r#115 – pokémon: the first movie

While I was never one to play much of the ever-so-popular Pokémon video game series *the most I’ve played was Pokémon White and Pokémon Y, yet I never finished those lol— I was definitely exposed to it by my brother and the general video game and anime communities around the internet that I’ve been a part of. Even though I’ve only tried out also the trading card game and watched a few episodes of the original anime, I still really like this popular franchise. I mean, how can you not? It’s full of cute and cool-looking animals, competitive and strategic battles, people having the desire to ‘collect’ them all, many different ways to play whether it be on a gaming console or your smartphone; I can definitely see why Pokémon has such a big influence around the world.

There’s currently an ongoing gigantic Pokémon anime marathon on the popular live-streaming website, Twitch.tv, where they’ll be streaming almost the entire series and list of movies for the next several months. I happen to watch the first ever Pokémon movie, Pokémon: The First Movie on the stream earlier and I’d love to give my thoughts on it.

Let’s jump right in!

synopsis.

After a group of scientists finds the DNA of the ancient and rarest Pokémon, Mew, they decide to use this incredible discovery to finally find a way to clone Pokémon. With the help of Giovanni, the leader of the villainous Team Rocket, the scientists build a laboratory on New Island and manage to successfully create a better and stronger clone of Mew called Mewtwo. After Mewtwo wakens from its sleep and finds out that he’s merely just an experiment to these humans, he becomes infuriated and destroys the entire laboratory with his powerful psychic abilities. Giovanni then confronts Mewtwo and says that he’ll help him refine his new powers, until Mewtwo realizes that Giovanni is just using him as a living weapon for his own benefit. Mewtwo decides that’s the last straw and escapes back to New Island where he starts to plan his revenge on humanity.

As part of Mewtwo’s plan, he invites the 10-year-old Ash Ketchum and other worthy Pokémon trainers to New Island for a so-called Pokémon battle/challenge. But when they eventually get to the secret location, Mewtwo reveals his scheme for a world domination and the desire to wipe out humanity and every Pokémon who abide by their trainers. And a starting point of his plan is by cloning all of the trainers’ Pokémon to take for himself. With Ash’s deep affection for Pokémon —and the help of Mew herself— he’s determined to spoil Mewtwo’s evil plan.

script.

First off, let me say that the version I watched was the one that is shown in America, or what most people call it, the dubbed version. As many of us know, whenever an anime TV series or movie gets an international release, there’s a big chance something will be changed or altered because of localization. Essentially, they want to change things around to cater to the country the anime is airing in. I bring this up because 4Kids Entertainment’s localization of the American release is VERY different from the original Japanese version of the movie, which by the way they have had an extensive history of censorship with the Japanese animation such as Yu-Gi-Oh and One Piece. One major change in this movie is that they cut out the entire 20-minute prologue that essentially gives us the backstory and history of Mewtwo, as well as a better understanding of what the scientists were actually trying to achieve and why Mewtwo has these evil intentions …

… why would you cut that out?!

I heard that the American localization team felt like if they had kept the prologue in, children wouldn’t be able to figure out whether or not Mewtwo is actually the villain in this story, plus it was considered to be too heart-wrenching of a scene for kids to handle. As much as I’d like to disagree with that, I can’t really blame them since, let’s face it, this IS a movie marketed towards children. But as a person who is no longer a child and someone who can now look deeper into narratives, cutting important plot points just does not make this particular story work in an orderly fashion.

While this narrative was pretty cheesy overall (some say that they inputted story elements from the famous Hollywood film Frankenstein), this movie actually had some deep themes that they executed decently for a children’s movie. Things such as what’s a Pokémon’s purpose in life, and how strong a relationship really is between Pokémon and their trainers; it was interesting to see a series like Pokémon touch on things like this. However one specific thing I noticed was the focus on violence and fighting, and the way they expressed it wasn’t particularly good.

In a scene towards the end of the movie, they showed the Pokémon and their clones fighting each other in a more vicious manner. On one hand, it showed an emotional message that Pokémon shouldn’t be involved with this kind of violent behavior. One of the characters, Nurse Joy, even had a line where she said, “Pokémon shouldn’t fight.” But on the other hand … isn’t the whole premise of Pokémon to train captured creatures to fight other creatures? This was, in fact, one of the localization changes that 4Kids Entertainment did, and I felt like they tried way too hard to express this moral message.

casts.

I’m not going to discuss most of the characters in this movie because they’re pretty much the same as how they are in the original anime. Ash is still Ash, Brock is still Brock, Misty is still Misty, Team Rocket is still Team Rocket, so on and so on. Not much changes with the character cast from what we’ve seen in the first season of the anime series.

However, Mewtwo is probably the most interesting character in this movie. He definitely displayed a much different and interesting perspective on what it’s like being a Pokémon that has a mind of its own rather than one who obeys and has a close relationship with their trainer; it’s also expressed with him questioning throughout the movie, “what is my purpose?” And speaking of trainers, his experiences with those scientists who made him helped us see that having a positive relationship between trainer and Pokémon really does matter, as it can completely change the behavior of a Pokémon. While Mewtwo is shown as a generic villain, he still does have some interesting traits that help with the storytelling and even the philosophy of Pokémon.

visuals and arts.

