How does a cherished franchise, constantly brought up to new highs, right in the middle of its best success as of yet recognized, notorious for glorious works to showcase, go on to alienate half its fanbase?
Yeah, no, I’m not gonna keep that up for the entire review.
Despite the positive reception of the recent remakes, the initial reaction to the third generation was kinda mixed. And it’s not hard to see why. The games hold a special place in my heart, but they’re generally considered to be a step down from the previous series, mostly because of all of the water.
Yes, IGN’s review addressed a relevant complaint.
Perhaps the biggest breaking point for the anime fanbase, however, was the shuffling of the primary cast. By the time Crystal had been released three years earlier Game Freak had finally given players the option to be female, and as the plotline of the show moved onto a new region the showrunners felt that they should reflect this option.
So Misty was out. In her place we got a special two-for-one deal in May (Veronica Taylor) and Max (Amy Birnbaum). May is essentially the same character as the lead in the games, being the gym leader’s daughter who sets out on a quest of her own. However, she’s much less of a tomboy than some of her counterparts and focuses primarily on contests. Her brother Max is a tagalong know-it-all who went along on the adventure despite being too young to have Pokemon. Nobody likes Max.
Brock can stay for now. He and Ash got snazzy new outfits.
But enough of that. Let’s move on to the first movie of this generation- Jirachi Wishmaker.
Once again, the film has a prologue stating the core basis of the entire series, overlaid over a series of silent events, including the excavation of a geode in a cave, the meeting of an evil team, and people walking. We also get a montage of the major legendary Pokemon from the previous films, which I suppose is their way of preparing us for a letdown.
Move aside Halley, there’s a new comet in town. Ash and friends are taking a break to observe the Millennium Comet, which true to its name
was erected in 2000 in London appears once every thousand years. I’m not sure how they have all of this information about the phenomenon when the western world was in the middle of the Dark Ages when it last appeared, but I’m being nitpicky. Given that this is a once-in-several-lifetimes event it’s being marked with a fair that lasts a full week, which is how long said comet will be visible. It isn’t until the night before the event that the carnival is actually set up, however, because the Pokemon universe is full of procrastinators.
The establishment of the fair is somewhat interesting, but it takes long enough that I was expecting Anna Maria Alberghetti to come out and start singing at any moment. Particular focus is given to the magicians Butler (Wayne Grayson) and Diane (Megan Hollingshead), who put up their tent in the most needlessly complicated fashion despite the fact that to their knowledge there is nobody around to see them do it.
After some fun times at the fair the next day, the gang ends up going to see the magic show, all full of basic tricks combined with latent furry bait. For no reason whatsoever, an inordinate amount of focus is placed on the crystal seen in the prologue, despite the fact that there is nothing apparently special about it.
Almost immediately, Max starts hearing a voice coming from the rock saying ridiculously vague things related to the title of the film. Because nothing starts off a good story like some old-fashioned schizophrenia.
It’s worth noting that this voice sounds like someone who is seeing their lines for the first time while simultaneously attempting to transcribe them from the original Japanese.
Max and Ash rush onstage like they’re attending a production of Hair, but the Great and Powerful Butler takes it in stride and has them participate in the rest of the act. Team Rocket, having realized their true calling by moonlighting as clowns, takes this opportunity to capture Pikachu, but before they can stop the world Butler manages to fight them off.
After the show, the magicians reveal the secret of the rock to the leads- it’s actually the cocoon of the legendary wishing Pokemon Jirachi (Kerry Williams), which awakens with the comet with the aid of a “special friend chosen by destiny”. Naturally, the best thing to do in this case is hand over the valuable artifact to a complete stranger, so the child gets to hold onto it for the rest of the day.
Later in the day, May falls for a tourist trap, purchasing a “wishmaker” that promises to make one’s wish come true if it is used on all seven days of the festival. This is why sending literal children on these journeys is a bad idea, because then it leads to easy scams like these.
That night, the gang watches the comet while Max falls asleep, holding the crystal in his arms. May, won over by how diabetes-inducing this scene is, starts singing an old family lullaby out of nostalgia. For some reason they kept May’s Japanese voice (KAORI) intact for this moment, so it sounds like Seal is serenading them instead of a ten year old girl. The soothing tones trigger the necessary event flag, and Jirachi is released from its crystal prison.
The bond that this film shows between Jirachi and Max is… odd, to say the least. We get a lot of shots of them sleeping in the same bed, cuddling and the like. I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference or not but it seems like a bad romantic comedy, which is a little concerning given the fact that both of them are underage, different species, and played by bad actors.
