I’ve have been looking forward to covering this film. This one has led to a large influx of fans, a fair amount of debate, and countless terabytes of bad fanfiction.
It’s safe to say that within the fandom Pokemon Heroes’ reputation precedes it.
You see, by this point it was 2003 and we were all ready to move on. The initial target audience was beginning to age up and move on to other things (little did we know that there would be no escape), and people still thought that the anime would end eventually.
But then came the third generation. I don’t personally remember too much about the promotion for Gen III, but rest assured that it was still there. Heroes was one of our first sneak peeks of what was in store, so clearly for many people this could potentially end on a high note.
Pokemon Heroes is probably the last film that a causal fan of the series is familiar with, as it’s the last one to be considered part of the original series (That is, the last one released as part of the Kanto/Johto arcs). This is also the final film in the series to receive a theatrical release in the United States- they placed it in a limited amount of theaters and then cited the subsequent low box office take as an excuse to release all of the following films straight to DVD.
We’ll see if it was a mercy killing.
This movie takes place in the canal-heavy city of Alto Mare. It’s obviously based directly off of Venice (as in, they flew the animators out to Italy for reference), and it looks gorgeous. It’s not without its issues, but I’ll get into that later so let’s just enjoy it while we can.
The Japanese version opens with a prologue that turned out to be cut but it looks really cool so I’m going to talk about it anyway. In this edition, the town is attacked by a monster until a group of Latios and Latias (led by the adopted children of a local couple) chase it away and leave the Soul Dew, which has the power to vanquish evil. It’s done in this really stylized Lotte Reiniger-esque method that admittedly looks pretty cool.
The town’s history is being researched by the film’s villains, Annie (Megan Hollingshead) and Oakley (Lisa Ortiz). I love Annie and Oakley so much. They’re my favorite sisters/friends/teammates/cousins/lesbians. They know exactly what kind of movie they’re in and they play it to their advantage and their dynamic works so well, insulting the characters’ fashion sense more often than actually attacking them. It’s kind of like if the Heathers were supervillains. They even leave Tuxedo Mask’s calling card when robbing people for heaven’s sake.
We first see the leads participating in one of those really annoying Mario Sunshine levels. The Tour de Alto Mare race is held with participants being dragged along by the Pokemon of their choice, which is a flawed system when you realize that there are several species known specially for being fast. Case in point, an invisible Latias (Megumi Hayashibara) shows favoritism towards Ash and causes his craft to speed ahead of the competition. Everyone seems more concerned when the unsolicited help causes him to take a wrong turn than when his Totodile appears to become the second coming, though.
Anyway, Misty wins the race and with that she has officially fulfilled her quota for this movie. The group notices an awful lot of Macguffins around the city, and are told that the symbols used in literally all of their architecture is representative of their myths.
Switching focus, Annie and Oakley use their very own Lens of Truth to track down Latias, now disguised as a human girl. As they attempt to accost her, she is rescued by Ash, who could obviously feel his All-Loving Hero Sense™ going off from across town. She is clearly thankful, but doesn’t say a word and ditches him.
Catching back up with Brock and Misty, Ash is next seen at the local museum; getting a lecture on the town’s defense system from a man named Lorenzo (Wayne Grayson). I don’t know what is up with Lorenzo, but his design does not match the rest of this movie at all. It’s like the Megaman artists drew a Mario character and he somehow escaped into this franchise.
Ash also sees the same girl as before at the museum, who denies any knowledge of his existence. As he looks for her after she leaves the museum, however, she appears to find him while consequently doing a complete 180 in terms of personality. This concept confuses him, because he has never heard of identical twins before, and he is led by the mystery girl through a chase sequence evidently constructed to show off special effects, but it comes off looking more like an early Windows screensaver. Throughout this sequence, they’re followed by Annie and Oakley’s specially made cameras, which allow them to
shoot in Disneyworld unnoticed stalk the pair.
Eventually, the girl leads Ash through the Platform 9 ¾ entrance and they end up in the Secret Garden. After playing around for a while, Ash is confronted by an invisible Latios (Megumi Hayashibara) and the girl from the museum, introduced as Bianca (Tara Jayne). Before things can truly come to a head, Lorenzo (now introduced as Bianca’s grandfather) comes in to put a stop to things and Ash is finally able to see the siblings as what they truly are: a pair of jet planes with anime eyes.
You see, since Latias and Bianca are best friends, Latias’ human costume is Bianca. Judging by how Single White Female went this arrangement isn’t going to end well, but whatever.
Lorenzo gives the English dub’s version of events, where a wicked trainer terrorized the city with his Pokemon until the Eon Duo’s father brought water to the area by turning into the Soul Dew. He mentions that he knew the savior Latios personally, but this raises even more questions than the Japanese version. Why are the events regarded as a myth if they took place two generations ago? Why are there so many ancient-looking records if this was all so recent? Why did they change it in the first place?
