Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anime review: Pokémon the Movie: White – Victini and Zekrom

Continuing their adventures through the Unova region, Ash, Iris, and Cilan find themselves headed to a small secluded town, nestled in a mountainous area of the country. They plan to participate in a small, one-on-one and single-elimination tournament, but Ash decides to take a quick detour along the way in order to help a couple of Deerling that are dangerously close to the edge of a narrow cliff. Unfortunately this noble deed similarly puts him in danger, though he is able to jump to safety thanks to the psychic powers of the legendary Pokémon Victini. While Ash is wholly unaware of Victini’s influence over his finding his route back to his friends, word of Victini residing in the area is common folklore among the local people.

In actuality, Victini is restricted to that town and the immediately surrounding area due to powerful pillars of energy that were put in place long ago by a king who led his people away from a desert land. The king put the pillars and a giant tower fortress at the top of the mountain so as to seal the Dragon Force, a powerful energy stream that saps the life of plants and Pokémon in turn, as it winds its way across the countryside. While Victini shared a special bond with the king, utilizing the legendary Pokémon’s psychic powers in moving his people to a better homeland and stopping the destructive flow of the Dragon Force took all the energy the king had, and thus he passed away before he could set Victini free from this unintentional prison.

As Ash trumps his competition, one girl finds his winning streak suspicious, and inquires if his Pokémon had some help from Victini. Wholly unaware of the fact that this was true, Ash denies even seeing Victini, but Cilan’s home-baked treats are just the ticket for luring the psychic Pokémon out from hiding. As Ash and friends talk to the girl and her mother, they reveal that they are the same people that the king once led to safety, and that a young man named Damon wants to attempt a return to their home country.

The story then cuts to the tale that served as the origin for N’s ideals and the introduction for Reshiram and Zekrom in the video games – that being the tale of the two sons of yet another king of the Unova region. One son was known as the hero of ideals, and the other known as the hero of truth. Each partnered with one of the legendary dragon Pokémon, and were well-loved by their subjects, but eventually their rivalry turned to animosity, and in their attempts to overpower one another, Reshiram and Zekrom’s power whittled away so greatly that they were forced to slumber as white and black orbs respectively. In the present day, it is revealed that Damon has discovered Reshiram’s white orb and reawakened the legendary Pokémon to aid in his plans to return to the old homeland.

Pokémon: White – Victini and Zekrom does well in handling some of its smaller details. There are deliberate ties to the video game lore, in order to make the story of the film feel less alienated. The Pokémon typings also seem to play somewhat more of an important role this time around, as Pokémon display weaknesses to Pokémon they would logically have a disadvantage against in combat. However, in terms of the stand-alone story, the film does not make many solid connections. The backstory of the king details how Victini was used as a conduit to power the floating fortress, and so Damon’s desire to recreate this scenario makes sense given the legendary Pokémon’s immense power. However, there is no real justification given for why Damon feels it is necessary to make a return pilgrimage to the desert from which they arrived. Life in the mountain town seems quite pleasant, and Damon never explains why he feels a return is necessary – not even such a shallow explanation as ‘it’s where we started, and it’s where we belong’.

The floating fortress evokes distinct memories of the airship designed to capture the legendary birds and lure out Lugia in the second theatrical Pokémon movie. Except, in this film, Damon already has Reshiram at his side. There is no real reason for any of Damon’s grand scheme, nor is there much explored about his character. He appears to be something of a history buff, and is apparently quite well-liked by the locals, but it is unclear if he is following some delusional interpretation of the texts he is so engrossed in, or if he is simply attempting this journey home just for the heck of it.

The Pokémon battles are spaced out quite a bit, as there is some extra time needed to explain the multiple (though loosely connected) historical tales. While Ash and Pikachu playing with Victini is cute and fun for a brief while, each bout of downtime this film settles into is obnoxiously longer than need be. The last twenty-five minutes or so of the film certainly display more exciting sessions of Pokémon battles and the eventual appearance of Zekrom clashing with Reshiram, but it’s a matter of the film playing its best hand after a consistently mundane presentation. Young viewers may ignore the significant plot holes, but anyone who appreciated the extra storytelling depth presented in the generation V video game counterparts will find no such complexity here.

My rating: 5 (out of 10)

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