Back in May, Manga UK brought out a collection comprised of all the Diamond and Pearl Pokémon movies. Now they’re back with a bundle of the Black and White era films! As we get closer to the latest Pokémon releases, just how well do these stories hold up?
As this is a review of three movies, I’m going to give each film a brief overview and will then discuss aspects like animation, music and voice actors afterwards (given that the production of these movies was helmed by the same staff and they’re all from the same era). I say “three” movies because although there are four in the set, one is just a clone of the other beyond featuring a different Legendary Pokémon.
Pokémon the Movie: White – Victini and Zekrom / Pokémon the Movie: Black – Victini and Reshiram:
The first Pokémon movie in the Black and White era was an interesting experiment due to be being two separate movies, telling the same story but swapping around the legendary Pokémon featured in it! The story begins with Ash, Iris and Cilan arriving in Eindoak Town, where the three take part in the town’s annual battle competition. As they fight around the town they catch the eye of the mysterious Pokémon, Victini, who uses its powers to lead Ash to victory.
Afterwards the two become friends, but little do they know that a man called Damon, a descendant of the People of the Vale, looks to abuse Victini’s powers to restore his ancestors’ home. Unbeknownst to Damon, doing such will bring calamity to Eindoak town. Can Ash put a stop to things before irreversible damage is done, and what happens when legendary Pokémon Zekrom and Reshiram get involved? One thing’s for sure, there is never a dull moment for Ash and Pikachu!
Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem VS. The Sword of Justice:
In this adventure Ash and his friends encounter Legendary Pokémon, Keldeo, who has been hurt after recklessly doing battle with Legendary Pokémon Kyurem.
Keldeo only dreams of becoming a ‘Sword of Justice’, just like his friends Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion; but due to Keldeo lying to Kyurem about already being a Sword of Justice, Kyurem becomes furious. Keldeo’s three friends end up intervening to allow Keldeo time to escape Kyurem’s wrath, which results in Kyurem freezing the three into a solid block of ice. Filled with regret for leaving his friends behind, and seeking the true meaning of being a Sword of Justice, Keldeo accepts the help of Ash and his friends in taking Kyurem down once and for all.
Pokémon the movie: Genesect and the Legend Awakened:
For the final movie in this set, Ash and his travelling companions face off against the legendary Pokémon Genesect. The five Genesect had been sleeping for millions of years, but when their sleep is disturbed they begin travelling and come across New Tork City, which is reminiscent of their original home. Now the Genesect wish to drive all humans and Pokémon out of the city to claim it for themselves!
Things only get more complicated when another Legendary Pokémon, Mewtwo, gets involved and attempts to fight the Genesect. With the whole city at risk, will Ash and Pikachu be able to reason with the stubborn and confused legendaries – or will the inhabitants of New Tork City be forced to flee for their lives?
The nice thing about this collection is that all of the movies’ plots differ quite a bit. While they all result in Ash helping Pokémon in need, they’re different enough in their concepts so as not to get boring. That’s not to say that the movies don’t have issues though, as unfortunately they all have a problem or three.
The first movie in the collection, sadly, has a completely pointless plot. In the end nothing good or bad comes from the actions taken by the people and Pokémon involved in it, and it never feels like there’s really anything at risk. At best it has some good action scenes and Victini is an adorable mascot, but at worst it’s just dull.
Meanwhile, Kyurem VS. The Sword of Justice sets up a very interesting plot but because the film has been edited so much for its dub release, there’s no real character development for Keldeo. As a result, Keldeo’s progression is stunted and it’s hard to get behind the idea of it coming out on top against Kyruem when it surely hasn’t learnt anything from its first defeat. However, if you can look past that issue this movie is at least better than the previous.
The final movie on offer here, Genesect and the Legend Awakened, is definitely the most complete in terms of its story and its development. However, the movie includes a fatal flaw in changing a well established origin story for the Pokémon franchise: there should only be one Mewtwo due to circumstances surrounding its creation.
We’ve met Mewtwo before within previous entries of the animated series, which established a very solid origin story, but the Mewtwo shown in this movie is completely different (although shares a similar backstory). This inconsistency causes a huge disconnect for longtime fans like myself because, ultimately, they didn’t need to retcon Mewtwo; they could have just reused the existing Mewtwo. I find this to be a shame because Genesect and the Legend Awakened is the best movie in this set and sets itself up with the potential to be one of the best in the Pokémon franchise – but the issue of Mewtwo is just too big to overlook.
Having said all of that about the movies, I’m not convinced that some of my problems would be shared by newer and younger fans of Pokémon. All three of the stories on offer here feature a wide variety of Pokémon and lots of well animated battle scenes. They might not pack the punch I want to see or hold together convincingly as a story, but they do offer the fun you’d expect from the franchise.
As always, the movies have all been animated by studio OLM and are colourful and bring the Pokémon world to life. Unfortunately, the animation does often look quite grainy throughout the three movies and I’m not sure if that’s a problem native to the movies themselves or a byproduct of being downscaled to DVD. It’s not a huge issue but was off-putting to begin with until I got used to it.
Where music is concerned it seems as although these films have all kept their original Japanese soundtracks, which were composed by Shinji Miyazaki (who has worked on all previous and future Pokémon movies). Unfortunately these movies have some of the weakest soundtracks in the animated series and by the end I didn’t remember any of the music. For a franchise that often turns out memorable scores it’s a huge shame and just feeds into the feeling that these are some of the worst movies in Pokémon’s history.
Where voice actors are concerned things fare better, with Ash’s VA Sarah Natochenny (Stephanie in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s) conveying Ash’s personality and love for Pokémon well. It was also amusing for me as a Fullmetal Alchemist fan to see Vic Mignogna (Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist, Kasuka Heiwajima in Durarara!!) take up the role of Keldeo. Mignogna succeeds in making the Pokémon come across as incredibly stubborn and reckless, a lot like Edward Elric, so it was a performance I could easily enjoy. For viewers who aren’t fond of Mignogna’s work, you’ll probably be disappointed to find that his acting is incredibly similar to every other role he plays, but if you haven’t heard him voice much then you should enjoy what he brings to Pokémon.
This release comes to the UK thanks to Manga Entertainment and is only available on DVD. There are no on-disc extras and all of the movies are presented with the English audio and hard of hearing subtitles. As you’d expect from a Pokémon release, there is no Japanese audio on offer.
Overall Pokémon Black & White Movie Collection is a mixed bag. Older Pokémon fans like me will be left wanting for much better content and days gone by when Pokémon movies were actively good, but the younger/newer audience are more likely to get a kick out of Ash’s latest adventures. Depending on where you sit on that scale it’s either a total waste of your time or worth picking up.