Anime Review: Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You

By Drew Hurley 16.01.2018 1

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Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You (UK Rating: PG)

It's unbelievable to think that it's been over 20 years since the Pokémon anime launched in Japan and it's about to hit 20 years since it was first shown in the West, too, with Veronica Taylor taking on the starring role of Ash, alongside Ikue Otani's Pikachu. Almost 20 years since the original Pokémon the Movie. Feel old yet? Now, that original story is returning once again, hitting fans right in the Nostalgia. It's Super Effective! This is also a brand new story, though; a fresh retelling for a new audience and with all new Pokémon to capture. This retelling comes courtesy of Manga Entertainment and is available from 12th February.

Obviously, there's a great deal of content to stuff into a single movie here. The opening scenes reveal an Ash just before he has begun his journey. He's chilling in his house, watching some Pokémon League battles, dreaming of being there himself (hopefully he can win some in this alternate timeline… and maybe not give so many Pokemon away!). As with the original story, there's a stumbling block in his way, and right at the starting line. When he arrives at Professor Oak's place, his choice of Pokémon has been taken away from him. Other trainers have already taken the iconic original starting trio and so there's only one Pokémon left, a little yellow mouse with a penchant for shocking behaviour. It's great to look back and see the old days of Pikachu not too happy with being foisted on this obnoxious kid and beating him up or zapping him on a regular basis.

This relationship soon becomes the close bond fans have come to love and know, developed over the course of an opening montage set to the classic theme. This montage chronicles from the first steps of the huge trek across Kanto, to catching his first wild Pokémon - his Caterpie - and concluding with his acquisition of his third badge - the Rainbow Badge.

It's a very different story to what fans will remember, though. First of all, it's not just generation one Pokémon here, as there are plenty of newer Pokémon appearing over the course of this story. Secondly, while Ash has his third Gym badge, he's missing some companions when the real story begins. The first and second gyms' masters do not join the gang in this tale and they are replaced with a new pair of companions, a girl named Verity, with her Piplup, and a young man named Sorrel, with his Lucario. There's even a new rival for Ash, as Gary is completely absent. Instead, a kid named Cross takes the role. He's as unlikeable as Gary, at least. Cross is obsessed with strength and is introduced to Ash when Ash finds a little abandoned Charmander sitting in the rain, working in the story of the little Charmander whose flame could go out. The Charmander's trainer was Cross, but Cross abandoned him, looking for stronger and rarer game.

The rivalry is a secondary story, with the focus instead being on the three friends embarking on a grand adventure to try and find Ho-Oh after Ash mentions he happened to find one of Ho-Oh's feathers. Legendary Pokémon have always been the centre of the Pokémon movies and Ho-Oh, along with the three Legendary dogs of Entei, Raikou, and Suicune, are at the heart of this story. There's even another lurking in the shadows, too.

The quality of the Pokémon anime and the respective movies has gone through some big changes in both the art style and quality. There are plenty of examples of the transformations of Ash and Pikachu between each season, with the upcoming series in Japan this year looking to give the bishiest and prettiest Ash yet. This movie, though, manages to marry the original designs of the series with some high quality improvements to the art and animation. The battles look absolutely flawless and are, without doubt, some of the coolest and best looking Pokémon battles to date.

On the bonus feature front, this release is sadly completely lacking. There are two audio tracks… but both in English… it's unclear if this is a conscious decision by Manga Entertainment or a licensing constraint, but this fresh retelling of the original seems an ideal place to offer the Japanese dub up to this audience. There are no bonus features, either, which is another disappointment, considering the film only runs for 90 minutes.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You is a great retelling for fans lapsed and new alike, which manages to incorporate some of the best stories from the series history and adds in plenty of fresh new material for fans of the more recent games. Admittedly, it's not all good. The new companions are rather lacklustre and it's strange they should take the place of series favourites, Brock and Misty. There is also a heavily divisive and much complained about moment that will cause many fans to instantly dislike the film. Despite these complaints, this is a fun little movie and one that any Pokémon fan can enjoy.

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No Brock and Misty is a dealbreaker for me Smilie

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