The art and animation of this movie are outstanding. It’s very similar to what the original anime looks like but seems to be a little bit refined and enhanced, like with most TV shows that end up getting a feature film. But everything from the movement of characters to the various special effects to the environment like the rapid waves of the ocean, this was such a visually appealing film to watch. And for an animated movie released in 1999, I thought Pokémon’s animation efforts were pretty impressive.

I’ve never really had a problem with the Pokémon American dubbed voice cast, I’ve always thought they were sufficient for a cartoon shown here in the United States. Even now when I’ve gained a better understanding of voice acting performances, I still enjoy the English performances of most of the characters, at least in the original Pokémon series. Ash, Brock, Misty, Jessie and James, Meowth, and even some Pokémon like Pikachu and Togepi, they’re enjoyable to listen to while watching this series. I feel like their voices are too iconic for me to dislike them, as I’ve been hearing this particular cast of voices for my whole life.

But one special voice to talk about was Mewtwo, as they gave him the ability to communicate via his psychic powers. To be honest, his voice is pretty nice. He has a very deep and serious tone to him, as it should be since that’s the kind of character he is. I believe the English voice actor for him did a great job portraying someone like Mewtwo.

As for the music, the songs that played in the background during scenes, as well as the opening were pretty good. We all know the iconic Pokémon theme song but in this movie, they did a remix that wasn’t that bad. As for the insert songs, I’m not sure if it’s just me not being a 90’s kid, but I really disliked some of the songs featured throughout the movie. Some of them felt pretty out of place; there were times where I was thinking, why the hell am I listening to this kind of song during this particular scene? But then again, I know that this movie has to appeal to both children and the American audience, so I understand the song choices they made.

closing – al’s final verdict.

Even though I love the Pokémon franchise and how enjoyable it is, I really can’t say the same with this feature film because of the significant flaws it has. And I’m going to have to blame the localization by 4Kids Entertainment for that. They changed so much in the US release to the point where it negatively impacted how a much older viewer would enjoy and understand the story of this movie.

But like I’ve been repeating over and over in this review, this movie is mainly geared towards the youth, so I —mostly— can understand why they had to make drastic changes to this movie, since it does come from a completely unique culture which can have a completely unique mindset when making creative work. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever get to watch the Japanese version of this movie, but I’d assume that it would be a significantly different experience compared to the English one.

And while I say I understand why they made these changes, it still doesn’t change my viewpoint on this movie. I would suggest a rewatch of this movie if you’ve already watched it before and just want to experience a dose of nostalgia, also just watch this if you need to turn on a movie for a child to watch or if you’re significantly interested in how the first ever Pokémon movie was like.

additional pieces of information.

material resource: sliceofalfredo.blog
official siteAllcinemaANNMedia Art DBWiki (en)AnimeNfo, and MAL

* this image is available to be downloaded!

Well, that was quite a review I wrote … or I guess you can consider it somewhat a rant as well. But I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting! I have another anime to discuss, so I’ll see you soon for another review!

© written by sliceofalfredo
revised by nesha5971
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12 responses to “r#115 – pokémon: the first movie

  1. I remember back when this first came out. I’d been playing the Game Boy game, but my friends thought Pokemon was stupid and childish. I can’t remember the context under which we all ended up watching this, but they came away from it with a sense of “whoa, I think I’ve misjudged this”. Oddly satisfying.

    I believe we had the dubbed version here, but I’m sure I remember seeing the prologue you describe. Wonder if it was re-added for an international release? I doubt it somehow, but stranger things have happened. Maybe I’m just misremembering or misinterpreting!

  2. I want to watch this one. I watched countless episodes of Pokémon when younger, and was into collecting Pokémon cards as though they were real Pokémons. I kind of know all the criticisms with dubbing and voices, but it is better than what I have had when I watched my Pokémon series when younger – it was dubbed into Russian lol

  3. I have a soft spot for this, having first seen it on VHS back when it first came out. My word some of the stone send out of place though. I never really liked into the changes they made to it, bit I figured there were a few.

  4. Just as with Bleach, Naruto and all those other long running series: I have not started watching Pokemon simply because the sheer amount of episodes. But..I know it’s a classic😊 Great post though!😀

  5. I was watching that stream earlier lol! Heaviest moment in anime history when Ash died in the movie T_T

    But yeah honestly I wouldn’t even recommend the early games unless they held nostalgia value. I’ve got Red, Blue and Crystal, but mainly because those were some of the earliest games I remember playing.

  6. I remember watching Pokemon with my children 35 years ago. Like the Power Rangers, somehow it is still going today. Wife is always looking for good Pokestops.

  7. Oh man, this brings back tons of memories. The bad insert songs, the cheesy story, the forced moral message, yet it was good enough when I was a kid to enjoy it. One moment that always stuck out to me was seeing Pikachu slap clone Pikachu around. I’m not sure why because it was a serious moment, but I found that very amusing, even now lol.

    One cheesy moment I disliked even as a kid what that whole crying Pokemon crying scene at the end of the climax. I just rolled my eyes, and was dumbfounded at what I just saw. It was just too much for me. I never thought about the continuity much during this movie, especially the ending since things go back to the status quo so it never bothered me. Also, I didn’t care much for continuity as a kid XD.

    I haven’t seen anything Pokemon related in over a decade. The anime series was a big part of my childhood, but eventually I grew tire of it since the same thing kept happening, and lost my interest. Although, for the times I did watch it, it gave me so much enjoyment after a tedious day of school.

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