Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Anime review: Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior

Focusing on two of the legendary Pokémon from the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum era, Giratina and the Sky Warrior opens with a Shaymin inadvertently pulled into the struggle between Dialga and Giratina. As Giratina drags Dialga into his own domain, known as the Reverse World, in an attempt to imprison Dialga there, Shaymin is tossed about until it can retain its focus long enough to force open a hole between the Reverse World and the real world. Once that hole is opened, Dialga seizes the opportunity to escape, and Shaymin is flung out with it. With Giratina left trapped in his own realm, Dialga flies off to safety, unaware that Shaymin was ever present or even that the tiny Pokémon is now struggling to stay afloat as a strong current whisks it downstream toward a small town.

As it just so happens, Ash, Brock, and Dawn are having breakfast in that town when Shaymin stumbles across them, alone and confused as it is now far-removed from its home. Thanks to its apparent telepathic abilities, Shaymin can communicate with Ash, Brock, and Dawn, and informs them that it needs to make its way home so that it can take part in a ceremony where all the Shaymin visit a flower field, change form, and fly off. It quickly becomes known to the group that a man named Zero intends to take Shaymin for himself in order to free Giratina from its home/prison in the Reverse World. Ash and company manage to escape Zero’s army of Magnemites, Magnetons, and lone Magnezone, and begin their trek deep into the mountains via train and boat to reunite Shaymin with its friends.

Upon first meeting the trio of protagonists, Shaymin is identified as the gratitude Pokémon, which is ironic considering this particular Shaymin is self-centered and pushy. Ash immediately butts heads with the Pokémon, while it constantly turns to Dawn for comfort. Brock is, by and large, left out of the most exciting parts of this adventure, as the multiple times that Ash and Dawn travel to the Reverse World, he is left behind. The movie actually goes out of its way to make fun of established trends in the Pokémon anime with sequences like this, and it’s a welcome break from the cliché conventions of the show, though the plot development as a whole does not stray too far from a predictable pacing.

Within the Reverse World resides a researcher named Newton, who has spent years learning the ins and outs of the Reverse World as well as Girantina’s behavioral patterns. Thus, the moment that Ash and Dawn first find themselves stuck in an unfamiliar realm, they are not without aid. Team Rocket also gets dragged into the Reverse World, but their presence in the film is entirely unnecessary. As for the Reverse World itself, it appears as a mildly chaotic culminating of space and time – uninhabited buildings meet roof-to-roof, ice pillars lie a fair distance out of reach, gravity distortions are abundant, and clouds of toxic purple gas gently glide to and fro. It’s a happy middle ground that presents the theme of space, time, and antimatter as aesthetically interesting without having to explain a deeper science that would soar over the heads of the young viewers this film is primarily aimed at.

Solo villain Zero follows effectively the same tactic that Lawrence did in Pokémon the Movie 2000, piloting a gaudy and gigantic steel fortress through the clouds, with a strange laser net capture device attached to it. Zero’s goal is not fully explained until late in the film, but it is clear from the outset that he is concerned first and foremost with Giratina, despite his early attempt to snag Shaymin from Ash, Dawn, and Brock. Zero wears a jumpsuit that echoes the standard Team Plasma outfit, but it bears a few decorations that pay homage to the legendary Pokémon he is so determined to track down.

Giratina and the Sky Warrior breaks some of the conventions established by previous Pokémon movies and the long-running anime series. It takes time to poke fun at itself, it has direct ties to the previous movie The Rise of Darkrai, and even sports a decent plot twist/cameo within the last twenty minutes or so. However, it does follow most of the other established patterns quite closely. Team Rocket’s shenanigans serve as nothing more than shallow comic relief, Zero does his fair share of spouting forth vague and cliché threats during the second half, and the resolution for all the trouble Ash and friends find themselves in can be seen coming from a mile away. The soundtrack is nothing to get excited about, though the combination of digitally animated character models with 3D environments blends well, for the most part. With all that in mind, every single Pokémon movie is written primarily for children, and to that end, Giratina and the Sky Warrior does a pretty good job of carrying a consistent tempo and presenting a fun adventure to a brand new dimension, even if the hopping back and forth between the real world and the Reverse World gets a bit out of hand by the finale.

My rating: 7 (out of 10)

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