About a month ago (at the time of writing) I was given the chance to review the latest Pokémon movie,Pokémon Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, and in doing so it reminded me of how much I enjoyed some of the very first movies in the series. Luckily for me, I’ve been given the chance to revisit them thanks to Manga Entertainment, who are releasing a collection of the first three movies in the UK.
Due to the fact this article is covering three movies instead of just one, I’ll be reviewing each movie but giving them slightly shorter reviews than the usual so as not to overwhelm you as a reader.
Pokémon: The First Movie
I think it probably goes without saying that the movie most people think of when they think of Pokémon is Pokémon: The First Movie. As the name implies this was the very first movie released for the Pokémon series (it was released in Japan in 1998 and in the US as of 1999) and is still a fan favourite to this day.
The story revolves around Ash and some of the strongest trainers in the Pokémon world being summoned to a mysterious place known simply as New Island. When Ash, Brock, Misty and the collection of trainers arrive there they discover that the challenger who summoned to them to this island is actually a Pokémon who calls himself Mewtwo.
Mewtwo has called the trainers here to do battle and should they lose to him then he will claim their Pokémon for his own. Once free of human’s control, Mewtwo will go on to destroy the world while keeping the Pokémon safe as he believes all humans are evil. Can Ash and Pikachu prove that the relationship between trainer and Pokémon isn’t simply that of master and servant?
As a Pokémon fan I’ve always been fond of Pokémon: The First Movie. I was still very young when my parents bought me a copy of it on VHS to watch (probably no older than 6-7 years old), but despite that, the story struck a chord with me. I’d long been a fan of the TV series and the toys associated with it, but getting to see Ash and Pikachu battle it out in a movie, which had a much higher quality of animation, really captivated me. This release is using the Japanese remaster of the movie (and the other two included), so I can say that the animation still really impresses me for a work from that time period. It also helps that this work is telling a story with a considerable amount of depth, something that the later movies of recent days simply do not do.
There are a lot of inconsistency issues with the movie compared to the rules we learn through the video games. For example, at the beginning of our story Ash battles with Pikachu against a trainer using a Golem. Pikachu defeats the Golem by using Thunderbolt, a move that would normally not work at all on a rock/ground-type Pokémon like Golem. There are also some instances where Pokémon are called by completely the wrong name, although there aren’t many examples of those and one of them can be written off as the members of Team Rocket just being incorrect.
As touched upon previously, the animation for this movie is really smooth and looks nice even by today’s standards. The movie has been handled by OLM, who have worked on all of the Pokémon anime. There is a little bit of CGI on show but only in a few brief scenes and while it doesn’t quite fit in with the animation, it’s not around enough to really spoil things.
Where music is concerned, none of the music from the original Japanese release is present (it was removed from most of the Pokémon movies until quite late in the series’ life). The English soundtrack has been produced by John Loeffler, who is responsible for all the music for the Pokémon series. There are a lot of string and piano pieces on offer and while nothing is truly memorable, it’s also quite nice within the context of the movie.
Overall Pokémon: The First Movie continues to be an entertaining watch for fans of the series. It’s easy enough to show newer Pokémon fans without them being turned off by poor animation, and it’s a good example of the good old days when the Pokémon movies actually had thought-provoking plots.
Pokémon: The Movie 2000
As the name may suggest, Pokémon: The Movie 2000 was first released back in the year 2000 and is set during the Orange Island arc of the original anime series. Of the three movies on offer in this set I have to say that this is my favourite and has been since I was a kid.
The story of Pokémon: The Movie 2000 focuses around Ash, Misty and Tracey as they’re journeying between the Orange Islands. While travelling, a storm suddenly hits and the boat they’re travelling on is swept away toward a place known as Shamouti Island. As Ash and co. are introduced to the islanders they’re informed that Shamouti Island is just about to celebrate their Legend Festival. The festival follows a prophecy’s tale that tells of a chosen one who will appear to help the legendary Pokémon, Lugia, save the world. Once Ash is introduced as being a Pokémon trainer he’s quickly roped into filling the role of the chosen one for the celebrations, but little does he know that he really will have to save the world…
The role of a chosen one for the festival is to travel around three different islands and retrieve a treasure from each and then bring them back to Shamouti Island. The islands are usually protected by the three legendary bird Pokémon: Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno). However, it turns out that the three bird Pokémon have been captured and so the weather is starting to become unbalanced. Ash’s role now is to collect the treasures and take them to Shamouti Shrine so that the beast of the sea, Lugia, can be called to quell the fighting and bring balance back to the world.
