring to the new anime series Pokémon Black & White: Best Wishes? Only time will tell! Of course, I’ll be too busy playing my own copy of Pokémon Black to watch, but offer me a Pokémon and I’ll at least see your movie.

The worst part about seeing a Pokémon movie in theaters would have to be the looks of disappointment you get from elementary students. “Why is an adult coming to see a kid’s movie? How pathetic….” It is a pitiful look I know all too well. At least now I’ve got Celebi for my game and a bangin’ keychain, so those little munchkins can take their judgmental head shaking and shove off.

Zoroark and Zoroa Key Chain


For more information on the movie, check out the official website. Japanese only.

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 03:24 by Brooke Stephenson · Permalink
In: Reviews · Tagged with: , , , ,

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