Not to mention that Jirachi itself is fairly annoying. I already mentioned my issues with the actor’s performance, but there’s also the fact that it doesn’t really do anything. It’s clearly supposed to be childlike, but we get one of those legendaries practically every other movie and it gets grating after a while.
But, you know, it’s cute, so who cares about all of that.
Diane and Butler invite them to spend the night in their trailer because these idiots have never seen The Hills Have Eyes, and we get to see a demonstration of Jirachi’s power in a pointless scene about candy. As it turns out, Jirachi is not in fact omnipotent and instead has powers of mass teleportation.
The next day the group helps out with the magic show before being attacked by an Absol. Absol, of course, is a Pokemon that only appears directly before a plot device, so naturally this is taken as a bad omen and it’s quickly dispatched.
That night May comes across Butler stealing Jirachi.
Because, as it turns out, Butler is evil.
Butler hooks up Jirachi to a machine and orders it to open up its “true eye”, and consequently forces it to do so when it refuses. We’re treated to a lengthy scene of Butler taking advantage of Jirachi’s weakened state while the Pokemon moans and squirms and suddenly I feel a lot less comfortable. Needless to say, I never thought that I would be putting trigger warnings on a Pokemon movie.
Anyway, the machine explodes and the resulting ruckus wakes everyone else up. It’s determined that Absol had actually come to save Jirachi and Diane manages to get everyone on the bus just in time to avoid Butler’s wrath and reveal some important backstory.
Butler actually used to be a member of Team Magma, which is devoted to increasing the amount of land in the world thanks to some weird collective group fetish. They aim to do this mostly through worship of the ancient god Groudon, and Butler was kicked out after his attempt to revive the legendary failed, which is sort of like being considered too depressing for anime club. His research led him to the region of Forina, where he took the crystal in the prologue to power his device.
Naturally, that means it’s roadtrip time to bring Jirachi back home. The next three days are spent driving through the desert
in real time, cutting back and forth between scenes of Max and Jirachi being cute, May fiddling with her metaphor, and occasionally something that’s actually relevant.
Perhaps the most important of these scenes is a flashback to Butler and Diane’s childhood, showing how the magician got his stage name and consequently decided to ignore any potential for character development for the next twenty years.
Finally, after about ten minutes of this they reach Forina. You can be forgiven for thinking that they’ve travelled to the planet from Avatar, but it’s actually based off of the Wulingyuan Area in China, and it’s ~beautiful~.
After taking some time to appreciate the scenery, our protagonists are intercepted by Butler, who travelled by map or something. Although Jirachi is rescued, Butler is able to actually resurrect Groudon this time. This is accomplished through focusing Jirachi’s power on a crop-circle-esque drawing of the legend in the weirdest Chalkzone adaptation ever.
Instead of some great mythical beast, we end up with some creepy fetishized monstrosity. It’s not just me, either, it’s a goo monster that goes around eating people with tentacles. Look, I’m sorry furries, I know you’re the scapegoat of the Internet, but I’m just gonna go ahead and pin this on you too.
The Groudon starts rampaging since it’s been about two films since the last kaiju equivalent and Japanese B-movies only have like three plots (though now that I think about it I really want to see a Pokemon version of Hausu). It starts devouring wildlife and party members alike, and by the time it catches Diane Butler’s figured out that maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all.
Despite how the first two go-rounds were clearly traumatizing, Jirachi is willing to go back into the machine to stop the beast, and the primary plot is resolved in about two minutes tops. Riveting.
The amount of energy required was too much for the legendary Pokemon to take, though, and it starts retreating back into its cocoon for another millennium. As Jirachi disappears back into the rock, it requests to hear the lullaby one last time. This time the English voice actors join in too, so it sounds like Seal being backed up by the Shaggs.
After nearly destroying Forina’s ecosystem, the characters of the week have decided to stay in the area. May notices that her MacGuffin was left uncompleted, but this allows the characters to deliver some sort of moral about chasing your dreams or something. I don’t know. I stopped paying attention.
As the film closes, Jirachi contacts Max through telepathy and says that they’ll be friends forever, which I’m pretty sure is a difficult promise to keep when you’re gonna hibernate for a thousand years.
I’m not a huge fan of this one, to be honest. There wasn’t too much memorable about it, and the things that could be considered remotely interesting were mostly taken from the earlier movies. It wasn’t a direct assault on my senses, but the entire film was a ton of fluff leading up to a humongous letdown of a climax.
Speaking of climaxes this was an oddly sexual movie (I’ll give you a second to cringe at that transition). I mean that in the sense of “unnerving sexual tension” and “this is straightforwardly comparable to sexual assault”. Maybe it’s my brain grasping at straws and trying to be funny but it legitimately felt uncomfortable at times. But whatever. I’m gonna take a shower and try to wash the shame off.