Like most Pokémon movies the plot on offer here is a fairly simply one, but an interesting one nevertheless. Ash has a lot more character in this movie than we’re used to seeing him have these days. He’s nervous and doesn’t think the fate of the world should be resting on his shoulders, nor does he truly believe that he has the power to save it. I think Pokémon: The Movie 2000 is a bit of a coming-of-age story for Ash as his friends and Luiga put their trust in him to do what is right. It’s interesting because if this movie had been created with the Ash we know now, who is so full of confidence, it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.
For this movie animation has once again been handled by OLM and music is thanks to John Loeffler. The animation flows nicely and although there is a lot more CGI usage than in Pokémon: The First Movie, it’s not off-putting and blends in fairly well. The music also works quite nicely and there is a truly wonderful ocarina score on offer that ties into the plot.
Overall Pokémon: The Movie 2000 sets out to showcase a plot of epic proportions that involves saving the whole world. Ash is a much better character in this movie than perhaps in any other throughout the whole run of the Pokémon series. Like the first movie it’s an example of Pokémon at its finest.
Pokémon 3: The Movie
The final movie in this collection is Pokémon 3: The Movie, which is set during the Johto Journey’s arc of the Pokémon anime and was originally released in English in 2001. While this movie isn’t my favourite of the three on offer, plot-wise, it provides something other than Ash needing to save the world from danger.
Our story is centered around Molly Hale, whose father, Spencer Hale, is currently actively investigating mysterious Pokémon known as Unown. One day her father disappears and Molly is left with a box of mysterious letters that look just like Unown. Using them she spells out the words Mama and Papa, desperately wishing she could be reunited with them rather than being alone, and suddenly she is surrounded by Unown and the legendary Pokémon Entei. Convinced that Entei is her father and wishing to live her life peacefully with him, Molly’s imagination leads the Unown to cover the town of Greenland in mysterious crystal to prevent anyone from getting close to her home.
Ash, Misty and Brock are been travelling to Greenland to use the local Pokémon centre when they discover the area has been covered in crystal. However, they aren’t the only one’s concerned about this weird turn of events as Professor Oak, Delia Ketchum (Ash’s mother) and a TV crew have also come to Greenland to investigate. Back at the Hale household, Molly spots Ash and Delia on TV and begins to wish for a mother of her own, so Entei sets out to hypnotise Delia and bring her back to fit the role. With his mother captured, Ash vows to break into the Hale mansion and rescue Delia, but first he has to make Molly understand that Entei and Delia aren’t really her father and mother.
The nice thing about this movie is that it’s not about saving the world but instead about saving someone from themselves. The loss of both of her parents has left Molly scared and vulnerable and I’m sure anyone in her position would give anything to see their loved ones again and to stay with them forever. There are still lots of the battles and dramatics that you’d expect from a series like Pokémon, but overall the movie is fairly grounded and wants to tell a fairly realistic story. It’s also one of the only Pokémon movies not to include an actual legendary Pokémon because although Entei is technically a legendary in the video games, this one is confirmed as an illusion that the Unown have created. This is probably also why the fate of the world isn’t at stake, because Entei is an illusion and therefore unlikely to cause mass destruction – apart from crystallizing a whole town, of course.
Like Pokémon: The Movie 2000, the animation for this movie been handled by OLM. Overall Pokémon 3: The Movie features a great deal more use of CGI and in some scenes it does feel quite out of place. This isn’t a major problem though and otherwise the animation quality is consistent with that of the previous movies.
The release of Pokémon: The Movie Collection comes to the UK thanks to Manga Entertainment and is on both Blu-ray (there is also a steelbook collector’s version) and DVD. The Blu-ray release is notable for being the very first time these movies have been released on Blu-ray in the UK. Like always with Pokémon releases outside of Japan, these movies are dub only and don’t have any special features.
The real only downside here is that this collection doesn’t include the Pikachu Shorts that originally accompanied these films. In Japan every Pokémon movie is released alongside a short, known as a Pikachu Short, which is an adventure based around Pikachu and the various Pokémon Ash and his friends have at the time. These shorts have also been present on previous releases and it’s a real shame that they’re not included here.
Overall this is a dream collection for any hardcore Pokémon fan. These movies look great on Blu-ray and even if you’re a new fan just getting into the series they’re easy enough to get into without a great deal of past knowledge about the Pokémon franchise. I can only hope in the future that similar treatment is given to the Pokémon movies that came after these three.