Getting back on track, the siblings demonstrate the power of Sight Sharing, where one is able to show onlookers what the other is seeing. At the very least it’s an original concept, even if it isn’t overly spectacular. The only issue that I have with this sequence is that fact that it’s almost exactly the same as the chase scene that we just watched, only the walls are blank and blue.
Ash also gets to see the Soul Dew, in the most ridiculous meet-the-parents scenario since the Super Mario Brothers movie. It’s a rock.
Despite all of this secrecy, Lorenzo and Bianca clearly didn’t invest in any kind of security system, because Annie and Oakley manage to break into the garden about twenty minutes after everyone else leaves. They manage to capture Latios in a net (I have no idea why, when a Pokeball would have probably sufficed), but Latias escapes and heads out into the city.
Without anyone around to guard the Soul Dew, it is easily stolen and used (along with Latios) to power the Defense System, which is apparently a gigantic Tilt-a-Whirl.
It takes no time at all for Oakley to become crazed with power, and things escalate quickly. The fossils that are being stored in the museum are revived (despite the absence of Ben Stiller), the city is closed down, and Alto Mare swiftly swings the Venice cynicism pendulum from Last Crusade to Don’t Look Now.
While all of this is going on, Latias manages to find Ash by breaking into his hotel room. Misty and Brock accept the whole situation pretty quickly, because having this sort of thing happen to you on a regular basis tends to warp your concept of “normal”. The group heads out to rescue Latios but are sort of hindered by the fact that the entire area is locked up. The canals are free though, so they’re able to make their way to their destination by using the same things that they did during the opening race.
Back at the museum, Annie is getting restless because, you know, what’s the point of getting the Fastpass if you’re going to spend the entire day on one ride. The heroes of our story show up and manage to free Latios, but the Soul Dew was apparently past its expiration date anyway as the Defense System goes haywire and the rock explodes.
This results in all of the water draining itself from Alto Mare and consequently forming a tidal wave, so everyone in the city better decide whether they’re a kid now or a squid now. Completely ignoring the fact that there are two terrorists being left alone with a potential superweapon, the gang rushes out to see what they can do. None of them have never seen a Roland Emmerich film before and there isn’t any gopher wood to be seen, so there seemingly isn’t anything they can do.
No, wait, that’s a lie. There are two incredibly powerful psychic types in the area and there’s only a few minutes left of the movie. The Eons are able to keep the wave from hitting the town, but the effort is too much for the already bruised and battered Latios, who passes on almost right after.
And that’s it. Latios is dead. In a series that by this point had become well-known for its fake-out sacrifices it’s actually kind of a relief to see one of them stick. It makes the resulting mourning seem meaningful instead of obligatory. His death leads to the creation of a new Soul Dew, and the day is saved by what may or may not have been the eradication of an entire subspecies.
Latias tries Sight Sharing with Latios, and our protagonists get to see a view from space as the vantage point backs away from the planet. I guess it’s supposed to be sweet and awe-inspiring, but for those of you are less spiritually inclined it just looks like he had to go because his planet needed him.
We cut to a later point in time, where Lorenzo expressesses regret that neither Bianca or Latias got to say goodbye before the leads had to move on. However, we are immediately treated to a girl running to catch up with them. As the music swells, the mystery girl runs up to Ash on the dock and kisses him.
That’s right. Latias is a reverse furry.
I mean, sure, it’s supposed to be ambiguous, but she doesn’t say anything and Bianca shows zero interest in Ash in the entire movie so it’s pretty obvious. Considering that Ash is like the second or third male she’s ever met we should probably be thankful that it wasn’t a worse pairing.
On that beastiality-influenced note, Ash and friends see a group of Latis flying away and the credits roll.
All in all, I actually rather enjoyed this movie. It’s far from the best, but it was certainly bearable- more than I can say for other films in this series. A good number of the characters are fully realized, and those that aren’t really fleshed out play to their strengths. It’s certainly one of the better written Pokemon films, at the very least.
At the same time, though, I’m not entirely sure that it feels like a Pokemon movie. None of the Pokemon really play a sizable role outside of the Eons and the villains’ Pokemon, and there’s barely any presence of them in the background. I’m of the opinion that a story with an incredibly fleshed out universe like the Pokemon franchise needs to take advantage of what it has, and this doesn’t deliver on that front. Just replace the ones important to the plot with dragons or something and you lose nothing whatsoever other than bearing an uncanny resemblance to Eragon.
Yeah, I’d recommend this movie. It’s a good way to close off the original series, and I would watch it again; but at the same time I wouldn’t call it an example of fine entertainment. Judging it by the standards of your everyday action flick, though, I’d say it’s worth a look.