I’m someone who has been a fan of Pokémon for as long as I can remember. I remember watching the TV show every afternoon and playing Pokémon Yellow at the height of summer, and since those years I’ve watched every movie, kept up with the TV series, and played almost all of the games. It’s safe to say that the series influenced my love of Japanese video games and animation, so when given the chance to review the latest movie, Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, I jumped at the opportunity.
Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is the 18th Pokémon movie in total and the second to take place during the Pokémon XY anime series. This movie is centered around the legendary Pokémon Hoopa, who has the ability to summon objects, Pokémon and people through the use of its rings. 100 years ago Hoopa used to be extremely powerful, but after going on a rampage its power was sealed away into the Prison Bottle.
Flash-forward to the present day, the time period where the Pokémon TV series takes place. While Hoopa is playing around with its rings, now trapped in its ‘Confined’ form (a smaller, less powerful form), it has a chance encounter with Ash, Pikachu and his friends. As Ash gets to know Hoopa and his human family members, Baraz and Meray, he discovers that Baraz has been searching for the Prison Bottle that sealed away Hoopa’s ‘Unbound’ form (otherwise known as Hoopa Unbound). Baraz wishes to return the sealed-off power to Hoopa when the time is right, however an evil energy from the bottle possesses him and manipulates him to open the bottle and release the power within. The freed power ultimately leads to Hoopa going out of control and Hoopa Unbound needing to be sealed once more.
With evildoers Jessie, James and Meowth of Team Rocket sniffing around in search of something to help them capture Ash’s Pikachu, it’s not long before the Prison Bottle is broken in a scuffle. Unlike when the bottle was previously opened, this time Hoopa Unbound manifests as its own evil entity instead of merging with Hoopa’s Confined form. As a result Hoopa Unbound goes on a rampage and begins attacking the city. Both forms of Hoopa end up clashing and begin summoning many legendary Pokémon through their hoops to battle alongside them. Can Ash and co. create a new bottle to seal off Hoopa Unbound, or will Dahara City soon be destroyed from the battle?
For a Pokémon movie the plot is actually fairly interesting and easy enough for a newcomer to the series to drop into. Ash only ever really uses Pikachu so a knowledge of what he’s been catching in the XY anime up until now isn’t of notable importance, nor does the movie’s story have any relation to what’s been happening in the television series. It’s comfortably self-contained and easy to recommend if you’re someone who just dips in and out of the series.
However, if you’re more of a hardcore Pokémon fan like me then there are some stupid inconsistencies that will slightly nag at you. For example, some of the legendary Pokémon that Hoopa calls forth randomly Mega Evolve at one point, which just doesn’t make sense. In the video games and other media Mega Evolving a Pokémon must either involve a strong bond with their trainer or the Pokémon and their trainer must be holding a Mega Stone and Key Stone respectively. Neither of these things are true for the movie, so there was clearly some rule breaking going on.
The other problem I have is the inclusion of a Shiny Rayquaza. If you’re throwing so many legendary Pokémon into the mix then a Rayquaza would be fair game, but a Shiny variation? For reference, Shiny Pokémon are very rare colour swaps that are sometimes seen in the video games, anime series, and other spin-offs of the franchise. There was no reason for Shiny Rayquaza to be present and I’m slightly lost as to why they went for it beyond (maybe) Japan using it as an excuse for some kind of give-away for the games. There’s also the fact that the Rayquaza will listen to commands from Ash when in every other piece of Pokémon media it’s seen as a sort of god who listens to no one – yet suddenly it’s taking orders from a trainer it’s never met? Things just didn’t quite add up.
These mild problems aside, I have to say that I’m fairly impressed. With a run time of 76 minutes we managed to have some fairly impressive battles while also finding time for solid character development for the focus of our story, Hoopa. Hoopa by all means is a childish brat, who also has the ability to talk (which never goes down well in Pokémon dubs), but Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is a good example of how to do a Pokémon movie right. We’re not quite back to the days of the truly impressive stories the series had to tell (such as Pokémon 2000 and Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew), but it certainly does far better than the previous entry, Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction.
Where animation is concerned studio OLM (who have always worked on the Pokémon anime and also provide animation for Yo-kai Watch) have done a good job. There is often some questionable use of CGI but that has been present in the Pokémon movies for awhile and is evidently just the direction the studio moving towards. It’s not amazing animation but for a series like Pokémon, overall, OLM have given it all it needs on a movie budget.
Music has been provided by Shinji Miyazaki and sadly, the quality of the music is rather lackluster and overall quite generic. Most tracks are very action-driven and blend in too much to really be appreciated or scenes just have no music at all. The ending theme has been provided by Dani Marcus and is titled “Every Side of Me”, which is a different ending theme than the one used for the Japanese version.
The English voice actors do a good job, especially Sarah Natochenny (Stephanie in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s) who plays Ash. The only other shout-out I want to give in this department is to Lori Phillips, who plays Hoopa. Upon researching her name I was unable to find out about anything else she’s done but she certainly plays the Pokémon well.
This release comes to the UK thanks to Manga Entertainment, who have released it on both Blu-ray and DVD. There are no extras to speak of at all and the movie is dub only, like all of the Pokémon releases to hit the UK.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Hoopa and the Clash of Ages. As an existing Pokémon fan it’s an interesting watch despite some small issues and I think it’s not a bad starting point for a newcomer. We’re not quite back in the golden age of Pokémon but things are certainly looking up.